Monday, January 23, 2012

Growing Strong 3 - In servant hood

Growing Strong - Part 3 ( Servant hood)

Below is the link to the audio of Part 3 of  the sermon series on Growing Strong preached by Colin D Cruz at Word of Grace Church.

This morning we have been singing these amazing songs about what God has done for us, how he poured out his love on us, he died for us. The question we should ask is, what should our response be to this amazing love? Should we be saying,’ Thank you for dying for me, I’ll see you in heaven”. What is the adequate response? What does God expect from us now that we are believers? 

Imagine a lady who is waiting to get married. She has found the right person? She is looking forward to getting married. She is looking forward to her wedding day and they hope for a fairy tale end of “they lived happily ever after”. They get married and the husband goes to work, the wife spends her time watching TV, shopping etc. He comes back and finds the house in a mess, the clothes unwashed, no food cooked, the credit card used on shopping. And he asks her, “What’s going on and why there is no food cooked?” And she turns around and says “what? Do you expect me to cook for you?” What kind of a marriage would that be? The husband asked her how about starting a family? And she turns around and says, “I don’t want any kids!” What kind of a marriage would that be? Is this wife a good wife?

Now when we come to Jesus -he is the bridegroom. He saved us and had given his life for us. He has some expectations from us and what HE wants us to do.  And we should fulfil them. What should our response be? Here is one area of response

Let’s look at Ephesians chapter 2 which is a wonderful chapter on the grace of God. Those 10 verses we start with us being dead in our transgressions, to being saved by grace and then our response. We are dead and hell bound. But God made us alive – he came in his grace saved us and seated us in the heavenly realms.  So what should our response be?

Ehp 2:1-10
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
1. Verse 10: You were saved to serve. We are not just saved so that we can go to heaven. We are God’s workmanship -each one of us in intricately designed. We are different from each other. The word ‘poem’ comes from the word ‘workmanship”. There are things that only you can do and these things were planned in eternity. Doesn’t that blow your mind?

God had planned for Moses who he ran away from home and he was looking after sheep – but God’s plan was for him to bring deliverance to the Jews. David – was a shepherd boy. God said he would not shepherd sheep but the nation of Israel and He made him King. Esther came from nowhere to become the queen who would one day bring deliverance to the Jews.

Today we have different people who have been used by God – William Carey, Mother Theresa etc.
My question is what God has called you to do? It is unique to you. Are you involved in that or have you buried it in the ground? Are you like the bride who is watching TV and says to the husband I have no time for you? Some of us may be called to a public ministry and some to private. God has a plan for you. Each one’s plan is different. You have a chandelier in your house and a zero watt bulb. Both are useful. The zero watt will help you from stubbing your toe against the bed in the night. Don’t look at someone else’s plan. Ps 139 – We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Even the desires you have are unique to you. The experiences you face are unique to you- even the bad patches you go through. God uses it for good. Find out Lord what you would have me do. In two weeks time we will be having a “SHAPE” workshop to find out what our shape us – what are the gifts God has given you, what is your personality etc so you can serve in your unique way.

2. You are never greater than when you serve. John 13:1-12.  This is a familiar passage where Jesus washes his disciple’s feet. Here is Jesus, secure in his identity.  He knew he was equal with God but he took on the robes of the lowest slave. He shows them the full extent of His love. In those days the job of cleaning the feet was relegated to the lowest slaves yet Jesus did it.
V12. Jesus set an example and we have to follow. He did not just preach but he practised. He did not just explain but was the example. Today I want us as a church to grasp this importance of this  truth We are all called to be servants. How many have heard the word “Minister”? We have many ministers in our country. In today’s world a Minister is one who drives in a special car with a red light on top with police in front of him. In Bible times the word minister means servant. The meaning of words, change over time. 

In Mark 10:43, Jesus explains how to serve and how to minister. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
You’ve seen the corporate chart with the CEO at the top and then the mangers and then the rest below. Jesus is saying that chart has to be turned upside down. The one who has to be great must serve. In the world we measure greatness differently – by how many bodyguards accompany the man. But Jesus says it’s the one who serves the most is the leader and the greatest. So we need to get this into our spirit because it’s so against the grain of our culture and thinking. Jesus was confident of his identity- he didn’t think he was God and  that he didn’t need to do this. We need to be secure in our identity in God – laying out the chairs; carrying stuff on the serving team will nto affect your identity.

 Ask yourself – Am I a person who serves? There are different kinds of servers. Some only serve when asked. Am I a person who serves only when asked? A good servant does not need to be told. We should see the need and step in. Jesus was like that – he saw the need and didn’t say “John , you do it” He stepped up and did it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can help.

3. You will be rewarded as you serve.
Matt 25:31-36.  31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 The world is coming to an end and all the sheep with be separated from the goats.  There is a great reward in store for us. We are saved by faith and grace alone not by works. But we are saved FOR works. All these are action words – feeding, clothing, visiting etc.
Verse 34- Its mind boggling what Jesus has in store for us. The rewards are totally out of proportion to what we do.  Paul said No eye has seen what God has prepared for those who love Him. Let’s keep our eyes on the goal. Our reward is in heaven which cannot rust, spoil or fade.  We will have something we cannot imagine. For what “For giving a cold cup of water, for visiting the sick, for cooking for someone. We get kingdoms for that!!We are looking forward to an eternal reward.  Jesus is keeping a track of all we do. We may not get rewarded here but in heaven we will. It’s mysterious but it’s something great. Our time on earth is an opportunity to earn an eternal reward in heaven.
The reward is totally disproportionate to what we do. V 40
Here is the challenge – ask yourself what you can do?  You can do many, many things. Here we want to get everybody involved .Why? Because we are getting married to Jesus, he has saved us and we want to serve Him. Pray and ask God to put a desire in our hearts to serve.

Colin D Cruz 
Jan 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Growing Strong - In the Word


                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This message was preached at Word Of Grace Church by Colin D Cruz on 15th Jan 2012.

In last week’s message we lay the foundation of the grace of God in our lives. We saw how we were like Mephiboseth crippled and at the mercy of the King. In the same we were crippled by sin and in need of mercy. King David wanted to show kindness to anyone from Jonathan’s household and that was the only qualification needed. God said because of Jesus He wants to bless us. It’s totally unearned and undeserved. Mephiboseth was fearful.He thought that the king would kill him. But David restores him and makes him sit at his table. 

God picked us up from our miserable state and gives us a place next to Christ . We are seated in the heavenly place with Christ. We have been adopted into God’s family. And now we have to live in the goodness of that. God is committed to you. He is committed to making you  like Jesus.  
When they asked Michelangelo how he made his statue of David he is reported to have said, "It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn't look like David." In the same way , we are a work in progress and everything that is not Christ is being chipped away from our lives.
Today I want to talk about another foundation :feeding on God and His word.
TEXT:1Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.
We need God’s word. It is a necessity. You will die spiritually and your life will be of no consequence.
Deut 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. God said this in the context of feeding the Isrealites manna everyday. Yet he reminds them that food alone will not satisfy. The things of this world will not satisfy. You may have the best spouse, kids but they will not satisfy. Only He can satisfy you. We have a God shaped vacuum that only He can fill. We are made by god, like God, for God.
1Cor 1:9 - God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
 How do we cultivate that relationship? Through the Word of God. Through the scriptures you will come to know what God is like.Jesus is the most perfect being and HE wants friendship with us. But the irony is that we don’t want to spend time with him. We may grow physically, intellectually etc but to grow spiritually we have to feed o the Word of God. Unless we feed on it we will remain infants spiritually.
How do you feed on the Word of God?
1 You need certain convictions- First you must believe that the Bible is God breathed. 2Tim3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,. These words are not ordinary – they come from the mind and heart of God. If we don’t believe this we won’t trust it. It not only God breathed but TRUE. Today many people claim to know the truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. So not only is the bible truth but it is the standard of truth. It is the Plumb line against which everything is measured.
 The bible instructs in 2Tim2:15 do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Scriptures are written for each one of us to understand and not just for the scholars. Mark Twain once said “It’s not the things about the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me, it the things I do”. The Bible is shallow enough for a baby to wade in and for an elephant to drown in.
The Bible is useful It instructs us on life. How to bring up children, how to love your wife, work related issues. Did you know that you will be rewarded in heaven for how you work in your office?
The bible has effect- The word of God is powerful. Heb4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Rom 10:17. 1Pet 1:23, 1Pet2:2, Jn17;17.
The Bible has great power Ps19:7. The law of the Lord is perfect reviving the soul. If you are down read the Psalms- it will lift your spirits. Ps 1 tells you that you will be like a tree planted by streams of water. Josh 1:8 tells you that by abiding in the Word you will be prosperous. God’s intention is to nourish and strengthen you. We have to make the effort to feed ourselves.
2. What is the posture we need to adopt?
We are not here to judge the word of God. The Word of God is above us. You are right or wrong. We will be judged by it. We are to place ourselves under the authority of scripture. Ps 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me,   and lead me in the way everlasting.
Heb4:12. The word of God judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. When we read the word we should read it as spoken to you. Don’t apply it to others but apply it to yourself.
 Thomas Watson a Puritan preacher said “Learn to apply Scripture. Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the Word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins.” When it emphasizes any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off Scripture for themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the Word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it is applied.”
James says do not be deceived – if you only hear the word but do not do it you deceive yourself.
3. How do you feed on the Word?
God wants us to have a daily time in the Word. Here is one way. It’s not the only way to do it – some way is better than no way!
First – It’s good to spend time with the Lord at the beginning of your day.
A.  Briefly pray for God’s help to understand His word unless the Holy spirit opens your understanding you will understand  nothing. Ex33:13, Eph3:16-19. Pray our aloud – it helps you stay un-distracted. Keep your diary next to you to write and put away distracting thoughts and to do lists that keep popping into your head when you are praying.
B- Read in an unhurried way and in a systematic way. Use a daily devotional that twill help you. Parents get one for your children- there are plenty good ones available online. For mediation you need time in an unhurried way.  Don’t start your devotions 10 minutes before you have to leave for work.
Seek consistency in time and place. Benefit from habit – it helps.
C- Have a method. George Muller said that he struggled to pray for 10 years. The he discovered that if he read the word first he got into the groove and it helped to kick start his prayer. Intersperse scripture with prayer.
Journalize – Invest in a note book where you can record what and how much you read. It helps you keep a tack. Meditate – It’s like sucking on a sweet and having the juices flow.
Part of meditation is prayer.
Three things to include in your meditation 1. Family – if you don’t pray for them who will? 2. Your day at work etc. 3. Some aspect of Church – if you don’t pray for your church who will?
If you do this you will grow spiritually. Start with 15 minutes and then you can increase it. Write 2 things in your journal. One sentence beginning with God and the other beginning with, I
As you do this day by day, week by week and month by month you will grow. You will have victory over sin and temptation. We have one life to life – lets live it will because one day we will die and have to face Jesus.
 Colin D Cruz  
Jan 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Preamble for worship

During our time in Mumbai with the family over the Christmas break, I made a wonderful discovery as I was rummaging through my old boxes of treasures looking for certain items of the past- from decades  long gone. Neatly tucked away in a box of books was an old red Hymnal that belonged to my father (who had passed on 23 years ago). I was ecstatic with joy as I thought it had gotten lost in our moving from one city to another. It’s a hymn book I have always loved and cherished. A special touch is that it has his signature in his own beautiful handwriting !

What caught my attention this time is the Preface, (much to my shame, I admit) that I have never read before. I was stunned by the clarity of intent and purpose and the clarity about what the content ought to be and why. I thought to myself as one who does not have a casual interest in worship but had devoted a large portion of my life to, that this is a great Preamble for any worship leader.  This has provoked me to pen my thoughts on what I believe the shape and structure of worship ought to be. 

We all have many ideas about worship but at the end of the day we need to ask a fundamental question – did it please the heart of God, was it scriptural, was it Trinitarian , did it exalt Jesus above all? I have at times been in Church meetings where one is not certain who is being worshipped. What do I mean by this? Often I have found the focus has been on man and his needs and his desire – even the desire to worship but worship is not actually given to God Almighty. Song after song is sung about a desire to worship and love God but it is not done. Or the focus has been on how much we love Him and not on how much God has loved us by sending His son to die on a cruel cross. The focus almost exalts man feelings and emotions more than the exalting the different attributes of God and worshipping Him for who He is. Sometimes you never hear the Cross being mentioned at all and the Holy Spirit is almost totally ignored. Most of us do this unintentionally, I know.  Maybe this will help us to be more alert and focused when we decide what songs our congregation will sing. Let’s look at our lists and see whether they are well rounded in content. A good question to ask you when preparing for a meeting is,”if an unbeliever attended only the worship in a meeting, would he hear the gospel come through the lyrics of the songs?”

So what should our songbooks and Set lists look like? Here are my thoughts: ( These points have been taken  from the Preface of the Redemption Hymnal and adapted  for our purpose)

  •   Songs that  emphasize the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glory of His cross as central in the redemption , his blood , of sinful men.
  •         They provide for the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth and express the aspirations of those who long to be Holy as He is holy. Their basis of doctrine is belief that the Bible is the Word of God that lives and abides forever, by which men are born again and through which they grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.
  •       All these truths have glowed with new and deeper power and beauty through the baptism of the Holy Spirit received as a definite experience with scriptural evidence.
  •         The Songbook should combine rich devotional songs in abundance with stirring revival songs that present the Gospel in all its depth, winsomeness and simplicity. It should be equally suitable for regular life and work of the local church, for large gatherings and evangelistic outreaches.

When our set lists begin to reflect these features I have no doubt that we will begin to experience a Pentecostal revival among those who worship and they will leave our meetings with thoughts of “were not our hearts burning when sang His praise?”  And the unbeliever’s involuntary response will be “surely God is in this place”.

This is my desire for 2012 – for me, the band members in my church. I am passionate about seeking His presence, His outpouring and anointing so that Jesus may be lifted up high above all.

Navaz D'Cruz
( Navaz is the Band and worship leader at Word of Grace Church. She has been  a musician committed to worship  for over 3 decades  and even serves at city , and national worship Events.)