Sunday Morning Live Stream – Finding Strength: Truth

Finding Strength: Truth
Ephesians 6:14
January 17, 2021

I love a good police and detective drama. I love the mystery of it. I love the way that, if it is written well, you don’t always know who the guilty person is until the very end. I love the suspense of it, the process of figuring out who done it. And I love the way that by the end of the episode, truth seems to triumph, and all the deceptions and cover stories are exposed for what they are. There is something about truth winning over lies that is captivating, that feels empowering, that feels right. Maybe that feels natural, like the way that it should be.

We are in a series together (that will take us to Easter) about putting on the strength, the protection, the armor of God so that we can face the challenges of this life that seek to bring us down spiritually.

Last week, I talked about why we need to wear the armor (I am not going to go through it all again today, so please watch the video from last week to catch up). This week, I want to start talking about the specific pieces of armor and protection, the spiritual resources available through Jesus that you can have to help you face with victory the struggles and battles of life. There are four things though that we need to understand that are crucial as we talk about putting this armor on:

1) The same grace that restores us to God through Jesus puts us into conflict with Satan. Our enemy does not like it that we are following Jesus and are in a restored relationship with God. So he will do whatever he can to stop us from having that closeness.
2) It is in the routine of life that we face the challenges from our enemy. It isn’t always some big, easy to spot attack. It is in the routine things where our guards are down and we aren’t expecting it.
3) You can’t get by on your own strength and being strong enough. We do not have it in us to be able to win this battle.
4) The Armor we are told to put on isn’t decorative, it is foundational. We need this armor to be able to properly live as a follower of Jesus and engage in the spiritual battle that comes as a result. The armor, because of who it belongs to, and because of who puts it on us, is a tool of victory.

I am going to invite you to find Ephesians 6. And as you are flipping there, some context. The letter “Ephesians” was written by the Apostle Paul, roughly around AD60 or 61, during a time where he was imprisoned in Rome. As he sat in prison, he would have been chained to a Roman guard / soldier. So as he is writing specifically about the Armor of God, he is likely looking at the soldier that he is chained to as a source of information / inspiration.

Ephesians 6:14
1) “Stand firm then”
This verse points us back to the larger context. It points us back to what it follows. This verse is to be read in light of the command in the prior verses to put on the whole armor of God because we are engaged in a spiritual conflict. In these verses it is said that by being clothed by God in His strength, protection, and armor that we will be able to stand firm and in victory. Paul is telling them that “this is the promise, this is the reality for you….You will be victorious as you wear His armour. So…. Stand firm.”

2) “with the belt of truth buckled around your waist”.
Why was the image of the belt important?
a. The belt kept the other armor in place.
-> The belt provided a place for the sword to be secured, as well as held the breastplate where it needed to be.
b. The belt kept the soldier from tripping.
-> It was common, even for the soldiers, to wear robes underneath their armor that were long, and could become a trip hazard. The belt provided a way for them to tuck in the long parts of their robes and keep it from getting in the way. The last thing you would want is a soldier to trip in battle.
c. It protected vulnerable areas.
-> The belt wasn’t a thin little leather strip that was tied around the waist. It was a thick leather and metal band that went around the waist, and had leather straps attached to metal disks that would hang off on various places of the belt (such as the front) for added protection.

3) Why do we need the belt of truth?
a. Truth provides the foundation of life that holds all our defenses together.
Without truth, everything falls apart and we have no protection for the spiritual battle we will face. Without truth, everything we believe and hope in comes crashing down and becomes meaningless.
b. Truth keeps us from tripping over our own robes.
There are a lot of things that will trip us up in life, and in the midst of the battle, can cause us to fall flat on our face. I will talk about some of these things in just a few minutes. But having truth “around our waist” keeps us from being tripped up and falling.
c. Truth protects our vulnerabilities.
Truth protects the areas of our lives where we are most susceptible to spiritual attack. There are areas of our life where the enemy knows we are most vulnerable to attack. He knows where to attack us and where it is going to hurt the most, cause the most damage, and knock us out of the battle. Yet truth, when used in the face of those things, protects and deflects those attacks. Truth protects our vulnerabilities.

4) What are the tactics of the enemy?
I just talked about us tripping on our own robes. I talked about our vulnerabilities. The question we need to ask here is “how specifically does the enemy seek to take us out of the battle? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives a good idea.

a. He attacks our hearts and minds.
The enemy knows how to get us worked up and upset. He knows what will make us bitter or bear a grudge. He knows the things that will hurt us deeply and will cause us to withdraw and live in our hurt. He knows the lies he can whisper in our ears to cause us to do the destructive self talk where we beat ourselves up mentally and emotionally, and leave ourselves in ruins. He knows how to mess with our emotions and minds. And he uses it to his advantage.
b. He attacks our morality.
The enemy knows where we are most easily tempted to sin. He knows how to entice us. He knows what buttons to push, what to say, what feelings to prompt to get us to a place where the temptation to do what is wrong is great. The enemy also knows where we are willing to compromise, and finds ways to exploit those areas. The enemy also knows the areas where, even though we know the Bible says it is wrong, we will rationalize why it is okay. And he uses those things to his advantage.
c. He attacks our relationship with God.
He tells us that God can not or does not love us. We are unlovable. We messed up one too many times. Or that God is just too busy to care about us to begin with. That He has forgotten us. That He has no interest in us. He tells us that God isn’t even there. He doesn’t exist. We are wasting our time and fooling ourselves to think that God could love us and want a relationship with us because He isn’t there.
d. He attacks the authority and accuracy of what God says.
He says that the Bible is not true, is filled with errors, and can not be trusted. He says that the Bible does not have authority for our lives today. He says that the Bible is just another good book, but is not God’s Word that is powerful, active, alive, and for you today. Therefore, all the things that God reveals about Himself in the Bible, what He says about who you are and how He views you, what He says about how to live life are not to be taken seriously.

5) What truths do we need to dress ourselves with?
a. God is the source of truth (Jn 1:14, 1:17, Jn 14:6, Jn 15:26, Jn 16:13)
Truth comes from God. Truth starts and ends with Him. Truth is who He is.
b. What God reveals is also truth (Ps 119:160, Jn 17:17, 1 Jn 5:20, 2 Tim 3:16-17)
Because God is truth, what He says about Himself, what He says about you (and how He views you), what He says about how we should live, what He says about what He has and will do is true.
c. Truth sets you free to be who God made you to be. (Jn 8:32)

HMCFAMILYCHALLENGE

This week, design a poster (make it colourful, make it bright) as a family. And on that poster, I want you to look up, in the Bible 5 positive things that God says about who you are or how He feels about you. Once done, put it up somewhere in your house, take a picture, and send it to our Facebook page #HMCFAMILYCHALLENGE

Sunday Morning Live Stream – Finding Strength: The Need For It

Finding Strength: The Need
Ephesians 6:10-13
January 10th, 2021

We are starting a series together today that is all about finding strength, because let’s face it, we could all use a bit more of it. As we live for Jesus, as we do the things He calls us to, live our life like He did, share the message He did, and become more and more like Him (We call that here the way of Jesus… remember that?), there are challenges that will come. There are hard and trying situations, confusing times, and difficulties of life that will come up specifically because you are trying to follow Jesus. And in those times, you need a strength that comes, not from within you personally, but from outside of you, from God. You need His strength that comes from His protection, His ‘suit of armour’ that He puts on you.

Until almost Easter, we are going to be looking at what that armour looks like. We are going to be looking at different ways for us to be finding strength, but before we do that, I want to look at the why question, the need for it. I invite you to turn to Ephesians 6. It is in the New Testament, about 1/3rd of the way in, after 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, before Philippians and Colossians.

Ephesians 6:10
1) His protection comes from Him
It is important for us to agree right at the start that His strength that comes through His protection is all about Him. It is not about us, in our efforts, becoming stronger. It isn’t about us trying harder to be better, to be stronger, to be more courageous, to stand more firm. It is all about Him.

Verse 10 says “Be strong in the Lord.” This isn’t something that you can do on your own. The verse actually translates better “be made strong in the Lord.” It is about God doing something in you, and Him making you strong, Him putting His protection on you, and then you choosing to trust in what He is doing, not in what you can do.

APPLICATION QUESTION: Are you trying to face all the challenges of your Christian faith on your own?

Eph 6:11 (why do we need His protection?)
2) His protection shows us what is true and false
Paul goes on to say that we should put on His whole armour. The image here that the reader would have understood was a soldier putting on all their pieces or armour (including weaponry) before going on duty. It was not just strapping on an helmet and thinking they were fine. They needed complete protection in order to be ‘safe’.

It is also an active action of putting on, much like getting dressed. And we actively put on this armour through us trusting God and letting Him clothe us in His protection. And the reason why we need this armour, this protection? Because each day, we will be bombarded and surrounded constantly with choices between what is true and false, and it wont always be easy to know the difference. The verse calls it “the devil’s schemes”. These are the deceptions, things that are fake, false teachings, and things and people that are against God. It is important to remember that word “schemes”, because a scheme is meant to fool people, it is meant to be a con job. And by very definition of a scheme, unless you know the truth, it is easy to get caught up in the scheme. (Think all those email and phone scams…). As I think of schemes, I also, think of 1 Peter 5:8 which speaks to the sneaky schemes of our enemy.

There are so many things even within the church today that we have to be careful of, that are not Biblical, that are completely false, yet people unknowingly flock to. Why? Because they are not being fully dressed in the armour of God.

The point is that if you are dressed in His protection and walking in His strength, a natural result of that is that you will be able to pick up on and pick out things that are not of God, things that are not true, things that are schemes and fake, false teachings. The greatest defense against things that are false is to know the truth. And in clothing yourself in His protection, you are clothing yourself in His truth.

APPLICATION QUESTION: The deception is real. Are you choosing to protect yourself by trusting God, taking on His protection, and standing on truth as a result?

Eph 6:12-13 (Why do we need His protection?)
3) His protection is what gives us strength to fight the enemy
Paul is very clear here that as followers of Jesus, we are in a battle, but it is not a traditional battle of human to human. It is not a traditional battle with guns, swords, and shields. We don’t have a physical enemy that we can see like a person in front of us. In some cases, we are not even sure what we are fighting against. But we know that we are in a battle, and it is a distinctly spiritual battle. It is a battle for our hearts, minds, and souls.

And as we fight this battle, we are aware that we are in that continual battle between good and evil. And as this battle goes on, there is a very real commander, Satan, who is at work to destroy, to bring down, to ruin the people and the cause of Jesus Christ. And he will use any tactic he can to do so. (like division, bitterness, anger, distractions, comfortability and complacency, apathy, busyness). And his tactics aren’t limited to bad things that we can easily pick out (see last point). They can also be good things that are seemingly innocent. Anything that can take our eyes off of Christ and put them on us, he will use.

One effective tactic out there that he uses is to convince people that there is no battle. That the battle is over-rated. Not really real. Just something that people use as a crutch when things aren’t going well. I don’t say this judgementally, but this morning if you are believing that the battle doesn’t exist, that is all the more proof that it does and that the enemy is real.
What does Paul say though? Put on the full armour of God, be fully protected by Him, adopt a position of finding strength in Him, and when the day of battle comes (the evil day), you will have done everything you can to stand, and stand in victory you will.

APPLICATION QUESTION: Is your life a reflection of victory, or a reflection of defeat? If it is the later, what do you need to do to change that? Who should you be going to?

So what?

As we follow Jesus, it is not always an easy journey. The reality is that we are engaged in a conflict on a spiritual level. It is a conflict that has been going on since the beginning of the ages, and one that will continue until Jesus returns again to end the battle once and for all, and declare His final judgement. In the mean time, we have an enemy whose game plan is scheming, deception, and being a con man. We have an enemy who desires to bring us down in defeat. And in all of the conflict, it is easy to feel tired. It is easy to feel weak. And there are many days where we are wanting to be finding strength so that we can carry on. The good news is that as we turn to God and trust Him, and put on His armour and His protection, we will find the strength we need, He will make us strong in Him so that we can stand, and having done everything to stand, we can and will stand in victory.

The ultimate good news in all of this is that as we stand strong, fully protected in His armour, we look forward to the day where it comes to reality that because of what Jesus did (which we celebrated this morning with Communion), it beomces fully realized that the battle has already been won. Even though Satan right now is doing whatever He can to try and mess things up and mess you up, his days are numbered, the end is coming, and he knows it. So today, with that in mind, as we trust in God, we follow Jesus, and we allow Him to clothe us in His protection and make us strong in Him, we can stand in the victory that has already been won through Jesus, and the victory that will be unleashed when Jesus comes again.
-> Remember:
1) His protection comes from Him
2) His protection shows us what is true and false
3) His protection is what gives us strength to fight the enemy

Familychallenge

This week, our church family (because you are all family no matter how old you are or who you live with) challenge is two part:

Make a suit of body armour. Post pictures of you making it on our facebook page #HMCFAMILYCHALLENGE. There are points for the most original, most creative, or most artistic suit of body armour. This is a contest. And the winning submission gets a prize.

In order to be eligible, you need to do this part too. As you are making your armour, talk as a family about the ways and the situations in which the Armour of God can protect you. And if you are doing this on your own, maybe write a journal about it.

Sunday Morning Live Stream: Joy

This morning I invite us to reflect on the baby who was born in Bethlehem, Jesus, the Son of God, who brings great joy.
Some people are familiar with Christmas story; however today, I invite you to listen afresh and seek the treasure embedded in the narrative, for it is more than a story from long ago. This story is a personal story for us – for our life. It is God’s fulfilment of his promise: the promise of the Messiah – Jesus our Lord, our Saviour, our Redeemer – for it is the Jesus who will reconcile us once again to God, restore us to life and joy in the Lord.
Throughout the history of Israel, shepherding was a noble profession. Moses (and of course David) were shepherds. By the time we come to the first century however, shepherding had lost its prestige. Shepherds were made up the lowest class of people, coming in just ahead of the lepers. In the Talmud, which is a collection of interpretations and insight from the rabbis, we read these words: “No help is to be given to heathen or shepherds.”
In order to understand how unusual it was to have the angels appear to these lowly shepherds, let’s learn a bit about them:

Considered ceremonially unclean. Because of the nature of their work they were unable to attend any religious services.
Isolated and forgotten. Because their flocks needed to move around to find new grass and fresh water, they never stayed in one place for long.
Treated with contempt and mistrust. They were suspected of stealing from others. Their testimony was never allowed in court because they were so unreliable.
Known to be rude, noisy. Living out in the fields away from society made them unappealing to most people. Most of them had foul mouths and were eager to engage in a fight.

Taking all that into consideration, the only announcement of Christ’s birth goes out to people such as these. “At night the shepherds were the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep.”
The Lord choose to come to what society would say were the lowly, the most undeserving, the neglected and marginalized – yet God appoints the angles to celebrate the news to the shepherds first – why? – simply it is about restoration. Everyone matters to God!
As we briefly look at the shepherds’ response, we’ll see some lessons that we can apply to our lives so that we don’t forget the Son this season.

The shepherds were outside the village at night….

Perhaps like the shepherds on the hillside in the dark of night

  • You feel like you are on the peripheral or outside – you feel excluded – you feel you don’t belong
    Perhaps you are/have experienced a dark time in your life?
    Perhaps have you felt that God doesn’t even know you exist or
    Perhaps God has abandoned you

YOU are not insignificant to God our Emmanuel. God will meet you right where you are – just like the shepherds. You don’t have to clean yourself up on your own or act like someone you’re not. If you smell like a shepherd, let Jesus wash you up. If your sins are weighing you down, allow Jesus to lift you up. Keep watch for Jesus presence.

  1. Announcement

Luke 2:9: “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared amoung them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. [The angel of the Lord stood beside them, and the clearness of God shone about them – Wycliff] They were terribly frightened but the angels reassured them. Don’t be afraid! he said I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! [Wycliffe translates it this way: “I evangelize to you a great joy.”] The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

Notice the shepherds are terribly frighted…… but angels reassured them!

Imagine the shepherds out on the hillside – I wonder what their vocabulary was like? Was their conversation appropriate?

How is you mouth or behaviour as you gather with colleagues or friends?
What would be your response if an angel suddenly appeared at your side?

I wonder if they were terrified because they thought God has sent angels to strike them down! What is your image of God?

The angel calms the shepherds down, telling them not to be afraid that he is bringing good news of great joy. The angel proceeds – the Messiah, their Messiah has been born. The promised Saviour – God had broken his silence – God had fulfilled his promise.

Imagine being one of the shepherds hearing the message in person!

And the message is affirmed as “the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favours.”

3) Seeking Jesus

These shepherds didn’t just accept and enjoy the message they received, they acted upon it. Luke 2:16: “”When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

This message is for “everyone.” However it requires action/response – it must be accepted/received – otherwise it is just information.

Have you responded to God’s good news? It is a gift that must be received if you want it to be activated in your life.
How have you allowed the announcement of promised Messiah to shape/change/transform you? That of joy…Celebrate that and offer thanks to God in praise.

4) Finding Jesus

“They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” The word “hurried off” means they left in haste.

The idea is “come on, hurry up, let’s go!” This is pretty amazing in itself because shepherds normally did nothing quickly. They were used to moving slowly through the fields.
The Bible is clear that acceptance must lead to action, or as James 2:17 says: “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” They could have doubted or delayed but instead they decided to act and they moved.
They went and saw. The first thing they did when they arrived in Bethlehem… they went to see the baby with their own eyes. Unclean shepherds came to a smelly stable to see the Holy of Holies lying on a bed of hay!
The shepherds left and shared. It’s striking that they don’t pull up a bale of hay and make themselves comfortable. They didn’t hang around the manger because they knew the importance of getting the message out to everyone.
Notice that the message they shared had nothing to do with seeing the amazing angels and there’s no reference to Mary or Joseph. They came to see Him (baby – Jesus/Messiah) and now they head out to share the good news.
Verse 17: “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” The word “spread” means to “make known in such a way that people can understand.” We’re here today because they couldn’t keep quiet.

In what area is God calling you to some action? It’s not enough to just say you have faith, or to feel good about your relationship with the Lord; there comes a time that after seeing, we must be involved in sharing with others.

Finding Joy

Notice the shepherds went back to their same jobs however they weren’t the same on the inside.
Look at Luke 2:20: “The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.”

When did you last marvel at Jesus our Messiah…. Emmanuel God with us?
When did you last share the joy of the good news?

Like the shepherds we too will go back to the same routine after Christmas; will you be the same person on the inside upon or will you be joyful – living a life of praise for we have a way to be restored to the Lord, celebrating the joy of our Saviour our Redeemer.

MAGI
Another passage of scripture that records the birth of Christ that I like to briefly reflect upon, is that of the Magi and their joy – the passage is found in Matthew 2: 1-12.

As we read in scripture, we find they “were from country to the east of Israel – yet it was the Magi noticed the Star in the night sky – signalling an invitation to come and follow! “We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” The Magi recognized the star as invitation to come and follow his star which would lead them to the Messiah – King of the Jews..
The Magi had probably heard about God through the time Israel was under captivity by Persia in the east. The Magi had obvious listened & been interested in the God of Israel. Now God invites them to come follow the star – come see the Messiah – King of the Jews.
What was your invitation to come see Jesus – can you recall?

The Magi followed the Star – we not sure how long the journey took however if we read their account further in Matthew 2:16 “the magi had told him [Herod] the star first appeared to them, about two years earlier”
Here are Magi I don’t think they had a personal faith in God – they had hear about God’s promise of a Messiah. Now they noticed the star and were willing give up to 2 years to follow it!
What is guiding your life currently? Money, career…?
Perhaps you are lost and wandering?
I wonder how patient are we as God leads us…. do we snatch back control as we become impatient? Do we give up on trusting God if our prayers are not answered quickly?

I was fascinated that the star shone brightly leading all the way from the Magi home town until Jerusalem…. For when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem they stopped to ask … “Where is the King of the Jews?”

Caught off guard, Herod scrabbled, calling all the “leading priests and teachers of the religious law. ‘Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?’”
Interestingly, the leading priests & teachers of the religious law knew what the prophets had written and directed the Magi to Bethlehem.
The leading priests and teachers – he very leaders who should have been waiting and watching for the birth of the promised Messiah/King of the Jews – knew the directions however were not interested in following. It was as if they could reference and recite the law – scripture was full of information/facts to them! They themselves had not internalized the scripture… living from a heart of worship.
Does Scripture breath life into you heart of worship?

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Could you imagine the Magi’s joy – they had followed the moving star as it lead and guided them – now it stopped over the place where the child was – the very child that the Magi themselves referred to as King of the Jews!
How would you respond if you were in the Magi’s sandals!

Fascinating that they simply “entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshiped him”
They knew they were welcome in the presence of the Messiah – they could enter.

When did you fall on your knees to worship Jesus Messiah?
Do you know Jesus the Messiah’s presence in your life?
Are you aware that the Spirit of God has made a home in your heart/soul, the Spirit of God resides in those who believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God? How does that transform the way we live each moment of life?
Do you still celebrate the joy of meeting Jesus? Do you still celebrate the joy that Jesus is present in our lives today?

The shepherds found joy, the Magi found joy. Have you found joy?

Perhaps you are asking where is joy found? Joy is found in worshiping the Messiah – our Redeemer – who came from Heaven to Earth to restore our relationship with God. Joy is gift that comes from salvation – there is no salvation without joy and no joy without salvation.

Joy is the gift of living for Jesus – of sharing Jesus with others. The root word for JOY in Greek is cheerfulness – calm delight.

Joy is calm delight that flows as we worship the Lord – giving thanks, praising him

Word from Christina Rossetti Christmas Carol –

What can I give Him,
poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.

If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.

Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

                              C.Rossetti