Sunday, June 7, 2009

And You Shall Receive Power

It was a cold one this morning as we bundled up for the 9:30 service, temperatures about twenty degrees below average for the first weekend in June. But things got warmer once we'd gathered for worship with many new faces in our midst today. Brad warmly welcomed all, and we quickly forgot all that chill outside.

I can't say enough about how much fun it is to hear the quartet sing for us to kick off the worship time. Thank you to Darlene, Chuck, Ken and Dale for their faithfulness. We're very blessed to have you and we don't take it for granted.

Amongst the announcements, two are especially important. VBS begins Monday June 15, a week from tomorrow. And the Church Rummage Sale is coming up, so bring your things to sell, and your wallet to buy.

Guest Alan Finnifrock shared with us about a ministry in Alaska called Alaska Christian College. ACC is a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska. Its mission is whole life discipleship.

Today's Scripture readings were from Isaiah 6:1-8 and Romans 8:12-17.

Our prayer time revealed that we have a range of needs in our church to continue praying for. This was followed by the breaking of bread as we celebrated the sacrament of communion, a participatory even in which God says, "I am with you."

And You Shall Receive Power

Pastor Brad began the message with a series of questions. "Suppose you picked up a paper and read a story about a church where they had what they described as an apostolic outpouring of the Holy Spirit so strong that miraculous healings were commonplace. What would be your honest first response after reading an article like that? Would you tend to be skeptical? Or would you take it at face value?

"Suppose you were to see a television report about a church in downtown Duluth that had been dying and then they had some real dramatic services and people started speaking in tongues, and long time members said they'd been baptized in the Spirit and understood what Christianity was about like never before. Would that be a good thing or bad thing? How sure are you?"

Brad followed with more questions. When someone says we should expect a miracle every day, can I expect a miracle every day? Can God speak to us in dreams?

Finally, leading into our topic, "How certain and clear is your understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit?"

Brad began by reading this passage from John 16.
6Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Can you believe this? Jesus said it is better to live in the era of the Spirit than to have lived when Jesus was here on earth.

The Lord's very last words to His disciples after the resurrection and before the ascension were these: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

Jesus did not promise a starter kit or more instructions. He promised power. This was before Pentecost and the disciples no doubt talked about what it could possibly mean. Then it happened. These men, who had been hiding in fear, were no emboldened. Acts chapter 2 tells the details. Flames of fire, a mighty wind, and emboldened disciples preaching the Gospel in a whole assortment of languages including Greek and Egyptian and even Swedish, which Brad TIC called "the original language of heaven."

Peter, who only weeks earlier had betrayed Jesus three times, was so emboldened that when he stood and preached there were 3000 people saved in a single day. All barriers were torn down, and, according to the book of Acts, nobody claimed any of his possessions as his own, but they shared everything they had. "And there were no needy persons among them."

In short, when the Holy Spirit came, everything was changed and nothing would ever be the same again.

Brad cited Acts 19 where it is recorded that, "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them."

In another place it was written that "everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles."

He then returned to his theme. "You will receive power." For 2000 years Christians wrestled with this. What does it mean? What if we devoted ourselves to understanding this truth?

One thing it does not mean is that our church will look like a first century church. Here are some things we can take away from this promise from Jesus.

1) Reverence the Spirit's mystery. There are many things in life we can control and put into a box. The Holy Spirit is not one of them. While talking with Nicodemus in John 3 Jesus said "the wind blows where it will." Like the wind, the work of the Spirit is uncontrolled. It is not our genie in a bottle.

2) Align yourselves with the Spirit's work in your life. Mystery is not to be confused with randomness. The Holy Spirit operates on clear guidelines. For example, the Bible says "do not grieve the Holy Spirit." We grieve the Spirit when we knowingly and willingly sin. He is grieved when human beings choose to defy what is the good will of God.

3) Walk in the Spirit. Walking is a picture of fellowship and relationship. The idea is to engage in activities that keep you connected to the Holy Spirit.

4) Request the Holy Spirit in our church, to manifest his power in our lives. This is Brad's prayer and he desires it to be ours, that we earnestly ask the Holy Spirit to manifest His power in our lives and in our church.

Does anyone here need any power? Paul's prayer in Ephesians was that we would be strengthened with power in our innermost being. What if we had the power to heal marriages, the power to knit the hearts of parents and children together?

I don't know a lot about the Holy Spirit, Pastor Brad, but I do know one thing. Jesus promised... "You shall receive power."
This is the Gospel.

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