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Archive for December, 2012

A prayer of hope for the New Year

The Apostle Paul pronounced this blessing on the Church at Rome: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope” (Rom. 15:13).

LORD God, give followers of Jesus such a full measure of joy and peace that our hope overflows to those around us who are without hope in the world.

hope-in-the-lordYou have put us here to touch others with a message of profound hope — the gospel of Jesus Christ. By the power of your Holy Spirit, give us success in that fulfilling that mission.

Cause our joy and peace to attract the attention of people who don’t yet know Jesus.

When they ask about the reason for the hope we have, may we be prepared to give an answer that points to Jesus the Righteous One — the One who lived and died and lives again.


Spiritual growth resources for 2013
Reading the Bible in 2013 | Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition
Yearly Bible-reading schedule (PDF)
A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader, edited by Bishop Rueben P. Job (Abingdon, 1998) (preview here)
Renew My Heart: Classic Insights from John Wesley (Barbour, 2011) (also available for Kindle)
A quiet-times calendar (a tool for keeping track of your consistency in maintaining a daily devotional time — PDF)

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A Christmas prayer

Father, we stand in awe of what we celebrate. How can it be that the all-sufficient God of the universe became a helpless child resting in a feed trough?

mary_joseph_jesus_mangerHow can it be that the divine Word reduced Himself to unintelligible sounds?

How can it be that the hands that once sculpted mountain ranges, now made flesh, reach to grab hold of a loving mother’s finger?

We don’t know. Yet it happened. Jesus came, the visible expression of the invisible God, to bring God to us and us to God.

The darkness of this world at times seems overwhelming, but in midst of the darkness we again see the Light of Christmas — the Light that cannot be overcome.

Before Him, we bow down and worship.

The prayer above is adapted from the first chapter of Ken Gire’s 1989 book, Intimate Moments with the Savior (Zondervan).

Editor’s note: In 1996, I had the privilege of recording a portion of Ken Gire’s retelling of the nativity story for a nationally syndicated radio program. The piece was produced by Duane Harms, now of i5810 Media. To listen, use the audio player below (4 minutes). — jms

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Looking for just the right gift for a preacher? Consider Warren Lathem and Dan Dunn’s 2008 book, Preaching for a Response: Leading New Believers into Spiritual Maturity, published by Bristol House. preaching-for-a-response2

The authors (Lathem has served as a pastor, district superintendent, and seminary president; Dunn has been a pastor, associate pastor, and missionary) know how to declare biblical truths in ways that elicit a clear response from listeners — a skill neither learned in seminary.

From the book:

These authors have a collective 17 years of formal theological education.

Yet never in those years did anyone attempt to instruct either of us in how to preach for a response, how to give the invitation for a response, or even why we ought to find a way to invite and encourage a response….

[But r]esponse is inherent in the gospel and the gospel preacher who does night invite response is not being completely faithful to the gospel.

Other excerpts:

How many sermons are preached, how many worship services are conducted in church all across America without any thought being given to a response by the hearer? How often do preachers and worship leaders prepare a great banquet, set it before the people, entice them to this gospel feast with beautiful words and music, yet never say, “Come and get it”?…

We may delude ourselves into thinking that just because the listener recognizes the need to respond, that he or she will know how to make a proper response to the gospel.

More likely, without direction, guidance and invitation from the preacher, most will simply make no overt, conscious, intentional response, and by failing to do so will in fact reject the message they just heard….

Why do most mainline preachers fail to issue an invitation or give an opportunity for response? There are several possible reasons….

  • We do not really believe people are lost…
  • We do not believe the power of the gospel…
  • We do not know how to invite a response…
  • We would not know what do if they did respond…
  • Our order of worship does not accommodate a response…
  • We are fearful of the opinion of others…
  • We do not take preaching seriously enough….

Preaching for a Response includes advice about “what to say” and “how to say it.” The chapter “Twelve Keys to Effective Preaching” emphasizes the basic building blocks of effective speaking — such as maintaining strong eye contact, using varied pacing, employing short sentences, and ending strong.

Warren_Lathem

Warren Lathem

Dan_Dunn

Dan Dunn

The book also includes detailed suggestions on how to plan worship services, week after week, aimed at eliciting responses that move people toward maturity in Christ.

You can order Preaching for a Response here (Amazon) or here (Bristol House).

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Christmas and the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit plays a key and prominent role in the Christmas story, as detailed most fully in the Gospel According to Luke. Yet the outbreak of the Spirit’s activity that surrounds the birth of Jesus Christ receives relatively little attention in contemporary preaching/teaching about Advent and Christmas.

Charismatic Theology of St. LukeThe sudden stirring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Luke 1 and 2 is in sharp contrast to Spirit’s apparent absence during the 400 years of the intertestamental period.

As noted by scholar Roger Stronstad in The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Baker Academic, 2012), during those long years, Judaism had become identified with devotion to the Law, rather than prophetic proclamation, and the prophet had been replaced by the scribe.

One rabbinic teaching stated that when the last of the prophets died, “the holy spirit ceased out of Israel.”

But early in Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit “returns” in what Stronstad describes as “an outburst of charismatic activity.”

[T]he angel [Gabriel] announces [that the baby who is to be called John] “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb.” Moreover, Gabriel informs Mary that she will conceive Jesus in this miraculous manner, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you , and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Furthermore, not only will John be filled with the Holy Spirit, but subsequent events find both his mother, Elizabeth, and his father, Zacharias, “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Finally, in a remarkable clustering of terms, the aged Simeon has

the Holy Spirit…upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the Temple….

Interpreted against the background of Judaism [that expected the revival of the activity of the Spirit when Messiah came]…the outburst of prophetic inspiration which Luke reports in the infancy narrative heralds nothing less than the dawning of the messianic age.

The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke goes on to track the record of the Holy Spirit’s activity throughout Luke and Acts, illustrating how that activity shares a fundamental continuity with the Spirit’s actions in the Old Testament. But a radical new dimension has been added, as the Spirit acts to empower the church (“the charismatic community”) for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Roger Stronstad is the Biblical Theology Director at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and co-editor (with French L. Arrington) of the Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary (Zondervan, 2003).

Roger Stronstad

For several years, he served as editor of the now-defunct Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal.

Stronstad is ordained in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Biblical and Pneumatological Research.

The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke was originally published in 1984 (Hendrickson Publishers) and was released earlier this year in a second edition. It is available in paperback and in a Kindle edition.

Roger Stronstad’s 1999 book The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology was re-published in 2010 by CPT Press.


Related posts
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The wind-and-flame faith of Pentecost
Podcast: Tom Atkins — ‘We Need the Power of the Holy Spirit’
Podcast: E. Stanley Jones on ‘The Gift of the Holy Spirit’
Podcast: Bishop James King — ‘Preaching Authority’

Related articles and information
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke
Academic and Pentecostal: An Appreciation of Roger Stronstad (PDF) | Martin W. Mittelstadt (Evangel University), Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity 1 (2010)

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December 6, 345 (traditional date): Nicholas, bishop of Myra (right), one of the most popular saints in the Greek and Latin churches, dies.

Eventually, stories of his generosity and cheer became part of the Christmas tradition, and St. Nicholas became the basis for Santa Claus.

December 18, 1707: Charles Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement with his brother John, is born in England. A celebrated and prolific hymnwriter, his Hark the Herald Angels Sing is widely sung this time of year.

December 18, 1865: Slavery is abolished in the United States as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. Many of the abolitionists who pushed for its passage were Christians seeking to make America more like the Kingdom of God.

December 24, 1223: Francis of Assisi stages history’s first living nativity scene, complete with live animals, in a cave near Greccio, Italy.

December 24, 1818: Franz Gruber composes the music for Silent Night in the St. Nicholas Church of Oberndorf, Austria.

December 27, 1784: Francis Asbury is ordained superintendent of the Methodist Church in America at the famous “Christmas Conference” (left) held in Baltimore, Maryland. He soon took the title “bishop.”

December 29, 1851: The first Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) in the U.S. is organized in Boston.

December 30, 1823: Charles G. Finney, the most effective evangelist in American history, is licensed to preach.

December 30, 1852: Future U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes marries “Lemonade Lucy,” so called because, as first lady, she forbade alcohol in the Executive Mansion.

The Hayeses (right, photographed on their wedding day) were both devout Methodists who began each day with prayer and organized Sunday evening worship services at the White House.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

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