Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Two weeks ago, I preached what may have been for some of you a controversial or puzzling message about what it means to be ‘led’ by the Spirit in which I conveyed that the Spirit’s main role is to lead people to saving faith in Christ (Justification) and to begin in us the life-long process of becoming more like Christ (Sanctification).

I also cautioned us to think it through before claiming the Holy Spirit told us or led us to do anything that is outside the realm of scripture. And I quoted among others, Billy Graham:

He (the Spirit) will never lead you contrary to the word of God. I hear people saying, “The Lord told me to do this . . . The Lord told me thus and so.” I am always a little suspicious unless what the Lord has said is in keeping with His Word. God never directs us to do anything contrary to His Word. 1

For example, if you came to me to tell me that Holy Spirit led you to forgive someone who has wronged you, or to increase your giving to the church, or to join a Bible Study, I have no problem because those things have to do with our sanctification and are clearly mandated in scripture.

However; if you tell me the Spirit of God led you to tell me that I should sell my Kia and buy a Honda forgive me for being a little skeptical as I have come to believe that God did not send the promised Holy Spirit for the purpose of telling us or leading us or guiding us into anything that is outside the realm of the scriptures.

Having said that, I hope no one took/takes me to mean that God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit cannot or will not work in our lives to bring us a sense of assurance or comfort or direction or peace as a result of praying.

In fact, in today’s pericope, Paul admonishes us to pray without ceasing: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5:16-18).

What does Paul mean by ‘Never stop praying’?

Paul does not have in mind praying 24/7. No human being, no matter how saintly, could possibly pray at all times. But I think we do have to admit that Paul must mean praying often.

In NKJ of Romans 1:9, Paul writes, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” Surely Paul did not make mention of the Romans every second of every day. He prayed about lots of other things besides the Romans. But apparently there was a time when he mentioned them over and over. That’s what I believe he means by “without ceasing;” repeatedly and often.

Now to be sure praying ‘repeatedly and often’ is no small task. All of us are very busy people; most of us say we are busier now than at any point in our lives. How can we possibly pray without ceasing? + Read More

Guest Speaker: Rev. Reid Firestone – Part of the Plan

1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Romans 12:1-8

This week, Rev. Reid Firestone is filling in for Randy with a message entitled “Part of the Plan”

Led by the Spirit?

John 14:16-17, 25-26, 15:26-27, 16:5-15
Romans 8:9-14

Over the years I have known several well-meaning Christians who have boldly approached me to say something like, “Randy, the Spirit led/told me to tell you should do this or you should do that.” Sometimes it had something to do with my personal ministry; I should preach a different way or should lead the church differently. And other times it was, “The Spirit led me to tell you our church should buy something, or do something, or refrain from doing something.”

When I first got started in this business I was, Wow, that person must really be close to God if the Spirit is leading him or her to tell me something. And I wondered why I wasn’t being so led. Was I missing something; was there something lacking in my faith?

Then there are the folks who aren’t so bold to say the Spirit told them to tell me but rather, the Spirit led/told me to buy a Honda rather than a Ford, or the Spirit told me to sell my house, or the Spirit told me to quit coming to your church.

But now when people tell me the Spirit led them to use Aquafresh toothpaste rather than Pepsodent or to plant beans rather than potatoes, I tend to be a little skeptical.

For I have come to believe that God did not send the promised Holy Spirit for the purpose of telling us or leading us or guiding us into anything that is outside the realm of the Bible.

Now, if you come to me and tell me that Holy Spirit has led you to increase your giving to the church, I have no problem. Why? because that’s in the Bible. If you told me the Spirit of God told you or led you to forgive me or someone else, I would say, “Amen” because that’s in the scripture.

I say this because I believe that is what Jesus is teaching about the role of the Holy Spirit. + Read More


Philippians 1:1-11

As a result of time spent preparing for Ken Jones’ memorial service, this week’s message was not written in advance, and as such, there is no text version, only a recording.

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

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