Throughout the book of Acts you see the power of God on display. One of the places you see this power on display very clearly is in chapter 19 as Paul ministers in Ephesus. Recently I had the opportunity to preach from this chapter during our Sunday morning worship services. Below is that sermon. I hope it’s a blessing and challenge to you.
On Preaching by H.B. Charles, Jr. I always enjoy reading books on preaching. This was one of my favorites because of all the practical insights it includes. It’s a short book that includes very short chapters. Each chapter covers something in regards to preaching. It feels almost like sitting at a coffee shop with a seasoned preacher who is sharing all the wisdom he has about preaching with you. I enjoyed every chapter of this little book. I’d encouraged anyone who is involved in preaching ministry to read this book. No matter if you’re a beginner or have been preaching for many years, this book will encourage and sharpen your skills.
Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. This is one of those books that have been on my list for a long time. Because I am doing a series with our students on what happens after we die, which includes a sermon on hell, I decided to pick this book up and give it a read. Chan and Sprinkle do a great job at addressing the topic of hell from a Biblical point of view. This book almost serves as a short survey of what the Bible teaches on hell. Believers, and non-believers, would do well to read this book. It brings the reader face to face with the reality of hell and what the Bible says about it. There was much I enjoyed about this book but my favorite parts where the short survey of universalism (chapter one) and two chapters on what Jesus and His early followers believed about hell (chapter two and three).
The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel. The Bible is full of great leaders that God used to do amazing things. One of those great leaders was Moses. In this book, Finzel looks at the life and leadership of Moses and pulls out ten “leadership commandments” that leaders should follow. I enjoyed Finzel’s Biblical approach to leadership in this book as well as how he helped the reader understand how they can apply these lessons to their own leadership. Mixed in with all of this was many examples and illustrations from Finzel’s own leadership journey. This wasn’t one of the best leadership books I have read but it was encouraging and helpful.
A few weeks ago I took a few minutes in one of my talks to address our students about drinking alcohol. We were in a series on Noah and was covering the passage where we read about Noah getting drunk. I used this as an opportunity to help them see what the Bible says about alcohol.
I wanted to communicate three important things in regards to what the Bible says about alcohol. There was plenty more I could have said but I believe these three points give students a good foundation with what the Bible says about alcohol.
Alcohol is a gift from God that can be enjoyed. To anyone who believes drinking is a sin this statement may come as a shock. But the Bible is clear, alcohol is actually a gift from God. Psalm 104:14-15 (ESV) the Bible says, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” I want my students to see that alcohol, just like any other beverage, is a gift from God that we can enjoy. However, there are certain things about alcohol to keep in mind even though it’s a gift from God. First, we are expected as Christians to obey the law. The law says someone can’t drink until they are 21. To drink before that age is breaking the law, which is sin. Second, there are times when drinking may not be wise. So even though it’s a gift from God, it’s a gift we must use properly and in the right way. Like any gift from God, alcohol can be abused which leads us to the next point.
Drinking alcohol to the point of getting drunk is a sin. The Bible doesn’t condemn drinking. That’s something we have the freedom to enjoy wisely. However, the Bible clearly condemns drunkenness. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) begins with saying “And do not get drunk with wine.” Clearly getting drunk is a sin. I don’t want to teach my students drinking is a sin because the Bible doesn’t teach that. However, I do want to teach them getting drunk is a sin because the Bible clearly teaches that. It’s important to not only teach students getting drunk is a sin, but we need to teach them why it’s a sin. This leads us to the next point.
Getting drunk is a sin because you are allowing something else other than God to control you. When someone gets drunk they are under the control of that alcohol. That’s why people act a different way when they get drunk. The alcohol is controlling their emotions and behavior. As a Christian, we should never be in the spot where something other than the Holy Spirit is controlling us. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) goes on to say “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is to always be controlling us, not something else. I want my students to understand the “why” behind the Biblical teaching that getting drunk is a sin.
If you want to listen to the portion of my talk where I covered this content with my students watch the video below. You can skip to 4:38 to pick up where I started talking about what the Bible says about alcohol.
A few years ago I posted another post here on my site about alcohol and teenagers that gained a lot of attention. Click here to check that post out.
So far in this series I have talked about what the Bible teaches about pain and suffering (post one) and some of the reasons God allows pain and suffering into our lives (post two). In this final post I want to share a few things we can hold onto and remember when we go through pain and suffering.
God promises He will always be with us. We see this promise throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy 31:6 we see God promise His chosen people that He will always be with them and that He will never forsake them. It’s His presence that will help them be strong and courageous as they move forward. In Psalm 23:4 David says he can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and not fear because God is with Him. As you move into the New Testament we see that Jesus’ name Emmanuel actually means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The very coming of Jesus is a reminder that God is near to us. He came to us. Then in 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are reminded that even now as Christians we have God in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God promises to always be with us. His constant, real, and powerful presence is something we must hold onto and remember during times of pain and suffering.
God understands our pain and suffering. The second truth we can hold onto when we go through pain and suffering is the fact that God Himself understands how we feel because He Himself went through pain and suffering Himself. He entered into this world of pain and suffering and suffered through it. This is a teaching that’s unique to Christianity. Christianity not only gives us a God who is above our pain and suffering but a God who entered into our pain and suffering. He willingly puts Himself through it and knows how it feels. Don Carson says, “The God on whom we rely knows what suffering is all about, not merely in the way that God knows everything, but by experience.” God’s Word reminds us of this powerful truth as well in Hebrews 4:15 (ESV), which says, ““For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When we go through times of pain and suffering we can run to our Savior because He understands how we feels.
God will end pain and suffering one day. For Christians, the pain and suffering we face on this earth will one day end. There is coming a day when the curse of sin will be lifted and this earth will be made new. One of the amazing things about that coming day is that pain and suffering will be done away with. Speaking about this coming day, John says in Revelation 21:4 (ESV) that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Christians can look forward to this day and have hope.
Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. I hope this series of posts has encouraged you and helped you.
In the first post of this series I shared three truths Christianity teaches in regards to pain and suffering. In that post I said that God uses pain and suffering for a purpose. God doesn’t allow things to happen in our lives for no reason. He uses pain and suffering in our lives with a purpose. In this post I want to continue that thought by sharing three ways God uses pain and suffering in our lives as Christians.
God uses pain and suffering to discipline us. One of the lies Christians buy into is that we can live in sin and nothing will happen. Maybe we boast that our sins are already forgiven and God’s grace is covering us. However, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not use God’s grace as a license to sin. Because our sins are forgiven and we do have grace we should strive to live in holiness. But what happens when Christians walk in sin? What happens we start to live in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word and we chose not to repent? Hebrews 12:5-11 gives us the answer to those questions. When Christians live in sin God will discipline them. Like good parents discipline their children when they disobey, God as our perfect Father disciplines us when we walk in disobedience. He loves us too much to let us live in sin. Matt Chandler said it well in a sermon: “If you, as a believer in Christ, fondle what Christ put to death on the cross, please don’t be surprised when He breaks your hand. Please don’t be surprised when He breaks your legs when you keep running toward what He came to kill.”
God uses pain and suffering to grow us. Sometimes it’s not because of disobedience that God allows pain and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s just because He is trying to grow us up in our faith. Our faith usually grows the most in times of trials. James 1:2-4 is a great place to go to see this. James tells believers to actually “count it all joy” when trials coming. He says that because those trials, as hard as they may be, will strengthen our faith. Think about a football coach. If a coach wants to make his team better and stronger what does he do? He makes practices harder. He makes his guys lift more. He may even add additional practices and workouts. All of this may hard more pain and pressure onto the players but the coach knows at the end of it all they will be better and stronger. God knows in order to grow us up in our faith we often times have to go through pain and suffering.
God uses pain and suffering in mysterious ways. I would be foolish to believe that all pain and suffering fits into the two categories above. God may use it for one of those two reasons but He may also have a whole other reason in mind. Sometimes God allows pains and suffering into our lives and we have no idea why. That’s because God doesn’t have to reveal to us why He does what He does. The story of Job is a great example of this. Job really never learned why he went through what he went through. God never told him. Instead, God helped Job see who he was in light of Him. Job learned to trust God in light of pain and suffering. We, like Job, are often left in the dark about our pain and suffering but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose for it. He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.
Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. In the next post I will share a few things about God that we can remember and hold onto during times of pain and suffering.