Archive for the Category » sermon «

December 14th, 2008 | Author:

[Note: This is a message I shared at my church Sunday, December 14, 2008. A related video follows.]

2 Chronicles 7:13-14 If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The Bible is full of promises that we can cling to when things get rough. When we need encouragement, we often quote these verses to one another, or even to ourselves. Here are some of my favorites.

(Deuteronomy 31:6) Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

(Isaiah 43:1-2) But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”

(Psalms 91:4-7) He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you.

(1 Corinthians 10:13) No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

(Revelation 21:1-4) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And then there are the verses that we all know by heart.

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

(Psalm 23) The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Comforting words. Strengthening words. Words we can cling to through our darkest hours. With all the things happening in our lives and in our country and in the world today, we would do well to make ourselves familiar with all of God’s promises. In the days ahead, I think we’re going to need them.

As the Holy Spirit leads us to the strength and comfort we need, though, we would also do well to remember that many of God’s promises are conditional. No, we don’t always like to hear about the conditions God puts on us, but we need to hear all of God’s words, not just the ones that make us feel good. So I’m going to read a few of these, also, and I ask you to focus on the conditions that God gives us, rather than just the promise.

(Matthew 6:14-15) For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

(1 John 1:9-10) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

(Deuteronomy 4:29) But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

(Psalms 37:4-6) Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday.

(Isaiah 58:10-11) And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

(Acts 3:19-20) Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.

(John 15:1-7) I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And now we return to our scripture for today, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

God has been bringing this last verse to my mind over and over again lately, and He’s been impressing a couple things on me. The first is that this verse is not written to the people who don’t know the Lord. It’s not written to the atheist or the agnostic. It’s not written to the thief or the murderer or the adulterer. God addresses it to, “My people who are called by My name.” It doesn’t call the ungodly to humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways – it calls God’s people to humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways.

The second thing that struck me is the power He has given us. Have you ever thought about that? God has put the fate of our nation in our hands. If we humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, then God will heal our land. We are responsible for what happens to America – not the politicians in Washington, not the gamblers and crooks on Wall Street, not the thieves or the murderers in our midst. God’s people. Christians. We are responsible. Given the state of our country, I’d say we haven’t been doing a very good job of it.

And this verse doesn’t tell us to be activists and try to change what everybody else is doing. It doesn’t recommend that we personally fix all the problems that exist, because only God can do that. No, the only thing that we need to change is us. We need to humble ourselves. We need to pray. We need to seek God’s face. We need to turn from our wicked ways. And then … God will heal our land. He promised.

There’s an old song by Michael Card that’s based on this promise. Having been inspired by Jayme’s example, I made it into a movie and you are now going to see the premier.

Lord, have mercy upon us and show us our wicked ways, that we may repent. Humble us, Lord, that our pride may fall away, and we can pray and seek Your face with honest hearts. And as we respond to Your call, Lord, we remind You of Your promise and ask You to heal our land. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

September 28th, 2008 | Author:

[Note: This is a message I shared at my church on 9/28/08.]

Let us pray. In the name of Jesus Christ, our glorious Lord and Savior, I pray that this day, Father, in this very place, You will open our spiritual ears, that while Your spiritual blessings may appear foolish to our natural man, they will be recognized and received by our spiritual man, and we may be filled up to overflowing with your Holy Spirit, and become that city on a hill, that Your light may shine before all men. Amen.

Act 19:1-10 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men. And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

I am constantly amazed that what seems to be a simple, historical account of who-did-what and who-went-where, actually contains nuggets of God’s truth that we can apply to our lives, and this passage is no exception.

The reason I’ve used this passage today is because there are some who teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a once-in-the-world occurrence at the first Pentecost. As Jayme has testified recently, over and over again, I don’t believe that’s the case, and I don’t believe scripture supports that view.

From what I could find in various commentaries, everyone seems to agree that these events in Ephesus happened at the beginning of Paul’s third missionary journey, roughly twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus. So the first thing we see from this passage is that the Holy Spirit was still baptizing, and people were still speaking in tongues and prophesying, twenty years after Pentecost.

In addition, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, giving instructions about using the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues. Would he give instructions about something that no longer happened?

And Jesus Himself said this in the Gospel of Mark 16:17: “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;”

So scripture tells us that speaking in tongues is a Christian practice.

There’s another common teaching that says that the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens at regeneration, when we receive Christ into our lives. The Holy Spirit does come into our lives at that time, no doubt about it, but scripture shows us that there are two separate events involving the Holy Spirit.

When Paul arrived in Ephesus, our passage tells us that he found disciples. In writing this passage, Luke called these people disciples. Paul knew that they were believers, asking them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. But when Paul laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. Salvation and the baptism by the Holy Spirit are two separate events in the life of a Christian.

Another example of this is found in the apostles themselves. After His resurrection, Jesus met with them and said this in John 20:21-22: “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

And yet later, His very last words to them before He ascended were these found in Acts 1:8: but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

So Jesus breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit, and then at Pentecost they received the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, two separate events.

My own experiences back this up. When I was born again, I literally felt a warmth settling on my head and shoulders, like a gossamer-thin blanket. I had never heard that such a thing could happen, but that didn’t stop the Holy Spirit. When I was baptized in the Spirit a few months later, I began to speak in tongues. I devoured the Bible every chance I had, because suddenly it all made sense. And, yes, at various times I have had dreams and visions from God, I have laid hands on people and seen them healed, and I have prophesied. Two definitely different events in my Christian life.

So why am I harping on all this? Because I believe that our world here in America is changing, rapidly and drastically. Just reading a headline or two about the wars we are fighting, the civil liberties that are being violated, and the mess that our financial system is in, tells us that life as we know it is not going to continue.

We are not going to be able to rely on our current knowledge and understanding to get us through the changes to come. What worked yesterday, may not work tomorrow. We are not going to be able to rely on the government to get us through. God is clearly revealing that they don’t know any better than the rest of us.

The only thing we can rely on with full assurance is God Almighty, and I believe He is trying to prepare us for what’s to come. He wants to fill us with the power of His Holy Spirit, so we will be able to stand in the trials we will face. He wants to fill us, so we can help others who don’t know Him at all. He wants to fill us, so we can be healed in body, soul and spirit, so we can know Him and worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

With all that in my heart, we’re going to do something different today. After we sing our last song and after the benediction, we’re going to put some worship music on, and we’re going to invite you to come forward to the altar. You’re welcome to leave then if you need to, or you can just sit and worship, but if you feel lead, we will lay hands on you as Paul did in Ephesus, and pray that you receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If your heart or body is troubled, we will lay hands on you and pray that God sends healing. If you just want to know God better and receive a spiritual blessing, or for any other reason at all, we will pray with you.

Hebrews 6:1 tells us that the laying on of hands is one of the elementary teachings about the Christ. I think it’s time that we take advantage of God’s method for us to help one another.

Throughout scripture, the oil of anointing is used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. I’m going to end today with a related parable from our Lord, found in Matthew 25:1-13:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.


Benediction: We pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.1

1 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Category: Christianity, sermon  | 5 Comments
July 13th, 2008 | Author:

[Note: This is a message I shared at my church on July 13, 2008.]

I’m going to start this morning by taking a look at the greatest gift any of us have ever received. Romans 6:20-23:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.[1]

Just think about that for a minute. When we are freed from sin by accepting Christ’s payment for our sins, we obtain the immediate benefit of sanctification, which simply refers to the process of being made holy and set apart for God. God continually works on our hearts and our minds, transforming us into the image of His Son. In my case, that’s a major miracle. Day by day, I’m being made more like Jesus. Who would ever have thought?

But our gracious God doesn’t stop there. The ultimate outcome is eternal life in God’s presence. What a comfort that is. What peace that brings to our hearts. No matter what happens in our lives, we know the end of the story. We know we’ll be with Jesus for all eternity. We have God’s promise, sealed with the Holy Spirit. As we read a few weeks ago, we can agree with Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:15:

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift![2]

So out of the gratitude of our hearts, we try to serve God. We try to share His love in many different ways. We offer encouragement and support to those who are struggling. We pray for them, and we back our prayers up with practical help. We give of ourselves and our things, as we are able.

But there’s one thing that God calls us to do that I think we don’t generally do very well around here. Listen to Romans 10:8-17:

But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!” However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.[3]

We are all called to share the gospel, the glad tidings with those who haven’t heard. We’re supposed to share the greatest gift we’ll ever receive, using not just our hands and our feet, but our mouths, as well.

“But I’m not a preacher,” you say. “That passage is talking about preachers!” You think that gets you off the hook? Then let me remind you of the armor of God in Ephesians that we’re all supposed to wear.


There are those feet again. And how about that? They’re still talking about spreading the gospel, about being prepared to spread the gospel.

So now you say, “But that’s just it. I’m not prepared. I don’t know how to share the gospel.” This time, Peter will answer you:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;[5]

If you don’t know how to share the gospel, then maybe it’s time to ask God to show you. About a year ago, I didn’t know how to give a sermon, but, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been doing quite a few of them the last few months. When God wants us to do something, he shows us how. We just need to be willing.

I can see your wheels are still spinning, and this time you say, “But I can’t be a missionary. I can’t just pack up and run off to Africa like Jayme. I’ve got a family and responsibilities!” Well, I’m here to tell you – you don’t have to go anywhere! The lost and downtrodden are all around us. Among them, I’m certain, are those that God is calling, because He doesn’t wish for any to perish but desires that all come to repentance.[6]

And if He’s calling them, then He is looking for Christians who will speak with them and share the good news of the gospel — because faith comes with hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.[7]

So where are these people God is calling? They live next door to you, they work beside you, they’re in our schools, they’re everywhere. Some have never been in a church, and have absolutely no idea about our Triune God. Others have been in legalistic, even abusive, churches. They’ve been hurt by supposed Christians and have vowed to never go back.

Among those who hold religious beliefs, some do not claim the name of Jesus Christ for their salvation. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, the Shinto of Japan, and even God’s chosen Jews, are destined to hell unless someone shares the gospel with them.

More troubling to me are those whose teachings claim the name of Jesus, but it’s not the Jesus we know from the Bible. Jesus told us this would happen in the end times. Matthew 24:4-5

See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.[8]

Take the Mormons. Officially, they call themselves the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” They claim their authority from the Bible, but also from the book of Mormon, another book called Doctrine and Covenants, and another called the Pearl of Great Price. The problem is that these other books do not agree with the Bible.

For instance, they believe that God the Father is an exalted man from another planet like earth. He was married, died, and was resurrected to be the god of heaven. He and his goddess wife, called Mother God, had millions of spirit-children in heaven.

The Mormon’s Jesus was born of The Father and Mary, through sexual intercourse, the same as any other man. Before His crucifixion, Jesus was married to at least 3 wives, and had children through them.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said this:

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.

The Mormons, however, believe that the church was completely overpowered, and no longer existed. They say it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, which is why they call themselves Latter-day Saints. All other churches, including ours, are apostate.

They also believe that they can be baptized, by proxy, for the deceased, and the deceased will be saved. So if you die an avowed atheist, your Mormon offspring can “save” you, by being baptized in your place. This is why they do all that genealogy.

Most troubling to me, though, is their view of salvation. They believe that some sins cannot be covered by Christ’s atonement, and people must atone for those sins themselves. In other words, what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t quite good enough.

But Ephesians 2:8-9 says this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

In short? Mormons who believe their church doctrine are destined for hell, unless they hear the true Word of Christ.

Like the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses believe they are the only true church, and all others are apostate. They don’t believe in the Trinity. They don’t think Jesus was God. They teach that first Jesus was Michael the archangel, then later was born as a perfect man.

And again, their salvation message is false. They believe there are only 144,000 who are born again and completely righteous because of Jesus. The rest of them have to earn their way to heaven. I quote:

A person must first “come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation” and then comply with everything they teach. In this way, a relationship with the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, rather than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, is presented as the basis of salvation.[9]

This is legalism, folks, and Paul had this to say about it to the Galatians:

nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.[10]

Jehovah Witnesses need to hear the good news of the gospel.

Which brings me to some people closer to home. A while back, God led me to do some reading about our Amish neighbors. I discovered last week after Early Bird that God has been leading Norm to read about them, also. We had quite a conversation, which is why, Gloria, we didn’t make it to prayer.

So what have I learned?[11] First, I’ve learned that there are many different sects within the Amish community: Old Order, New Order, Beechy, Tobe, Troyer and Swartzentruber, among others.

They don’t have a central doctrine, but each church in each location creates what they call an Ordinance Letter. It’s a list of rules that covers everything from dress, employment, and types of equipment, to transportation, salaries, and entertainment. It’s updated on a regular basis.

The Ordinance Letter is strongly enforced. Anyone who does not abide by the rules will be disciplined, up to and including excommunication from the church. Anyone who leaves the Amish voluntarily will be shunned and ostracized, and told they are going to hell.

The Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch at home. They learn English in first grade. Some learn German on Fridays so they can read the Bible, because the Bible they use is translated into German, making it very difficult for most to understand.

They are taught that if they break the rules, they will go to hell. As examples, they’re told that:

· If they don’t get baptized
· If they don’t obey their parents
· If they don’t dress in plain clothes
· If they don’t die Amish

… they will go to hell.

They don’t talk about the salvation of Jesus Christ on the cross. They don’t talk about the free gift of God. They talk about salvation by works. Romans 3:19-20 says this:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.[12]

Can you imagine that? They acquire the knowledge that they are sinful, but they don’t know that Jesus paid the price for their sins. They need to hear the true gospel of our Lord.

And if the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, and the Amish aren’t enough to stir your heart, Jesus tells us this parable in Matthew 13:24-30:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ And the slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’[14]

I believe there are tares in every church on earth. Whether the church is Catholic or Lutheran, Reformed or Methodist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian, there are people who do not trust in Jesus for their salvation. They think that going to church on Sunday, or going to confession, or doing some good deeds for others will get them into heaven. They don’t have faith in our Lord and Savior, but in their own works.

So, no, we don’t have to go to Africa to find people who haven’t trusted in Jesus. We are surrounded by people — people we know and people we like and people we love — who are on the road to hell. We are living in the middle of a mission field.

Most of us remember when the Thruway bridge collapsed into the Schoharie Creek. Afterwards, I talked to some people who heard the bridge go down. They raced up to Ft. Hunter Rd. where it crosses over the Thruway. From the overhead bridge, they did everything they could to attract the attention of drivers headed downhill. Some of them even took off their clothes to wave at the traffic. Eventually, a tractor-trailer driver noticed them, realized something was wrong, then stopped and blocked the road so no one else could drive off to their deaths.

I know in my heart that every person here would also have tried to do whatever he or she could to prevent those tragedies. And yet the greatest tragedy of all is people on the road to hell, where they will suffer unbearable torment for all eternity.

If you’re feeling God tugging at your heart, encouraging you to open your mouth and share the greatest gift you’ve ever received, but you’re still doubting and saying to yourself, “How can I do that?” I say this: How can you not?

Let us pray.

Lord, we know that under our own power we cannot share your good news with anyone. So we ask You, Father, to open our minds and our hearts and our mouths. We know we need the power of Your Holy Spirit to teach us and make us bold, and we ask you now to send Him to us, to work among us, that we can be named among those with beautiful feet, who bring glad tidings of good things. In the name of Jesus, our amazing Savior we pray, Amen.

[1] Romans 6:20-23
[2] 2 Corinthians 9:15
[3] Romans 10:8-17
[4] Ephesians 6:14-15
[5] 1 Peter 3:15
[6] 2 Peter 3:9
[7] Romans 10:17
[8] Matthews 24:4-5
[10] Galatians 2:16
[12] Romans 3:19-20
[14] Matthew 13:24-30

Category: Christianity, sermon  | 2 Comments
June 29th, 2008 | Author:

[Note: I shared this message at my church on June 29, 2008.]

I’m going to share a little of what God has taught me over the past few years about intercession. It’s not a complete instruction manual, by any means, but it’s three principles that God has worked into my own heart.

1) The first principle is that God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous.


James 5:16: The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.[2]

Well, that sure leaves me out — and the rest of you, too.

Romans 3:23: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.[3]

1 John 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.[4]

So if God hears the prayers of the righteous, and we’re all sinners, then what’s the point of praying? The point is that Jesus made us righteous when we received the forgiveness of the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:30: But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.[5]

So does that mean that once we receive Jesus into our hearts we can do any old thing we want, and God will still answer our prayers? As Paul would say, “God forbid!” No, there’s a key to maintaining our righteousness before God, and Jesus related it in a parable in Luke 18:9-14:

And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”[6]

If we put a couple of the previous verses in context, they support this idea of confessing our sins.

1 John 1:8-10 says this: If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.[7]

James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.[8]

We don’t keep our right standing before God by doing everything right, because we can’t. Our flesh is weak. We keep our right standing by confessing our sins. Now, our flesh doesn’t much like this idea, because confessing our sins is … well … humbling. It’s especially humbling if we confess to another person. I’m not suggesting we set up a booth like the Catholics do, but I do think we could be more honest with each other. Instead of trying to make ourselves look good, we should humble ourselves, which makes Jesus look good. And the more humble we are, the more glory goes to the Lord. The more humble we are, the more righteous we are. And God attunes His ear to the prayers of the righteous.

2) Another principle of intercession is sincerity. There are several verses in the Bible that talk about seeking God with a whole heart. Jeremiah 29:13 is one:

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.[9]

If we’re honest with each other, we’ll admit that some of our prayers are more heart-felt than others. Baby Lily, for instance, was easy to pray for. Whose heart isn’t touched by a little baby struggling for life? It’s a little harder to pray sincerely for the obnoxious drunk who kicks the dog and beats his wife. We might even have to confess to God that we hate this guy. We definitely have to forgive him before we can honestly pray for him.

Mark 11:25: And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.[10]

Luke 6:28: bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.[11]

One example of this kind of prayer is found in Romans 9:1-3. Paul, who had been beaten and stoned and persecuted for years by other Jews, said this:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.[12]

Sometimes we can’t offer sincere prayers because it might cost us something. A short time after Tom and I were married, we were in a Christian bookstore and he saw a book he felt led to get for me. It’s called, “Rees Howells, Intercessor” by Norman Grubb, and it’s one I treasure. It tells the story of a man who was one of the key players in the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905. He later went on to be a missionary in Africa, and later still he started a Bible college. But the service to God that he loved best was intercession. Here’s one story that has always stayed with me.

When the tubercular woman died, she left four little children. It was such a test for her husband that he fell into bad habits through drink, and much neglected them. Mr. Howells one day was burdened about this. The Lord showed him plainly that something would have to be done for these children. The Lord asked Rees what He should do with them, but Mr. Howells gave Him no reply. The Spirit said, “Unless you give Me an answer, they will have to go to the workhouse.” Then He asked, “If anything happened to your brother or sister-in-law, would you allow their children to go there?” “Certainly I wouldn’t,” answered Mr. Howells. “Why do you answer Me so quickly about your own fold,” the Lord said, “yet you have nothing to say about these four little orphans?” “Well, of course, blood is thicker than water.” “Yes, but spirit is thicker than blood!”[13]

After some more internal struggles and many prayers, Mr. Howells eventually found his heart overflowing with love for these children, to the point that he wanted to raise them as his own. Only after he reached that place did the Lord send them to stay with the mother’s sisters.

Too often, I think, we pray sincerely for God’s blessing on others as long as it doesn’t cost us anything. If God wants to use us to bring the blessing, we have a harder time.

James 2:14-24 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.[14]

3) The third principle I want to talk about is praying God’s will. Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. He did not tell us to pray for a new BMW with a sunroof. James tells us this in chapter 4:1-3:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

I think the same principle applies when we’re praying for others.

I took a quick tour through the New Testament and looked at prayers of intercession. Here are some that jumped out at me.

John offered this prayer in 3rd John 1:2:

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.

I think we’re pretty good around here about praying for good health and that people may prosper. I think we’re not so good about praying that their souls may prosper. Almost all the prayers that I found relate more to our spiritual condition that to our natural condition. I’m going to finish by sharing a few of them. Let us pray:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.[15]

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love, and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Benediction: Lord teach us to confess our sins, that, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we may be accounted righteous and humble before You, that our prayers may be effective. Pierce our hearts, Lord, that all our prayers may be sincere and honest, whether we pray for friends or enemies. And help us, Lord, to pray for Your will in all things, focusing more on the eternal soul, and less on the natural man. Through Jesus Christ, our glorious Lord and Savior, Amen.

[1] 1 Peter 3:12
[2] James 5:16
[3] Romans 3:23
[4] 1 John 1:8
[5] 1 Corinthians 1:30
[6] Luke 18:9-14
[7] 1 John 1:8-10
[8] James 5:16
[9] Jeremiah 29:13
[10] Mark 11:25
[11] Luke 6:28
[12] Romans 9:1-3
[13] “Rees Howells, Intercessor” by Norman Grubb, p.91, Christian Literature Crusade, Ft. Washington, PA
[14] James 2:14-24
[15] 1 Thessalonians 5:23
[16] Colossians 1:9-12
[17] Ephesians 3:14-19
[18] Ephesians 1:15-19
[19] 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
[20] Philemon 1:4-6
[21] Hebrews 13:20-21

Category: Christianity, prayer, sermon  | Comments off
June 22nd, 2008 | Author:

[Note: This is a message I shared at my church on June 22, 2008.]

Let us pray: Father, in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we ask You to open our eyes and our ears, that we may know You better, that Your Word may penetrate our hearts, and transform us from glory to glory. Amen.

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” But when Jesus heard it, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep.” The disciples therefore said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. Martha therefore said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here, and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she arose quickly, and was coming to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. The Jews then who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, “Behold how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have kept this man also from dying?” Jesus therefore again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him.[1]

This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and I think we can learn a lot from it about God and how he deals with people. So this morning I’m going to share just a few things that jump out at me.

The first is when they told Jesus that Lazarus was sick. He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

When we’re sick, sometimes we feel like God is punishing us, or He’s forgotten us, or we’re just suffering the consequences of bad decisions we’ve made. If we keep in mind, though, that God has allowed our sickness for a purpose, perhaps even to bring glory to Jesus, it makes it a little easier to take. I’ve been praying this verse for Judy, that Jesus will say about her, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

Next the story tells us that when Jesus heard the news about Lazarus, he didn’t do anything about it for two days. Two days! He just hung out! Now, you might have figured out that I tend to be impatient. If you haven’t figured this out, just ask my husband. So when I read that Jesus didn’t do anything at all for two whole days, it makes me want to pull my hair out.

But a little farther along in the story, we find out why Jesus waited. He tells His disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe.”

Aah. Jesus knew that when he raised Lazarus from the dead, many people would be convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. Many people would believe. Okay, now I won’t be so impatient. Hopefully.

Now Jesus is asking his disciples to go with him to Lazarus — back to Judea, where the Jews want to stone him. First, just in case Jesus forgot, the disciples pointed out that Judea was not a very safe place. When that didn’t change His mind, Thomas, you’ve gotta love Thomas, says, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

Are any of you familiar with the Winnie-the-Pooh characters? Eeyore, the donkey, is known to be a very gloomy fellow. In one story, Pooh and all his friends go to great lengths to try to cheer him up. When they’re all done, Eeyore turns to walk away, and says, “Thanks for trying.” Talk about gloomy! That’s who Thomas reminds me of: Let’s go die with Jesus.

So off they go. When Martha hears that they’ve gotten close, she goes to meet Jesus. Her first words to him are, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Ooh, the reproach. Maybe she really means, “It’s your fault. Why weren’t you here to heal him?” Well, we already know why — so that many people will believe in the Son of God. Jesus talks to Martha, and tells her that Lazarus will rise again, so Martha goes to get Mary.

When Mary goes to meet Jesus, followed by a bunch of fellow mourners, her first words are strikingly familiar: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” The only difference between her and Martha, is that Mary fell at His feet, and wept. And Jesus was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled. And Jesus wept.

When we question Jesus like Martha did, when we rebuke Him for not doing things the way we think He should, He answers us and explains to us and loves us. But when we lower our defenses, like Mary did, and fall at His feet with our hearts exposed — He weeps with us.

So now we go to the tomb, and Jesus tells them to remove the stone from in front of it. Martha, ever the pragmatist, says it’s gonna stink really bad, because Lazarus has been dead for four days. Jesus says to Martha, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” And so they removed the stone.

The story doesn’t tell us who removed the stone, so I don’t think it’s important. But that someone other than Jesus removed the stone I think is very important. Did Jesus really need them to move it? If He’d wanted, I’m sure He could have zapped it into a million pieces just by speaking the words. But He didn’t. He asked the people to remove the stone.

Isaiah 62 is a chapter that talks about intercession. Listen to verses 6-10:

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; And give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. The LORD has sworn by His right hand and by His strong arm, “I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies; Nor will foreigners drink your new wine, for which you have labored. But those who garner it will eat it, and praise the LORD; And those who gather it will drink it in the courts of My sanctuary. Go through, go through the gates; Clear the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway; Remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples.”[2]

Did you catch that? Remove the stones, it says. Clear the way for the people. And because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I think He often asks us to remove the stones that get in people’s way, the things that keep them from being born again into God’s kingdom. God calls us, Jesus saves us – but we’re supposed to remove the stones.

In my case, I spent many years believing that I was beyond God’s forgiveness. A Christian man in Florida spent 5 hours on the computer with me, explaining that God’s grace was greater than my sin. He removed the stone that was preventing me from entering God’s kingdom. When he finally broke through, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I was born again. So this “remove the stone” idea is not just theory to me. I’m a beneficiary of it, and I hope to remove the stones for many others, as the Lord leads.

And that brings us to the climax of the story.

And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

And Lazarus came forth. Jesus brought life out of death, the same way He did when I was born again. Ephesians 2:1-7:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.[3]

Thank you, Lord.

Okay, back to the story. Jesus has just called out to Lazarus.

He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

This is another task that Jesus left to the people, even though it’s something He could easily have done by Himself. Again, I think there’s a parallel to today. When someone is born again into God’s kingdom, we are to help them shed their grave clothes, help them to learn God’s truth, that they may stand firm in the freedom of Christ.

Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another.[4]

Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.[5]

I recently read an article by a pastor named Anton Bosch, whom I respect a great deal. Here is a small part of it:

“The reason why you are where you are and why the church is still on the earth is not so we can have a bless-me club, or even to worship God. The church is still in the world for only one reason and that is to preach the gospel and to win the lost to Christ. Worship, fellowship, prayer, Bible study and any other aspect of the life of the church can be done better in heaven than here on earth. If church life was only about fellowship with each other and with God, then surely God would just rapture us all. But there is one thing that cannot be done in heaven and that is to reach the lost (because there are none there). Thus the only reason the church has not been raptured is because there are still souls out there that need to be saved.”[6]

Benediction: Lord, I pray that we learn to remove the stones that prevent the lost from believing in You. I pray that we find ways to help others shed their grave clothes. I pray that we may be worthy to fulfill the last words you spoke to us before ascending into heaven:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”[7]

In Jesus’ name,

[1] John 11:1-45
[2] Isaiah 62:6-10
[3] Ephesians 2:1-7
[4] 1 Thessalonians 5:11
[5] Hebrews 3:12-13
[6] Anton Bosch, “How Big is Your World?”
[7] Mark 16:15-18

Category: Christianity, sermon  | Comments off