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Tag: prayer

Faith in the Name of Jesus

This morning we continue our look at the book of Acts – specifically today we are in Acts chapter 3. And if you haven’t been with us for the last two chapters, there are basically three key things that have happened in the story so far:

  1. After his resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven and commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses throughout the world.
  2. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell his disciples and every believer – just as he had promised earlier – empowering them to boldly share about Christ where ever they went.
  3. As the disciples shared the message of Christ, more & more people accepted their message, trusted in Jesus, and the early church began to take shape.

In fact, when we last left off, the church had just exploded in growth as 3000 people were added to the church as the result of Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost. Acts chapter 2 describes it like this:

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.

Acts 2:41-44

Now when we went through this passage in chapter 2 a couple weeks ago, we talked mostly about how the believers were devoted to God and devoted to each other. But we didn’t really spend much time on verse 43, which says “A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” But this, too, is an important verse.

This verse points out how God affirmed the Apostles’ message & authority by enabling them to perform miraculous signs and wonders – very much like the signs and wonders that Jesus performed during his ministry on earth or even like the prophets of old – such as Moses, Elisha and Elijah.

These signs and wonders not only gave credibility to their message – but it also provided for them many opportunities to share their message with the people who witnessed these amazing miracles!

And that’s what we’re going to see today. Today, chapter 3 gives us a specific example of the signs and wonders that Peter & John were performing and how they used that as an opportunity to preach about Christ.

So we are going to start in Acts chapter 3, verse 1.

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Acts 3:1-3

And we’ll pause here for a minute. So far, this is a pretty normal day for everyone involved.

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The Priority of Prayer

Well, last Sunday we began working through a new book of the Bible – the book of Acts – and we noted that it was written as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of everything Jesus began to do and teach during his time on earth.

This book is traditionally titled “The Acts of the Apostles”. However, as we pointed out last week, it really would be more accurate to call it “The Continued Acts of Jesus” – since it is He who continues to be the central character throughout the book!

The book opens with a brief summary of the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven. During this time, Jesus appeared to his disciples on numerous occasions and he proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive! And of course in those visits, as He had done throughout the previous three years, Jesus talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

And one of the key things that Jesus talked to them about concerning the Kingdom of God, was their role in the Kingdom. Specifically, how they were to be his witnesses – telling people about Him everywhere they went.

Now of course, this would be quite a daunting task for such a ragtag group of fisherman! They weren’t trained professional speakers. They certainly weren’t powerful or influential in society… They were really just a bunch of nobodies… Who were they to boldly tell the world all about the Messiah of Isreal and what He had done?

Besides, had Jesus forgotten that just a few weeks earlier, his disciples had all abandoned him and fled when he had been arrested and put on trial? Why, even their fearless leader, Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus!

And yet now, Jesus expects them to go out into the whole world and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has been raised from the dead? And to boldly do that in the same city where Jesus had just been put to death 40 days earlier!

How could Jesus ever expect the disciples to carry out such a task? In their own limited strength, they would surely fail!

Well, Jesus never intended them to accomplish this in their own limited strength. God was going to strengthen and equip and them in an incredible way – He was going to send His Holy Spirit to dwell within them – empowering them to be His witnesses where ever they went. For the rest of their lives, they would have the power of God enabling them to do anything that God wanted them to do!

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David Talks To Himself

Last week we saw David at quite possibly one of his finest moments! King Saul was once again on the hunt for David, but one night, David snuck into his camp, and stole the spear and water jug that were by Saul’s head as he slept! And even as David stood above his sleeping nemesis, David refused to harm Saul – and instead chose to leave the fate of Saul in the hands of God.

As we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, there have only a handful of times like this where David has displayed such boldness, such unwavering faith in God, such resolve to do what is right no matter the consequence…. 

It truly was an incredible mountain-top experience for David!

But of course, you know what Satan likes to do after those mountaintop experiences. After moments of great triumph and clearly seeing God at work, Satan loves to immediately come in a fill us with doubt and discouragement.

Take Elijah for example. Remember what happened after his mountaintop experience? Let me refresh your memory.

In the book of 1 Kings, we read about the time Elijah had the incredible experience of proving to Israel that the Lord alone was God – and that the false god Baal and all of his prophets were just a bunch a fakes! In fact, the Lord proved Himself by sending down fire from heaven – burning up Elijah’s offering in front of all the people. What an incredible experience! Elijah had faithfully stood on Mount Carmel as the lone representative of God as he faced off against 450 of the prophets of Baal – and God came through for him BIG time! That was certainly an incredible mountain top experience. But what happen to Elijah right after that? Do you remember?

Just a few verses after that story we read this:

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

1 Kings 19:3-4

Man! What happened to Elijah? Where’s the boldness we saw just verses before? Where’s the unwavering faith? Talk about doubt and discouragement! But that’s exactly what Satan loves to do after those mountaintop experiences.

You’ve probably experienced that yourself, and that’s exactly what we see in today’s story with David.

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Passing the Baton

This morning we’ll be looking at 1 Samuel chapter 12 – which is often labeled in our Bibles as Samuel’s Farewell Address. Samuel had led the people of Israel for most of His life now – not as their king, but as judge, prophet, and priest. And on this day, Samuel would pass the baton of leadership to their newly chosen King, King Saul.

And I know we’ve been making this transition for a while now – we started back in chapter 8 when all the people of Israel asked God to give them a king to lead them. Even though God was their king and He had led them faithfully for several centuries – now the people wanted a human king to lead them. And so God decided to give them what they asked for. He had Samuel privately anoint Saul as their king in chapter 10. Then, to make the public announcement some time after that, Samuel gathered together all the people of Israel and through the process of casting sacred lots to reveal God’s will, Saul was chosen and proclaimed as King.

And while most of the people were eager to embrace Saul as their king, some of the people were a little more hesitant. In fact, some were openly opposed – they didn’t feel like Saul had what it took to be king. But all that changed in chapter 11 as Saul led the Israelites into battle against King Nahash of the Ammonites. God gave Saul a tremendous victory and all the people finally affirmed that Saul was indeed God’s good choice to be their King.

And so now, with all of Israel firmly in support of their new King Saul, Samuel prepares to complete the transition and pass the baton of leadership to the next generation.

Then Samuel addressed all Israel: “I have done as you asked and given you a king. 2 Your king is now your leader. I stand here before you—an old, gray-haired man—and my sons serve you. I have served as your leader from the time I was a boy to this very day. 3 Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong.” 1 Samuel 12:1-3

As this chapter begins, Samuel, the judge of Israel, holds court one last time. And in essence, he puts himself on trial. Actually, as you read through the chapter, there are three parties that will be examined for guilt – but he begins with himself. He invites the Israelites to testify against him – to point out any way that he has wronged them. And if he has done wrong, then he vows to make it right.

And this is something that we just don’t see in most of our leaders today. How many leaders can you think of that would willingly subject themselves to the accusations of an entire nation? How many would choose to go on trial and answer for any wrongs that they may have committed during their time in leadership? If you follow the news, it seems most leaders invest a great deal of time avoiding such things!

But not Samuel. He invites scrutiny and accountability. He welcomes public examination of his life and ministry. What kind of man does that?

Well, I’ll you what kind of man does that – a man of integrity! A man who keeps short accounts. A man who – when he does something wrong – he quickly admits it and makes it right before things go any further.

I don’t think Samuel was perfect or sinless. In fact, I’m sure of it! I’m sure he made his fair share of mistakes in life. He sinned just like everyone else. After all, the Bible tells us clearly that all of us have sinned – I’m sure Samuel was no exception! But what allowed Samuel stand before the nation with complete integrity is that He when he sinned, he immediately dealt with it. He didn’t hide it. He didn’t deny it. He didn’t justify it. But rather he confessed, he repented, and he made things right.

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Hannah’s Prayer

This morning I’m excited to get us started into a new sermon series. I’ve been wanting to do another character study for some time now – the last one we did was back in May of 2019 when we went through the life of Joseph.

So I’ve been eager to do another one – and originally, my intention was to do a series on the life of David. I’ve preached a few sermons on David – but I’ve never systematically gone through his whole life. And so in preparation, I started looking at the beginning of David’s story – which begins by the prophet Samuel anointing David as the future King of Israel when he was just a young boy.

However, as I started reading about that in 1 Samuel chapter 16, I ended up flipping back a few pages – reading more and more about the prophet Samuel and all that happened before David was even the scene. And eventually, I ended up right back at 1 Samuel chapter 1 – which describes the events around Samuel’s birth. And there was so much good stuff in all of those chapters that I wanted to share all that stuff with you as well!

So as it stands today, I’m not entirely sure what this series is going to be about! Maybe this will be all about Samuel. Maybe we’ll eventually get to David too? Maybe we’ll throw King Saul in there somewhere – I’m not entirely sure yet.  All I know is that we’re going to start in 1 Samuel chapter 1 – and we’ll see where we go from there.

But, before we jump into our text, let me first give you a very quick run-down on exactly where we are in the greater story of the Bible.

The book of 1 Samuel begins right at the end of the era of the judges. By this point in time, the people of Israel had conquered the Promised Land led by Joshua and had been living there for some time. But during this time they really failed to be the “holy nation” that God intended them to be – they neglected to follow God’s commands and instructions and instead they just did whatever they wanted.

In fact, the very last verse in the Book of Judges says this:

25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25

And as you can imagine, when people do whatever seems right in their own eyes, things go off the rails pretty quick. The book of Judges contains some of the most horrific stories in the entire Bible as people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. We’re going to see in a few weeks that even the priests at God’s tabernacle had abandoned the ways of God and and were living selfish and sinful lives!

So because of that, God had allowed many different enemies around them to invade and oppress the Israelites. This would continue for several years until the Israelites turned to God and God would then send them a deliverer – or a judge. You remember guys like Ehud (the left-handed man who stabbed the fat King Eglon), or Samson and Gideon, Deborah – those people were all judges of Israel. They would rescue Israel from their enemies and lead the people to again follow God. This happened over and over again many times during the time of the judges.

And Samuel, as we’re going to find out later, is actually the very last of those judges. In fact, he’s considered to be the last judge and the first of the prophets. I suppose Moses would technically be the first prophet, but he’s kinda in his own category. But Samuel would be the first of a long line of prophets who would faithfully declare the Word of the Lord to the people of Israel. That’s something that didn’t really happen during the time of the judges. In 1 Samuel 3:1 we read:

“Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.” 1 Samuel 3:1b

In the time of judges, we see very little prophetic revelation from the Lord – but from the time of Samuel onward, we see nearly a constant presence of prophets in Israel – and of course, their prophecies make up a large portion of our Old Testament.

But this was the world into which young Samuel was born. It was a time when God seemed to be silent. The people of Israel had no king and everyone did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. There was constant danger from enemies who would invade and oppress Israel.

Overall, it was a fairly dark time. But it wasn’t all bad. Despite the many who did evil – there were still those who loved and obeyed God. And Samuel’s parents were among those people. 

We are introduced to them in 1 Samuel chapter 1. So if you have your Bibles, feel free to turn with me to 1 Samuel chapter 1, and we will begin at verse 1.

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