Power to Witness

Acts 1:1-11

Mark Mittleberg, the author of Building a Contagious Church, writes:

We all believe in it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely believed in the Bible but didn’t believe in evangelism. When you embrace the truth of God’s Word, it’s pretty difficult to discount its call to reach lost people. It’s on our bulletins, in our hymns, and throughout our creeds. It’s posted on our marquees and peppered through our statements of faith. It’s emphasized in our theology books, praised in our seminaries, and encouraged in our pulpits. Most Christian leaders list it as one of their ministry’s top priorities. There’s little ambiguity or doubt that this is central to what we’re supposed to be about. The irony is that while many of us are in churches and denominations that have a rich heritage and strong reputation for evangelism, in many cases precious little is actually happening.” 1

I would agree with Mittleberg’s premise that reaching people for Christ is a major thrust of most Christian congregations. Whether or not that last statement, ‘precious little is actually happening,’ is true in our ministry I will leave for God to judge.

But if it is true in our case, why would it be true? In other words, why do you suppose that some Christians are hesitant to be a witness for Christ?

And yet Jesus was very clear: “You will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My WITNESSES!

Notice as Jesus is about to leave them with His parting shot, His disciples are hoping He is going to leave them with something that will benefit their little-minded kingdoms. “Lord, before you go, just in case You forgot isn’t it time for You to establish Your Kingdom here on earth?”

Now, why would they say that? Oh, I don’t know, perhaps because He had earlier told them that some day they would sit at His right and left hand when He established His Kingdom? Yes, they were fancying themselves to be the Mitch McConnells and Nancy Pelosis of their day. In other words, they were still in this thing for themselves.

No boys; I’ve had a higher privilege than that to bless you with for in a few days from now I am going to send my Holy Spirit to you and when it happens you will be empowered to be My witnesses! What a blessing and honor and privilege that will be for you to point people to Me! + Read More

Spiritual Healing?

John 5:1-13
II Corinthians 12:1-10

Over my 34 years of ministry, I have been involved with a handful of situations where people prayed for others’ healing and it seemed the Spirit answered those prayers. Back in the early 90’s, a number of church leaders prayed for a woman who was facing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from one of her kidneys; and before surgery, a follow-up CT scan revealed that tumor was gone and she never had another problem.

Then there was a very good friend, and colleague in ministry, who suffered a heart attack that resulted in his kidneys completely shutting down. In such cases, death almost always ensues. In accordance with James 5:14, Dean called on the elders of the church to pray for him, which we did. And low and behold, his kidneys came back on line and he recovered. To be sure, Dean died a few years after that from kidney failure, but like King Hezekiah, Dean received some extra time.

But the truth is that although we believe God hears all of our prayers, it cannot be denied that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in accord with our desire. For many of us have joined many others to pray for a miracle of healing for our friend, Ken Jones, but he is still lying in neurological intensive care.

These type of stories typify the mystery of unanswered prayer: Why are some healed, while others are not?

What does the New Testament have to say about healing?

+ Read More

Guest Speaker: Randy Hall – Gideons International

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
This week we welcome guest speaker, Randy Hall, representing Gideons International.

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. + Read More

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. + Read More

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

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