Oh, for a home-cooked sermon

By Kyösti Toivola

Travel or holidays away from home are enjoyable, but one of the comments we hear ourselves say is, ‘Oh, for a home cooked meal!’ While over-priced, professionally presented and pallet pleasing meals are nice, nothing beats the humble home cooked dinner prepared specifically for you (or by you) with loving hands and eaten in loving company.

I believe this also goes with the ‘pulpit food’ we get at our home church.

Here at Grace Bible Church, we are often blessed with some amazing guest speakers – from Bible colleges;  churches locally; churches inter-state and even from overseas. They have all waxed eloquent, with great  oratorical skills, quotable sermons and some with a great accent. But despite all these I’ve found myself  saying, ‘Oh, for a home cooked sermon!

While guest speakers are a great blessing, I know what is best for me, my family, you and our local churches  are preachers that, as I have heard it said, ‘smell like the sheep.’

After listening to a guest speaker at our church, I started listing some points that set my pastors, and your pastors, apart from visiting guest speakers. Points that no traveling international preacher can fulfill for me or you. Points that no podcast preacher, no book author, no guest camp or conference speaker could meet for our local churches.  Points that cause us to hunger for a true ‘home church cooked sermon’.

Our Pastors are accountable to God for the…

Femininity – it was God’s Idea

“Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), so I have been praying for our country much lately,  particularly for our society’s apparent “lostness” regarding all things gender & marriage. In a list of prayer items, I came across this statement that Elisabeth Elliot wrote about 15 years ago.  Her sentiment is even more true today:

“I find myself in the sometimes quite uncomfortable position of having to belabor the obvious, and hold up examples of femininity to women who almost feel APOLOGETIC for being feminine or being womanly. I would remind you that femininity is not a curse. It is not even a triviality. It is a gift, a divine gift, to be accepted with both hands, and to thank God for. Because remember, it was His idea….”

Let us praise God for giving humanity (our homes and churches and society) the gift of femininity.  And let us pray that our wives, our daughters and our single women might not be embarrassed by their femininity, but “accept it with both hands” and glorify God through the special gifts and calling that come with being female, by God’s good design.

Pastor Dave

Pew Evangelism

Pew Evangelism

By Kyösti Toivola

So the preacher has waxed eloquent, expounding scripture, arguing for truth, exulting the glory of God, drawing out application from the Word and passionately calling for action from your part.  He finishes a few minutes over time, leads through a closing song and then leaves you with a blessing, “thank you for coming and may God bless you and keep you.”

Then you turn to the person next to you and say, “So, how did you think the Broncos went last night?”

What?!  Talk about totally missing it! All that beautiful Gospel truth and you opt for some trivial query like that?

Yet, I can’t throw the first stone because this is often my shortfall.  Coming out of a time intended to drawer my heart and mind to the glories of my Saviour and my saving Gospel, I often free fall to the dull, trivial, dross with just a turn of my head.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this.   So, why do we do this?

Well, I think there are many possible reasons:

-  maybe we totally missed the point of the message and failed to find personal application?

-  maybe we think that we have ‘done our part for God’ by just ‘enduring’ the service?

-  maybe our view of scripture and preaching is so low that we disregard the message and its implication?

There could be as many reasons as there are church goers, but I would like to highlight one reason that affects you, and…

The Blessings of Coming to Church Earlier

By Kyösti Toivola

Have you ever entered the Church service half way through the first song? You’ve already missed the opening prayer by the worship leader. You notice new people nearby, but it’s too late to greet them. You’re not sure what the sermon is even going to be about because you missed out on a Church bulletin. And you are slightly stressed by the quick walk from the car, through the car park and to the Church doors in the hopes that you don’t appear too late to the service?

I know this feeling far too well and my family has struggled under the pressure it creates. But this does not need to be so.

For some reason coming to Church on time is of less priority than getting to that movie, that sports game or that dinner reservation which we typically come to before the set time, so as to not risk missing anything. But this has convicted me, so I started to consider the many blessings of coming to Church earlier and here are 15 blessings that I came up with:

When you come to Church earlier you have time to:

1. Read the passage. This is a very valuable thing to do. Having a better understanding of the passage as the preacher points out certain elements, saves you from getting lost and not grasping the context. Coming to…

Jesus, the Black Widow and Elvis

As the saying goes – “some things never change” – or do they? Alvin Tofler, the famous futurist wrote in his classic book “Future Shock” that “Change is not merely necessary to life – it is life”. Maybe change is the only thing that remains the same?

During one of the trials of Jesus before His crucifixion, the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate asked Jesus whether He was a King. Jesus replied: “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the worldto bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). Pilate then asked Jesus – “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

In 2014, words like “everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” sound very arrogant – especially if we believe the truth is in a state of constant change, a point I saw made in one of Hollywood’s most recent blockbusters – Captain America 2.

Captain America is driving along with Natasha Romanoff, or the Black Widow. The two work together, and throughout the movie Natasha asks Captain America whether he likes this or that young lady. Being a superhero from the past…

Jesus is Risen! Really?!

Judea was a backwater province in the Roman Empire, where distant but important highways converged, and this guy called Jesus was crucified in the early 30s AD.  By the 60s, only 30-odd years later, Christianity had spread like wild fire and Christian were so numerous throughout the Roman Empire, that Nero could use Christians as “scapegoats” to blame for burning of far off Rome.

This explosive growth simply must be accounted for!

This growth refutes claims of historic revisionism, those today claiming Luke “made up” the history of the church and its rapid growth in Acts.  It also says something about the reality of the resurrection & other miracles witnessed – especially since persecution & poverty was often in store for being Christian.  This quick multiplication of Christians in just one generation - despite severe persecution – has to be historically accounted for.

The most reasonable explanation is the testimony of Scripture itself.

• When Peter preached his first sermon at Pentecost, in Acts 2, he said

Men of Israel, listen to these words:  Jesus the Nazarene, was attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know . . . .” (Acts 2:22)

• Similarly Paul, in his testimony before King Agrippa & Governor Festus, started talking about his divine commission given him by the resurrected Christ – an experience that turned Paul from a Persecutor of Christianity to a Preacher of…

A Crack in the Wood

A Crack in the Wood

Recently I purchased some new furniture. It wasn’t somewhere I would normally buy furniture, but a closing down sale with massive discounts lured me into this den of wood and varnish. I found some stuff I liked, forked over some cash, and arranged for delivery.

I was excited when my new furniture arrived, and was eager to see how it looked in my apartment. But immediately, I noticed something: part of my new bed was cracked and split. It had at some point been damaged, and needed to be fixed. Graciously, the shop owner took care of me and had it all fixed up for me. But then something else happened.

I had also purchased some other furniture: a dining table and chairs, a coffee table, and a buffet. Soon I could see blemishes, cracks or imperfections in all of them. Granted they weren’t like the split in the bed, but nonetheless, they were there. My Spidey-sense could now detect even the smallest flaw in my new furniture, and the varnish of my pride began to wear off. What once looked nearly perfect, was now imperfect.

In many ways, that’s the story of our world. It began as perfect. God created the Heavens and the Earth, “and God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:21 ESV). That goodness disappeared quickly when our original parents, Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Gen 3:1-7). God’s judgement on them was for the Earth to…

Happy Christmas or HEROD Christmas?

Christmas messages are usually filled with the same stories about the Birth of Jesus: The Shepherds. The Wise Men. No room at the Inn. But one story we rarely look at is the response of Herod, the King of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. Wise Men came from the East looking for Jesus and asked “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him”. Herod and all the people in Jerusalem were troubled by the Wise Men’s question, but why?

Herod was by no means an insignificant man in the ancient world. He was a visionary and started many building projects. But when confronted with the Birth of Jesus, Herod is troubled. He convinces the Wise Men to report back to him once they’ve found Jesus, “that I too may come and worship Him” (Matt 2:8). Through a dream and a visit from an Angel, the Wise Men and Jesus’ family are warned that Herod’s real plan is to have Jesus killed. Jesus’ family flees to Egypt, and the Wise Men continue on their way without going back to Herod.

So what does Herod do? Herod sends men into Bethlehem with orders to kill every male child two years and under. Quite a serious reaction isn’t it? So why would a powerful guy like Herod react like this?

Herod understood who Jesus was. The Old Testament spoke of a coming One who would…

Contemplating Heaven

The great hope of every Christian is that they will finally be with Christ in heaven.

But the unfortunate reality is that many Christians don’t long for heaven. In fact for some heaven sounds totally boring. Why? Because they have a wrong picture of heaven in their minds.

The most common depiction of heaven is dead Christians raised as some form of angel, with a harp, alone on a cloud, being bored to death.

Does this picture make you long for eternity? Not me.

Is this infinitely better than our fallen marred world? Doesn’t seem it.

For others – they picture heaven as being like a Sunday worship service with God Himself present – with one great exception – it never, ever ends.

Many Christians struggle to get through an hour and a half of a worship service. They check their watch regularly and count the minutes and seconds. They groan when it becomes clear the preacher is going 5 minutes too long. So the idea of a worship service that never ends has only one possible redeeming feature for them – it is not hell.

If all you think of in terms of worship is a church service – then perhaps you have a warped view of worship even now. All of our life is worship. Let all you do be to the glory of God. Eat to the glory of God, work to the glory of God, love to the glory of God, play tennis to the glory of God, listen to Mozart to the…

Contemplating Hell

Any Christian with an ounce of compassion has to struggle mightily with the doctrine of hell. If you have never struggled with the idea of someone suffering forever – either you are calloused beyond belief or you have never really thought seriously about hell.

The great saints of the ages have struggled with this doctrine. Yet the consistent testimony of the church has been that the Scriptures and notably Jesus Himself taught that hell is eternal, conscious torment.

We might not want hell to be real. It might not be what we would do if we ran the universe. From our limited, unreliable viewpoint of man it might be struggle to see how hell can be acceptable. But as Christians committed to the truth of the Word of God we must accept the fact that this is what the Bible advocates.

Jesus spoke far more about hell than He did about heaven. Some of the most graphic language about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. So if we want to argue against hell – we have to argue against the explicit teaching of Jesus.

Why must hell be eternal, conscious torment? Let me give you four reasons.

1. Sin continues

Men and women do not stop sinning in hell.

Their sin is ongoing. Revelation pictures those in hell as still intractably opposed to God. They aren’t on their knees repenting – they are cursing God and sinning.

Consider Revelation 22:11 which speaks of those in hell:

Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one…