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The Love of Our King

Today Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday. If you come from a traditional church background, you probably know what that is all about – but for those who maybe didn’t have that traditional church upbringing, Palm Sunday might be a little more unfamiliar to you. It typically doesn’t get as much publicity as Easter or Christmas – but it’s a significant event on the church calendar none-the-less.

So this morning, I’d like to take some time just to explain what Palm Sunday is all about. What happened on that first palm Sunday – and why were those events so significant – and why is it important that we remember and celebrate that today?

As we all sit at home, slowing the spread of the coronavirus, what can we take away from Palm Sunday that gives us hope, that stirs our love for each other, and that builds our faith in God?

That’s what I hope to share with you this morning! You’ll remember last week we looked at 1 Corinthians 13:13 which says…

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

We were encouraged to know that the coronavirus will not last forever. Social distancing will not last forever. But faith, hope and love will. These three things will last forever. 

In particular, we talked about faith last week. We looked at the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – and how their absolute confidence in God (that is to say, their faith in God) was a tremendous example for all of us. No matter what our situation (whether its a fiery furnance, an angry king, or COVID-19), we can trust the Word (and the character) of God!

And our faith in God will last forever. God will never break our trust. Even throughout eternity – we will be able to have absolute confidence in the faithfulness of our God. Hebrews 13:8 says…

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

And Isaiah 40:8 tells us…

The grass withers and the flowers fade,

    but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:8

Everything else and everyone else in the world, at some point, will fall short, will disappoint, will fail. But the Word and the character of God – will last forever – and we can fully put our faith in Him.

Now today, as we examine the story of Palm Sunday, we’re going to look at the second of these three words, but we’re not going to go in order. The verse lists faith, hope, and love as the three things that will last forever – and certainly we could talk extensively about hope as we look at Palm Sunday, but we’re going to save that one Resurrection Sunday next week. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is really the foundation of our hope! So today, we’re going to talk about love – which is certainly a very key element in Palm Sunday!

Now Palm Sunday is actually one of the few events that is recorded in all four Gospels – we find it in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – which I think speaks to how significant this event is. I mean, Jesus birth is only recorded in two of the Gospels, and so if all four of the Gospel writers include the details of this event – It’s got to be significant.

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The Great Drama of God

About six weeks ago we began our visual theology message series – based on the book by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. And as you can see on the title page, there are four main components that make up this series. These are like the four reasons why we want to study Theology (or why we want to study God)… These are four things that every Christian should want to do.

#1. We want to grow close to Christ, 

#2. we want to understand the work of Christ, 

#3. we want to become like Christ, and 

#4. we want to live for Christ.

Those are the four main reasons why we are studying theology – and these four components form the basic outline for these messages. 

In the first component, which Greg just finished for us last week, we talked all about how to grow close to Christ. In that section, we talked about everything from how the Gospel connects us to Christ to our new identity in Christ. We looked at how God speaks to us through the Bible, and how we speak to God through prayer. These are the basics of growing close to Christ.

The second component of this series (that we’re going to start looking at today) is designed to help us understand the work of Christ. In other words, not only do we want to have a personal relationship with Christ, but be also want to understand what He is doing in the world. This is a key element of the Christian faith – we need to understand what God has done, what He is doing right now, and what He’s going to do in the future.

You see, the Bible tells us that we are living smack-dab in the middle of an incredible story! We are all part of God’s unfolding drama. Our life on this planet is just one scene in an eternal, cosmic story that’s been playing out since time began. It’s like God is the ultimate writer and director and the world is the stage for his drama to unfold.

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The Bible Is…

To begin this morning, I want to ask you a question that I’ve often asked at the end of my messages, but I don’t think I have ever asked it right at the beginning. Preachers will quite often ask a question like this one as the concluding thought of the sermon – it’s the main point that everything has been driving towards. After all has been said and done, this is the question that they want you to take home and think about and hopefully act upon….

And the question is:

Do you have a personal relationship with God?

Normally this question is asked to encourage you to think about accepting Christ as your Saviour – to make that first time decision to follow Jesus and become a Christian.

But that’s not necessarily where I’m going with this one today. 

The question is not “Do you want to become a Christian?” – The question is “Do you have a personal relationship with God?”

And maybe before you answer that question, I should define what a personal relationship is. You see, having a personal relationship with someone requires having personal interactions with them.

For example, I do not have a personal relationship with Donald Trump. I believe he exists. I believe he has said things and done things that have impacted my life (to a certain extent). I’ve even read some of his tweets and heard him speak on tv. But I do not have a personal relationship with him – because the two of us have never had any personal interactions. We’ve never had a conversation – we’ve never emailed back and forth. We’ve had no personal interactions with each other – and therefore I do not have a personal relationship with him.

So when I ask the question “Do you have a personal relationship with God?” – I’m not asking if you believe he exists or if you believe that he has said and done things that have impacted your life. I’m not asking if you’ve read some books about God or heard a preacher preach about God.

I’m asking if you personally have some sort of interactions with God. Are there times when you speak and He listens and are there times when He speaks and you listen? Because that’s what a personal relationship is all about.

It’s two people speaking and listening to each other – it’s the two-way street of communication. Without those back-and-forth interactions, it’s pretty hard to say that you have a personal relationship with someone.

As Christians we have the awesome privilege of having a personal relationship with God. God has invited us to have personal interactions – those back-and-forth conversations with Him – which is pretty amazing when you think about it. 

We think it’s pretty awesome when we meet a famous actor or athlete – We’re thrilled when they say three sentences to us and autograph our posters. But how much more awesome is it that the Creator of the universe wants to connect with you and interact with you on a regular basis?!

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The Sacrifice

There is a song that we sometimes sing in at our kids clubs called “Father Abraham”. If you’ve been a camp kid or if you grew up in the church, chances are good that you’ve heard it before. But if not, it goes like this: “Father Abraham had many sons – many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.”

And then there are some ridiculous actions that go along with that have nothing to do with song – but the kids love it – and believe it or not, the theology of the song is actually pretty accurate.

According to Paul in Romans 4:16…

“For Abraham is the father of all who believe.” Romans 4:16

Of course, Abraham is not likely your biological ancestor unless you happen to be Jewish, but Paul says Abraham is our father in a spiritual sense. If we have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ – then Abraham is our Father. We are one of his many sons and daughters – because he is the father of all who believe.

And if you’ve been tracking along with us for these past couple months, I think it’s probably becoming clear why Paul would say that Abraham is the father of all who believe. We’ve spent the last several weeks looking at the life of Abraham – learn from Him as He learned to walk with God.

Today, we are wrapping up that series, but it has been incredible to see the amount of faith Abraham had in God. It’s no wonder we call him the Father of our faith. We read a bit of a summary of Abraham’s life last week from Romans 4:18 – which really emphasized Abraham’s faith in God. It said:

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Contrasting a “Me-Centered” Society

If you’ve ever read through the Gospel of Matthew, you’ve probably noticed that Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe it’s about 55 times in Matthew – 126 times throughout all four Gospels – that Jesus talks about this kingdom. He tells all kinds of parables and gives all kinds of illustrations to help us understand what the Kingdom of God is like. And of course, Jesus isn’t talking about a kingdom with physical borders and castles and armies and things like that. The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. In fact, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” And Jesus says in John 18:36…

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Jesus was saying his kingdom was very different from the kingdom of Rome or any other kingdom that we might be familiar with. You see, unlike most kingdoms, the Kingdom of God is not centered around some physical location like a city or a castle or a country. The Kingdom of God is centered around God. And God of course is not limited by location – he’s omni-present. He’s present everywhere all the time. So God’s kingdom is not defined by a physical location, but it’s defined by the people who carry out the will of their king.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Lord’s prayer and there’s a key part of that prayer – one that you’re probably familiar with – which goes like this: 

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 KJV

We talked about how, when we pray that, we are inviting God’s will as King to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as his will is being carried out in heaven. 

And so when Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven – he’s talking about the people who submit to and carry out the will of God in their lives.

And it makes sense that we should pray that prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – We should be eager to carry out God’s will because we know that God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. We read that from Romans 12:2 three weeks ago:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Our will is often flawed. I can’t speak for you, but I know that my will is often selfish and sometimes I make decisions that hurt others or even myself. We are not perfect people and we do not make perfect decisions.

But God is perfect. And his will is perfect. It’s good and it’s pleasing. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always see the good immediately. But if God really is how the Bible describes Him – loving, just, faithful, and all those other things – then we can trust that his will is good and pleasing and perfect.

And I’ve certainly seen that to be true in my life. I’ve had a lot of regrets doing things my way, but I’ve never regretted doing things God’s way.

But that’s sure not to say that it’s been easy. Doing things God’s way often means doing things the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. We’ve talked about how the Kingdom of God is very different from the Kingdom of this world. In fact, that’s probably why Jesus talked about it so often. If we are going to live in the kingdom of God, then we need to be prepared to live very differently – different from how we used to live – different from how the world around us lives.

And so that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks as we’ve been going through this message series – which we’ve titled “Kingdom Living”.

What is God’s will for us in how we should live? If Jesus is our King and His will is good and pleasing and perfect, it would seem to me that we would want his will to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as it is in heaven. And if so, then what is that good and pleasing and perfect will for us? How does He want us to live? What does Kingdom Living look like?

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The Substitute

For the past two weeks we’ve been theming our messages around the phrase – “No Pain – No Gain” as we try to understand why Easter matters. I think most of us get it, that Easter is not just about bunnies and chocolate eggs and such, but rather it’s a remembrance and a celebration that Jesus Christ died and rose again to life. That part is pretty well understood I think – especially if you’ve had any connection with church for any length of time.

But what might not be so universally understood is why that matters. Why is it important to you and I,  that some 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus died and came back to life again? What difference does it make in your life today?

That’s what we’ve been trying to wrap out heads around in this series – No Pain, No Gain – Why Easter Matters.

And I think we’re starting to get an idea of the gain side of the equation. In our first message, we identified that one thing that everyone of us wants – but very few of us find. And that is complete and lasting satisfaction.

We can certainly be satisfied for a few moments here and there. There is an element of satisfaction in many pursuits in life – from accomplishing great things, or having fun and exciting experiences, enjoying great food and great friends – these all give us a sense of satisfaction. But nothing is lasting. The satisfaction we do get quickly fades away and we’re forced to chase after something else – something more.

It’s like no matter how wonderful the meal is – we find we’re always hungry the next day. But what if we could find true, lasting satisfaction? Satisfaction that didn’t fade away. What if we could live in a state of being fully, completely satisfied in life?

Well, we discovered last week, that that’s exactly how God intended us to live. When God created Adam & Eve – he created them to live fully satisfied lives. He provided for their every need – both their physical needs as well as their spiritual and emotional needs. And for a time, Adam & Eve enjoyed the most satisfying life you can imagine.

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