Blessed to Be a Blessing

Matthew 25:14-30
Ephesians 4:11-16

There was an orchestra led by a second-rate conductor; not only because he was always running late but also verbally abused his musicians. In the orchestra was this guy on the clashing cymbals, who did his best, but was always a fraction of a second off. So one day the conductor says, “If you don’t get it right this time, I’ll shoot you.” 
When the time came for the percussionist to get it right, he didn’t. So the conductor pulls out a gun and shoots him dead on the spot. Of course, he was arrested, charged, tried, found guilty and eventually the conductor ended up on death row. The day came when he was sent to the chair. The executioner flipped the switch, but nothing happened. Everyone wondered what went wrong. But the conductor knew. Saddened by all that had taken place, he said, “I never was a very good conductor.”

The conductor par excellent, Christ Jesus, the Creator and King of the universe is standing at His rostrum with His baton in hand waving it back and forth in time with the music of the spheres, eliciting a cornucopia of grace-filled notes from all manner of musicians as He orchestrates the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. He is the conductor and we are the musicians; His musicians, who by His grace are invited, and by His Spirit enabled to participate in creating the symphony of the ages through His Church.

That, in a nutshell, is what both Jesus and Paul were talking about in today’s texts.

Jesus says God has invested in all of us; all of us have been blessed. Whereas the NLT says we have been blessed with ‘bags of silver,’ the Living Bible says we have been given ‘bags of gold.’ For sure, the word literally translated as ‘talent’ means ‘a measure of money,’ but it is universally agreed upon by Bible scholars that the ‘bags of silver and/or gold’ represent anything we have been blessed with; money, possessions, talents, gifts, abilities. The point of the entire parable being: not what we have been blessed with but how we have used what we have been blessed with.

For Jesus makes it clear that God is looking for a return on His investment. He is encouraging us to take our place in His orchestra; to use what we have been blessed with for His glory.

Paul takes that basic concept and expands on it. Christ has given what he calls ‘spiritual gifts’ to His people. Here in Ephesians, he lists the so-called speaking gifts: “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers” (4:11).

But in his letters to both the Romans and Corinthians, he lists many others.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly (Romans 12:6-8).

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have
(I Corinthians 12:7-11).

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets,
third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages (I Corinthians 12:27-28).

I can save you the trouble of counting them, there are 21 listed in the NT. Paul’s point being because all Christians have the Spirit, all Christians also have a gift of the Spirit to be used to build God’s Kingdom.

So Paul echoes Jesus . . . we have been blessed to be a blessing. How are those evangelists, pastors and teachers going to be a blessing?

Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).

And how are the people of the church going to be a blessing?

As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (Ephesians 4:16).

So Jesus, what’s the goal? To use what we have been given to make heavenly music here on earth to give God a good return on His investment.

And Paul, do you have anything more to add? As more and more people begin to reinvest what God has invested in them the body of Christ, the Church is built up, grows stronger, more healthy, full of love; and therefore, better able to accomplish her mission.

Now having said all this about using what we have been given on behalf of Christ’s Church, I want to give a warning:

There is a tendency, if we are not careful, to substitute accomplishing the Lord’s work for spiritual growth. To be sure, using our gifts to build up the body of Christ is part and parcel of our walk with God. But to allow busyness, even busyness for the Lord to interfere with our higher calling to draw near to God through scripture, prayer and worship doesn’t do us or God any good.

Remember Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Any work we accomplish on behalf of our Lord honors Him and accomplishes His will and is empowered by His Spirit ONLY when that work is a natural outgrowth of drawing near to and therefore becoming more like Jesus.

To bear the fruit of the Spirit; therefore, is more important than displaying the gifts of the Spirit. Don’t get me wrong; the gifts of the Spirit are to be desired, sought and used for the glory of God. However, the New Testament teaches that they are to take a back seat to bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul is clear about this in his letter to the Corinthians where he is talking about the gifts of the Spirit, but then says, “Now I will show you a more excellent way” and moves into chapter 13 where he says, I can display all the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit in the world, but if I don’t bear the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit, in this case, love, the gifts count for nothing.

In other words, the fruit of the Spirit should be cultivated first, and then our character will drive the gifts of the Spirit. The most important fruit of the Spirit in this regard is ‘faithfulness.’ Let’s allow faithfulness to propel us on to using whatever God has given us to glorify Christ and build up His Church. For in his first letter to the Corinthians (4:2), Paul asks, “What is required of stewards? (a steward being a manager of what one has been given) And His answer: “That they be found faithful.”

It was the faithfulness of the leaders of the church who cooked up the idea; it was faithfulness that led Bill Richardson to loan one of his wagons; it was Brad and April Winter’s faithfulness that motivated them to transport it here and back; Jim, Lindsay, Julianna Brandenburg, Gail and I who fashioned together our palm trees; Jim, Lindsay, Julianna, Gail, Chris Laurence, Russ Eader and I, who decorated the float; Jim who loaded his truck with the necessary sound equipment; Heidi Cantlin who expertly pulled the float with Jim’s truck aided by her co-pilot Gail; Jim, John, Lindsay, Dawn, Robyn and I who played and sang Cheeseburger in Paradise; while Russ Eader flipped imaginary burgers and his boys Nick and Cameron Eader along with Abigail Topola threw candy; and last but certainly not least, Lee and Marie Kehoe along with Nancy Carr, walked behind the float handing out invitations to people for a free cheeseburger at our next community meal.

Because of the combined ‘faithfulness’ of all these people CrossPointe had a presence in the 4th of July parade and in that regard fulfilled our Mission of ‘Sharing God’s Grace with our Community!’

This is the way it is supposed to work! 26 people were faithful in offering their gifts, skills and their time to accomplish a mission on behalf of God’s Kingdom.

The fruit of the Spirit which is ‘faithfulness’ motivated all of us to offer the gifts of the Spirit.

As to those gifts of the Spirit, some of you have taken a class that included a spiritual gifts inventory and you have a pretty good handle on what your spiritual gift(s) are. If you have not had that opportunity and would like to, I encourage you to google ‘spiritual gift inventory’ and take one or more of the dozens that are offered. You will have fun and learn something about yourself that perhaps you never knew. But more importantly you will be encouraged to pick the right instrument for you to play in God’s orchestra.

There are some current needs in the church that could be met by some of you offering your gifts: Handyman, Visitation (home, nursing home, hospice), Small Group Facilitators, Kids Worship, Nursery,

And beyond offering specific gifts, everyone can plug on our next Gather to Scatter.

“As each part does its own special work.”

To say, “I am my own. What I do with my life is my business, Jesus, and therefore I really don’t wish to play in Your orchestra” invites disaster. For Jesus replied, “even what little they had will be taken away.” Jesus seems to be saying, “Use it or lose it”? Lose what? Lose out on the JOY of investing in His Kingdom.

Notice that Jesus says to both the men who invested what they were blessed with, “Well done My good and faithful servant, you have been faithful in handling this small amount; come let’s celebrate together!”

There is joy to be experienced as we invest what God has given us back into His kingdom.

In a far country lived a band of minstrels who traveled from town to town presenting music to make a living. They had not been doing well. Times were hard; and there was little money for common folk to come hear the minstrels, even though their fee was small. Attendance had been falling, one evening the group met to discuss their plight.

“I see no reason for opening tonight,” one said. “To make things even worse than they may have been, it is starting to snow. Who will venture out on a night like this?”

“I agree,” another disheartened singer said. “Last night we performed for just a handful; fewer will come tonight. Why not give back their meager fees and cancel the concert? No one can expect us to go on when just a few are in the audience.”

“How can anyone do his best for so few?” a third inquired. Then he turned to another sitting beside him. “What do you think?”

The man appealed to was the oldest and wisest of the group. He looked straight at his fellow musicians. “I know you are discouraged. I am too. But we have a responsibility to those who might come. We will go on . . . and we will do the best job of which we are capable. It is not the fault of those who come that others do not. They should not be punished with less than the best we can give.”

Heartened by his words, the minstrels went ahead with their show. They never performed better. After the show, with the small audience gone, the old man called the others to him. In his hand was a note handed to him by one of the audience. “Listen to this, my friends!”

Something electrifying in his voice made them turn to him in anticipation. Slowly the old man read: “Thank you for a beautiful performance.” It was signed very simply, “Your King.”

To Blush, or Not

Romans 5:12, 15-17 (Call to Worship)
Romans 5:18-6:18

Billy Sunday, the famous major league baseball player turned traveling evangelist was quite a colorful and flamboyant preacher in the first two decades of the 20th century.

He also had a way with words. One website lists 88 quotes attributed to Billy. But my favorite is: “Listen, I’m against sin; I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist, I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head, and I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition.” 1

We need to have this same relentless attitude in our own resistance to the temptations of sin.

But why? Paul, you say all of our sins are forgiven: past, present, and future; that’s awesome . . . grace is so amazing. So . . . why not go out and sin even more, for the more we sin the more God’s grace will be on display. Isn’t that a great way to promote the wonderful grace of God? + Read More

P. B. P. G. I. F. W. M. Y.

Galatians 5:16-25

I am sure that in this prestigious group of people, there is someone who can tell me what the message title acronym stands for:

Please Be Patient, God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet.’

How many of you would be willing to admit that’s true? Unless your sanctification level is 100%, unless you are batting .1000, unless you are completely and absolutely holy in all areas of your life; then it’s true . . . God isn’t finished with you yet.

That acronym could be a motto for every one of us, and it implies several things that we have noted about sanctification. Sanctification (more Christ-like, holy) is a process that begins from the moment of our new birth and will continue until we take our last breath.

Sanctification is also a struggle. Last week, we referred to it as The War Within. Sometimes we take two steps forward and one step back; sometimes one step forward and two back; but as long as we ‘walk in the Spirit’ we will keep moving forward.

You recall that to ‘walk in the Spirit’ involves developing holy habits; God’s word and prayer . . . prayer and God’s word.

But to adopt P. B. P. G. I. F. W. M. Y. as a motto implies something that most of us don’t get very excited about: CHANGE.

When was the last time you got really pumped about changing your life? + Read More

The War Within

Galatians 5:16-26

Paul Harvey tells of being on a ranch in the west and witnessing a riveting story of a cowboy who had a beautiful stallion that he had raised from a colt after he captured him from a wild herd of horses. The horse would follow the cowboy around wherever he went, so much so that the other ranch hands would poke fun at him. One day, the stallion stepped in a gopher hole and injured his ankle, so the cowboy put him a pasture by himself so he could recover at his own pace. One night a herd of wild horses broke into that pasture and when they left the cowboy’s horse followed the wild herd.

The cowboy was miserable . . . for two days he grieved the loss of his horse. On the second evening, another ranch hand told the cowboy he has seen his horse in a certain canyon and sure enough was still hanging out with the wild bunch. The cowboy decided to get a good night’s sleep before heading out in the morning.

Before dawn, he and Paul Harvey rode out to the opening of that canyon and hid behind a rock from which they could watch the herd. They were grazing quietly, so the cowboy decided to play Indian and sneak up close enough so that he could speak to his horse. When he got within earshot, he slowly stood up; all the horses heads jerked up, ears alert, ready to bolt. While the cowboy began talking to his horse for all he was worth, the other horses took off and ran further down into the canyon. The cowboy’s horse stood still, muscles twitching, not sure what to do. He looked toward the wild herd, took several steps in their direction; then he stopped and turned towards the cowboy as he continued talking. He began to prance around in a circle not knowing which way to turn as he looked first at the wild bunch of hoses, and then towards His master.

Paul Harvey said, ‘You could see and feel the tension in that horse; there was his master whom he loved and there was the wild herd which he did enjoy running with; which way to go?’ For a moment it looked as though the cowboy had lost as his stallion ran about 20 yards to follow after the herd. But then he stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and with head up pranced back to the cowboy. The cowboy placed a rope around his neck, the horse nuzzled him the chest and finally, the cowboy led his horse out of the canyon.

Paul Harvey later wrote, “I laid my head down on my arms and prayed, ‘Dear Lord, if I am ever tempted to run with the wild herd, let me listen to your voice when You call.’”

That story illustrates exactly what Paul is discussing with us in Galatians 5:17:

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

There is a tug of war that goes on in our hearts; in yours and in mine. I call it the war within; where on the one hand we desire to serve and follow the Master whom we love, and on the other, our sin nature encourages us to follow self. + Read More

Safe and Sound

Matthew 22:34-40
Ephesians 4:17-32

Went to the zoo the other day and saw a gorilla holding a Bible in one hand and Darwin’s Origin of the Species in the other and he was sort of looking puzzled. I said, “You look sort of confused, what’s up?”
And he replied, “I’m not sure if I am supposed to be my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”

I titled today’s message ‘Safe and Sound’ because it is the will of God that when we land on the shores of heaven we arrive both ‘Safe and Sound;’ where ‘Safe’ implies the biblical term ‘justification’ and ‘Sound’ the biblical word ‘sanctification.’

As to arriving in heaven safe . . . Jesus has taken care of that. When we became Christians by our faith in Christ’s sacrificial death, the Bible says we were justified, that is, made right with God through our faith. In that sense we will arrive home ‘safe.’

But we have been made safe to also become ‘sound.’ That is, to live lives that please God . . . enabled by the Holy Spirit. Not just safe; God desires that we reach home ‘safe and sound.’

Gail put an illustration on today’s program of a fruit-bearing tree. It roots are symbolic of ‘justification by faith;’ being made right with God which makes us safe. And the fruit hanging on the tree is symbolic of our sanctification.

The point of departure for today’s and the next several week’s messages has to do with landing on God’s golden shores ‘sound.’ That is, we are talking about sanctification which, according to scripture, comes about through the ministry of God’s Spirit.

Sanctification is a fancy theological term for describing the process involved in becoming more and more Christ-like.

Being sanctified is synonymous with being holy. In fact those two words ‘sanctified’ and ‘holy’ come from the same Greek word, which literally means ‘set apart.’ When something is sanctified or made holy, it is set apart or separated from something else for special use.

I remember when my grandparents were going to pick me up to take me to church
my mom would tell me to put on my ‘Sunday clothes;’ which were for me a black blazer, a white shirt, and a red bow tie. Now, did I wear my Sunday clothes to school? No. Did I wear my Sunday clothes to play in the yard? No. Did I wear my Sunday clothes to play to play football or baseball in? No. My Sunday clothes were separated from the rest of my clothes. They were set apart for certain occasions. In other words they were sanctified or holy clothes.

We have been made holy in Christ, that is, set apart for His use; when God the Father sees us through the blood of Christ He sees us as clean, holy. In the first part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he describes what we ARE he writes, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians 1:4). SAFE

And then in the latter half of the letter where he describes what we are to BE: “let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:23-24) SOUND.

Get this now . . . holiness is both a gift and a command. We have been made holy in God’s eyes . . . and now that we have, His desire for His children is to live up to our namesake, that is, to become holy.

What is being holy look like? Listen to J. I Packer’s definition of holiness in his fine book, Keep in Step with the Spirit:

Holiness is the fruit of the Spirit, displayed as the Christian walks by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22, 25). Holiness is consecrated closeness to God. Holiness is in essence obeying God, living to God and for God, imitating God, keeping His law, taking His side against sin, doing righteousness, performing good works, following Christ’s teaching and example, worshipping God in the Spirit, loving and serving God and men out of reverence for Christ. In relation to God, holiness takes the form of a single-minded passion to please by love and loyalty, devotion and praise. In relation to sin, it takes the form of a resistance movement, a discipline of not gratifying the pleasures of the flesh, but of putting to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13, Gal. 5:16). Holiness is, in a word, God-taught, Spirit-wrought Christlikeness, the sum and substance of committed discipleship, the demonstration of faith working by love, the responsive outflow in righteousness of supernatural life from the hearts of those who are born again. 1

Holiness or becoming sanctified is a high calling, is it not?

Don’t despair, I have two principles today and three or four more next week about sanctification that will encourage us all to seek to become more Christ-like; that is, SOUND.

First, and most encouraging we are not alone in this endeavor to live better lives.

The good news is that anyone and everyone who has ever accepted Christ and thereby become safe also has the Holy Spirit of God to help us become sound.

Charles Colson once said, “Psychiatry, properly administered, can turn a schizophrenic bank robber into a mentally healthy bank robber. A good teacher can turn an illiterate criminal into an educated criminal. But they are still bank robbers and criminals.” 2

What he was saying was, it takes more than psychiatry and education to change a person;
it takes the work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes the Philippians: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (2:12-13).

Our Daily Bread ran a story about a young woman who accepted Christ as her Savior and applied for membership in a local church. “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your Life?” inquired an old deacon.
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
“Well, are you still a sinner?”
“To tell you the truth, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.”
“Then what real change have you experienced?”
“I don’t quite know how to explain it,” she said, “except I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved. I’m a sinner running from sin!” 3

It was the work of the Holy Spirit in her life that brought to her attention how she had been living her life and giving her motivation to want to live a better life.

Second; whereas, justification (safe) happens in the blink of an eye, sanctification (sound) is a PROCESS that will continue until the day we die.

To be sure, at times it seems, that we take two steps forward, then one step back, but even
so, over the long-haul we are or should be moving forward, becoming more and more
like Christ with time.

I take two steps back every time I get behind the wheel. I am so easily frustrated when I am sitting behind someone when the light turns green and I can see them looking at their cell phone while they sit there. Or when someone coming the opposite direction is weaving left of center and I see them with cell phone in hand as they pass by.

Alan Redpath: “The conversion of a soul is the miracle of a moment, but the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime.” 4

Pastor and author, Stuart Briscoe explains that as a young man he joined the Marines. “Their magnificent dress uniform attracted me, and I thought that I would get one of those uniforms immediately. But they didn’t give me one for months. When he asked about it, they told him, ‘You are a Marine. The moment you walked through the gates, you became a Marine. You are a Marine to stay.’
He said ‘Give me the dress uniform then.’
They replied, ‘You are not fit to wear one yet. We’ll have to teach you how to march, how to walk, how to look like a Marine, and how to behave like a Marine. Then you can wear the uniform.’
“I was a Marine the moment I was sworn into that position, but it took me a long, long time to wear the uniform.” 5

John Newton, the converted slave trader and author of Amazing Grace, said, “I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was.” 6

We are justified the minute that we trusted Christ, but it will take us the rest of our lives to learn how to behave in a sanctified way. Even so, you know it is worth it.

I was reading about a man who enjoyed restoring old cars.

One of them was a 1949 Cadillac that when his wife and daughter saw agreed that it was “nothing but a wreck.” The man wasn’t discouraged by their assessment of his purchase.
“Just wait until I get done with it,” he said, “You’ll see.”

Over the next several months this man worked many hours on his car. He ordered the exact cashmere fabric that had been on the original seats. He replaced the windshield and found original tires. He tore the engine apart and completely rebuilt it. He had to wait weeks, and even months, for some of the parts he had ordered; but gradually he rebuilt, resurfaced and refinished the whole car. Finally, he had it repainted in its original color.

When it came time for his wife and daughter to see the finished project, they could sense his excitement. And they couldn’t believe it was the same car. There is sat gleaming in the sunlight, looking showroom. He had done an amazing job of restoration, and the finished product was a beautiful sight to behold. He had every reason to feel proud of his accomplishment.

After he purchased that car, that man had a choice. He could have covered that old, badly worn car with a tarp to hide its ugliness. But he chose, instead, to see its value and to do the long and arduous task of cleansing and restoration. Something that had become very ugly had now been restored to its original glory. 7

God saw us in our broken-down, ruined condition, and He bought us with a price, as Peter says in his first letter “with the precious blood of Christ.” (I Peter 1:19) Now it is His great pleasure to by the power of His Holy Spirit to restore us to showroom condition. Paul tells the Ephesians that “We are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to walk in the way He prepared long ago” (2:10).

Norman Macleod used to sum up his Christian faith in these words: “There is a Father in heaven who loves us, a Savior who died for us, a Spirit who helps us to be good, and a home where we shall all meet at last.” 8

And we would add, “Safe and . . . sound.

1 Packer, J. I. Keep in Step with the Spirit, Finding Fullness in our Walk with God.
[Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, © 2005 2nd Edition], page 81.






7 Bagwell, Tim. When I See the Blood. [Hagerstown, Md: McDougal Publishing,
© 1998] pages 123-124.


Thoughts on the Trinity

John 14:15-21
Ephesians 2:8-18

From Reader’s Digest, Life in These United States, Ann Spivack writes, “While our friends from India traveled to California on business, they left their 11-year-old daughter with us. Curious about my going to church one Sunday morning, she decided to come along. When we returned home, my husband asked her what she thought of the service. “I don’t understand why the West Coast isn’t included too,” she replied. When we inquired what she meant, she added, “You know, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the whole East Coast.”

She’s not the only person who is a little clueless when it comes to the Holy Spirit; especially when it comes to talking about The Trinity, our subject for today.

So what are some of my thoughts on the Trinity?

First, the doctrine of the Trinity points to the mysteriousness of God. The doctrine does not make an attempt to define the totality of God. Where would we in our finite humanness ever get off thinking we could even begin to comprehend the Eternal One?

An unknown author wrote: “If God were small enough to be UNDERSTOOD, He would not be big enough to be WORSHIPPED.” The idea of the Trinity is a paltry human attempt to describe what God has allowed us to know of Himself. I am reminded of the words of Paul writing to the Christians at Corinth:

Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Someday, we’ll understand more about God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For now, we will have to be satisfied with what we can glean from God’s word.

And what can we glean? + Read More

Four P’s of Pentecost Power

Acts 2:1-24, 36-41
John 14:1-11

Have you ever read the Book of Acts and wondered why we don’t see the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the church today like it was in those early days of the church?

Have you ever read the Book of Acts and wondered why we don’t see the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the church today like it was in those early days of the church?

Some Bible scholars explain the apparent difference between then and now by saying that it was necessary to give the early church a jump start, so God gave the apostles the power to do miraculous signs that attracted many folks. But as the church quickly grew by leaps and bounds and the NT came into being, God no longer needed to work His miraculous power in order to reach people. And so the prevalence of signs and wonders diminished over time. In other words, Christ’s disciples haven’t changed that much, rather God did.

Others cite Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” and therefore insist that our churches today should resemble the early church. And the reason it doesn’t, they would say, is that the people of God have become complacent, or grown cold, or . . . you get the picture. In other words, God hasn’t changed; we have.

I believe there’s merit to both views. But it is not my intention to debate them, but rather to share four Biblical ideas that are important about Pentecost Power, which when taken seriously will enable us to resemble an Acts 2 church. + Read More

Promise of the Father

Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31
Acts 1:1-5, 2:1-21

Today we begin a new series focusing on the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit, how do we receive the Spirit and what is the role of the Spirit in our lives? Along the way, we’ll be discussing what it means to be baptized in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, sealed with the Spirit, and what it means to walk in the Spirit.

Today’s message is sort of an Overture. You all know that an overture is a selection of music that precedes a symphony and incorporates a slice of music from all the songs in that symphony serving to whet the appetite for what is to follow.

As we begin, I want to let you know that my source for this series will be The Bible; I am sure you wouldn’t want it any other way, right? And so I encourage us to drop all of our predilections and biases about the Spirit and be open to what God wants us to know through His word, the Bible.

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:1-5)

On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy. And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
 will be saved.’ (Acts 2:1-21)

A children’s catechism class was learning the Apostles Creed; each child had been assigned a sentence to repeat. The 1st one said, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth.’ The second child said, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son.” When he had completed his sentence, there was an embarrassing silence. Finally, one of the kids from the back says, “Looks like the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit got spooked.” + Read More

Keep Looking Up

Luke 24:36-53
Acts 1:1-11

You don’t have to look too far to see that there’s a lot of hopelessness and therefore, sadness in this old world today! Rather than me reciting hundreds of articles and newsfeeds, allow me to show you a few quotes I found:

‘Sometimes all you can do is lie in bed and hope to fall asleep before you fall apart.’
‘To live without hope is to cease to live.’
‘Due to recent cutbacks and until further notice,
the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.’

Hopelessness is not unique to the 21st century. The 1st century had its fair share . . . even with the disciples of Jesus; especially with the disciples of Jesus.

Ever since they had first met Jesus, they had been living in the midst of a most extraordinary time of hope and joy. They witnessed Jesus calm the sea, rebuke a storm, feed thousands, accomplish many healings, and even the raising of people from dead. They were surfing the ultimate wave! When Jesus triumphantly entered the capital city, they watched as the adoring crowds called for God’s blessings on their leader.

But five days later, after they saw Jesus nailed to a Roman cross, all bets were off . . . all hopes were dashed; their great joy turned to overwhelming sadness. Two of His disciples on the Road to Emmaus spoke for them all, “We had hoped He was the guy.” We ‘had hoped’ . . . past tense. They were on their way home . . . back to the way it was before Christ . . . sadness . . . despair . . . hopelessness.

But then everything changed dramatically! Jesus was alive again!! + Read More

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