Sermon Notes & Videos
When I was a new believer, almost 30 years ago, I was fascinated while listening to sermons, and wondered how those pastors knew so much about the Bible and how they were able to extract such amazing messages from the Scriptures. Through those early years, I listened to sermon after sermon with keen interest. But, as the years passed I noticed something. Call it discernment or maybe it was being judgmental. I know each gift that God gives us has its equal but opposite counterpart. So, I have to be careful here to not cross into judgmental.
I noticed over the years that more and more of these sermons began to sound canned. They seemed almost mechanical in nature, as if they were part of some obligatory statement a lawyer must give, commenting on his client’s position. I think in politics you’d call it the “party line.” There seemed to be no life in them, no freshness in the messages, no abundance. It was as if these sermons were downloaded by robots and repeated, flavored only by various charismatic personalities. I realized that for a message to have real power, it could not just follow some formulaic model of “best sermon techniques,” but instead needed to be inspired by an overflow of what was happening in “that man’s life!” For the truth to pour out, there needed to be an overflow of the Spirit within.
This discovery has resurfaced in my mind in recent weeks, as I look back at the last few messages. Sure I believe they are true. A few weeks ago it was “Follow Me.” You have to give it all up, no matter what, lay it all down, and run after Y’shua with all you’ve got, from that moment He called you, and every day since. And then in “Self-Preservation” last week—you better be ready to give your very life for your faith. If you think you can preserve your way of life, or life itself, you will lose it. Again, all-in is the only way. And now this week, “The Best of the Best.” Do you think you can offer God anything other than your absolute best? Do you think anything less than making your faith walk your top priority is acceptable? You’d be wrong.
So, why these messages, why now? I believe we have reached a turning point in history. Never before has the following option been more critical. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve with your entire being, the gods of this world, or Yahweh and His Son.” I know the choice I’ve made, what about you?
Will you go forward into your destiny or do you want to go back to Egypt? We all know what “going back to Egypt” means. It remains as powerful imagery for believers today. Back in the wilderness days of Israel, the people had the tendency to complain as soon as things ahead seemed challenging or bleak. “We should return to Egypt; this was a mistake; let’s regroup and go back.” And this was their tendency, even after all they had witnessed: the ten plagues; the annihilation of their captors; an ocean that parted; water from a rock; bread from heaven; the voice of their God on the mountain; a betrothal to the Almighty; and a cloud by day and fire by night to lead them.
Then, when they had finally arrived at their destiny, they were given a simple task. Here are your marching orders; go in and survey the Land of Promise and come back with a report. God was looking for them to discover a few facts about their upcoming inheritance. “What is the land like? What are the people like? What are the cities like? What is the fruit like?” And here are some report guidelines: Do not rebel against Yahweh! Do not fear the people of the land! And always remember, Yahweh is with you and against them! Then, with all that information, make a simple choice — determine if are you able or are not able to take the land and receive the promises of God.
In the end we discover that there are two spirits in operation here, and one potential snag that could derail the whole thing, the strong desire to preserve ones own life. One spirit says, “we are able!” and the other, “we are not!” One is willing to lose his own life for the sake of God’s promises, the other is all about self preservation. Which spirit is controlling you?
“Follow Me!” Have you heard those words? Have they echoed in your heart so loudly that they drown out all other sounds? I pray they have. I remember the day like it was yesterday, almost 30 years ago. As if someone suddenly flipped on the lights and instantly the world around me became bright. No, you rarely know how dark it is until the lights go on. For me it was the day I heard those words, “Follow Me!” I have been running hard after Him ever since and I don’t regret a minute of it. I remember the words of my future wife years later, as I sat next to her on a plane in Panama, on the mission trip on which we met. “When I die, I want my gravestone to say, “‘All used up for God!’” I recall thinking in that moment, “I’m going to marry this girl!”
It’s the pattern for sure; Y’shua says, “Follow Me!” And if you do, you will have joined the greatest adventure imaginable. Peter wondered what would come of those who would join Him; “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” If you’ve walked with Him for any length of time, you know the answer. It will be the hardest most challenging life imaginable, one filled with daily opportunities to take up your cross and die to everything you once held dear. And it will be the most glorious and satisfying decision you will ever make! “Follow Me?” Yes, I will follow you anywhere and do anything You ask. I couldn’t imagine life any other way; how about you?
It’s always something. Week after week, as we dive deeper into the Word of God, we get a glimpse of how far we’ve strayed from the truth. It’s not difficult to completely change the meaning of Y’shua’s teachings by strategically leaving out a few words here and there. You think I’m exaggerating? I challenge you; look up Matthew 5:33-34 in any English translation of the Bible and tell me if you don’t conclude that you are no longer to swear an oath to God!
Take a look: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all…” Now, notice a completely different message when we add back the original language: “Again you have heard what was said to those of long ago: You shall not swear by my name falsely, but you shall return to the Lord your oath. But I say to you not to swear in vain in any matter…”
Do you see it? Y’shua never instructed us to NO LONGER take oaths to God, but rather to end your futile thinking that you can leave Yahweh’s name out of your promises. That is what Y’shua called “swearing in vain!” Leave out the phrases “by my name” and “in vain” and you have an utterly different message.
“You have heard that it was said…” and then Y’shua quotes Leviticus 19:12; “And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am Yahweh.” And the vanity reference was to bring you right back to the third commandment in Exodus 20:7: “You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. Vanity is not a reference to curse words, but rather the devastating practice of forgetting His name, or in other words, leaving His name out of your life! That is why you are warned to never exclude His name from an oath!
It makes more sense now, doesn’t it? You see, what they were doing back then is swearing on all sorts of things, while they crossed their fingers behind their backs. No big deal, as long as you leave out God’s name. That’s how far they had fallen. And we, as the church, just shot all the way to the other end of the deception spectrum. We simply stopped making oaths altogether! So, let’s make it simple. Just do what you say you will do, as if your entire life is dedicated to Yahweh. I like to say it like this…” Freedom is when you have no other options!” Think about it the next time you make a promise!
There are times when arguing about minute details is a waste of effort, even contrary to your intended outcome. You must be wise to recognize when the little things matter and when to let them go. It is often said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff; and it is all small stuff.” I agree with the first half of this epitaph, but strongly oppose the latter.
At times, the smallest of what seem to be ancillary ideas, have the most poignant relevance. In one place we read the serious instruction of a spiritual father to his son, “Don’t give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” And yet we also see in the first census of Israel, how Moses and Aaron “took a man from every tribe, each one the head of his father’s house, and recited their ancestry by families.” It seems in this case genealogy mattered!
And then we have Matthew, the writer of the most comprehensive Gospel, who opens his greatest life’s work with microscopic details; “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham…” His ensuing words seem like “endless genealogies,” a meticulous list that fills space, but seems to lend no deeper meaning to the narrative. Be honest, how many times have you read Matthew? And how much attention have you given to those first seventeen verses? Be honest! By the way, if you had, you’d have noticed the serious math error!
But then, if you get out your prophetic magnifying glass, you’ll notice he mentions five very significant women, all named in what is usually reserved for a line-up of men. And they all have one thing in common; can you guess? One woman in particular alludes to something so significant that it could be the entire reason Matthew included the genealogy. Yet, it is a microscopic detail, strikingly easy to overlook, and likely you never noticed it! Hint: It’s NOT Mary.
Have you ever come to the end of your faith? You know, that moment when you think, maybe even say out loud, “How can I possibly get through this? My circumstance is impossible! Where on earth will I find provision?” When the people of Israel were instructed to let the land rest for a full year, every seven years, they worried about the inevitable lack of provision; “Where will we get our food?”
On one occasion, thousands followed Jesus to a deserted place to hear His words and be healed, and by evening they were hungry. Jesus simply asked His disciples, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” They responded in the same spirit as their ancestors; “Where will we get food to feed them? Send them away to get their own food.” Jesus went on to challenge them; “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” We learn in John’s Gospel that He did this to test them! What was the test?
Later in His ministry, Jesus taught a parable explaining this very test. If a homeowner knew in advance the schemes of a thief, what would he do? It’s simple; he’d prepare for the break in. The lesson is that if you have advanced notice of an impending event, let’s say, like the Master asking you to “give the people something to eat in a deserted place,” you too must be prepared. It turns out Jesus has, indeed, given us such advanced notice! “Who is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give the people food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” In other words, be prepared to feed My people when the famine comes!
Oh, and if you are worried about from where such provision will come, Jesus has something to say about that as well. “Do not worry about what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. The pagans worry about these things. Your Father knows what you need; all you have to do is seek the kingdom of God.” Do that and you will have all the provision you will ever need! And blessed will that servant be!