God is Good

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Transcript

It’s a big day for us today because we are coming to the end of current theme which is “God is … ?” We’ve been over the few weeks and months looking at who God is, how do we fill in the gap, how do you fill in the line …. What does God mean to you? What is your understanding of God? What we have been doing is trying to learn from scripture, to enhance our understanding of who God is because I believe with all my heart that how we answer this question, how we perceive God affects every aspect of my life, every aspect of your life. Every aspect of our lives is determined by how we fill in this question. It stems from this brilliant verse in Ephesians 1 verse 16-18. This is the apostle Paul praying for the Ephesian church:

I pray for you constantly asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.Ephesians 1:16-18

That’s been my prayer for the last few months. I want to grow in the knowledge of God. That’s my prayer for you, for all of us as Festival Church, and whoever you are plugging in today, that’s my prayer for you that you would grow to know God more and more. So over the last few months we have looked at different personality traits, different characteristics, different ways of defining God, some of the big doctrinal words and thoughts but also some quite easy to understand ideas like God is personal. Today in many ways it’s one of the more easy ones as our final “God is … ?” and it’s this, God is Good. I wonder if that’s in your list of words to describe God today. God is Good. 

Here’s one thing that I would love you to understand, it’s not necessarily good in terms of how you might throw a ball for a dog and the dog gets the ball and brings it back, he’s saying “good dog”. Or maybe if you’re bringing up your kids and you’re trying to teach them to eat tidily without making mess at the meal table, really small kids I’m talking about here, you might say “well done, good girl, good job there” or “well done, good boy, great job”. So often we read the word “good” and it’s performance related. You think they’re good at doing something, or we want to encourage someone with something that they’ve been doing. We don’t often use it to describe the intrinsic nature of someone or something. I did think that perhaps a better word might be the word goodness. God is goodness personified. But I couldn’t get past the fact that “goodness” sounds a bit like “goodness me”. But God is good and he does good stuff so you could equally say that all the stuff that God does, all the performance related stuff is good too. But we have to take a step further into this and it describes the very nature of God. That He is goodness. We see this in a great verse in the old testament. This is Moses having a conversation with God. Moses is getting ready to lead the children of Israel into the promised land. He says I don’t want to go any further, I don’t want to take a step further unless you God, unless your presence goes with us. And the conversation carries on, Moses responds “Then show me your glorious presence.”

Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you Exodus 33:18-19 NLT

Some translations simply  say “show me your glory”. And look how God responds “The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you…’” In other words today, the essence of who God is, his very nature, his glorious presence, what sums God up is his goodness. That’s who He is. The early church fathers in the centuries after Jesus understood this and there is this guy Athanasius of Alexandria who talks about God’s goodness too:

For God is good – or rather, of all goodness He is the Fountainhead.~ Athanasius of Alexandria

He is acknowledging that God is good but develops it further. That’s quite an old expression of saying the source, the source of the stream, God is the source of all goodness. God is good.

The word good could be seen as a bit trivial perhaps. When we say that God is good or God is goodness maybe we think of benevolent charity worker or just being kind to people. All that is good and important but God’s goodness, as we read in scripture, is revealed in two main ways.

Holiness

The first way that God’s goodness is expressed is through his holiness. The apostle John says:

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all 1 John 1:5 NLT

When we talk about holiness we are talking about being set apart. God is holy means that there is nothing evil about him at all, He is set apart from all of that. There is no darkness in him. God’s holiness is the first way that we see his goodness being demonstrated. I love the way that John captures this. If you do a search on biblegateway.com (there are other similar concordances available online) and do a search for the phrase “God is” there is over 160 of them in the bible but there are only a few that try and describe God’s being. This is one of them “God is Light” there are lots of God is helpful, or giving you things, God can do this, God is doing this for you, there are very few that describe him as a being. John captures two of them, this is the first “God is light”. Here is why God’s holiness in terms of him being is good is really important for us. It gives us a benchmark of what is good. Because he is holy, set apart from all that is wrong, we can learn from that and learn how to live rightly or righteous. It is because of God’s goodness demonstrated through his holiness. This idea that he is light. We see an example of this in one of the prophets in the book of Micah. We see God’s holiness in terms of goodness also showing us what is good, how to live.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV

God has shown us humans what is good. God’s holiness is the first way that we see his goodness demonstrated. 

God is holy means that there is nothing evil about him at all, He is set apart from all of that. There is no darkness in him. Click To Tweet

Love

The second way is through God’s love. Interestingly the apostle John is the one that captures this too. He says in his first epistle:

God is love 1 John 4:16 NLT

This is saying that God is self sacrificial in terms of extending his favour and grace towards us. God is Light, God is holy, so he is not evil and we can learn what it means to live a right life. But also we see in his goodness that he is full of love. He is motivated by love, always wants to do us good because of that love. We see this demonstrated best of all in the cross, in that Jesus came to die for us. That was God self sacrificially extending his favour towards us. We read this in Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV

We see in his goodness that he is full of love. He is motivated by love, always wants to do us good because of that love. Click To Tweet

That’s the first half of my talk today on the goodness of God. I would love you to spend some time contemplating that. How is God’s goodness demonstrated through his holiness and his love. That gives us a benchmark for what it means to live and how it means to live well but also under that banner of God’s favour on our lives, always, he never changes in these things.

The second half of this talk today I wanted to reflect on a few of the ways that God’s goodness impacts on our lives. The way it can help us live. There are three things in particular that have caught my attention when it comes to God goodness. I found these three things in the psalms. What can we take from the goodness of God and apply to our lives. There’s plenty already in Holiness and Love but I wanted to give us three things that are really encouraging. To encourage you and me to lean in understanding God’s actual nature and character of goodness. As you begin to discover more about God is good, his goodness, these are some of the things that you have perhaps expect to see grow and cultivated in your life.

Gratitude

The first is God’s goodness that becomes the basis for a life of gratitude, a life of thankfulness.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever Psalms 136:1 NLT

His goodness is proceed by this ‘Give thanks to the lord’. I believe that developing this life of gratitude is founded in this growing knowledge and understanding of God’s goodness. A life of gratitude is so important. I was reading an article on forbes.com entitled “seven scientific benefits of gratitude that will motivate you to give thanks all year round”. And here they are:

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
  2. Gratitude improves physical health
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
  5. Grateful people sleep better
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength

We could do a whole series on gratitude, but the thing for us today is that gratitude is founded in God’s goodness. Learn to understand the goodness of God and apply it to your life.

Gratitude is founded in God’s goodness. Learn to understand the goodness of God and apply it to your life. Click To Tweet

Blessed

I believe that the goodness of God leads to living a blessed life. I don’t mean this in a superficial way either.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him Psalms 34:8 NIV

As you get to know God more and more, as you take refuge in him, it says blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Our God is good.

Hope

My final point is that through the goodness of God we rediscover hope in our lives. I think that we are in a season where we need to zone in, to magnify the hope that God brings to our lives. The goodness of God.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living Psalms 27:13 NIV

I love the way the psalmist is so sure, and it is because he knows something of the goodness of God. It’s the goodness of God that I believe becomes part of that foundation of hope that we need to express and live out in our lives. 

It’s the goodness of God that I believe becomes part of the foundation of hope that we need to express and live out in our lives. Click To Tweet

Talking about the goodness of God can be a bit difficult sometimes especially if you don’t feel that you’re experiencing God’s goodness. Last week we spoke about the sovereignty of God which raised some questions about the bad stuff, if God is in control how can we see some bad stuff happening. And that is often a thought that arises when we talk about the goodness of God. If God is so good how come I’m experiencing this in my life or how this is happening in the world. There’s an author called Max Lucado who has a great quote in his book “Grace for the moment”, he says:

God is good, he knows what he is doing, but when you can’t trace his hand trust his heart~ Max Lucado

That’s saying trust in the essence of who God is, that he is goodness, he is the source of all goodness and when you can’t see it, when you can’t see his hand at work, which is often the case, trust in his heart, trust in what you have learnt about him, trust in how you have experienced his goodness previously. Maybe that will help when you’re struggling to see. 

In the corner here I’ve put two other scripture references. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose Romans 8:28 NIV

Romans 8:28 talks about the good stuff that God does. Because he is the source of all goodness he can’t help but do good. And that’s where it talks about how God works things together in our lives for good, for the good of those that love him.

What you meant for evil against me …. God meant… for good Genesis 50:20 NIV

But Genesis 50:20 somehow also captures this quote we see from Max Lucado. It’s a story of Joseph, towards the end of the story, Joseph went through some terrible things, he was in prison, he became a slave, all his hopes and dreams at one point of his life looked shattered. It would have been really hard for him to trace the hand of God at work. But there was something about him, the story of Joseph, that shows he trusts in the heart of God, in the essence of God, the personality and character of the goodness of God. In Genesis 50:20 he’s talking to his brothers. His brothers are really worried because they had really mistreated Joseph in his life. But Joseph basically says to them “listen brothers don’t worry, all the stuff that you did to me, that you meant for harm, actually was God at work bringing me through stuff, teaching me so that I could be in the place that I am now”. Isn’t that amazing that Joseph could look back on his life – actually it is retrospect that these things just click in our heads – and was able to look at his experience of not being able to trace the hand of God but in that moment say “do you know what, all this stuff that I didn’t understand in the moment, the stuff that if anyone would’ve given me the opportunity I would have jumped out of”, Joseph was able to say that that was the good hand of the Lord at work in my life. That’s my prayer for you today.

So God is good. I hope that you have enjoyed our mini-series and I’m praying that you would continue to grow in your knowledge of God. Maybe we’ll pick up on some of this theme again in the New Year just because I think that there is so much more to unpack and I think it is so important. Thanks for being here with us today, it’s so good and I look forward to seeing you again soon. God bless.

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God is Sovereign

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Transcript

Today we are onto our next instalment of God is … ? Where we together are seeking to understand God more, how do we feel in the gap, God is … ? What’s your first, or default word. God is Love or God is Faithful like we looked at last week, or some of those bigger theological themes like God is infinite, God is transcendent, I wonder how you are getting on on this journey of trying to understand God more. It’s so important, we keep saying this, how we answer this question determines how we live our lives. I for one want to live my life in such a way that i get every last drop of life out of life and give God glory in doing that. So that’s my prayer for you too, that you continue to get to know him more and more.

Today we are going to be tackling a fairly big one of these, here we go, God is Sovereign. Wow, what a concept, what an idea. If you have been in the church world for a long time or if you are a Christian or perhaps you have some other religious background, this is an idea that is often associated with God. Can you spot a word in there that gives the game away? Maybe a part of this word? For me it’s the word ‘reign’ straight away that gets me thinking about a king or a queen. It makes me think about a throne, ruling, kingdoms. All that is packed into this word and again if you have been around church for a while you’ll be familiar with phrases that are speaking about the sovereignty of God. At some point you will have heard someone in their prayers refer to God as the lord of lords, or the king of kings, maybe even sung about it. You will have heard people talk about God’s kingdom. This is all referencing the sovereignty of God. One of the classics that people like to declare is that God is still on the throne. That is a way of declaring that He is sovereign. I was once in a church in America, Michigan, it has always stuck in mind how the guy prayed. He kept on saying, God you’re in control. That’s another idea that is associated with the sovereignty of God. It does mean that God is in charge of everything, that He is in control, that He is ruling and that things happen because of him. There’s this classic statement of faith that I have used before, it’s called the Westminster Confession of Faith, written in the 1600’s to help the church at large define its beliefs and it references and speaks of God’s Sovereignty.

God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…~ Westminster Confession of Faith

The sovereignty of God is an important part of our belief and has been right through the ages. In the 1600’s they were trying to capture that to remind us that God of His own will, freely, unchangeably, He makes happen whatever is going to happen. That’s what this is saying, it’s saying that He is sovereign. Another classic person is Matthew Henry and he wrote a very famous commentary on the Bible and for all I know he could have written it on our streets, he was from these parts, there’s an old chapel façade on our street that used to be part of Matthew Henry’s chapel. And here’s how he talks about the sovereignty of God in his commentary of Genesis chapter 1:

God is sovereign Lord of all by an incontestable right. If he is the Creator, no doubt he is the owner and possessor of heaven and earth.~ Matthew Henry

That also sums it up, it links it in to the fact that because God created everything he is therefore the owner of everything, a bit like an artist. He paints a picture, it’s their work of art, they are associated with their works of arts. It’s the same here is what Matthew Henry is alluding to. So we’ve had the Westminster Confession, we’ve had Matthew Henry and here’s my definition everyone: He scores when he wants. That makes it nice and simple and easy for me to understand. God scores when He wants. This might seem a bit alien to you, this is the line out of a classic football chant. I think it was first sung about Robin van Persie when he played for arsenal. The song is very simple, I won’t sing it to you but I’ll recite it to you. It goes like this:

He scores when he wants, He scores when he wants, [Insert Name], He scores when he wants.

That’s it, you get what they are singing about. He’s that good at scoring goals, it’s up to him when he scores. I just thought that summed up the sovereignty of God, God does what He wants, when He wants, because He can. I was going to say, He is the the Robin van Persie of the God world but that doesn’t sound right. This sentiment is expressed in the Psalms, believe it or not. In Psalm 115 verse it says:

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Psalm 115:3 NKJV

And yes, the sovereignty of God is a huge doctrine, there’s a lot of theology behind it. And there are some big questions about it that I’m going to allude to a bit later on. For example what about human choice, what about free will. How if God is in control of everything, how can people also have free choice themselves. It’s a big question, it’s worth calling the question out. It’s something that theologians have tried to work through throughout the centuries. For me I just settle on that God does whatever He pleases, He scores when He wants. And He somehow allows for some freedom for us within that, it’s very difficult. Maybe we’ll allude to some of that a bit later.

I’ve got three things in true Tim fashion that I’d like to consider that the sovereignty of God means for us. God is sovereign, God does whatever He pleases because He can, what are some of the things we can garner from that. They are all about life. Here’s the first one.

Life is Spiritual

Here’s the verse, Psalm 103:19

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. Psalm 103:19 NASB

All of life is spiritual. I wonder if you have ever considered that before. We often like to compartmentalise everything into different aspects of life, we do it all the time – this is my work life, this is my family life, this is my church life. We often do that about ourselves – this is my physical life, this is my emotional life, this is my spiritual life. I’ve been thinking that if all of this is made by God, and if like the verse says that God is looking after all of this from His place in heaven and His kingdom rules over all, then just perhaps more of this is spiritual and has spiritual connotations and connections and significance than we have thought before. I think about the story of Jacob when he was fleeing from his uncle, around that story, we read that he went to sleep in the wilderness, he had a rock for a pillow. He had a dream: Jacob’s ladder, in this dream showed the picture of a ladder that extended from earth to heaven. There were angels descending and ascending it. It just shows that there is a link, a strong link, between all that is around us and heaven. There is a spiritual world that is completely alive and sometimes we should do better to open our eyes to it. It is because God is sovereign, I believe that there is more to life as a spiritual experience because He is the artist, we are His works of art. We are intrinsically linked to the creator, the sovereign creator, who is having His will and say in the world today. Life is spiritual. Try not to compartmentalise it too much, maybe look out for more of God in the world. I often joke about it, it is probably related to the story of Aslan, how he says he is in other worlds, we just don’t see him. Every time I’m walking along the walls and see a cat, I just wonder if that is him. I think God is at work amongst us in so many ways. I think that we see him in beauty, in works of art, in the lives of each other. Let’s endeavour to see more of God and understand that we are spiritual beings. I think that we can garner that from that God is sovereign.

We are intrinsically linked to the creator, the sovereign creator, who is having His will and say in the world today. Click To Tweet

Life is Authored

It’s a bit of a play on words here. The first is definitely this idea that God is writing His story, God the artist, God the creator, God the author of all the stories that make up the story of the world. He’s writing your story today. I found these amazing verses in Jeremiah 10:23 reminds me that my life is not my own:

LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 says

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV

Psalm 138:8 says

You will fulfil your purpose for me Psalm 138:8 RSV

I find this really helpful to understand that I belong to God, that He is writing my story, it takes the pressure off. It means that we can relax again. That’s what’s amazing, we can discover life like it should be, we can unburden ourselves and say God I trust in you, you’re sovereign, you’re the one who has got this is control so i just give my life back to you, God it’s yours anyway and I’m yours, I want to live for you. I want my whole life to be a living sacrifice of praise for your glory. Life is authored but it’s a play on words because I do want to remind us that sovereignty reminds us of God’s authority that He ultimately is the go to for life. He is the one that should be the authority in our lives. It goes a bit against the grain against our intelligent democratised selves because we’re our own boss, we’re our own God, we do what we want. Actually there is a higher authority and that’s captured in the idea that God is sovereign and because of that you can go to Him with all that you are and all that you need. Many of you will be aware that for quite a long time, at least 10 years I worked in a political office, in a constituency office, I worked for Darren. One of the things I loved about the job was that people would come to us with their problems and we were in a position to help them. That’s brilliant, that felt like the kingdom of God at work. Do you know how we helped people most of the time, if someone had an issue with a company, whereas most of us in our day to day world would find the phone number for the customer helpline and we would begin our journey from the bottom, through the organisation, until we got to the point where our problems were addressed. Instead, working in that office with Darren, we would go straight to the top. We would go straight to the authority in the organisation. We would go straight to the one who was sovereign. 9 times out of 10 the problems would get solved. It’s a bit like that with God, you go straight to Him . When you acknowledge that He is the author of your life, the authority in your life, it gives you that ticket (if that’s not too demeaning) of going straight to Him and going, “God, I’ve got this to deal with, you’re sovereign so here you go, you can have this burden and I’m going to cast it upon you because you care for me.” Life is authored.

When you acknowledge that He is the author of your life, the authority in your life, it gives you that ticket of going straight to Him. Click To Tweet

Life is Meaningful

Life has meaning because God is sovereign. Because if, and I believe He is, God created everything, God is in charge of everything, God is looking after everything. It means that this isn’t just a random sequence of evolved events, it means that everything about us and the life that we experience has meaning. I have the pensive philosopher here and the verses that I’ve used to describe this and help us understand this are quite philosophical. Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season and a time. For that to be true everything must have meaning. If everything has a season and a time. I do love Ecclesiastes 5:2 This really puts it into context for me. It says: Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth so let your words be few. I think that the sovereignty of God causes us to think twice before jumping to conclusions. It causes me to think twice about thinking that we know it all. It causes me to think twice about spouting off about things. Because life has meaning because God is sovereign. That’s so important.

To wrap this all up I want to come back to that tension in all of this about “if God sovereign how come this is happening” and its usual bad stuff. If God is in control, how come this is happening over here. If God is sovereign, then do I really have any choice. What about human responsibility? They’re really good questions. There are two sides: God and His divinity, Us and our humanity and our responsibility. How do we find the meeting place? How do we bring those two things together? God’s divinity, our humanity, completely met in unity and harmony in the person of Jesus Christ. He was both human and God so He brings both together in His life. Look at His prayer life, you can tell a lot about a person’s prayer life. Not only did He tell us to pray in a certain way: our father in heaven, let your will be done, etc… He then put that into practice himself in the garden of gethsemane. He brought both together and said “not my will, but yours be done”. The things that we do struggle with, perhaps acknowledging God as creator, as sovereign, wanting to hold on to all our pride and autonomy, we can begin to undo some of that and make some steps forward by praying this prayer. About everything we do, the stuff we are hoping for, the stuff we are believing for, the stuff we are struggling with, the stuff we feel like we have to do, the stuff we don’t understand. I’ve found that adopting Jesus’ stance: God, I don’t know if I get this or like this but not my will but yours be done. I found that it helps us grapple with some of the questions that sometimes emerge about the sovereignty of God.

God's divinity, our humanity, completely met in unity and harmony in the person of Jesus Christ. He was both human and God so He brings both together in His life. Click To Tweet

So there we have it, we’ve looked at God is sovereign, a few definitions around that, some great verses, some stuff to think about. My prayer for you is that you would grow in your knowledge of God and get a fresh glimpse of God’s sovereignty.

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God is Faithful

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Transcript

We’re in the middle of a theme at Festival, the theme is God is …? We’re asking the question what is God like. Because it’s a really important question not only for the sake of “oh isn’t that interesting, wouldn’t that be good to know”. It’s one of those questions that I think everyone at some point in life asks. Or maybe they start before this question “is there a God?” but at some point you end up having to come up with some sort of definition to begin to grow in your understanding of what God is like because that affects everything we do. All our lives flow out of this understanding, this relationship of and with God. Which is why I think it is so important, so I’m really enjoying the theme and I hope you are too and finding lots of opportunities to reflect and perhaps have some really good conversations about this. My prayer for you is that your understanding of God would just grow and grow and grow.

So today is Remembrance Sunday where we look back and remember, and are thankful for those that gave their lives for our freedom in the various wars that have happened in the past. It’s a really good time to reflect on our freedoms and to acknowledge the sacrifice that others have made for us. It makes us more thankful in the moment that we’re in, even in the midst of Covid and restrictions, I’m so grateful for those that have gone before and especially those that fought and have given their lives so that we can experience freedom.

And in thinking about Remembrance Sunday and our theme, I really felt on my heart that I wanted to talk about the faithfulness of God. Actually God is faithful. It’s part of who he is, it’s one way of understanding who he is like. I wonder what words come to mind when you think of faithfulness. I think of words like loyalty, friendship, it makes me think of something solid, secure, always there, dependable, reliable. It’s such a great word isn’t it. This is what our God is like. He is faithful. It’s so built into his character, when you begin to experience God you’re always going to experience something of his faithfulness. Which is so different to the world and the lives that we live and experience with each other – we’re not always that faithful but God always is. In his faithfulness he is challenging us to be faithful, to be loyal, to offer those hands of friendship to each other, being there for one another, doing what we say we will do. Those sort of things are conjured up in faithfulness.

Here’s what some people in the past have said of God’s faithfulness . I’m a big fan of quoting Spurgeon, a great preacher. He described it like this: God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips and acts with a hand that never fails. It’s a lovely way of describing God’s faithfulness. He is trustworthy, that’s another good way of describing faithfulness. You can trust God, he is trustworthy. You have this sense in the way Spurgeon has talked about it here, this continuity, this consistency. God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips and acts with a hand that never fails. I do love that description.

Here’s another, this is a lady called Corrie ten Boom. She passed away in the 1980’s. Her life is significant, especially so today, because of her experience in the second world war. She was a Jewish survivor of the concentration camps. Her testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness when you know and hear what she went through, that she could still life after that, praising God, being grateful to who God is and magnifying God for his faithfulness. That’s a great testimony. Here’s how she viewed God’s faithfulness: in God’s faithfulness lies eternal security and you can see that she has her eyes on the future, eyes on heaven. She grounds it completely in God’s faithfulness that’s how important God’s faithfulness was to her because it helped her see and understand that out of that makes her future in God secure, God’s faithfulness is so important for us to try and grasp hold of.

Here are some great verses from the book of Deuteronomy. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9) . I really love this verse, I love the way it emphasises that the Lord your God is God. I like the fact we have the word “the”, he is “the” faithful God, not he is “a” faithful God, one among many. This is it, He is “the” faithful God. He is keeping his covenant, that’s His promise, of love to a thousand generations. Again faithfulness is about being trustworthy, doing what you say you’re going to do, being there always, coming through when you promise. God does that to a thousand generations for those that love Him and keep His commandments. Be encouraged today that God is the faithful God. You can trust Him with your life today.

I was struck by the old old hymn. I’ve got this song book here. There was this insurance salesman, believe it or not, in America in 1923, he penned the words of the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. I thought it was going to be some great artist or orator. I love the fact that his name is Thomas Chisholm, he was 57 years old in 1923, an insurance salesman. Have a listen to how we reflected on God’s faithfulness

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.~ Great is Thy faithfullness – Thomas Chisholm

And here’s the chorus

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!~ Great is Thy faithfullness – Thomas Chisholm

Perhaps for many there will be some familiar words, it’s a familiar hymn. Why don’t you dig out an old hymn book and read the rest of the verses. I just love hearing people’s reflections on God’s faithfulness, it’s so encouraging. Just like that chap, our insurance agent, wrote and penned the words for a great song, there are plenty of song writers in scripture that spoke of faithfulness. I want to introduce you to a fairly unknown songwriter, his name is Ethan and he was known as Ethan the Ezrahite. His song is Psalm 89 and in this psalm he talks about God’s faithfulness, he mentions God’s faithfulness at least 10 times. He sets off his psalm with this first verse.

I will sing of the lord’s great love for ever with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generationsPsalm 89 v1

You might be thinking “Tim, why have you chosen such an obscure person as the backdrop for speaking about God’s faithfulness?”. I guess Ethan the Ezrahite is slightly obscure, you can see his name at the beginning of Psalm 89 describing the song. I like the fact that he speaks about faithfulness 10 times in his psalm. Here’s what I do like about him, have a guess what his job was. Again a bit like Thomas Chisholm who was a life insurance salesman, Ethan had quite an unexpected job. Just like I thought the writer of Great is thy Faithfulness would have been a great composer or songwriter or artist, what do you think Ethan’s job was? There’s a clue on the screen, Ethan’s job was to play the cymbal, that’s what Ethan did. Day in, day out his job in the temple was to play the cymbal. If I had thought ahead a bit, I could’ve brought a cymbal with me or even a triangle. I feel it’s in the realm of that sort of instrument. I’m being a bit of a snob here, it’s not a piano or a violin, you hit it just like a triangle. This was Ethan’s job, day in day out, he played a cymbal. I think that says something about his attitude towards faithfulness which I believe came from this understanding of God because he talks about faithfulness so much in his song. Check out Ethan, see where else he has been mentioned. And here’s what’s amazing about Ethan, which is incredibly inspiring. Ethan the cymbal player, in the book of 1 Kings we read about the wisdom of the mighty and clever Solomon and interestingly the writer in 1 Kings, to make the point that King Solomon was really really wise, who did he compare him to? He says that Solomon was even wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite. Even wiser than the cymbal player in the temple. I think that says something about the value of faithfulness and particularly God’s faithfulness. Ethan the Ezrahite was the benchmark of what wisdom was in that part of the old testament. King Solomon was so wise, he was wiser than this guy.

So, let’s look at this first verse quickly and let’s look at three things that speak of God’s faithfulness that Ethan the Ezrahite highlights.

The first one is this. I will sing of the Lord’s great love. God’s love. Whenever I contemplate God’s faithfulness, whenever you do any studying about it, it doesn’t take long to understand that God’s faithfulness is really connected with his love. His love is lasting. His love goes deep and wide. His love reaches even me and even you. Faithfully. God’s love isn’t just a flippant thing, it’s not intermittent. God is faithful with his love towards you and me. If you don’t feel loved today take it from me that you are loved because God’s faithfulness means that He loves us all the time. Whether we feel like we’re being loved, whether we feel like we deserve it or not, whether we’re feeling sorry for ourselves. God’s faithfulness is testimony to the fact that He loves you today, He loved you yesterday and He’ll love you tomorrow. Whenever we start contemplating the faithfulness of God, the trustworthiness of God’s, the fact that he has always been there, will always be there, you can’t help but to start to think about His love which is always there for you too. Ethan highlights that in the opening line: I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever. God’s faithfulness is also testimony to his great love.

God’s faithfulness is testimony to the fact that He loves you today, He loved you yesterday and He’ll love you tomorrow. Click To Tweet

Here’s the second thing, it says with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known. God’s faithfulness not only needs to be proclaimed. You can know God’s faithfulness, that means that you can experience His faithfulness, that means His faithfulness is to be lived, it’s to be experienced and perhaps you’ve not contemplated that before. Maybe life has thrown lots of unfaithful stuff at you, that you find it hard to believe that you can know someone who is really really faithful come what may, despite who we are, despite our experiences, the things that we get up to, the way that we are so often unfaithful. You can know God’s faithfulness today. You might be going through challenging circumstances, hear it from me that God is with you in those circumstances because God is always faithful, He’s there with you. Perhaps you can’t see him, it doesn’t mean that He’s not there, it just means that you can’t see Him. He’s there because He’s faithful. He’s promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. Maybe you’re praying for something in your life and you’re hanging on to God’s faithfulness, that’s the thing to do because he is trustworthy. And because of his faithfulness, I believe you will see his hand at work in your life.

Perhaps you can’t see God, it doesn’t mean that He’s not there, it just means that you can’t see Him. He’s there because He’s faithful. Click To Tweet

I would like to pray at this moment about that. I wasn’t planning on doing that but I sense that I should do just that. Wherever you are, let’s just bow our heads together for a moment:

Oh Lord I’m really just struck in this moment by knowing your faithfulness. Thank you that you see us as we are and you see what we’re working our way through and Lord we proclaim your faithfulness in every situation today and we trust in your faithfulness. Lord we bring our lives to you afresh and there are some things that Lord, it’s like a heart cry, we really need to see your faithfulness. I pray that would be our experience over the coming days and weeks. That we would know your faithfulness with what we’re going through. God, I thank you that Ethan shows us that faithfulness can be known.
In Jesus name, amen.

Faithfulness can be known, we’re also told to make it known. Let’s be people of testimony who share in our stories how God has worked and is working in our lives.

My final point about verse 1, we could go all 52 verses, we could do one a week. Through all generations again this is just adding more credibility to God’s faithfulness that we only have to look back and see his hand at work. In past generations, in our generation today, God is at work. And He always goes ahead of us, so in future generations God is faithful too. I quite enjoy studying and looking at history and I think it’s because I’m growing in my understanding that history carries the memories of God’s faithfulness. I love reading old books and looking at old stories because they capture something of the testimony of a memory of God’s faithfulness in the past. But God is faithful now in this generation and I think we’re called to proclaim his faithfulness in this generation. I’m full of hope as we look to the future that God is faithful there too. This is poignant too for remembrance Sunday, we can be thankful for what God has done on our behalf in the past. For keeping us safe, for being with us, God is faithful through all generations.

In past generations, in our generation today, God is at work. He always goes ahead of us, so in future generations God is faithful too. Click To Tweet

That’s Ethan the Ezrahite in verse 1. Let’s read that verse from Deuteronomy: Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. I hope today you grow in your understanding of how God is faithful. I come back to whatever you are going through today. Just remember that He is faithful, He is trustworthy, He is solid, He is sure, He is secure, He is for you not against you and you can rest in Him because He has got you in His hands.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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God is Missional

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Transcript

Today for Festival Church, it is Mission Sunday and we’re really excited about how God uses us to reach out to others. We are in the middle of a theme called God Is…? We’re asking questions about what God is like because we think it is really important, not just to know God, but how knowing Him affects every aspect of our lives. Depending on how you fill in the gap here, that’s going to determine the way in which you live. It is the same for all of us, however I’m defining God, however I’m understanding Him, that’s going to affect everything I do. And here today on Mission Sunday we’re going to look at what it means that God is Missional.

I’m not sure if that is a term that you’re familiar with. It basically means that God is on mission. He’s doing something, He’s redeeming people back to himself, He is at work in the world today drawing people to Himself. God is Missional. You might have heard this word used before to describe Churches, a missional church. A missional church would describe themselves as a Church that is on mission. Doing exactly what God has called us to do, to preach the gospel in all the world around us. In fact God isn’t missional on his own. God always uses people to fulfil his purposes. So actually, we are missional if we are connected with what God is wanting to do with us and through us.

I’ve got this little picture to help us understand this a little bit. It’s quite a basic picture, I haven’t won any awards for photographic design. I have a picture of 6 houses, one with a light on. Pretend this is your street, your town or city. And to be missional means that we get involved with the community around us. We know when we’re doing well when all the lights start coming on in all of the houses. Jesus embodies the mission of God. There’s a really famous verse in John chapter 1:

The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us John 1:14 NIV

The message translation it’s one of its most iconic verses, it says

The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhoodJohn 1:14 MSG

You can see that in this picture. God says He so loved the world that He sent His one and only son. God looked down and thought “what needs to happen to bring people back to me, I know, I’ll send Jesus”. And Jesus came and lived and dwelt in the community in order to bring about change. In the here and now the Church is like this house with the lights on, we’re here to help other people find out about God. And whether that’s people we know on our doorstep, further down the road or perhaps even further afield, in different countries perhaps. We are called to join with God in His mission to bring people back to Him.

In the New Testament one of the people who took this upon himself as their mission too, was the apostle Paul. I love what he says about getting to know this missional God. There’s three verses that I would love to share with you. The first one about Paul knowing is in Philippians chapter 3 verse 10 and it’s like this outlines or summarises how Paul felt about Jesus. It says:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the deadPhilippians 3:10 NIV

 

Paul is really explicit, I want to know Christ, and I hope that is your prayer today. In terms of joining in with God’s purposes in the world today, do you want to know him with everything that you’ve got, with your whole being. I sense these words resounding through the ages – “I want to know Christ”. So not only did Paul want to know the One who turns the lights on, he wanted to make sure the whole community also knew about Jesus. 

In this next verse, Romans 15:20, Paul summarises his mission. And says:

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not knownRomans 15:20 NIV

So he wants to know Christ and he wants to make sure he shares the message about Christ in places where Christ is not known. With people who don’t know Christ. I think that should be part of our mission too. Are we presenting the gospel? Are we speaking about the kingdom of God? Are we drawing people to Father God? In places where he is not currently known? That should surely be our mission. I’m really intrigued actually, I’m doing a fair bit of study at the moment in terms of the things that Paul encourages us to know about. He often talks about the things that he knows about and what he wants to know about more. I’m really intrigued that he wants to know Christ, he wants to preach the gospel where Christ is not known. You can see him really linking in with God’s mission, with missional God.

I love these verses in Ephesians 1 17 and 18. I keep reading these out in what seems like every team meeting, every church service. They have become a real heart cry inside of me, what Paul is praying, I’m praying it for myself and I’m praying it for you too.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV

 

The new living translation in verse 17 says that he’s praying that God would give us spiritual wisdom and insight so that we might grow in our knowledge of God. In this season of our theme of getting to know God better I hope you catch a new and fresh glimpse of missional God, God on mission, working in the world today but actually inviting us to join Him, to walk alongside Him, together with God, making a difference in the world. And to know this, to get to grips with this, Paul prays that we be granted the spirit of wisdom and revelation, wisdom and understanding about God and His ways. There was one thing that struck me about wisdom and revelation, or wisdom and understanding, is those two things are really important in terms of equipping us and instructing us so they strengthen us, they give us the tools we need but also within wisdom and revelation we find the instructions, how to do stuff. And in fact when we consider joining God on mission, wisdom and understanding are really important in terms of those two principles equipping and instructing. One of the wisest men who ever lived, King Solomon, he wrote about the importance of wisdom and revelation. 

I want to read to you what he said about these things.

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lordwill be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
when they have done you no harm.
31 Do not envy the violent
or choose any of their ways.
Proverbs 3:21-31

There we are, right at the start here, those two things that Paul is praying for us that we might have that we might know Him better, we might seek his purposes and seek his will in our world. All those centuries earlier, King Solomon is highlighting their importance.

You might have noticed there’s a slight change of tone: up to verse 26, the first 5 verses and the verses afterwards. Solomon starts off with Listen everyone, don’t lose sight of wisdom and understanding and then proceeds to show us how wisdom and understanding will equip us. But then also from verse 27, pulls out some instructions, equipping and instructing. Things that we need to reach out to our world. Here are three things that I noticed that wisdom and understanding will equip us with.

Spiritual Foresight

The first one I’ve called Spiritual Foresight. Solomon says do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight the apostle Paul is praying that we would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, it’s a spiritual thing that needs to be kept in focus. Wisdom and understanding can help you see ahead really well. They can help you discern who to speak to, they can help you discern what God would have you do in this next season, they can help you discern how reaching out to others looks in the world in which you live.

Firm Feet

The second thing that wisdom and understanding equip us with, it equips us to be able to take really good footsteps. Verse 23 says Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. Wisdom and understanding gives us a firm footpath for our feet. I’ve gone with Firm Feet. Wisdom and understanding will help you take good steps in this time of uncertainty, the time we are living in now you can have firm feet with wisdom and understanding.

Fearless Hearts

The third thing that wisdom and understanding can give us is Fearless Hearts. I love how it says in verse 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked. This season that we are in, this pandemic season, requires people like you and me, people like us to have fearless hearts, to step into the fray, to step into the darkness and say “do you know what? We have Jesus living in us and amongst us and we don’t like necessarily what’s going on around us, we find it difficult ourselves, it eats away at our boldness and courage but because of the wisdom and understanding that come from God we can do this fearlessly, without fear”. We can have fearless hearts as we reach out to those around us. That comes from wisdom and understanding.

Open Handed

So wisdom and understanding equip us ready to join with God on mission but then equally comes the instructions that are really important for us today. The first one I think is that we need to have open hands with the gospel. Verse 27 says Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. The message of the gospel is something very good that the world needs. The message of the kingdom of God is something to be shared with everyone around us. Let’s not be a church that holds this to ourselves. Lets have open hands with this good message, this good news, this gospel of Jesus. Millions of people need to hear this message and the last thing the world needs is a church that is holding it all in, lets have open hands when it comes to the message of the good news of Jesus.

Truthful Representatives

The second thing is that we need to be truthful to this message. Truthful representatives of God’s message. Verse 28 says Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. I think part of that open handedness, part of that integrity and truthfulness is actually the call to stand up now even though it might be difficult, even though we’re in lockdown again, even though there is a pandemic. God is still good, God is still God. His message is still relevant, Jesus still saves and has the answers for life’s challenges. Lets not let that lamp go dim, let’s shine it brightly even now when those challenges abound. And lets not just be limited to our doorstep, let’s look wider, let’s remember that God has called us to preach the gospel to the whole world, it’s not just about us it’s about our community needing to know Jesus.

Channels not Bottlenecks

My final point is let’s not ever be a bottleneck, let’s always be a channel for God’s blessing. It says Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. We have that message with us now, let’s not close it down and act almost like God on the message. God is proclaiming this message through the church and I reckon our doors need to be opened as wide as possible. Our way of proclaiming it needs to be louder, more direct. Let’s not be the ones who close it down and create a bottleneck when it comes to blessing others, blessing our communities, other people that are reaching out allowing God to get resources to us and through us that we might bless others. I love the way that wisdom and understanding is key to joining in with God’s mission today.

Lets head back to Ephesians 1 and as we think about how we are called to join with God’s mission on the earth today, I want to see the lights come on in all of these houses, in all of our communities, the people that we love and know, our neighbours and friends, strangers as well. I love the way that it starts with knowing God, I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. So God is Missional, and because He is missional, so should we be, because we reflect Him. He’s the one who gives us all of our bearings, all our groundings, all of our identity. So let’s be like him, let’s join in with what God is doing in the Earth today. So today on mission Sunday, let’s give our all, let’s pray for each other, let’s pray for people that we support. Let’s pray for Pastor Leonard and let’s also support them with our resources. We are taking up an offering today for Pastor Leonard, let’s give wholeheartedly as we join in with God’s mission in the world today.

God is Missional, and because He is missional, so should we be, because we reflect Him. He’s the one who gives us all of our bearings, all our groundings, all of our identity. Click To Tweet

God bless everyone, it’s been so good to be with you, being able to share from God’s word. I’ll see you soon, God bless.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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