In Acts chapter 4 the disciples encountered strong opposition to the gospel. After healing a man and saying there is no salvation except in the name of Jesus, they were no longer allowed to worship in the temple. They had to learn a new lifestyle. That new lifestyle would be to live in a miracle on the edge of disaster. This requires a biblical focus in your prayer life. The disciples picked the right issues on which to stand. Those issues generally centered around the theme of making Jesus known. The disciples shared their temple leader opposition with the whole church. This conflict became the focus of the church’s prayer life. But before they prayed about the specific needs, they focused upon God’s character, God‘s role in history and God‘s role in prophecy. With those three things in mind, the disciples prayed with confidence and were empowered to make Christ’s name and the word of God clear to everyone that would listen. So this Sunday we find out how the disciples lived out their faith.
I’m going to be a prophet this Sunday and tell you that in 2022 you will have pain. The good news is pain may be helpful. One assumption here is that you didn’t deliberately do wrong. If we make wrong or sinful decisions, we will bear the consequences. Instead, I am talking about pain that enters your life due to no fault of your own. This is the most common kind of pain for those who are aggressively pursuing God‘s will. Generally speaking what moves us out of our comfort zone, apathy, is pain. During difficulty we learn the most about our character and what God wants to create in our lives. Our true character is revealed and changed through difficult and painful experiences. To make sure our pain has the most benefit, we need to count pain as beneficial. We need to know that when pain enters our life, it is not meant to hurt us ,but to help us become the kind of person that God wants us to be. This pain puts us on a better path for a better future. So this Sunday we will look in-depth at pain’s benefits. I cannot wish you a pain free new year but I can wish you a Happy New Year!
We all know Romans 8:28 by heart, but how does that work out in real life? Oddly enough the Christmas story has many instances of things that were not good. Only when God touched them did they work out for the good. Christmas is an illustration of Romans 8:28. We will learn how a series of unfortunate events, or at least untimely events, resulted in the most significant event in the Bible other than the crucifixion and the resurrection. So we will learn from historical examples in the Bible how God remains in control when it seems like things are out of control. God is sovereign!
The shepherds were in their fields watching their flocks by night. These shepherds wouldn’t seem to be major players in the first Christmas, but consider the following. They were among the first people to hear about the birth of Messiah. They got a visit from an angel. They immediately obeyed and went to Bethlehem. They were the first citizens of Bethlehem to worship at Messiah‘s birth. Since they saw angels, they were one of the few believers ever to have such an experience over the course of human history. So I think in terms of the role players at Christ's birth I would’ve been glad to join them. Being a former farm boy it would have been nice to get away from the sheep for a few hours! Maybe you could read the Luke chapter 2 story of Christ’s birth in preparation for the message. Pray for this Sunday and the Christmas Eve service. Pray for those who may not be regular attenders, that they will understand the significance of the birth of God in the flesh.
Obviously people respond to Christmas in different ways - ignorance, indifference, anger, sadness, stress, depression, joy, love, giving, etc. As we look into the New Testament this Sunday we will see many of those same attitudes in the people who were involved at the first Christmas. The usual suspects were not there to worship Jesus, the unanticipated people were there. What motivated them? Where were the people who should have been at the cradle of Jesus? The supernatural had very little to do with who worshipped. They worshipped a supernatural baby but it didn’t require supernatural power to worship the baby. So let’s look for some ways we can join the unlikely Christmas worshipers.
It’s Christmas time. There are certain celebrities that we associate with Christmas. Mary, the shepherds, the wise men, the innkeeper and the angels. Someone we don’t hear much about is Joseph. He’s what I call a silent witness. He does not utter a single word in the New Testament. And yet in spite of the fact that he is not the biological father of Jesus, Joseph has a major impact. Are you a person who thinks if you cannot speak well, then you can’t witness? If so I think you’ll find a lot of encouragement from Joseph’s life. His role proves you don’t have to be a celebrity or even have a speaking gift to go down in history. None of us have our names in the Bible. Joseph‘s contribution to the Christmas season is clear. We'll find out how clear this Sunday as we look at Matthew's gospel account of the Christmas story. We'll also light the second candle of Advent. We will also have communion. So this should be a Sunday filled with great opportunities to understand how we can be a normal carpenter or have a normal occupation, and still be part of God's story on planet earth.
This Sunday we conclude our series in the book of Luke. Over the past 20 weeks we have looked at many values to live by. The value of forgiveness, the value of prayer, last week the value of awesomeness. And this week we look at the value of belonging. All humans have a need and desire for relationships and to belong. We will explore on Sunday from Luke 15 what Jesus says about belonging. And we will see how Jesus calls us to belong to Him.
I can’t remember who said it or exactly how they said it but here it goes: the reason we don’t evangelize is because we don’t worship. If we both in personal and corporate worship know what God is like, evangelism would be the most natural outcome. To stand in awe of God moment by moment will put us in a position where we can’t help but share our faith. This Sunday we are going to examine how to be in awe. Our God is an awesome god, but do we understand the ways in which Jesus is awesome? Last Sunday we established the fact that Jesus is the God. This Sunday let’s establish the fact that we need to be in awe of Him. What are the practical benefits of being in awe of Christ? Let’s consider the scriptures on that subject.
If you have shared your faith with some frequency, you will often find the Jesus objection: Oh Jesus was a great man and a great moral teacher but he was not God. There are even Bible translations that refer to Jesus as a God not the God, e.g. New World translation. There is not a more important truth to consider in the New Testament than the identity of Jesus Christ. The New Testament was originally written in Greek so what does it say? Is Jesus ever called “the” God or is the word “the“ found in the Greek text? Assuming the Bible is the word of God, does the New Testament make it absolutely clear who Jesus is and how his identity impacts your eternal life? Secular humanism and several Christian cults are trying to undermine the identity of Jesus Christ. What’s our answer? I hope to give you some tools with which to answer doubters on Sunday.
Forgiveness. We all need it. Do we give it? Regret, anger, guilt, and blame are all causes of pain. But often the pain is unnecessary if by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the permanent attitude: please forgive me and I forgive you. Some psychologists believe that the number one downside in harboring unforgiveness is a perpetual state of unhappiness. Thus your ability to forgive in part determines the overall quality of your life. Of course Christ understood this concept and talked about asking forgiveness in Matthew 5 and seeking to forgive in Luke 17. Why is Christ so intent on the subject of forgiveness? People who know how to forgive and seek forgiveness, are able to live life at a high-level in personal relationships. So let’s explore forgiveness this Sunday in such a way that we live together in an atmosphere of love and harmony.
One element of most world religions is the belief in ghosts. Even the disciples of Jesus were at first confused at his appearance in the upper room. "They were frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit." It wasn’t the first time the disciples made mistakes about Jesus. So how did Jesus address their spooky orientation? There would have to be physical evidence in addition to Christ’s words. When you think about Christ's resurrection, is there any harm with symbolic, allegorical, mythological, or spiritualist orientations regarding his post resurrection appearances? How is a fish one aspect of evidence? Do you think Christ will have pierced hands when you meet him in heaven? Can it be helpful to prevent people from seeking resurrection experiences? These and other questions will be answered this Sunday as we consider the value of the Physical Resurrection in history and in our own story.
What will be on your tombstone? What will be your last words? Alfred was born in Stockholm Sweden. He was a gifted engineer, chemist, and inventor. His specialty was weapons of war, especially explosives like dynamite. Years later his brother Ludwig died suddenly of a heart attack and the newspaper got it wrong and said Alfred died. That morning he read the headline: the merchant of death is dead. The article explained how Alfred had become rich by finding new ways to kill people. He was appalled. The mistake resulted in him changing his legacy. He left nearly all his wealthy estate to establish the Nobel peace prize, each year given to the person doing the most to help humanity in the elimination of war. How satisfied would you be with your legacy today? Alfred Nobel had a rare opportunity to re-write his ending, How about you? What will your obituary/tombstone/last words look like? What will be your legacy? Jesus Christ left an example. Sunday in Luke 23 we will discover how to die.
In Luke 23 Christ is dying on the cross. Even though there are a multitude of witnesses, a common criminal might be the only one who became a Christian that day. The criminal was objective. He was a sinner and Christ was innocent. The criminal listened to what Christ had to say. Do you? The criminal welcomed Christ’s message. Do you? The criminal responded to Christ’s identity. Do you? DNA testing has proved there are many people who are innocent who were put in jail. But although they are innocent of that particular crime, very often they have been found guilty of several unrelated crimes. Does being innocent of a particular sin set you up for self righteousness? So many today feel morally superior when in fact their life is filled with sinful acts. Christ tells the women of Jerusalem not to weep for him but to weep for themselves. That’s odd. So this Sunday we'll consider criminals, the ladies of Jerusalem, and those who feel morally superior because of their stand on justice and various moral issues.
In Luke chapter 19 Christ has to address the fact the disciples thought that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to set up his kingdom. In fact he was going there to die for his kingdom. He reveals that he was going away after his resurrection on a long journey through the parable of the minas. The question Jesus answers is: what do we do between his ascension and his return for his people? He’s coming back in power. When is it? How should we respond? Jesus has a message filled with grace and peace. He rewards his servants according to their faithfulness. He judges those who reject him. The Jews said in John 19:15, "We have no king but Caesar." That required judgment from the returning King. But what about those who have been faithful and serving Christ in the interim? What is required is faithfulness in the stewardship of the gifts that God has given us. Spiritual gifts, financial gifts, educational gifts, relational gifts, etc. We all have received by the grace of God these great assets. By the power of the Holy Spirit and abiding in Christ we are to use these assets to bring glory to the King. Luke 19 gives us a better understanding of what it means to be a faithful servant before Christ returns. It’s required of servants that they remain faithful. Are you faithful?
Every year our nation spends 6.55 TRILLION dollars with the average American holding $6,270 of credit card debt. With all the spending going on in our country and all the debt that the average person has, the logical thing to do would be make as much money as you can and keep it all to yourself so you can pay off your debt and buy lots of nice, shiny new things. But the Bible has a different message. Jesus preaches a message of giving and being generous with what you have. What if the answer to financial health is not saving or spending more; what if the answer is being generous with what you have? Join us this Sunday as we continue to explore values to live by from the Book of Luke; and specifically the Value of Generosity.