“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 11   August 7, 2011

Look at yourself in a mirror....You are an expression of the glorified, eternal Christ who lives within you.

Begin to believe that about yourself and you will start to experience His life as a daily reality. We have to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we have within us all the resources of the One who upholds the universe.

What is going on? After years of hearing messages, many of God’s children remain unchanged. They continually need to be instructed to love their brothers and sisters in Christ - let alone loving their neighbour.

We have funny thoughts about church growth.
We see numbers as the sign of growth….but to grow in numbers is not spiritual growth. Cemeteries also grow numerically. To have a 100 people without love, then 200 without love, is just to get fat.

We tell people:
  • You should bear fruit for Jesus.
  • You should be experiencing the virtues of God.
  • You should have more love, more peace.
This was Paul's complaint when he saw the lack of spiritual growth in the Corinthian church. “You are still babies”, he told them. To the Galatians he wrote that he needed to go through the pains of childbirth all over again for them.

And when the people in the book of Hebrews ought to have been teachers, they needed to be taught the first principles over again. They could take only milk instead of solid food.

Here is a prayer that we could pray…..“Lord Jesus, we turn our eyes upon You, that we might know that we have Your life within us, and that we may live that life by faith.”

When we are spiritually alive, we grow…..
  • in love and joy
  • in peace and longsuffering
  • in gentleness and in all the virtues of Christ
Growth results from life. It needs to be natural - not forced, not by effort on our part.

One of the main reasons for the lack of growth in the church is that we are centered in concepts instead of in life. We are spectators rather than partakers.

II Peter 1:4 “Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature.”

Here is an example of what I mean by being concept-centered:
     Suppose you ask me, to give you a Bible study on joy. I take a concordance and look for the word “joy”. Wow, there is a lot! So I take out those that fit my message and leave the rest. Next I look in the Greek dictionary. What is joy in Greek? Wonderful! Now in the Hebrew. Oh, even better!

     I also see what Spurgeon says about joy. Nice! I check Tozer and Havner and Shakespeare. So I have   my study ready. I come and I say, “Brethren, we are going to speak about joy today. Joy in the Greek has a different meaning than in the English, because Greek is a richer language. But the Hebrew conveys even more meaning than the Greek. Abraham said this about joy...Jesus said this about joy...Paul said this about joy...and Spurgeon said this about joy.” And all of you say, “What a wonderful study on joy! Thank you, Pastor.”

We even give you the notes, but nobody really has the joy!

They have the concept of joy, but not the life of joy.

Salvation is coming from death into life. “But this we know that we have passed from death into life, that we love.” Love is the manifestation of life.

A friend of mine posted one word on Facebook “Love”. When I saw it I thought you bet - love is all we need. Love is the most overlooked evangelism method. However we have a problem in the church today - when someone doesn't believe as I believe, there's dislike, distrust, even hatred, not love.

When we have God in our hearts and when we walk in recognition of that fact, we start to grow spiritually. We become more like Him. His life within increasingly shows in the way we live.

As Paul says, “We are being changed from glory to glory into the same image, by the Spirit of the Lord”.

If you have a joy which you can lose when problems come, it has to grow until the joy overflows and nothing can take your joy away. You grow spiritually, in love, in joy, in peace, in longsuffering.

If you can love today more than you did yesterday, it means that you grew.

Growth comes naturally when we center our life in God, and we know that He lives within us. It is His life within producing the fruit.

My favourite grade in school was the third. However good it was, I had to mature into the 4th and 5th. Churches across Canada talk about the Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, the ten lepers, the cursing of the fig tree, the calming of the Sea of Galilee, blind Bartimaeus, and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. And then the Samaritan woman again, Zacchaeus, the ten lepers, the cursing of the fig tree; and the Samaritan woman, and Zacchaeus, and the ten lepers; and the Samaritan woman, and Zacchaeus…..as if Jesus had done nothing since He died.

Consider the fact that most sermons sound like funerals because at a funeral we speak about what the deceased person did when he was alive.

Lots of people don't go to church because they become bored or the services are bad, but because they're always the same. The same hymns, the same messages. You really have to be longsuffering to go to all those meetings. Even God has to be longsuffering!

One problem is that people are centered in the church's activities and not in Jesus Christ. We go to a meeting, then to a Bible study, and then to a prayer meeting. We are forever in meetings.

We even measure our spirituality by our attendance at meetings. A person who attends all the meetings is very spiritual. “Oh, he's a fine Christian. He goes to all the meetings.” Well, if that is true, then if we miss a meeting or two, are we backsliding?

I wonder what would happen to us today if all the churches were to be closed. What would happen to our religion?

Christ, not meetings, must be the center of our Christian life. Is it any wonder we don't see more growth in God's people when we are so centered in concepts instead of in the Living Christ?

But thank God, all around the world there are people today who are tired of trying to live like Jesus and constantly feeling like failures. They see their lack of love, their lack of joy, and they long for a revelation in the knowledge of Him, that they might be the Living Letters they were meant to be.

We need a new generation of Christians who know that the church is centered around a Person who lives within them.

Jesus didn't just leave us with a book saying, “I leave the Bible. Try to find out all you can from it by making concordances and commentaries. See ya!!!” NO…..He said, “Lo, I am with you always”. He promised, “Where two or three gather together in My name, I am in the midst of them.” He didn't leave us as orphans. He Himself is within us. “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you. I'm not leaving you with a book alone. I am there, in your hearts.”

We don't have to try to copy, in our own effort, what the book says about the way Christ lived. We don't have to fast and pray that He will give us more love, more joy and more peace. We just have to know that we have the Author of the book within us, and He is all of these things in us. When we know this, growth comes naturally. Change comes in our lives because more of Christ is seen. Only this revelation of Christ in us can bring about growth in spiritual fruits.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus”

“The Forgotten Beatitude”

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 10   July 31, 2011

“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Luke 7:23
Offended (verb): cause to feel upset, annoyed or resentful

“Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over me.” Matthew 11:6

Stumbling (verb): trip or momentarily lose one's balance; almost fall.

Jesus spoke this comment to the disciples of John the Baptist who came to see if He really was the Messiah. Jesus told them to report of all that they saw - blind eyes opened, deaf ears unplugged, lame walking - and then concluded with this forgotten beatitude.

I believe Jesus was sending John a message because like so many today John was in trouble. He was in the dungeon facing death.

Peter certainly saw his share of trouble. Perhaps that is why he wrote: “Brethren, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you, as though some strange thing has happened to you.” I Peter 4:12

In other words your situation is not unique. In fact Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The trouble with trouble is that it never seems to come singularly, usually it is twofold. There is depression and there is doubt.

Dungeons bring depression and depression brings doubt.

Are you in a dungeon? Perhaps not behind visible lock and key, but a dungeon or prison just the same.
  • Is your trouble financial?
  • Maybe your blood pressure is up and your bank account down.
  • Maybe you are physically ill but you keep going and everyone thinks because you are walking you are well!
  • Maybe you have lost a loved one and a shroud of melancholy hangs heavy on your soul.
  • Perhaps you dread to see night come and search for rest as men seek for hidden treasure. (fear of the unknown)
Dungeons bring depression and from depression it is easy to move into doubt, even doubt about Jesus.

We need to hear the words of the “Forgotten Beatitude”.

FYI - It is nothing new to be offended in Jesus.

1.   He is either a sanctuary or a stumbling stone - Isaiah 8:14
2.   He was an offense to His own nation and still is - Romans 9:33
3.   He offended the Pharisees - Matthew 15:12
4.   He offended the people of His home town - Matthew 13:54-58
5.   He offended superficial disciples - John 6
6.   His cross is an offense - I Corinthians 1:23
7.   Even true disciples may be offended in Him - Matthew 26:31-35

Even true believers have been heard to say, “It is vain to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept His laws and walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts.” Malachi 3:20

Don't look so pious, we’ve all done it! We have at times of trouble murmured…..
  • that we prayed and do not receive
  • that we gave our tithe and now we are in financial trouble
  • that we prayed for healing and ended up in the hospital.
All these grumbling means that we have not learned the “Forgotten Beatitude”.

Anybody can believe during the good times. It is easy to have faith on the dry side of the Red Sea.

Please hear my heart - there is a deeper experience and a higher state which not many reach.

A state in which, no matter what happens, we are never offended in the Lord, a state in which, whether it makes sense to us or not, we still believe.

Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good…”

Habakkuk started his book pouting and ended it praising. And blessed is the man who can say: “Though I don't get what I want: though I may sow much and reap little; though others get the plums and I get the sack, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.”

When Thomas asked for visible evidence of the risen Lord, he was asking for a smaller blessing than he already had, the privilege of believing without seeing, for “blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed”.

God wants us to trust Him, no matter what He does.

We need a heavenly carelessness that leaves it all with Jesus and doesn't become upset when He does things contrary to what we expected.

The little boy who doesn't understand why God put so many vitamins in spinach and didn't put them all in ice cream is already beginning to see things just don't work out as we'd like.

Last week we warned that we’d be surprised how much we don’t know. There is much that is baffling, but if you can't understand it, by grace stand under it!

Jesus has not failed! He is running on schedule.
  • Blind eyes are opening to the Light of the world.
  • Deaf ears are hearing His voice.
  • Lame souls are taking up their beds and walking.
Christ is carrying on as intended. He has never missed an appointment. He may seem slow but He is never late.

Trust Jesus with all your heart, guard against being offended, upset, annoyed or resentful.

Stand on God’s Word, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35-39

“Great peace have they who love your law: and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165

“Back to Basics”

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 09   July 24, 2011

My theology is summed up in the words of Acts 4:12 “There is no other Name under heaven whereby we must be saved.”
I believe the Bible is the word of God from cover to cover. I believe those who magnify the Word of God in their life are those whom God will use.

Why do such names stand out on the pages of history as Wesley, Whitefield, Finney and Martin Luther? Because of their fearless preaching against sin, and because they preached Jesus Christ without fear or favor.

We need a good old-time kind of revival that will cause you to love your neighbors and quit talking about them. A revival that will make you pay your debts and have family prayers.

Conversion: What does converted mean? It means completely changed. Converted is not synonymous with reformed.

Conversion is a complete surrender to Jesus.
It's a willingness to do what He wants you to do.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, in your heart and confess Him with your mouth and you will be saved.” God is good. The plan of salvation is presented to you in two parts…..believe and confess.

Jesus said: “Come to me”…..
  • not to the Church…..to me
  • not to a creed…..to me
  • not to a preacher….. to me
  • not to an evangelist…..to me
  • not to a priest…..to me
  • not to a pope…..“Come to me and I will give you rest.”
You can attend the services, teach Sunday school, return thanks and do everything that would apparently stamp you as a Christian - even pray. But you won't ever be a Christian until you do what God tells you to do.

That’s the road and that’s the only one mapped out for you and for me. God treats all alike. He has the same plan for one that He has for another.

Salvation is a Personal Matter: “Seek ye the Lord” that means each one must seek for himself.

If you were sick, all the medicine I might take on your behalf wouldn't do you any good.

Salvation is a personal matter that no one else can do for you. You must attend to it yourself.

Some people are emotional. Some are demonstrative. Some will cry easily. Some are cold and can't be moved to emotion. I serve God with the same zeal that I served the devil before the cross intercepted my path.

Billy Sunday said, “You think you could get saved better in some other place. You can be saved where you are as well as any place on earth. I say, “My watch doesn't run. It needs new surroundings. I'll put it in this other pocket, or I'll put it here or here on these flowers.” It doesn't need new surroundings. It needs a new mainspring and that's what the sinner needs.”

You need a new heart, not a new suit.

Jesus Christ became a man, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh. He died on the cross for us, so that we might escape the penalty pronounced on us. Now, never mind about anything but our part in salvation. Here it is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

You may say, “It's so mysterious. I don't understand.” You’d be surprised to find out just how little you know. You plant a seed in the ground - that's your part. You don't really understand how God makes that seed grow do you? It is mysterious to you, yet there it is.

If a man wants to shout and clap his hands in joy over his wife's conversion, or if a wife wants to cry when her husband is converted, I’m not going to rain on their parade. I’ll rejoice with them. You may not have come to Jesus that way, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Matthew stood in the presence of Christ and he realized what it would be to be without Christ, to be without hope, and it brought him to a quick decision. “And he arose and followed Him.”

How long did that conversion take? How long did it take him to receive Christ after he had made up his mind?

And you tell me you can't make an instant decision to please God?

The decision of Matthew proves that you can.

While he was sitting at his desk he was not a disciple. The instant he arose he was. That move changed his attitude toward God.

What about being “Born Again”? The plan of salvation was made long before there was any sin in the world. Electricity existed long before there was any light bulb for it to illuminate.

I believe that the reason the story of Matthew was written was to show us how a man could be converted quickly and quietly. It didn't take him ten years to do something - he simply got at it.

  • Charles G. Finney was out in the woods alone, praying, when he was converted.
  • Sam Jones, a mighty man of God, was converted at the bedside of his dying father.
  • Moody accepted Christ while waiting on a customer in a shoe store.
You believe in your heart - confess him with your mouth.
With his heart man believes and with his mouth he confesses.

You may hear people say, “I don't think I have to confess with my mouth.”
Let’s see…..your thoughts — God’s thoughts???

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Christ is His resurrection name. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

Check this out: Because of His divinity He understands God's side of it and because of His humanity He understands our side of if.

Believe on the Lord Jesus. He died to save you. “He Died for Me!”

During the struggle between the Union and the Confederate forces, a man from the south became a member of a Confederate group called Quantrill's Raiders. They used gorilla warfare tactics, raiding small towns and villages and then disappearing in the night. Prior to one of their intended raids, the Union forces had been tipped off and were lying in waiting for them. They were successful in capturing all of the Raiders but one, a teenage boy who escaped. The rest were sentenced to be executed before a firing squad.

The raiders were lined up facing the firing squad. Just before the shots rang out the young boy ran out of the crowd and up to the commanding officer. He yelled, “Stop! I think you should know that I'm one of them. But you didn't bring me here, I came by my own choice.” He then pointed to one of the men in the line and said, “This man is my friend. He has a wife and children and I have no one. I'd like to take his place, if you will let him go.” The officer in charge replied, “If that is your desire, I will grant it.” The teen walked into the line, in place of his friend and was executed with Quantrell's Raiders.”

“The freed man later became very successful in business, and late in his life was a supporter of Evangelist Billy Sunday. He also had a monument placed at the grave of the teen who died in his place. The inscription read:

Sacred to the memory of Willie Lee
He took my place in the line
He died for me

Sacred to the memory of Jesus Christ.
He took our place on the cross and He gave His life that we might live.

I want to tell you that the way to heaven is a blood-stained way. No man has ever reached it without Jesus Christ and he never will.


Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 08   July 3, 2011

Expectations are a funny thing. Some find it easier to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised if something better happens. Others prefer to set their expectations high and refuse to accept anything that falls short.

I have discovered that the only person I can truly hold accountable for not living up to expectations…..is myself.

Luke 6:20-26 “Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy!

Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets.”

Who was Jesus speaking to?

What is Jesus modeling for us about discipleship?

I may be wrong, but I think one of the things that get us
into trouble is false expectations.

We enter into a relationship or a new job with certain expectations and we get discouraged because we did not really know what to expect.

A key principle in relationships is to state clearly your expectations. We see that Jesus addresses his disciples and lays out eight expectations.

Expectation #1      Luke 6:20

Expect to experience poverty, times when you will not have a dime to your name, and when you do, remember that you are blessed.

Poverty is a gift from the Father to keep you “God Dependent”, don’t reject it, embrace it. Philippians 3:12-14

Expectation #2      Luke 6:24

Expect to experience riches, times when God will open flood gates and pour out so much on you that you will have a tendency to think that you deserve what He is giving you.

Be very careful in those times of wealth that you do not forget who is blessing you.

Deuteronomy 8:2 “And you shall remember all the ways which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not.”

Verse 3 “And He humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.”

Verses 10-11 “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which he has given you. Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command you this day.”

Verses 12-14 “Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that your have is multiplied; Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

Verse 16 “… that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end.”

Expectation #3      Luke 6:21

Expect to experience hunger, times when you will have nothing to eat and your stomach will be growling and when that happens remember you are blessed.

Hunger is a gift from the Father to cause you to remember that “it is not by bread alone that a disciple of Christ lives, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father.” Matthew 4:4

Expectation #4      Luke 6:25

Expect to experience being full, times when you will eat like a king and at times with kings and rulers.

Be very careful when those times come that you do not forget the “Bread of Life” who really satisfies your hunger forever.

Expectation #5      Luke 6:21

Expect to experience pain, times when you will weep deeply, and when that happens remember you are blessed.

Pain is a gift from the Father to cause you to remember that “we do not weep as those of this world, without hope because we have an anchor for the soul in Jesus.” Hebrews 6:19

Expectation #6      Luke 6:25

Expect to experience laughter, times when you will laugh until your stomach hurts. There will be times of great joy.

But be very careful when those times come that you do not forget to share in the pain of others, and bare each other’s burdens.

Expectation #7      Luke 6:22-23

Expect to be hated, ostracized, insulted and scorned for the name of Christ, times when you will experience persecution for the cause of Christ and when that happens, leap for joy, jump up and down because you are blessed.

Persecution is a gift from the Father and a promise for all those who will live like Jesus. II Timothy 3:12

Expectation #8      Luke 6:26

Expect to experience being spoken well of, times when people will praise you for what God has done in and through you.

But be very careful when those times come that you don’t receive the glory, because God shares His glory with no man. Isaiah 48:11

Those who are true disciples of Jesus are promised tough times on this earth. Why?

The answer is simple..hard times of poverty, hunger, tears and persecution come because they are the way the Father uses to mold me and shape me into the image of His dear Son – Jesus.

The Father’s desire is to make you like Jesus.

“Keep On Ploughing!”

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 07   June 26, 2011

Luke 9:62 “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Three verses before, we read in Luke 9:59-61 “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.”

Three verses following, we read in Luke 10:1-3 “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.”

Jesus said in Luke 9:62 (NIV) that, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the service in the kingdom of God.” It is not a long stretch to associate Preaching the Gospel with ploughing.

In the Gospels we find 6 references to “the sower”; 39 references to “fruit”; 7 references to “the harvest” and 16 references to “gather”.

Why out of all the examples Christ could have used, did He use “the plough”?

One of the most important steps in preparing land for growth of a crop is to break up the land so that the soil is ready for the seed to grow. The tool that was used to do this was the plough. The ploughman holds the one handle of the plough with one of his hands, while he carries a stick in the other hand, with which to prod the animals. During the process, the ploughman would have to press down with all his weight on the plough (because it was so light) in order to make the furrow deep enough.

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the service in the kingdom of God.” Why? Because…such a person will plow crooked furrows. And if the first furrow is crooked, each successive furrow will be more crooked than the last.

A farmer would want his furrows to be as straight as possible so as to make sure that every part of the field is ploughed. If however the ploughman was looking behind him when he’s ploughing - well the results would be crooked. A field done like that would have to be gone over again.

God promised the Israelites the Land of Canaan.
He even miraculously brought them out of Egypt,
yet the Israelites started looking back right in the beginning.

God provided an escape
Exodus 14:10-12 - the first time they looked back was when they were camped by the Red Sea

God provided manna
Exodus 16:2-3 - shortly after this, they looked back a second time - grumbled about lack of food

God provided quail
Numbers 11:4-6 - complained about the lack of meat - they looked back to Egypt

Numbers 13:26-33 - complained about the promised land - they wanted to go back to Egypt

Each successive complaint that the Israelites made against the Lord was more crooked than the last until when they had reached the promised land they even refused to receive God’s promise. Because they were always looking back toward Egypt, they even missed when God performed miracles in their midst. He had already proven that He was more than capable of giving the land of Canaan over to them.

Looking back is an indication of a dwindling commitment.

Even after doing one row crooked, the ploughman still has the opportunity to correct himself and do the next one straight. But a whole field of crooked furrows indicates that the ploughman doesn’t really care. Each successive furrow indicated his dwindling commitment to the crop he was planting.

God gave the Israelites every opportunity to start to straighten their “furrows” and stop looking back to Egypt. But the fact that they didn’t heed God’s warnings each time, led to a dwindling in the Israelites commitment to God.

A person who looks back ploughs shallow furrows.

While ploughing, the ploughman must rest all his weight on the plough and this is not possible if he is looking back - in fact it is pretty dangerous as well. You may not think this too important but crooked and shallow furrows affects the seeds that are sown.

One of the purposes for ploughing the field was to break up the earth but also there would usually be a person going ahead of the ploughman spreading seed.

No one puts his hand to the plough without the thought of having to plough! No one ploughs without the thought of having to plant!

As the plough went by, the seed would be covered and would be hidden from the birds that were always present at planting time. If the ploughman didn’t make the furrows deep enough, then the seed would be missed and the birds would be sure to take the opportunity of gaining a quick meal.

If a ploughman was looking back while ploughing, it would show that he didn’t care very much about the kind of job he was doing. If this particular man happened to be working for the person who owned the field, he probably wouldn’t keep his job very long!

Such a person will bring in a poor crop or no crop at all.

To put it simply, if a ploughman was looking back while ploughing, his field would be full of crooked furrows and the birds would get most of the seed that he had sown. The result would be a meager if not, no harvest at all. The crops from this ploughman would be worthless.

John 15:8 “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”

When we take this plough in hand, there is no looking back
or we will miss out on the promises that God has for us
because we will become in the words of Jesus,
“not fit for service in the kingdom of God”.

We can either look forward or look back!

  • we can look forward to the place which God is preparing for us
  • we can look forward to the task Christ has laid out for us
  • we can make the resolution to put our hand to the plough and have our furrows straight and deep or
  • we can look back to our Egypt and complain - our furrows will be crooked and shallow and our harvest? What harvest?
To put one's hand to a plough is a proverbial expression to signify undertaking any business. In order that a ploughman may accomplish his work, it is necessary to look onward - to be intent on his employment - not to be looking back with regret that he undertook it. So it must be in our response to Christ’s call…“go thou and preach the kingdom of God”. You must do this with your whole heart. If you are half hearted still loving the world - still looking with regret on its pleasures, its wealth, having not “wholly” forsaken them, you are not fit for the kingdom of God.

This is without a doubt a searching test to those who profess to be Christians! It is our solemn duty to renounce all earthly objects, and to be not “partly” but “completely” followers of the Son of God!

Are you prepared always to give up all your property, health, friends, body and soul to God, when He demands it?

Following Christ is everything or nothing. He that is not willing to sacrifice “everything” for the cause of God, is really willing to sacrifice nothing.

We must resolve to go on with God!
  • Looking back leads to…..drawing back.
  • And drawing back…..leads to utter ruin.
Looking forward means to proclaim the Kingdom of God no matter what situation faces us.

Looking forward means that our undivided and complete focus is on Jesus Christ and what His will is for our lives. “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

I leave you with this soul searching question….
“Are you fit for service in the Kingdom of God?”


Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 06   May 15, 2011

In terms of study methods, you can study someone else's study or you can study the Scripture for yourself.

Instead of reading resources about the Bible, read the Bible. Lay aside your preconceived notions, pet interpretations, ready references, study notes, sermon tapes and read the Scriptures as for the first time.

Even subheadings can take away from your discovery.

And before you opt for the ABC method (Already Been Chewed) consider: "Knowledge that is self-discovered is stored in the deepest part of the mind and remains the longest in the memory. There is no jewel more precious than that which you have mined yourself."

Research shows that we learn more and retain more, the more actively we are involved in the learning process.
        1. 20% Of what we read
        2. 30% Of what we hear
        3. 50% By watching a demonstration
        4. 70% Combining #2 and #3
        5. 90% Combine #4 with writing out what you learn

  • I hear and I forget
  • I see and I remember
  • I do and I understand
The Bible is our primary Source
and the Holy Spirit is our primary Teacher.

I John 2:27 (The Message) “Christ's anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and Him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught.”

 John teaches that the Spirit of God, Who lives in each believer, is our personal, private tutor. Yes, God has given us pastors and teachers for our edification I Corinthians 12:28 but remember that they are in addition to and not a substitute for the Holy Spirit.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you.”  John 16:13-14

Isaiah 54:13 “They shall be taught of God”.

A verse in Acts 1 caught me in a strange way: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?” Could it be that Christians can become so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.

As long as we stand gazing up into the heavens, we will be ineffective.

Is it possible that we have become so engrossed in our program called Church - that we have forgotten to actually be the church? Have we lost Christ in the temple? Is Jesus hidden from view?

“And if our gospel be hid - it is hid to those who are lost!” I Corinthians 4 “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, should shine to them.” That is why we must be actively living out the gospel! I Corinthians 9:22 “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paul’s greatest objective in life was .... to save some!

As a Christian - just what is your objective in life?

We don’t need more hospitals, or schools, and we certainly don’t need more church buildings. But there is a great need for God’s children to live out the full unadulterated gospel of Christ! Without the gospel our good deeds are just good deeds. Our good deeds must bring attention to the gospel!

I Corinthians 9:19-23 “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. All this I do for the gospel's sake.....”

Colossians 2 (Message) “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ, the Master; now live him.

You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out: quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in Him, so you can see and hear Him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him.

When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you're already in - insiders - not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.

If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ.

When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive - right along with Christ!

Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come...the substance is Christ.

Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.

So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don't touch this! Don't taste that! Don't go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice.

They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.”

Psalms 51:10-13 “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me. Cast me not away from your presence; do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore the joy salvation; uphold me with your free spirit....then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will be converted to God!”

“Women Of Faith”

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 05   May 8, 2011

It’s not easy to be a mom. While we certainly want to celebrate motherhood today, I realize that this is a very tough day for some of you. With that in mind, I felt led to focus in on Women of Faith.

In the first two chapters of I Samuel, we will discover Five Defining Traits of a Woman of Faith.

1.   Women of faith have problems

I Samuel 1:2 tells us that “Elkanah had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Penninah. Penninah had children, but Hannah had none.” The wifes’ chief role in those days was to provide children. A barren womb was considered a curse. Hannah joins a long line of other women of faith who battled barrenness: Sarah (Abraham’s wife), Rebekah (Isaac’s wife), Rachel (Jacob’s wife), Ruth (Boaz’s wife) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother). At this point in her life, Hannah would have thought Mother’s Day was just a big rip-off.

As we read further, verse 3 tells us that Elkanah and his two wives made a yearly visit to Shiloh, about a 20 mile journey, to worship the Lord. In verses 4-5, we are shown something about Elkanah’s devoted heart. He gave portions of the sacrificial meat to Penninah and her children, “But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her…”

In that culture, honoured guests were given a “super-sized” meal. It had to be difficult for Hannah to eat the food that was associated with the “thank offering,” when she probably wasn’t all that thankful.

Having a husband who expressed his love probably helped a lot. He was devout in his walk with God and devoted to Hannah, but he had a divided family. Even though these two wives didn’t get along, the most difficult thing that Hannah faced is this phrase “And the Lord had closed her womb” which is repeated twice in verse 5 and verse 6.

We don’t really want to believe that God is behind the circumstances of life. We’d rather blame it all on Satan, or on someone else.

But it is God who allows good things
and bad things to come into our lives.

Verse 6 describes the character of the other wife. “her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.” She couldn’t just be thankful that she had children but felt the need to harass Hannah.

Verse 7 reveals that Penninah did this every year when they went to Shiloh. It bothered Hannah so much that she would weep and not be able to eat.

In verse 8, Elkanah tries his best to comfort his wife: “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” I might be going out on a limb here but it seems he is doing what many of us husbands do when our wives are upset. Instead of listening to her pain, he tries to rationalize her feelings. He tries to solve when he should simply try to understand.

2.   Women of Faith know how to pray

Hannah didn’t shut down or lash out at those around her. She prayed. God uses our problems to get our attention, to teach us, to break us. Hard clay is difficult to shape. Our problems should drive us to prayer.

1Samuel 1:10-11 “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, ‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

When tears are in our eyes, our prayer comes from the heart. She makes a vow that if she’s given a son, he’ll be dedicated to the Lord for his entire life. Her son would become a priest.

Hannah realizes an important truth…..
Children are not just for parents; they’re for the Lord. They’re on loan to us. It’s our job to parent, to shepherd and to train them for the Lord’s work.

Verse 12 says, “she kept on praying to the Lord.” This was a repeated request, bathed in tears. She prayed this prayer in her heart. She drew no attention to herself, yet Eli, the priest in verse 17 says “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”

This benediction was a huge blessing to Hannah. Her whole countenance changed in verse 18 “She went away and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” Her face was no longer sad. She had left her concerns with the Lord and now she experiences the “peace that passes all understanding.” Never underestimate the power of a praying woman.

3.   Women of Faith experience God’s provision

A short time after returning home, Hannah conceived and give birth to a son, and she named him Samuel, Hebrew for “heard of God”. Every time she said his name she was reminded of his origin and destiny.

Please try to understand…..just because Hannah’s prayers for a son were answered, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be given a child because you prayed for one. God answered her prayer not just so she could have a baby. God needed a special prophet He could work through. He allowed a time of barrenness in Hannah’s life to bring a greater blessing in the end.

4.   Women of Faith keep their word

After Samuel was born, Elkanah went once again to Shiloh in order to worship. Hannah decided to not go until Samuel was weaned, which would have been at around three years old. She dedicated herself to her child, nursing and nurturing him, knowing that when he is able to eat on his own, she “will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always”.

Many people make promises to God, only to forget them. Not so with Hannah. She fully intended to keep her promise because she knew that Samuel did not really belong to her anyway.

Hannah not only dedicated herself to her child, she dedicated her child to the Lord.

She then brings Samuel to the house of the Lord saying in verse 28. “So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD”. She repeats this declaration twice.

She never bailed on her responsibility. Look at 1Samuel 2:19 “Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.”

Verse 28 ends with a glimpse into young Samuel’s heart. “And he worshiped the LORD there.” Even at three-years-old, he was able to worship. How do you think he learned how to do this?

No doubt she followed Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

It’s one thing to say that our children are dedicated to the Lord; it’s another thing altogether to give them to the Lord.

5.    Women of Faith praise God

There is no sadness here, she drops Samuel off at the temple and then breaks out into praise. 1Samuel 2:1-2 “My heart rejoices in the Lord, in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”

Notice that she overlooks the gift and gives praise to the Giver.

In verse 3 she focuses on God’s wisdom and knowledge, recognizing that He’s the one who weighs the actions of men and women. In verse 6, she acknowledges God’s ability to bring death and to make alive and in verse 7, she points out that God is the one who sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and exalts.

Hannah is an example of a woman of faith.

  • She goes to the place of worship, knowing how painful it is.
  • She faithfully worships, pouring out her tears and petitions.
  • She keeps her word and she knows how to praise.
Ladies, you are of great worth in God’s sight
whether or not you have a child.
Lift up your head and realize that God
loves you for who you are, not for what you do.
Mothers, make it your mission to give your children
to the Lord for a lifetime of dedicated service.

There’s no greater purpose, than to have your children give their lives in surrendered service to the Lord. If you want your children to follow after God with all they’ve got…..God must first be real in your life.

That reminds me of what happened one Sunday after a Baby Dedication service. As a young family was driving away from church after the dedication of their baby, little Johnny, the older brother, cried all the way home in the back seat of the car. His mother asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That pastor said he wanted us to be brought up in a Christian home…and I want to stay with you guys!”

If you want your kids brought up in a Christian home,
make sure that Christ is at home in your heart.

And if He is, then spend the rest of your life giving your children back to the Lord.....they belong to Him anyway.

“Giant Slayer”

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 04   May 1, 2011

The Biblical basis is the story of a boy and his battle with the giant.

I Samuel 17:40-51

The giants we face today may be unemployment, abandonment, abuse, depression, finances, relationships, career choices or an uncertain future.

I hope to introduce you to God’s answers for our real life giant struggles. The hidden key here is that we must face the giant. No hiding, no running away, no cowering in fear.

The Odds Are Against You: Goliath towers above them all: nine feet, nine inches tall in his stocking feet, wearing 125 pounds of armour and snarling like the main contender at a WWWF championship fight. He wears a size 20 collar, a 101/2 hat, and a 56-inch belt. His biceps burst, thigh muscles ripple, and boasts belch forth. “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other”. Interesting thought regarding Goliath and the number six. The number of man. He was six cubits in height, he had six pieces of armour, and his spearhead weighed six hundred shekels.

What odds did David have against his giant? Better odds perhaps than you give yourself against yours. Your Goliath doesn’t carry sword or shield; he brandishes blades of unemployment, abuse, or depression. Your giant doesn’t challenge you from the valley...he prances through your office, your home, your work place. He brings bills you can’t pay, people you can’t please, addictions you can’t resist, offers you can’t refuse, a career you can’t escape, a past you can’t shake, and a future you can’t face.

How long has he stalked you? Goliath’s family was an ancient foe of the Israelites. Joshua drove them out of the Promised Land three hundred years earlier. Saul’s soldiers saw Goliath and mumbled, “Not again. My dad fought his dad. My granddad fought his granddad.” You’ve uttered similar words. “I’m becoming a workaholic, just like my dad.” “Divorce streaks through our family tree.” “My mom couldn’t keep a friend either”.

King Saul and his army represent the people of God under the dominion of the flesh. They face Goliath, fearful, intimidated and without anointing or strength from God. I Samuel 17:11 "When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid."

Don't be driven by emotions: fear, anger, sorrow, etc. Emotions will not allow you to do what you ought, they have an agenda of their own. With all the giants we must face, where is our focus?

Do You See God? You already know Goliath. You recognize his walk and wince at his talk. The question is, is he all you see? You know his voice – but is it all you hear? David saw and heard more. David’s first discussion, although it was about Goliath, was on the Lord. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he defies the armies of the living God?” David shows up thinking of God. The soldiers mentioned nothing about Him, the brothers never spoke His name, but David takes one step onto the stage and raises the subject of the living God. He does the same with King Saul: no chitchat about the battle or questions about the odds. Just a God-birthed announcement: “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine”.

No one else thinks of God. David thinks of no one else but God. This is deeper than “David versus Goliath,” this is “God-focus versus giant–focus.” David thinks about what others don’t and refuses to see what other do. All eyes, except David’s, fall on the brutal, hate-breathing hulk. The people know his taunts, demands, size, and strut. They’ve majored in Goliath.

David majors in God. He sees the giant, mind you; he just sees God more so.
Look carefully at David’s battle cry: “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel”.

David sees God. And because he does, “David runs to meet the Philistine”.

The Battle Is The Lord’s: David’s brothers cover their eyes, both in fear and embarrassment. Saul sighs as the young Hebrew races to certain death. Goliath throws back his head in laughter, just enough to shift his helmet and expose a square inch of forehead flesh. David spots the target and seizes the moment. The sound of the swirling sling is the only sound in the valley.

The stone torpedoes into the skull; Goliath’s eyes cross and legs buckle. He crumples to the ground and dies. David runs over, jumps up on Goliath’s chest then grabbing the giant’s sword and cuts off his head.

How long since you ran toward your challenge? We tend to retreat, duck behind a desk of work or lose ourselves in worldly distractions. For a moment, a day, or a year, we feel safe, insulated, but then the work runs out, the addictions lose their appeal, or the lover leaves, and we hear Goliath again.

Try a different tactic. God's people can have victory with what is already available and with what God gives them. We simply need to use what God has already given us. David already owned a sling and the creek provided the stones, Goliath's huge head provided a large target.

Rush your giant with a God-saturated soul. Amplify God and minimize Goliath. Download some of heaven’s un-squashable resolve.
  • Giant of Divorce you are not entering my home!
  • Giant of depression, you won’t conquer me.
  • Giant of addiction, abuse, insecurity…you’re going down.
How long since you took a swing at your giant?

You read David’s story and wonder what God saw in him. This guy fell as often as he stood, stumbled as often as he conquered. He stared down Goliath, yet ogled at Bathsheba; defied God mockers in the valley, yet joined them in the wilderness. He could lead armies but couldn’t manage a family.

Acts 13:22 reminds us that God said that “David was a man after God’s own heart.”
A man after God’s own heart? That God saw him as such gives hope to us all.

David’s life has little to offer the unstained saint. Straight-A souls find David’s story disappointing. The rest of us find it reassuring. We ride the same emotional and spiritual roller coaster. The heart God loved was a checkered one. People like us need David’s story, because giants lurk in our neighbourhoods. Giants of Rejection, Failure, Revenge, and Remorse. We must face them. Yet we need not face them alone.

Focus first and foremost on God. The times David did, giants fell. The days he didn’t, David fell.

Focus on God Not GIANTS: David made only two observations about Goliath in I Samuel 17, one statement to Saul about Goliath (v.36), and one to Goliath’s face: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v.26). That is it!

No questions about Goliath’s ability, strength, power; but I count nine references to the Lord.

God-thoughts outnumber Goliath-thoughts nine to two.

How does this ratio compare with yours?

Do you ponder God’s grace four times as much as you ponder your guilt?

Is your list of blessings four times as long as your list of complaints?

Is your mental file of hope four times as thick as your mental file of dread?

Are you four times as likely to describe God’s strength as you are the demands of your day?

Conclusion: The whole matter may be summed up with the following statements:

Focus on giants – you stumble.
Focus on God – your giants tumble.

Lift your eyes, the God who made a miracle out of David stands ready to make a miracle out of you.

Romans 8:31 "What shall we then say to these things?

If God be for us, who can be against us?"


Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 03    April 10, 2011

I Corinthians 13:1-3 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.”

I Corinthians 16:14 “Let all your things be done with charity.”

Colossians 3:14 “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

I Peter 4:8 “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”

I Corinthians 13:13 “And now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Charity today refers to what used to be called “alms”; giving to the poor. Originally “charity” had a much bigger meaning.

Today we say, if a man has charity, one of the most obvious things he does is give to the poor. Unfortunately people have come to see it as if that were the whole meaning of charity.

Charity actually means love, in the Christian sense. But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion.

It is a state of will of choice, not of feelings. This choice comes naturally regarding ourselves, but we must learn to have it towards other people.

Our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. In fact there may well be things about ourselves we want to change.

In the same way Christian love, or charity for our neighbours, is quite a different thing from “liking or affection”. Think about it, we ‘like’ or are ‘fond of’ some people and not of others. No where in the word does it say we are to like everyone. In fact the Word says, as much as possible be at peace with everyone.

Some people are actually hard to like! It is important to understand that this natural ‘liking’ is neither a sin, nor a virtue (a good or admirable quality), any more than your likes and dislikes in food are a sin or a virtue.

It is just a fact!

However, what we do about it is either sinful or virtuous.

Certainly liking people makes it easier to be charitable towards them.

It is good to encourage our affections to ‘like’ people as much as we can (just as it is important for us to encourage our liking for exercise or wholesome food).

Some people are ‘cold’ by temperament and although that is unfortunate for them, it is not a sin. It is their make up. The ‘way they are’ does not excuse them from the duty of learning charity. According to the Word we are all called to the duty of being charitable (loving).

Luke 10:27 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14 “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple.
Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour;
act as if you did.

As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets: When you act as if you loved someone, you will soon come to love them.

The opposite is also true: If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. But, if you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.

There is, however, one exception.

That is, if you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving person you are.

The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them.

The Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on, including people he couldn’t even imagine liking at the beginning.

This same spiritual law can also work in the opposite direction. The more cruel you are, the more you’ll hate and the more you hate, the more cruel you’ll become - and so on, leading into a vicious circle.

It would be good to remember:
Good and evil both increase at compound interest.
(interest paid on both the principal and on accrued interest)

That is why the little decisions you and I make every day
are of such infinite importance.

  • The smallest good act today can in a few months lead you to go on to victories you never dreamed of.
  • An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today, may allow the enemy of your soul an attack otherwise impossible.
When it comes to loving God, people are often worried. They are told they ought to love God...yet they can’t find that emotion in themselves.

What are they supposed to do?

The answer is the same as before when we spoke of loving our neighbour. Act as if you did.

Do not try to manufacture feelings. Simply ask yourself, “If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?” When you find the answer, go and do it.

Remember, feelings are not what God principally cares about.

Christian love, either towards God or towards man,
is an affair of the will. A matter of choice!

If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God". He will give us feelings of love, if He pleases, but we cannot create them for ourselves. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. His love for us is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference.

His love for us is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of our sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.


Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 02, January 9, 2011

This year we are believing to be one of great victory and blessing! Against the odds, we The Gathering Place, are still here and active. We have no building to call our own, we have but a handful of ministry partners, yet we are still here and now more than ever, willing to be used as God’s servants.

We have suffered assaults in the area of relationships, finances and health, but through it all God, our God, has been with us. Let’s think about this year that we have just come through for a moment. It was a mixed bag of blessings and tragedy.

When we think about own personal lives, we are aware that there are ways that we well….we fell short.

I know it’s been that way for me. I see where I didn’t serve you as well as I would’ve like to. But at the same time, it was a year that made me aware that I wasn’t called to this alone.

I was called to this ministry with you.

I can rejoice because we have some wonderful people in this ministry. I hope you are encouraged by the fact that you are not in this ministry alone.

I find it interesting that we start each new year right after Christmas, because Christmas is a reminder that as we face a new year, we are not going at it alone.

Christmas reminds us that God himself became one of us and that God is with us now….Emmanuel, God with us.

God became one of us
so that we can become more like Him.

What will it mean to us if we take this seriously?

Well, I know you don’t need something complicated this morning like: “Here are 50 things you need to remember and 48 things you need to do in order to please God next year”. I know I’m certainly not ready for that.

In today’s passage, we will see that something big and complicated gets distilled to its absolute essence.

Matthew 22:34-40 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Within the Judaism of Jesus’ day, there were 613 commandments in the law.
Among those there were:
  • 248 that were positive commandments - things we should do and
  • 365 were negative commandments - things that we were to avoid.
The experts divided the commandments into heavy and light commandments; important ones and unimportant ones. That gets pretty complicated.

So they come to Jesus with a very real question and Jesus answers by quoting from Deuteronomy 6, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one, and you shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”

But then He adds, “and love your neighbor as yourself”.

By answering this way, Jesus summarizes the entire Ten Commandments, because the Ten Commandments roughly divide into half.

Half of it focusing in on a responsibility to God and half of it revolving around our responsibility to other people.

The greatest commandment He says is that we are to “love God with all that we are and all that we have, with all our heart, soul and mind”.

  • It’s heart, soul and mind
  • It’s words
  • It’s thoughts
  • It’s actions
  • It’s possessions
  • It’s service
  • It’s all of who we are all of the time.
Then Jesus quotes from Leviticus 19:18 “We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”

Our love for God has to result in love
for other people.

We are called to love God with all that we are and we are to love other people as we love ourselves, because of God.

It’s this accountability before God that’s always pushing the church to move out beyond itself. That’s why we continually do things that move us out of our comfort zone.

It’s because God is always pushing us out to people who haven’t yet heard.

So, God is always pushing the church out…
  • stretching us again and again
  • making us uncomfortable again and again
  • calling us to sacrifice again and again even for people who seem to be hardened to God.
God calls us again and again to reach out
because that’s what He did with us first.

Love God and love your neighbor.
In these few words, Jesus lays down a complete definition of religion.

Now, if we are going to be “That” church which pleases God, these two characteristics need to deepen in our life together. We need to focus on it again and again and it needs to be expressed again and again. We need to love God and to have a deeper passion for Him and to love our neighbor to the point that we are willing to reach out to them in their need.

So together as one, I would liek us all to make a resolution for The Gathering Place.

Here it goes: "We are going to deepen our passion for God and love, accept, serve and even sacrifice for the people around us where we live, work and play."

So what is holding you back from loving God with all that you are?

And what keeps you from loving other people as you love yourself?

All kinds of things could stand in the way….time pressures....lack of interest.

It could be fear….fear of what other people might think….fear about what God would do with our lives if we turned ourselves over to God in that sort of way.

Whatever it is......identify it, pray about it, confront it, work on it, do everything but do not give up on it.

Matthew 22:37-40 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“2010 - ARK”

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place, Osoyoos
Pulpit Series Volume 21, Issue 01       January 2, 2011

I would like to talk to you about changing our world – “What man is a man who doesn’t change for the better the world he lives in?”  Changing the world starts with one simple act, everyday acts, things so simple that we could all easily contribute.   

Micah 6:8  “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

We will hear about people who saw an injustice, a void or someone down-and-out who needed a little help.  If their stories inspire you, why not let God know that you are willing to take action.  Who knows….your ripple of kindness might become a wave of change.

Abby’s Lemonade 
When 8-year-old Abby Enck frequently accompanied her 6-year-old brother, Cameron, born with cerebral palsy, to Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, she noticed that the other paediatric patients liked to color, but many of the crayons were broken.  She wanted to buy a few new 24-count boxes of crayons and her parents agreed to match any number she could buy herself.

The act…. 
Abby, with help from a friend, decided to raise the money through a lemonade sale.  Abby loved the idea of creating bottled-water lemonade kits with a packet and homemade tag.  Her slogan: “When life gives you lemons, color!”   In that first summer selling to her Chicago neighbors, she raised enough money to buy 18 boxes of crayons and donated 36 to the hospital.

The ripple….
This summer Abby assembled 52 water-bottle lemonade kits and recruited family and friends to sell them for $1 each.  The local press publicized Abby’s efforts and the response was incredible.  After raising $551, she and her parents purchased 1,009 boxes of crayons,140 boxes of markers and 125 boxes of pencil crayons.

Educational magazine ‘Weekly Reader’ wrote about Abby’s project, sharing her message and method with more than 250,000 teachers & 8 million students from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12.  Other children in the community, including Abby’s Brownie troop, are brainstorming ways to give next summer.

Abby’s mom has learned from Abby too, saying, “Children don't see the obstacles.  Adults create obstacles that stop them from achieving their goals.”

Daily Ocean 
For as long as Sara Bayles could remember, she’s loved the ocean.  When she took a trip to the big island of Hawaii, Bayles leapt at the chance to swim with the sea turtles and dolphins. After her trip, she was taken aback by the Santa Monica beach, where birds pecked at plastic bags and rubbish was strewn along the sand.  After more research, she was shocked to discover the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area in the Pacific Ocean where the currents swirl together, collecting about 10 million tons of trash.  Of her home beaches, she says, “I saw so much trash on the beach and thought, What could I do?”

The act….
In between book writing and teaching art for a local non-profit, 34-year-old Bayles set a goal to pick up trash for 20 minutes a day for 365 (non-consecutive) days.  Collecting and weighing and then blogging her findings on her website, “The Daily Ocean” with every blog including a tally: garbage weight and a countdown to day 365.

The ripple….
More than 165 days along, Bayles has collected more than 665 pounds of junk.  Across the country, Danielle Richardet started collecting cigarette butts in Wrightsville Beach, NC, for 20 minutes at a time and posting the results on her blog.  She writes: “We all impact each other. Sometimes we don’t even know we’ve made a difference in someone's life.”

Ben Sater was 3 years old when he received his first surgery for trigger finger.  When he was 10, he had surgery on three other fingers at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, an orthopaedic facility that treats about 40,000 patients yearly, at no charge.  “He thought we forgot to pay the hospital bill after his treatments,” chuckles his mother.  She explained that the hospital relies on the generosity of donations.  “I was more confused than amazed," Ben recalls.  I didn't understand how this huge hospital could run on donations and charity events, so I wanted to give back.”  He  later pledged to himself that he’d donate a million dollars to the Dallas hospital before going to college.  Despite his big thinking, his initial attempts to raise money were modest: car washes and lemonade stands.  Sater’s parents inspired him to think a little bigger.

The act….
Golf enthusiasts, Ben and his father came up with the idea of holding a children’s charity golf tournament at the   sprawling courses of Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas, Texas.  They formed two committees, adults and children.  Kids aged 7 to 18 were asked to raise $100 to participate.  The tournament became so popular that organizers added another at the Stonebridge Ranch Country Club in McKinney, Texas. 

The ripple….
Local golf professional Cameron Doan was inspired by Sater’s efforts and organized “KidSwing” to continue the charity fundraiser.  In the fourth year, the number of kids who took a swing on the green tripled.  The running total: just over $500,000.  In July 2010, “KidSwing” surpassed the goal with $1,026,000 plus change.  From his dorm room, Sater is still in awe of the journey.  “I can't really explain how I got to this day. I was just a 10-year-old kid with an average GPA.

I just wanted to do something simple to give back.”

Operation Beautiful 
Caitlin Boyle was writing environmental compliance documents for a land developer.  But writing legal docs and analyzing the development’s environmental impact from the confines of her home office was too technical and too solitary for her taste.  The 25-year-old yearned to do something more creative and self-directed, and wanted to connect with people on a more personal level.  Boyle was taking night classes, hoping for a career change, and on one "really bad day" felt completely overwhelmed by work and school.  Boyle realized that her own self-image was holding her back: “I thought I wasn’t smart enough to go to work and take night classes at the same time.  I’m going to fail my chemistry final.  I’m bad at math and can’t do this.  I was suffering from negative self-talk”, she admits.

The act….
So what’s a woman to do?  Brighten up someone else’s day.  She scribbled “You Are Beautiful” on a piece of paper, posted the note in the ladies room at Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida, took a photo and blogged about the moment.  She wrote, “If this little blog only does one productive thing, I hope it helps readers realize how truly toxic negative self-talk is.  It hurts you emotionally, spiritually and physically.”  In three days, 75 notes with  photos of people posting their own messages flooded her inbox.  On the fourth day, Boyle launched her site, “Operation Beautiful”.

The ripple….
The viral message has inspired tens of thousands of anonymous, positive notes, posted in public spots: bathroom mirrors, libraries, hospitals and gyms.  Boyle blogs six days a week, sharing stories with heartfelt messages of hope.  Her favourite is from a gym: “Scales measure weight, not worth.”  Others include “This is not a trick mirror, you look this awesome” and “Take a diet from your negative thoughts, fill yourself with positive ones.”  Boyle’s mission has touched girls on every continent except Antarctica, sparking impassioned online discussions on the notions of beauty.  A girl headed to the roof of a parking garage spotted a note: “If there’s no you, someone else will be as alone as you feel now.  Turn around.  Operationbeautiful.com”.  She turned around and called a friend to pick her up.  The friend wrote this email to Boyle: “Thank you so much for starting this project.  She’ll never admit it, but she owes her life to this project.”

Boyle’s positive message continues to multiply: The Today Show, The Early Show, the Oprah Winfrey Network and many other mediums are spreading the compassion.  As for her career, Boyle is literally writing the next chapter of her professional life.  She continues to blog for a living and has been commissioned to write a book, appropriately titled Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-It Note at a Time”.  “It created a circle of random acts of kindness, proving you’re never alone, you can change a life and you can do something nice for strangers,” says Boyle.

Wonder Capes 
Like many superheroes, Amy Pankratz, a stay-at-home mother from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, discovered her powers by accident.  One cold winter day, her then four-year-old daughter Isabella said, “Mommy, I want a  superhero cape”.  Pankratz says, “I told her OK.”  But when she couldn't find capes for little girls at the store, she sewed her own.  Months later, when Isabella fell ill with a double virus and had to be hospitalized, the power of the cape multiplied and transformed into Wonder Capes.

The act….
During a brief hospital stay, her daughter, Isabella, begged her mom to pack her pink princess cape.  On the third day, Isabella asked if she could wear it in the hallway.  Pankratz says kids with IV poles looked on in awe.  That’s when Isabella put the cape on another hospitalized child.  Every other child on that hospital floor wanted to soar through the halls.  Pankratz started creating, sewing and donating customized superhero capes: more than 4,000 and counting.

This mom has full days, but at night she sews capes. It takes her three or four hours to customize a cape, she considers each child and gives their capes a special blessing.  I read their stories, think about them, their hobbies, favorite colors; I pray over them,” she says.  “If even for a moment, the cape brings some relief, comfort and hope to them, it’s worth it.”

The ripple….
The “Wonder Capes” project inspired Angie Kappenman, a mother from Madison, South Dakota.  The cape made my son Nicholas feel strong.  He’d fly through the hospital halls to receive his treatments.”  The cape inspired the Kappenhams’ backpack donation program, “Stay Strong, Carry On”, at the local hospital.  The backpacks include coloring books, toys and activities and can be used as organizational tools for the formidable amount of hospital paperwork.  The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Children's Miracle Network and St. Baldrick’s Hospital are teaming up with the supermom to give her special capes to sick, injured or disabled children and their siblings around the world.

Phoebe’s Food Bank 
Five-year-old Phoebe Russell asked her mother, “Why do the homeless live that way?”  In Phoebe’s city, San Francisco, the homeless population ranges between 6,200 and 15,000. Phoebe’s mother explained about hunger and homelessness and that led to another question: “Who helps them?”  Phoebe also took this question to her preschool teacher, Kathleen Albert.  I explained to her how some people don't have homes and jobs and some people have really bad things happen to them.  Phoebe was determined to help.  Her family would often take cans to the grocery store and  recycle them for cash.  She asked her parents, “We collect cans at home - can we do that for the food bank?”  Her goal: $1,000 in two months when the school year ended.  Phoebe also recruited her preschool class in her new project.  Albert didn’t think it could be done.  “At five cents a can, one thousand dollars….a bit unrealistic.”  But Phoebe was adamant.

The act….
Albert and the classmates were onboard.  Phoebe spent her recess crafting a handwritten letter and sent them to 150 friends and family members.  In neatly written, oversized letters, she wrote: “My charity project is to raise lots of money for the food bank.  They need money.  Please give me your soda cans.”  Phoebe’s enthusiasm was infectious. People dropped off checks, cash and cans at Phoebe’s classroom door.  The first couple of weeks, a few bags filled with cans showed up.  Over the next few weeks, thousands of cans poured in. Once a week for two months, Phoebe counted every single bill and coin herself.  She stowed the cash in a box she decorated with shiny star stickers and hand-drawn flowers, dollar signs and the words “Phoebe’s Project - SF Food Bank”.  A local columnist got wind of the project and wrote about her efforts.  Word of mouth also carried her message.

The ripple….
By the two-month deadline, just before summer break, Phoebe nearly quadrupled her goal, raising more than $3,700, equalling 18,000 meals.  A social networking site devoted to inspiring stories posted an online video about Phoebe’s project and it went crazy.  Six months later, the total reached $20,202 or about 80,000 meals.  The video was submitted to Tyson Foods’ Hunger Relief Challenge, which led to a donation of 15 tons of chicken, bringing it up to 120,000 meals.  Phoebe’s determination to feed the hungry created a “Yes, we can” preschool campaign.  Phoebe, now 7, is in first grade, and her family and friends volunteer at the San Francisco Food Bank. Perhaps more importantly, she inspires her preschool protégés and fellow classmates to pay it forward.  Three students at her former preschool raised more than $5,300.  That makes a total of more than 135,000 meals served in her community.  “It makes me feel good,” she says politely.  Her first question - “Why do the homeless live that way?” - may never have a good answer. That second one - “Who helps them?” - she answered on her own.

Secret Agent L 
By day, blogger Laura Miller, 32, worked as an administrative assistant at Duquesne University in  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her busy workload, booking schedules, managing projects and fielding inquiries from students and the public didn't allow much time for another important thing she neglected on her to-do list: good will.  The “Secret Agent L” idea blossomed in July 2009, after she asked one of her blog readers, whom she had befriended, what she wanted for her birthday.  Her friend replied, “Don't send me anything; just do a random act of kindness for someone else”.  Caught up in the excitement, Miller even made Secret Agent L business cards with her blog address on it.  Miller attached a card with thick green ribbon to her first gift, a stem of lavender hydrangea, and left it on a stranger’s windshield wiper.  The first blog “Unleash the kindness” said, “Today we start to unleash anonymous acts of kindness and day-brightening all over Pittsburgh.”

The act….
Her gifts, about $5 to $10 each, fit her admin salary: coffee gift cards, a roll of quarters wrapped in pink and green ribbons at a Laundromat, sunflower bouquets at graves of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, colourful cards filled with inspirational quotes in public parks and bathrooms.  The first three weeks she carried out and blogged about her mission every day, signing her entries “Secret Agent L”.  Quickly, words of appreciation filled her inbox.

Nearly a month into the project, though, she realized that giving every day would bust her budget.  She called for backup and encouraged readers to execute their own secret missions across America.

The ripple….
Soon, Miller recruited more than 80 worldwide secret agents in Canada, Denmark, Germany, England, Japan and Mongolia.  One agent gathered a note, a coupon and enough cash to buy a bag of diapers, then left the items at an  diaper-changing station in a public bathroom.  Miller blogged about her drop-offs and Affiliate Agents’ good deeds.  A local Pittsburgh TV news station featured the secret project.  Then other TV networks, bloggers and websites helped  her message go viral at Kirtsy.com, the Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, CNN and Fox News. 

Miller receives about 1,000 daily blog hits and she’s received more than 2,500 email testimonies about these simple, thoughtful, inexpensive gestures.  Nathan in Pittsburgh emailed,  “I sat down on the park bench next to the package and read the words on the front of the envelope over and again: ‘For you! Yes ... you!’  But, surely, it couldn’t have been for me.  Why would it be?  But then, what if it was...?  I was touched by this random act of kindness.  Just when I was losing hope in myself and life’s purpose, something like this comes along.”

George from Massachusetts wrote about finding a card in a restroom on top of Mount Everett, the fifth highest peak in Massachusetts.  “When I first opened the card, I was overwhelmed.  I sat there and cried, wondering how did you know, how wonderful it was that you thought to leave that card for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

One year after “Secret Agent L” launched her project, she revealed her identity.  “I saw the positive response the project was getting.  I wanted to get out in the community as a real person to see what I could do to spread kindness,” said Miller.  So far, she and her Associate Agents have completed more than 300 missions.  “How easy it is to pay attention to the people around you,” Miller says. “Imagine what 2 to 3 minutes could do to brighten someone else’s day.”

An Angel in Queens 
Every weekday, Jorge Munoz starts his shift at 5:15 a.m.  He drives a school bus, picking up  elementary schoolchildren at a bus stop and dropping them off at a few schools on Long Island in New York.  As part of his regular route home, he passes a food factory.

Something always bothered him: “These guys, they were throwing away a lot of food.”  One day in 2004, Munoz
couldn’t stand seeing good food go to waste.  He pulled over and asked if they would give him the goods.  He knew some families having trouble.  Two weeks later, he got some food and gave it to about 10 families that didn’t have food.  Only two people in those families had a job.

The food he received from the factory turned out to be a one-time thing.  Munoz scrambled to continue helping the hungry families.  He collected small food donations from local businesses, but those weren’t enough.  He started to use money from his own salary to buy food, brown-bag meals, and handed them out to eight day laborers, three times a week.  The eight soon tripled to 24.  A few months later, Munoz and his mother started cooking meals for 45 people in his shoe-box-sized apartment.  The economy worsened, and the hungry population grew.  More than half of his weekly salary of $700 went to buy food, drinks and packaging.

The act…
For the past six and a half years, Munoz has been delivering home-cooked meals every night out of his white Toyota pickup.  He has missed only one night, when a snowstorm shut down all lines of transportation.  These days, about 140 people - many of them homeless, jobless immigrants - line up some times stretching nearly one block.

His makeshift meal program has turned into a well-oiled non-profit called “An Angel in Queens”.  A handful of volunteers, including his mother and sister, begin prepping the food around 1:30 p.m.  When Munoz returns from his day shift, he switches gears from bus driver to good Samaritan, with a 10-minute break for coffee in between.

The volunteers have learned to work in a tight space, shuffling past each other in the apartment turned soup kitchen. The kitchen and living room look more like food pantries, stacked with crates of small juice cartons, produce bags and trays of hot food.  There’s always the smell of onions cooking in oil, beans and meat, but the menu changes nightly, ranging from ham and cheese sandwiches to beans, rice and chicken.  The family multiplies whatever they’re having for dinner by 140.

 Munoz attributes his motives to God.  “God and my mom.  Since my childhood, my mom taught me to share and that’s what we are doing here.”

And he shares the family spirit with every person who receives a meal.  “They feel like a part of the family.  Most of them, they are alone.  I have my mom, my sister, my nephew, my friends, a lot of members of my family are out here, but they are alone.  At least they feel like they have a small family taking care of them.”

The ripple….
Munoz’s generosity has been contagious and his friends and the community have chipped in.  “A couple of times a week, I go to collect food from my friends.  Some buy extra oil and rice.  Other friends, some have restaurants, tell me to go pick up extra food they cook,” Munoz says.  “Whatever I don’t have, I go to stores to pick up.”   In June of 2008 a  couple of volunteers helped him set up his website and non-profit.

Soon word about “An Angel in Queens” spread through local, national and international media.  The blogosphere blasted his message.  His selfless act has been featured in the New York Times, CNN,    Univision and Telemundo.  That coverage has inspired the global community to reach out with support: monetary donations, appliances, food, drinks and lots of thanks.

Munoz has received personal recognition as well.  Renowned chef Jamie Oliver featured him on his cooking show, “Jamie’s American Road Trip”.  He also got a presidential nod.  Munoz, his mother, sister and nephew visited President Barack Obama at the White House in August and received the Presidential   Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honour behind the Medal of Freedom.

His biggest reward comes from those he serves.  “You have to see their faces.  When they smile, that’s the way I get paid,” Munoz says.  “When they smile, I thank God, this guy got something to eat tonight.”