Our theme this year is Revival. The very core of the gospel is revival. Jesus came to save that which is lost. The central theme of the gospel is repentance–literally turning around. Jesus reached into the lives of people whose worlds had crumbled around them. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He freed the oppressed. He cared for the orphan and the widow.
When John the Baptist began preaching, he immediately called for repentance. He called out to the crowd, “You brood of vipers!” John told them to bear fruits in keeping with repentance and said that the axe was already laid to the root of the trees, meaning the people who produced bad fruit would be cut off from salvation.
Luke’s account takes a turn from the other accounts. There is an interruption and the crowds ask, “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:10 ESV). Jesus’ response in in step with Isaiah 61, which is what Jesus quoted when he stood up and said, “Today these scriptures are fulfilled in your presence.” John answers, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11). The tax collectors who came to be baptized asked the same question. John answered, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do” (vs. 13). Then the soldiers asked the same question. John answered, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (vs. 14).
Revival is rooted in repentance. God commands us to produce fruits that care for others. We need to treat people righteously, with fairness and by meeting their needs. Revival builds up that which has been broken or torn down. John’s message began quite the buzz. People were wondering if John was the Christ. When we bless people, God blesses.
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When Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read from the scriptures, he was reading Isaiah 61. Jesus indicated that the fulfillment of Isaiah 61 was happening with Jesus. Isaiah 61:1-2 (ESV) says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. . .”
Luke doesn’t record the rest of Isaiah 61, but Isaiah 61 is really about revival. God is a God who takes the broken and rebuilds. He restores. He redeems. Verse 4 says, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” In this passage, there is rejoicing. The rebuilding that comes by God’s hand is something to be celebrated. They will receive the “oil of gladness.”
As we focus this year on revival, we should focus on rebuilding, renewing, and rejoicing! There is so much to be celebrated in the kingdom of God.
With a host of New Year’s resolutions stacking up for 2020, we mark both the turn of a new year and the turn of a new decade. Each year we begin a new theme for the sermon series. Since we are embarking on a new decade, it seemed fitting to follow the theme of “Revival!”
Revival is needed in every aspect of life because we have a tendency to stagnate. Marriages stagnate. Churches stagnate. Jobs stagnate. Life stagnates. Revival allows us to turn the page and bring about renewal. Psalm 85:6 says, “Will you not revive us again, that you people may rejoice in you?”
God is a God of revival. He revives that which was once lost and dead. He renews and restores. And God rescues and redeems. He revived Israel when he rescued her from Egypt, made a covenant with her, and promised to bring her into the promised land. Jesus revived the sick, lame, and dead. He restored their health and reunited them with their families.
Revival runs strong throughout the entire Bible, because that’s who God is. 2019 brought on many challenges to our congregation. We have faced poverty, death, and much sickness. We have endured and persevered. But now it is time for revival!
If you are tired, come for revival! If you are sick, come for revival! If you are grieving, come for revival! If you have left the church for an extended time, come back for revival! The church functions best when the body of believers joins together in perfect harmony. We’re excited to see where God is taking us and we long for you to be part of the journey!
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Diets are important. What we consume is what fuels us. We will either be productive or we won’t. We will lie in bed for the day or we will get up and get working. Jesus referred to himself as both the bread of life and the living water. He is the vine; we are the branches. The branches cannot live without the vine.
So what is our steady diet? Are we feeding on Jesus every day? Do we have a steady diet of scripture or do we consume junk “food?” Paul had this to say to Timothy: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV). Paul told Timothy in an earlier letter to immerse himself in the scriptures: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. . . Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. . . Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:13, 15, 16).
Paul prescribed Timothy a steady diet of the Scriptures. He wasn’t just to read Scripture, he was to practice them. This was a daily discipline. Christians weren’t to “find time;” living the Scriptures was their time. Everything they lived and breathed was to be rooted in the Word. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it sure does mean improvement.
Living on a steady diet of the Word requires a plan. It requires us to think through how we become productive. It’s a vital part of being Christian. Living the Word daily is important to our salvation.
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Improvise: To make, invent, or arrange offhand
Improve: To enhance in value or quality: make better
Next week we will be hosting a summer singing camp at church. As an a capella church, it’s especially important to learn and practice music. We understand this when it comes to preaching. We send our preachers off to schools of preaching, college, graduate school, or even all of the above. No church would hire an untrained, unprepared preacher who improvised each sermon. A synonym for improvise is “to fake.”
Are you someone who improvises or do you improve? The Bible talks a lot about training, running the race, being disciplined, etc. Never does it say to just wing it, fly by the seat of your pants, or just hope that things improve. To the contrary, Christians are commanded to be disciplined, ready for action, and to be unified.
Music is an important (and highly enjoyable!) part of our worship. Did you know that in ancient Israel the musicians were on duty 24/7 and were not to perform any other duty? 1 Chronicle 9:33 says, “Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.”
Music was always a vital part of worship. Jesus sung the Psalms with his disciples. Many of our songs come from the Psalms. The Israelites did not improvise when they sang. They worked to improve. They rehearsed songs every day. Music was a discipline. We have been given a wonderful gift of song by God our Creator! We are excited to learn, practice, and grow.
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Our team of ten, Lord willing, will be leaving Thursday to travel to Ecuador. There is a lot of planning that goes into these trips. It’s so important to visit the missionaries our church supports. It’s a tremendous source of encouragement for the mission workers who live abroad and it allows us to connect with Christians from around the world.
It is well known that churches who are involved in missions grow. Without mission support, we would greatly hinder the kingdom. Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world. Not everyone will become a missionary. And that’s OK. But people who do not (or cannot) go on long trips can still support missions in a big way.
When Paul was on his first missionary journey, he could have gone straight home. In fact, it would have been much quicker and more of a direct route to do so. Instead, Luke records that Paul “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22 ESV).
We need to remember that it’s vital to encourage other Christians–both from afar and in person. They are working hard for the Lord. They labor day and night. It is not easy work, and they face so many discouragements along the way. We are excited to visit our friends in Ecuador and to meet other brothers and sisters who live in that beautiful country! Please pray for the Campbells and the work that is being done there.
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Paul was a vocational evangelist. He was a tent maker by trade. He often told churches that he intentionally did not seek financial support from them, lest they come back and say he was “robbing” them. Paul worked very hard in everything he did. And he also gave. He gave of his time, money, and heart.
When he was on the beach at Miletus with the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20: 35 ESV).
There is an old adage: “You get back what you put in.” This is true of life. The person who works hard gets promoted. The one who gives of her time, money, and energy reaps a crop of righteousness. This doesn’t mean that those who give will be materially wealthy. But it does mean that those blessings will spread and endure. Others will be blessed. Kingdom work will be blessed. The poor will be provided for. They’ll be fed and clothed. The injured will have their wounds dressed and will find healing.
But we have to be willing to give. When we have the means to give, we should be extremely generous. Ultimately, we need to be willing to lay down our lives for others. We need to be giving of our talents, our tithes, and our time. Let’s challenge ourselves to give more and see how God blesses!
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