“Coming Back To Worship ‘In The Spirit'” (Luke 2:27 sermon)

It’s good to see people starting to come back and participate in our worship services again — it’s been growing over the last 2-3 weeks, and hopefully that will continue. But many are suggesting that we won’t ever get back to “normal”  after this COVID crisis; that it will never be “normal” like it used to be, again. That may be difficult in some ways — but I think we can also look at it in a more positive way: when we come back to worship, let’s come back in a new, and different, and even BETTER way than we ever have before. And our scripture for today gives us a good goal for HOW we could come back to worship in a better way:
Verse 27 says of Simeon that “he came in the Spirit into the temple …”.
This is a great description of him, and it’s also a good goal for each of us to have as we come back to worship, that we would not come back to “normal,” but that we would come back to worship “in the Spirit.” Continue reading

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“Blessed Is She Who Believed” (Luke 1:45 sermon)

A few months ago, our ladies ministry had a neat fellowship, in which they painted little decorative signs for their homes, with a portion of scripture on each one. The ladies painted some good verses: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me;” “Be still and know that I am God;” and so on. It was a fun fellowship for them, and they came away with some good scriptures for their homes out of it.

The other day while I was reading Luke 1, I came across a little part of a verse that I thought would be good on one of those signs. It’s from when Mary had gone to visit Elizabeth, who gives Mary a blessing, as the mother of the Messiah, and she said to her in :45, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” I thought, “Blessed is she who believed …”, that would be good on one of those signs! But more importantly than just making a good verse for a sign, it’s a great verse for us all to apply to our lives today!

Certainly it’s a fit scripture for Mothers Day: “Blessed is she who believed” — but the application is only for women, but for ALL of us: “Blessed is she who believed …”, or we could also say “Blessed is HE who believed …”, or “Blessed are ALL who believed … that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to them by the Lord.” Let’s look together for a few minutes at the example of faith that God gave us through Mary, and a couple of ways that we can apply her example in our lives today. Continue reading

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“The People of Joy & Gladness” (Luke 1:14 sermon)

H.L. Mencken was an American writer and commentator in the mid-1900’s, and he is famous, among other things, for his quip that “Puritanism (is) the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

That’s the picture that many people have of the English Puritan Christians, but as Theologian J.I. Packer says, those Puritans have gotten “a bad rap.” The Puritans were indeed known for their holiness, and for working hard, but they also knew how to have fun and celebrate. As Packer points out, they had dances after their weddings — and they even had dances after their ministers’ ordinations!

It should not surprise us that the Puritans were people of joy. Because if you study them, you will find that they were some of the godliest people who have ever lived on earth. And the people of God, the Bible tells us, are to be “People of Joy and Gladness.”

We find ourselves now in the second month of the COVID-19 crisis, and in any crisis, it’s easy to get anxious, or discouraged, or depressed. But as the people of God, we need to remember that God made us for joy and gladness, just as He tells Zacharias in Luke 1:14:

“You will have joy and gladness.”

Joy and gladness should characterize the people of God, not only in Zacharias’ time, but in our lives today as well. Continue reading

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“Not Flashy, But Faithful” (Luke 1:8-11 sermon)

You’d have to be a pretty avid football fan to know the name of Bryce Paup. Bryce Paup was a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers back in the early 1990’s. Most everybody knows of Brett Favre, the Green Bay Quarterback, or even Reggie White, who terrified quarterbacks with his sacks. But very few know of Bryce Paup — although he was a key defensive player for Green Bay then, and he was named to the Pro Bowl. Many don’t recognize his name, yet he was so faithful in what he did. He coach said of him: “He’s not flashy. He doesn’t say a word. He just brings his lunch pail and gets the job done. There’s never been a snap where you could say Bryce was not giving 100%.” Bryce Paup was not “flashy,” but he was faithful.  (After They Were Packers, by Jerry Poling, p. 117)

That is the lesson for many of us this morning from the story of Zacharias in Luke 1. When I started reading Luke in my own morning Bible readings the other day, this set of verses just jumped off the page at me:

“Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.”

What really struck me as a I read this, was that the amazing visitation from God that happened to Zacharias — the angel appearing, and the miracles that took place, happened “while he was performing his priestly service.” Zacharias didn’t set out to do something “spectacular” that day, but in the course of just faithfully performing the “normal” task the Lord set before him, God did something very big indeed. And He can do the same thing with us, too. Continue reading

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“The Refiner’s Fire” (Malachi 3:1-4 sermon)

Ruth Bell Graham was the wife of the famous evangelist Billy Graham. Billy had of course garnered so much world-wide attention, having been seen on tv, and having written so many books, and so on — but after some years, Ruth came out with her own book, called It’s My Turn. I love the book, because in it she shares honestly about a lot of the marriage and family struggles they had — and yes, even “great ministers” like Billy Graham have those struggles! (I figure Cheryl might come out with a book like that one of these days, perhaps she’ll call it, “It’s My Turn,” or maybe “She didn’t go down quietly,” or something like that!)  But in Ruth Graham’s book, she has a quote that many of us would do well to remember, especially in THESE days we are living through today:  

“There is no situation so chaotic that God cannot, from that situation, create something that is surpassingly good. He did it at the creation. He did it at the cross. He is doing it today.” (Bishop Moule, quoted in Ruth Bell Graham, It’s My Turn, p. 136)

And “today” means even TODAY — in 2020, in the United States of America, with the COVID-19 crisis going on. There is NO situation, no matter who chaotic it may appear to us, that God cannot make something surpassingly good come out of.  God is still about that business, and our passage from Malachi 3 today reminds us of what He is doing:  Continue reading

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“Our Assurance of Glory” (I Corinthians 15:1-4 sermon Easter 2020)

Easter 2020                            “Our Assurance of Glory”

Last week I mentioned Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight to Paris in 1927. Not long after he landed, Lindbergh visited nearby Belgium, where he was met by a group of dignitaries. The highly regarded Burgomaster Max welcomed Lindbergh, who proclaimed: “‘In this City Hall, where I have had the honor to receive so many great and illustrious men, ‘I am proud to salute a real hero … your victory is the victory of humanity. In your glory there is glory for all men.’” (A. Scott Berg, Lindbergh, p. 146)

Lindbergh’s flight was indeed a “victory … and glory for all men” — but nothing touches the ultimate victory and glory that was won for all mankind by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. His resurrection is the seal of the victory of the Gospel, as we see in I Corinthians 15:1-4:

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …”. Continue reading

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“Faith In Crisis” (Psalm 74 sermon)

Psalm 74 “Faith in Crisis” (COVID crisis Sunday #4, 4/05/20)

The verses we find here in Psalm 74 are not going to make many “verse-of-the-day” Bible calendars:
“O God, why have You rejected us forever?”
“The enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary.”
“Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?”

Those are some tough things to read, aren’t they? Psalm 74 is not one of the “fun” Psalms. It is not “warm & fuzzy” like Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and others like it. None of those little devotional books are going to be quoting Psalm 74 for their “devotion of the day”! And that’s exactly why we shouldn’t depend on little devotional books for our spiritual food, and why we need to be committed to read God’s word for ourselves every day. Because there are many times when what we need to hear from God is not going to be found in anyone else’s devotional book, but only in one of these (what we consider to be) difficult passages in His word — like Psalm 74. It may not be a “fun” passage – but it’s what we need.

I’ll be honest: when I first saw that Psalm 74 was “next up” in my morning daily Bible reading, my first, honest thought was, “Oh no … this isn’t any good. It’s all about the Asaph complaining about the destruction of the Temple; I don’t want to read about THAT today! That’s not what I need on Monday morning!” But as it turned out, it truly WAS what I needed — and it has some things that I think a LOT of us may need today too! So let’s look at what Psalm 74 has to say to us about “Faith In Crisis,” keeping our faith, during the crisis situations we face in our lives: Continue reading

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