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Sermon Series

 

September 25, 2011AD – “A Priesthood of Believers”, Pastor Ben Willis

The Book of Acts 2:38-47 [NLTse]

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

I’ve been preaching through the essential beliefs of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church these past few weeks. (If we’re going to join that denomination we better make sure they believe as we do, and vice-versa). The Essential for this morning concerns the doctrine of the Church – “Ecclesiology” – and states:

The true Church is composed of all persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are united together in the body of Christ. The Church finds her visible, yet imperfect, expression in local congregations where the Word of God is preached in its purity and the sacraments are administered in their integrity; where scriptural discipline is practiced, and where loving fellowship is maintained. For her perfecting, she awaits the return of her Lord…

 (The Essentials of Our Faith, #5)

The Church. Some people look at the Church today as “a necessary evil”, saying that God never intended hierarchies of leaders, and non-profit organizations, and long sermons and disciplinary actions, and Session meetings or committee meetings or congregational meetings… Such people often say that God never intended such things, but that this is what modern-day Christians have made of it all.

I wonder if such people have ever read their Bibles? Elders were the Lord God’s idea, as were Deacons, and Pastors – Teaching Elders – are an aspect of gifts the Holy Spirit gave the Church. Acts 15 records the organization of the early church and the business of the very first General Assembly meeting. The Gospels and Acts are filled with long sermons, as a matter of fact Paul says in one way or another across his many letters, “Woe to those Christians who don’t preach the gospel!” The details of disciplinary actions are discussed in Old and New Testament passages… And as for meetings, our reading this morning from Acts states that “all the believers met together in [the same] place and shared everything they had… They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in [each other’s] homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals [together] with great joy and generosity… And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved!”

When people criticize the church they are revealing much more about themselves than they are about Christ’s people here in the world. Because, though far from being perfected, the Bible tells us that the Church of Jesus Christ has been God’s plan, is God’s plan, and always will be God’s plan, even after Jesus returns to make all things new. The Bible calls the Church of Jesus Christ the fellowship of the “called out” ones. ???????? is the Greek word most often translated “church” across the New Testament, and its verb-form literally means “to call out”. Not to “cry out” or “shout”, but like calling someone out of playing a game because it’s time for dinner. We have been “called out” from the world – “called out” from living like the world lives, “called out” from the priorities the world promotes, “called out” from involvement in the activities the world says are important – we have been “called out” from the world to be a part of the life of God in His Church.

So what is the Church? The Bible speaks of Christ’s Church as being a kingdom: The Kingdom of God; the Kingdom of Heaven. “You will be My Kingdom of priests, My holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) the Lord spoke to the newly freed slaves that were the tribes of Israel at Mt. Sinai. The Lord Jesus’ very first sermons proclaimed, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2) We are not Christian-Americans, as though we have added Jesus to our identity as Americans. No, we are God’s holy nation, and we are dwelling as foreigners far from our heavenly home here in America. Our laws, our policies, our attitudes are not to be those of the United States. We are citizens of Heaven, and our king is the King Who is over kings and presidents and congresses, and we live according to the Way He has set before us in His Word.

What is the Church? The Bible speaks of Christ’s Church as being Jesus’ body still here in the world. “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) the Lord Jesus said from Heaven to the apostle Paul (before Paul had become a Christian and was on his way to Damascus to imprison the Christians there). Notice that the Lord didn’t say, “Saul, why are you persecuting My people” or “My Church”. No, He said, “Why are you persecuting Me?”

After his conversion the apostle Paul writes in his first letter To the Corinthians: “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit… Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where He wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 18-20) The Church isn’t buildings or programs or books, it’s us, all of us who are living our lives by faith in Christ, together. And none of the parts of our bodies aren’t important; and none of the systems of our bodies get to take time off. We’re all needed: Each of us contributing our part, serving in our role, doing our duty, as the Holy Spirit has called and equipped us.

What is the Church? The Bible speaks of Christ’s Church as being God’s Temple here on the Earth: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) And from Ephesians: “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22) We’re citizens of Heaven, and together we are the Lord Jesus’ presence here in the world. But it’s not just up to us and our intellect and abilities: We are His Temple; God lives in us! What we do we do by His guidance and His power; the Father and the Son live in us through the Spirit.

What is the Church? The Bible speaks of Christ’s Church as being God’s family: “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) For “when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the Law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the Law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s Own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

We are His family: The family of the Most High God. Like any family, the Father would have us look to Him and trust Him to provide for us, His family. And as we – the members of the family – grow and mature, He looks to us and equips us to join Him in providing for the household, for one other in our needs, along with Him.

What is the Church? The Bible speaks of Christ’s Church as being a “priesthood of believers”: “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s very Own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Our role, our calling here in this life, isn’t just to be a store clerk or a truck driver or a student or a business manager or a nurse or a soccer player or even just a dad or a mom or a kid (though those may be some of the hats we wear day-to-day). No, Christ’s Church, whatever we do each day, our role, our calling here in this life, is the task of “reconciling people to [God]. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

What is the Church? The Bible speaks of Christ’s Church as being Christ’s bride: “As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the Church are one.” (Ephesians 5:31-32) Our Lover, our Lord, our great Deliverer, our Savior, our Father, our Friend… has made a deal with us, an everlasting covenant: A covenant instituted by the sacrifice and blood offering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Himself. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will never abandon us or disown us. He will never renounce us or relinquish His claims to us. He will never give up on us or turn His back on us. He’s promised. He’s committed.

So, who are we? We are Christ’s Church! Citizens of Heaven living in a strange land; we are our Savior’s continued presence among our neighbors and co-workers and friends each day; we are empowered by the same Holy Spirit Who brought order to Creation and brought Jesus Christ back from the dead; we are sons and daughters of the Most High, members of God’s Own household, dependent upon Him to provide for us, and providing for each other out of the abundance He provides to us; we are set here in the world, in our schools, workplaces, and communities, to call people to repentance and faith in Christ and back to God; all the while knowing that our Christ is ever faithful, and forever committed to us.

 



September 11, 2011 AD – “Salvation is God’s Gift”, Pastor Ben Willis

Paul’s Letter To the Ephesians 1:22-2:10 [NLTse]

1:22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, Who fills all things everywhere with Himself.

2:1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

8 God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

These past several weeks I’ve been preaching through the “Essentials of Our Faith” of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. If we are going to join that denomination we ought to be certain our beliefs match their beliefs.

You’ll find these “Essentials” on the tan insert in our Worship Bulletins. Will you take it out and set it before you? …

As I preached about several weeks ago, the opening paragraph stresses what the founders of the Protestant Reformation called “sola scriptura”, that the Holy Scriptures are our final authority for faith and practice – that is, for knowing what God would have us believe and knowing how God would have us live out those beliefs in our daily lives.

The heading numbered “1” affirms the mystery of the Trinity: That God has revealed Himself across history to humanity in three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – but that God remains one deity.

Heading number 2 affirms the full humanity and full deity of the Messiah, Christ Jesus of Nazareth, upholding His miraculous conception and virgin birth, His dying to pay the penalty for human sin, His resurrection and defeat of the powers of death, and His ascension to God’s throne and ongoing ministry on behalf of us, His followers.

#3 affirms the Person and work of the Holy Spirit guiding and empowering individual Christians and the Church of Jesus Christ as a whole to continue the work and ministry of Jesus here in the world.

And #4 is the “Essential” we’re focusing on today:

 

Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifies them in His sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life…

(The Essentials of Our Faith, #4)

This “Essential” focuses on salvation: Who can be saved, and how. To use the words of the Protestant Reformers, we read that God’s salvation is “sola gratia”, by grace alone: Salvation is God’s free gift – crediting us with Jesus’ righteousness (as though we were without sin) all on account of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. And yet this is only for those who are “born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ.”

Our reading from Ephesians speaks about being “born of the Holy Spirit”. Paul writes,

“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”

The apostle is saying that, before we became Christians – obeying God and following Christ – that we obeyed the Devil and lived in sin; that the Devil is the spirit that directed us when we refused to obey God, when we lived following our passions and desires. And that that remains true for all those who living apart from Christ.

But Paul goes on: “But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead… For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

So, although we were living lives of death apart from Christ, God raised us from that dead-life and gave us a new life when we began trusting Him in Christ. “Born of the Holy Spirit” we have a new life, a new heart.

This can be seen in the life of one of the so-called “Church-Fathers”, a famous sinner, pastor, and then bishop named Augustine immediately after he found the Lord. An English minister, F. B. Meyer, tells Augustine’s story this way: “Augustine was swept as by a mighty current between two women, his mother, Monica, a saintly woman, and another woman, Augustine’s mistress, who had fascinated him almost to damnation. His life hovered between these two just as your life hovers between Christ and Satan,” Meyer writes. “Sometimes Monica attracted him Heaven-ward, and then the evil influence of this other woman dragged him to the very pit of the Abyss. The conflict was long and terrible, and Augustine was like a chip upon the tide, swept backward and forward. But when the Lord shined into Augustine’s heart through the words in Romans 13:14 – ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ – everything changed.”

F. B. Meyer continues, “Instantly Augustine arose. He had made his decision. He had counted the cost. He told his friend [of his decision for Christ], and they went and told Monica. And Monica was glad. The next day he went down the main street of [his city]. As he did so, he met the woman who had been the fascination of his soul for evil. As he met her, she said: ‘Augustine, it is I!’ But Augustine replied, ‘Yes, but, it is not I,’ and he passed her and was saved.”

I experienced this myself in one of the pastors of a church I was a part of growing up. Pastor Doug always stressed the importance of small groups in helping us grow as Christians: Helping us learn about the Bible; offering support in living this new kind of life; and for praying and prayer. Everyone knew that keeping each other’s confidences was key to small group success. Except that a member of Pastor Doug’s small group got mad at him (for some reason I can’t recall), and he left the small group and the church and began to blab all of the pastor’s dirty laundry around to anyone who would listen – inside the church and out: All the ways Doug had been before coming to Christ, and the things he’d done, being passed around like trashy gossip.

Some of the leaders told him what was happening, hoping to come up with a plan for shutting the guy up. But Doug had them leave the guy alone: “That’s just the old me,” I remember him saying (or something like that). The person he’s talking about and slandering doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve been made new in Christ!

Like Augustine did, you may be here today struggling with a sinful life. You may even be, right now, in the middle of hearing two voices speaking within you. One saying, “Open to Christ! Open to Christ!” but the other saying, “No, not now, wait for another day.” Acts 26:14 records what the Lord spoke to Paul when Paul was feeling confused and conflicted about what to believe. “Saul, Saul,” the Lord Jesus said to him, “why are you persecuting Me? It is useless for you to fight against My will.” And addressing this very conflict, in 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul himself declares, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

You don’t have to wait for another day. Don’t think that you have to clean up your life before you can come to Christ. Salvation is God’s gift – “sola gratia” – remember? Just as you are,

this moment,

    in the midst of all the fears you’re facing inside you,                and all the fighting going on outside,

                    Christ will come into you,

                            and not only forgive you,

but change you from within

and give you a new heart.

By opening up to Christ, your “old I” will become a “new I,” and you can say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”



September 4, 2011 AD – “As the End draws near”, Pastor Ben Willis

The Prophet Joel 3:9-16 [NLTse]

9 Say to the nations far and wide: “Get ready for war! Call out your best warriors. Let all your fighting men advance for the attack. 10 Hammer your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Train even your weaklings to be warriors. 11 Come quickly, all you nations everywhere. Gather together in the valley.”

And now, O Lord, call out Your warriors!

12 “Let the nations be called to arms. Let them march to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I, the Lord, will sit to pronounce judgment on them all. 13 Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people.”

14 Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the “Valley of Decision”. There the Day of the Lord will soon arrive. 15 The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will no longer shine. 16 The Lord’s voice will roar from Mt. Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the Earth will shake. But the Lord will be a refuge for His people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.

Visions, dreams, and prophet’s words across the Old and New Testaments provide glimpses and give details about the End of the World. It’s a hot topic today – whether serious or joking – people are talking a lot about the End of the World, or Judgment Day, or call it what you like… Christians don’t have all the answers about these things, but we do have much to share with a confused and frightened world.

According to our reading, the Prophet Joel makes clear that it is the Lord Himself Who will bring about the End, orchestrating all the nations of the Earth to send their armies against His chosen people, “Jerusalem”. Our Father in Heaven even commands the nations to give training to their most unskilled “weaklings” so that everyone can be a part of the great army coming against His Church.

(I use the term “Church” liberally here, because every writing and prophecy across the Old Testament (as well as the New) is fulfilled in Christ: So those Jews and Israelites who will enjoy God’s “refuge” when the fullness of these events come to pass will be those who’ve finally recognized and received Jesus of Nazareth to be their Messiah! He knows what each person needs to recognize and receive Him, and He is faithful and true to all! Glory to His name! J)

The Revelation to John, like the Prophet Joel, also envisions a worldwide gathering against God’s People (16:14, et al; pg. 973): “The rulers of the world gathered for battle against the Lord on that great Judgment Day of God Almighty.” (And then there’s a parentheses statement reminding Christ’s People not to lose heart when they see these things happening around them, because Jesus has promised He will come unexpectedly to save us! And He promises we will be blessed if we are ready and living for Him, even when everyone seems against us and all seems lost!)

The Revelation goes on: “And they gathered, all the rulers and their armies, to a place called Armageddon in Hebrew. (Ar is Hebrew for “hill” or “mountain”, so Armageddon is “Mt. Megiddo”,  a hill in northern Israel where several decisive Old Testament battles took place, as well.]

Through the Prophet Joel, the Lord says: “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people.” And The Revelation pictures this, too (14:19, et al; pg. 973): “So the angel swung his sickle on the Earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. And the grapes were trodden in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 1600 stadia long [that is, 180 miles] and as high as a horse’s bridle.”

Some End-Times scholars believe this will be fulfilled during some future time when all those who’ve trusted in Christ will be living together in Jerusalem and/or Megiddo (though Jerusalem and Megiddo are 50-60 miles apart). And they believe that when that happens, the military power of all the nations will come against God’s People gathered there. And when all seems lost, Christ will come.

Along with many others, I believe this is too literal an interpretation of events that the Bible plainly speaks of as being symbolic. I believe that wherever we are – here in Milford; in Jerusalem; Megiddo; Kenya; Pakistan; Melekhova, Russia – wherever Christians reside, that we will be persecuted, attacked, and/or come against by all the peoples of the Earth. This may take the form of military attack, legal actions, social pressures, etc…

However and whatever, I believe these End-Time images are describing a time of oppression and persecution against Christians that the Church has never known. (And that’s saying something!) But that these End Times will result in many coming to know, love, and follow Christ as they see us standing firm – by His grace – and by our faith overcoming the world’s attacks… And, again, when all seems lost, Christ will come for us!

If you’ll take out the insert from our Bulletins titled, “The Essentials of Our Faith”… Let’s read #3 together.

The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and to apply the saving work of Christ to our hearts. He convicts us of sin and draws us to the Savior. Indwelling our hearts, He gives new life to us, empowers and imparts gifts to us for service. He instructs and guides us into all truth, and seals us for the day of redemption…

These Essentials are set forth in greater detail in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

(The Essentials of Our Faith, #3)

Our reading from the Prophet Joel ends this morning saying, “The Lord’s voice will roar from Mt. Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the Earth will shake. But the Lord will be a refuge for His people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.”

[Show “We Will Rebuild” slide]

Even with all the inconveniences many have faced because of the recent storm, what we’re experiencing by way of earth-shakings and roarings from Heaven in Milford these days hardly compares with what we’ve been talking about and just read. Of course, Christians living up and down the East Coast, or in New Orleans or Haiti or Japan might believe these shakings and roarings are going on right in their own backyards!

I don’t have firm answers for you about God’s calendar for these things. But I do want to remind you that we Christians know the One Who’s bringing this world to its end. He has revealed His love to us, we have received His love and seek day-by-day to return His love, and we’ve received His Spirit of adoption into His divine family. This One Who’s bringing about the End of the World is our Father: He’s even asked us to call Him, “Abba! Daddy”!

And in calling us and adopting us and giving us His Spirit, He is wanting us to be a part of the shaking and roaring He’s bringing about; to be a part of the End of all things, and of drawing all peoples to Christ.

Now, the Old Testament and New Testament writings are filled with mundane and wonderful deeds God’s People were able to do when they were called and adopted and given His Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord gave a man named Bezalel great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts to lead the craftmen of Israel to build the sacred furnishings of the Tabernacle. (Exodus 35:31) The Elders of Israel were able to preach and prophesy with great power for a time when the Lord gave them His Spirit. (Numbers 11:25)

Othniel, the first Judge of the Tribes of Israel, first showed some ability as a military leader in order to win the right to marry the lovely daughter of Joshua’s friend, Caleb. But after God’s Spirit came upon him he led all Israel to great military victories over vastly superior enemies, and to forty years of peace! (Judges 3:10)

Gideon, too afraid of the Amalekites and Midianites to act publicly, always carried out his acts of sabotage and defiance at night. But then the Spirit of God came upon him and he began a revolution that brought the People back to God and regained Israel her freedom, once again. (Judges 6:34) Jephthah, another Judge, was a social outcast, but the Spirit of the Lord granted him great influence over all the leaders of Israel. (Judges 11:29)

The Spirit of the Lord gave Samson such strength he torn a lion’s jaws apart as if the lion was a baby goat! (Judges 14:6; 15:14) The Holy Spirit gave him matchless strength, uncanny fighting ability, and supernatural protection from his enemies. (Judges 14:19)

2 Chronicles 20:13-15 shows the Spirit of the Lord falling upon a simple family man, giving him courage to speak to a frightened king, and his words encouraged the king and the leaders of the country to trust God and take decisive action for Him.

Bringing good news to the poor, comforting the brokenhearted, proclaiming release to those held captive, … all these acts are enabled only by God’s Spirit. (61:1) And the Bible tells us the Spirit of God takes us places God wants us to see, and shows us things we can’t otherwise be shown. (Ezekiel 3:12, et al)

But maybe you’re just a kid! Or maybe you’re feeling too old. Well, the Prophet Joel in another place from our reading this morning (2:28), shows that the Spirit of God is for male and female, young and old alike. His Spirit enables women to become pregnant without men. (Matthew 1:20) (That’s how Mary got pregnant, by the Holy Spirit.) And the Holy Spirit’s power is what raises people from the dead. (Romans 1:4) No activity is impossible with the Holy Spirit of God!

And if we’re a part of Christ’s family – the Church – then we’ve been given the Holy Spirit, when we responded to God’s call, first believed, and were adopted by Him! But are we using the gifts and talents we’ve been given for Christ’s glory? (The Essential we read says that’s a work of the Holy Spirit in us.) Are you crafty? Or perhaps you’re a great craftsman? (Like Bezalel.) How can you use your talents and abilities and giftedness to draw people’s attention to Jesus? How can what you make, what you do, how can you use your influence to make Jesus look attractive to others?

Or maybe, like Othniel and Gideon, you have some ability that’s made a difference in this or that area of your life, but you sense that God is calling you to expand your influence – from your home to your neighborhood? Or from your workplace to across all Milford? Is the Lord calling you to take your love for Him out from private actions to be more bold?

Maybe you’re not part of the “in” crowd, and so you don’t think you have anything to offer that anyone would want. Well, if you’re in Christ you are God’s “in” crowd! Give your life to Him today! Like Jephthah, let’s see how His Spirit can take those who are last and make them first when we live our lives for Him!

Has God made you a warrior, like Samson? Has the Lord given you great compassion for the poor, the brokenhearted, those captive… Follow your passion! Lift us Jesus in the battle! Lift up Jesus as you care or heal or help. Don’t say, “No.” And don’t take “no” for an answer! If you believe God has given you a passion you have, and you can glorify Jesus in that passion, pursue it: Move wherever you have to move; reorganize your life however you have to reorganize it (seek the Lord’s guidance and the counsel of wise Christians, as you do, of course); but let what He’s put in you by His Spirit be your occasion to raise up His standard – His flag, His cross, His good news, His way of living – and wave it and wave it and wave it!

Living your life for Christ – an offering to God through Christ – may not result in any kind of greatness or glory that the people of this world or our culture might recognize. But our Father recognizes it. And by His grace, those around us in His Church notice, too.

But as the Lord brings about the End, roaring and thundering and shaking Heaven and Earth, drawing near to Him and being a part of these roarings and thundering and shakings with Him… He will always be our refuge, always our strong fortress… That nothing can ever shake… Forever.

 Ascription of Praise

Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.

(The Revelation 7:12)