Category Archives: sermon development

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

Standing on the Promises of God

Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. When the child in Elizabeth’s womb hears Mary’s voice he leaps for joy. This child is John the Baptist. This moment of celebration brings joy to Mary and she prophesies:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.   (Luke 1:47-55)

What is remarkable about Mary and Elizabeth also is that they believed in the promise of God, even though great miracles of God were required. Mary, a virgin, had conceived a child and Elizabeth, who was well beyond any child bearing age, had also conceived. Nevertheless, these chosen instruments of God were able to believe God as did Abraham before them.

Are we able to believe in the miraculous today? Mary and Elizabeth understood that the promises God made to them were not just about them. Jesus and John the Baptist are children of the promise which God made to Abraham. Their births extended and expanded this promise down through the ages. Today, we are recipients of the promise.

God has made promises to us as well. His plans for us may not be as dramatic as that of Mary or Elizabeth, but they are important to God’s plan. Are we willing to believe in those promises and hold on to them. There may be obstacles in the way of our receiving God’s promise. The Apostle Paul tells us how to overcome these obstacles with this prescription:

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

In time, the promises of God will come to pass. The blessing is in the believing and perseverance. Too often me take matters in our own hands and thwart God’s plans and purposes for us. Others are depending upon us to make the right choices. In fact, their future blessings depend upon our faithfulness. Let us be willing to see beyond ourselves as the wonders of God’s work unfolds.

God will do great things for us but he requires that we exercise our faith. Are we willing to hear, believe, and stand on the promises of God?

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Day of Pentecost

I Will Pour out My Spirit on All Flesh

Today we celebrate the birth of the Church. We mark it as an historical event, and that it is – very significant one. Reading from Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.   (Acts 2:1-4)

Clearly something supernaturally was happening. The Apostle Peter began preaching concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus. He ended up by saying:

Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”   (Acts 2:36)

Many of Peter’s listeners was moved by the Spirit:

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”    (Acts 2:37-39)

Peter said the promise was for his listeners, but also for those who are far away. What was the promise? Peter quoted the Prophet Joel:

In the last days it will be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.   (Acts 2:17-18)

The promise was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Was this a onetime experience? Not in the Early Church. We read in the Book of Acts that the apostles were arrested for performing a healing by the Holy Spirit. When they were later released they gathered for prayer:

When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.   (Acts 4:31)

There were manifestations of the outpouring of the Spirit, both on the Day of Pentecost and throughout the the buddEarly Church. The Apostle wrote about them to the Church in Corinth:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.   (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

But this was the Apostolic Age, some might say. It is not for today. Is the Holy Spirit doctrinal or dynamic? Jesus told Nicodemus :

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:8)

The Spirit is like the wind. Is it under our control” No, the wind blows where it chooses.

Let us look at an Old Testament outpouring of the Spirit. God asks Moses to gather 70 elders and bring them to the tent of meeting:

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.   (Numbers 11:24-25)

The tent of meeting was not the only place where this outpouring occurred, however:

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord‘s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”   (Numbers 11:26-30)

Do we have any Eldad’s and Medad’s in our churches today? Joshua thought they were not allowed in his day. They did not follow protocol. Does the spirit follow our protocol or does our protocol follow the Spirit? As ministers of the Gospel are we free to say, along with Moses: “Would that all the Lord‘s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” ?

Jesus spelled out the protocol:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

Jesus was glorified on the cross. He paid a great price so that we could receive the Holy Spirit. Are we thirsty?

This Sunday we celebrate an historical event. We celebrate the birth of the Church. Let us also celebrate an outpouring of the Holy Spirit today and pray for a rebirth of the Church as we welcome the Spirit into our own hearts. God has not finished with us yet. That should not keep us from celebrating Jesus’s victory over the cross, the grave, and Hell. God wants to wash over us and release in us a spring of living water.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Restoration and Glory

There should be no doubt that we are living in the last days. End time prophecies are being fulfilled, left and right. How do we as a church respond? The early disciples were concerned about the end times in a way. They wanted to know about the restoration of Israel. From today’s Gospel:

When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   (Acts 1:6-11)

Are we standing, looking up towards heaven, as a Church today? There is much talk about the rapture and when that might take place. The world has gotten so bad for Christians that many of us just want to be safely removed as quickly as possible.

This is not our calling. We have been given work to do. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. Intercessory prayer is a large part of the battle. As soon as Jesus descended into heaven the beginning of the Early Church began with prayer. The disciples returned to Jerusalem:

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.   (Acts 1:7-14)

The pouring out of the Holy Spirit would soon take place at Pentecost. The Church was formed, powered, and directed by the Holy Spirit. Ir was equipped for battle and it faced a hostile world. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.   (1 Peter 4:12-14)

Today, are we aware that, when we truly answer the call of God, the spirit of God’s glory rests upon us. God is raising up a new generation of apostles, prophets, and evangelists who will help usher in a great worldwide revival.

There are conditions which we must meet, however. Peter continues:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.   (1 Peter 5:6-11)

This message was for the Early Church and it is a message for those of us who will believe today.

”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”   (John 17:6-11)

Our call is to be one with God. Who will believe? Who will step up? Jesus is glorified in his disciples. He was glorified in the Early Church and he will be glorified now in those who believe and receive his Spirit. Notice that he did not pray for the world to be glorified. The world will be judged.Let us no longer be led by worldly leaders who have corrupted everything that they have touched. Let us be moved by the Spirit to pray for and touch the people of the world who are destined to be saved in this last day.

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Ascension Day

Clothed with Power from On High

There is much speculation in today’s Church concerning the date of Jesus’s return to the earth. Little has changed from the Early Church. This same concern was on the mind and hearts of the early disciples. From Acts we read:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   (Acts 1:6-8)

Jesus did not answer his disciples directly. Rather, he told them that there was a more important consideration for his Church. They were to be witnesses to his resurrection. From Luke we read:

“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”   (Luke 24:46-49)

There would be two essential ingredients to witnessing for Christ: 1) they were to proclaim the repentance and forgiveness of sins, and 2) that they would be clothed with power from on high. That does not sound like a seeker church with a watered down Gospel. Our church is not to blend into the world and thus, have little relevance. We need to be clothed with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill our calling. The age of the apostolic faith is not over. We are now the apostles.

Are we excited about the message that has been entrusted to us? The psalmist wrote:

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of the ram’s-horn.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is King of all the earth;
sing praises with all your skill.

God reigns over the nations;
God sits upon his holy throne.   (Psalm 47:5-8)

Are we equipped for ministry? If not, let us ask for power from on high. Jesus promises to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. He has called us to do his greater works. Now is not the time to shrink back or hide behind man-made doctrine or tradition.

The questions the angels asked the disciples on the day of ascension is still applicable to us:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   (Acts 1:11)

We do not have time to waste. Let us get on with the true task of the Church. Jesus may come at any moment. We should be living holy lives with our lamps full all the time. But our concern must be for the lost. We were once lost and someone witnessed to us. If we love Jesus then we will obey him.

His great commission is all the more important today as we approach the close of the Church age. Jesus speaks to us today:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   (Acts 1:8)

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