The Rush

Click here to read Acts 2:1-41.

Chris LeDoux, a rock/country artist from the early 1990’s, sang a song called “Stampede.” It was about cowboy driving cattle from one place to another place. All was calm at night while they we trying to rest, until…

They heard something that sounded like thunder. But when they looked in the sky there were no clouds. The sound was getting stronger and they realized something was wrong. The cattle were stampeding! All of a sudden the cowboys jumped up and did the work they knew they needed to do to get the cows back in order.

As I think about the day of Pentecost this year, this is an image that comes to mind. Think about being the early apostles and hearing something strange and not really knowing what it was. And then all of a sudden, you would know they work you needed to do. How do you think you would react? I would hope all of us come with expectation to have such an encounter with Jesus Christ daily that we are filled with excitement and energy for the work and day ahead.

Before Jesus went into heaven, he told his followers the mission they were to be on, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). After hearing this, the disciples gathered in a room to wait as Jesus instructed. When they were waiting, they were praying and listening for Jesus to speak to them again.

This is how I believe revival comes into our world. When we take the time to wait on God, instead of trying to push our agenda and “make” people come to faith through fear or any other tactic we may have; we see the Spirit move and people make genuine professions of faith and truly confess and repent.

It starts with God who gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We have the opportunity to experience the grace of God living in us, changing us, making us more and more like His Son, and giving us a renewed sense of awe and joy for the work He calls us to in this life. Since God has come into our lives and awakened/revived our souls, we have the power and guidance to go into the world and work with God to bring His message so revival can take place. We get to work with God in incredible ways and watch the Holy Spirit do incredible work in and through us.

At the end of Peter’s message, we see that 3,000 people came to faith (through the conviction and working of the Holy Spirit) and were baptized. We can go into the world and expect similar responses. But, how many people turned away after hearing the sermon? How large was the crowd that day anyway? The point is that we should never be discouraged when we don’t get the results we want. We should always look to see where and how God is moving and working and praise Him.

I invite you to live in such a way that the work of the Holy Spirit in your life is shown and glorified in all you say, do, and think so that people around you will be able to see and love Jesus Christ. It is all by grace God has given us the Holy Spirit. Through this grace, and the life He calls us to, we get to experience a rush, a new kind of excitement and joy to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ with all we encounter.

To go further into the concept of revival and being a witness, I invite you to listen to this sermon called, “Our Witness Matters.” Click here for the sermon link.

Waiting

Click here to read Acts 1

Imagine the scene: Jesus gives his disciples instructions for what will come next. He gets them all excited. Then he tells them to wait. And then he goes into heaven.

Do you like to wait? There are times I have trouble waiting for my drink at McDonald’s to be poured, and I’m the one pouring it! Waiting is important and is something that is good for us to practice.

Why should we wait? First of all, waiting and being patient prepares our heart and mind to be able to handle and appreciate what is coming. If we act too quickly, we might not allow the opportunity to sink in. We just might miss out on the benefit that will occur. Secondly, waiting just might show us a better way than we thought about before. We just might be able to see more clearly the objective in a new light and a new path is formed simply because we waited.

As a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ it would be a good idea to practice the spiritual discipline of waiting through silence, solitude, maybe even work. Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.” What we need to be clear on is that sometimes this involves being still and in silence, while other times it involves continuing to do the work we have begun. That clears it up, right?

How can we know if we should be still or if we should continue working? I think it all depends on your situation. Notice Jesus told the disciples to remain in Jerusalem and wait. He did not say to remain in Jerusalem and do nothing. This is key. Even when we are waiting on God, it is more of actively waiting rather than passive waiting.

Prayer is active waiting because we are actively communicating with our God in heaven. Not just telling Him what we want or want Him to do; but hearing anything He desires to tell us. If we were to simply sit and do nothing, we could miss out on hearing from God.

Now, we can wait for God by continuing to do the work we were doing before. In John chapter 5, Jesus says that his Father is always working and He is too. Most of the time when we want to know what God wants us to do, we just have to get out there and work; finding where God is working and then join Him in that work.

This week, I encourage you to ask God to show you where He is working. Ask Him to soften your heart to those around you. You just might be interrupted in your day and step into work with God and change another person’s life forever…maybe the life you see changed is your own.

SENT OUT with Identity

This week, we began a 5 part series in worship called “SENT OUT.” Jesus does not call us to live comfortable lives, be comfortable in our worship, or expect everything to go just right simply because we follow him. He calls us to go out into our communities and out into the world to follow Him, make disciples, show grace; and this all begins by knowing our identity.

If I were to ask you, “Who are you?,” would you be able to answer this without stating what you do or describe your personality or preferences? We live in a culture that wraps our identity up with our job and what we like to do. This is not the basis of our true identity. Our true identity is a child of God, a person who has been made in the image of God.

In the Gospel of Matthew, in chapter 3, Jesus goes to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. I invite you to read these words now:

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.””
Matthew 3:13-17 NIV

Jesus is on his way to be baptized. He is determined to follow through on this decision. People were coming from all over to be baptized by John the Baptist and repenting to turn their life over to God. Would Jesus have just been another person in the crowd? Would you be able to recognize Him? John recognized Jesus when He went in the water.

When we get baptized, we go with a resolve to publically declare what God has been doing inside us. This is not done lightly and we should not take baptism lightly.

In doing research for this message this week, I came across a story of a baptism in East Malaysia.
When Texas pastor Jim Denison was in college, he served as a summer missionary in East Malaysia. While there he attended a small church. At one of the church’s worship services, a teenage girl came forward to announce her decision to follow Christ and be baptized. During the service, Denison noticed some worn-out luggage leaning against the wall of the church building. He asked the pastor about it. The pastor pointed to the girl who had just been baptized and told Denison, “Her father said that if she was baptized as a Christian she could never go home again. So she brought her luggage.”(Raymond McHenry, Stories for the Soul (Hendrickson, 2001), p. 48; submitted by Steve May, Humboldt, Tennessee)

This teenager knew she would not be welcome back home after being baptized and knew this meant she had a new life to live because she knew God had great plans for her life. How many of us would be willing to do the same thing?

Jesus was not made more into the Son of God after He was baptized; but His identity was confirmed and affirmed by the heavens opening up giving the divine revelation (Ezekiel 1:1, Revelation 4:1), the voice from heaven that proclaimed His identity and showed His authority for the work He was about to enter.

So now we have to ask the question, what does this mean for us today?
We get to be affirmed in our identity as children of God and share this truth to those in our family, and others around us.

We should always approach worship and the presence of God (which is all around us) with determination that God will do a great work within us and through us.

We get to share this message of grace and truth because we know our identity: Child of God made in His image. This means we go into the world and tell the gospel message with confidence. Remember, there are really two types of people in this world: those who know they are God’s children, and those who do not know this.

As we leave the waters of baptism, realize we are in the presence of God, we are changed and should allow God to continually change us. Remember these:
Why the Jordan River? The Israelites crossed the river with Joshua leading them after Moses died. They left their old way of life behind and entered into a new life, one that God desired them to have.
Put on Christ and clothe yourself with Christ (Colossians 3)
It is no longer I who live but Christ in me (Galatians 3:22)
It is God who does the redemptive work. This is where the power in baptism comes from. (1 Corinthians 1)
We have been equipped by the Holy Spirit and have been given gifts for reaching out to this world. (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)
From the beginning, God called His creation “good” (Genesis 1:26-27), and we get to join in the redemptive work with Him.

Trust that God is doing a great work in you and will do great works through you. Child of God, know who you are and know you have a great purpose and mission for your life. But, just because you decide to follow Jesus Christ, does not mean your life will not be easy or comfortable because we want it to.

Right after Jesus was baptized, He was sent into the wilderness by the Spirit and was tempted by Satan. Because He knew and was confident in His identity and purpose, He was able to withstand the temptations. You and I have this same power over temptations within us if we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within you and live through you.

Above all else, remember it is God who does incredible works and have given you the identity of Child of God. Stand firm in this identity and go into the world to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

I Believe in the Victory of God

Ancient Creed, Living Faith Blog Series Part 3

I invite you to take time to read the scriptures today.

1 Corinthians 15:1-28

Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time.  I’m the least important of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me. So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach and this is what you have believed.

So if the message that is preached says that Christ has been raised from the dead, then how can some of you say, “There’s no resurrection of the dead”? If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then our preaching is useless and your faith is useless. We are found to be false witnesses about God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, when he didn’t raise him if it’s the case that the dead aren’t raised. If the dead aren’t raised, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins, and what’s more, those who have died in Christ are gone forever. If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. He’s the first crop of the harvest of those who have died. Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too. In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ. Each event will happen in the right order: Christ, the first crop of the harvest, then those who belong to Christ at his coming, and then the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he brings every form of rule, every authority and power to an end.  It is necessary for him to rule until he puts all enemies under his feet. Death is the last enemy to be brought to an end, since he has brought everything under control under his feet. When it says that everything has been brought under his control, this clearly means everything except for the one who placed everything under his control. But when all things have been brought under his control, then the Son himself will also be under the control of the one who gave him control over everything so that God may be all in all.

 Psalm 110:1

What the Lord says to my master: “Sit right beside me until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet!”

Suppose I ask you to describe your life with one of these words, which would you choose? Victorious, Defeated, So-so.

So many of us are living lives that simply do not reflect the victory of Jesus Christ. Look at this part of the Apostle’s Creed:

“the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

What do you experience when you read these words? I invite you to read them again, and then read the Scriptures above and see what God may be telling you.

If we look at the words from the Apostle’s Creed, we can see at least three things:

  1. “I have a risen Lord because Jesus rose from the dead.”
  2. “I have a reigning King because Jesus ascended into heaven.”
  3. “I have a righteous Judge because Jesus is coming again to judge.”

If nothing else, when we look at this, we can see how much we have even when we hear the lies our life isn’t worth anything. We have a risen Lord who has defeated our ultimate enemy, death, so we can live life everlasting here and now and in the life to come. We have a reigning King who sits in heaven who makes sure we can have everything we need. We have a righteous Judge who is able to discern and see the truth and bring true justice and reconciliation in the world.

We have so much because of the power and person of Jesus Christ that we should be the most joyful, confident, hopeful people who don’t let the circumstance of our life bring us down. Who don’t become envious of others because they have more or their life seems smoother. We have everything we need and we can live victoriously through the power of Jesus Christ.

The verse we all know, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” should really be thought of in this way, “I can endure all these things through the POWER of the ONE who gives me STRENGTH.” See the difference?

How can you live your life in such a way that people know you have the victorious power of Jesus Christ shining through everything you do? We get to live as people of the resurrection; and as such, show the awesomeness of Jesus Christ daily.

 

You are invited to print this out, place this creed in a spot you’ll see every day and recite daily.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

 *Adapted from a sermon series idea “Ancient Creed, Living Faith” on www.seedbed.com

I Believe in the Messiah

Ancient Creed, Living Faith Blog Series Part 2

I invite you to take time to read the scriptures today.

Psalm 2

Why do the nations rant? Why do the peoples rave uselessly?
The earth’s rulers take their stand; the leaders scheme together
against the Lord and against his anointed one.
“Come!” they say. “We will tear off their ropes and throw off their chains!”
The one who rules in heaven laughs; my Lord makes fun of them.
But then God speaks to them angrily; then he terrifies them with his fury:
“I hereby appoint my king on Zion, my holy mountain!”

I will announce the Lord’s decision: He said to me, “You are my son,
today I have become your father. Just ask me,
and I will make the nations your possession;
the far corners of the earth will be your property.
You will smash them with an iron rod; you will shatter them like a pottery jar.”

So kings, wise up! Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
Serve the Lord reverently—trembling, kiss his feet  or else he will become angry,
and your way will be destroyed because his anger ignites in an instant.

But all who take refuge in the Lord are truly happy!

Galatians 4:4-5

But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted.

 

We believe in God, the Father Almighty. This is a relatively easy phrase to speak. If we simply stop at this particular phrase we can stay in a place of thought as God is a being who is all powerful, yet distant. It makes me think of the movie Aladdin when the genie describes his life as having “phenomenal cosmic powers…itty bitty living space.”

But then, we get to the next part of the creed:

And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

We get to state our belief in Jesus Christ, God made flesh! This is the part of the creed that shows how much God loves us. In the Nicene Creed, Jesus is described as “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.”

Jesus Christ came into the world to show God among us. He came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). This means he lives into what seems like his last name: Christ. “Christ” messiah which means he came to save. What did he come to save us from?

We often think Jesus came to save us from going to hell. If this is all he came for, we miss out on so much. He came so we could experience eternal life and have life abundantly. This means that we get to live in the presence of God right here, right now.

Jesus Christ came to show us the heart of God. When we say we believe in him, we have the opportunity to say we believe that God came down in human flesh and lived among us. This is huge!

Take some time to re-read Psalm 2 and Galatians 4:4-5 again and see what these passages say to you about Jesus Christ.

 

You are invited to print this out, place this creed in a spot you’ll see every day and recite daily.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*Adapted from a sermon series idea “Ancient Creed, Living Faith” on www.seedbed.com

Proclaiming God’s Forgiviness

We have several topics of conversation during the Christmas holidays. We’ll talk of love, family, weather (good or rough), relationships, parties, gifts, etc. Our conversations are around the goodness of the season. Yet, this is one of the most stressful times of the year.

During this season, it seems we are more likely to be harsh with another person because they say the wrong thing. We see through the media doing anything they can to get the “perfect” gift. We are more likely to give this time of year; but we get frustrated with how many people are asking for donations.

This time of year, we say “Jesus is born” and “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Before Jesus preached his first sermon, John the Baptist was on the scene telling people to repent and receive God’s forgiveness.

Click here to read this week’s scripture passage.

Repent. God’s forgiveness. These are topics of conversation that we really only hear in the church. It is so easy to get caught up in the to-do’s and all the festivities that we can forget to proclaim the forgiveness and grace of God to people. This is the real gift that comes at Christ’s birth.

His life, His death AND His resurrection were all done so we can be reconciled to God. No longer to we have to live in fear. No longer do we have to live separate from God.

The question we all have to answer is “will you accept this gift?” Gifts that are held on to don’t really live out their full potential. It is when we share that the gift brings extra joy. This is how it is with Jesus Christ.

So, instead of simply saying “Merry Christmas,” how about taking time to give someone the gift (out of love for God and them) of Jesus Christ by telling how He changed your life and how their life might be different.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Urgency

Today, we again look at the passage in Luke 21 of Jesus speaking about the end and the glorious return of the Son of Man. This time, I invite us to look at verses 34-36.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

You can read the entire scripture for this week here.

Jesus says to “be on guard,” “be alert at all times.” Other places in the Gospels, Jesus says that we will not know the time when all this will happen. This event is referred to come like a thief in the night. There is urgency to make sure we are ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

Many people become skeptical about the “end times” or the “end of the world,” thinking that this is too much for us to try and understand or it is still in the future. The truth of the matter is the end of the world comes for some people everyday.

Isn’t it heartbreaking when people live in fear and without hope. People around the world, especially in our communities and own homes, need to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that brings good news to all people. We should not think we have plenty of time because we do not know when that person will pass on.

For me, these passages do not really cause me to be worried about the future; but they do help me realize how important it is to share our faith every opportunity we have (in actions and in words).

I invite you today to pray for someone who needs to hear about Jesus Christ and then trust that God is with you as you share your faith. If you find it challenging, there are people who can help: pastors, church, friends, Bible study groups, etc.

Are you ready to give the gift of Christ to another person this Christmas?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.