As we end 2020 with more questions than we started the year, I love the scripture for today: Amazing Grace, Amazing Truth… The Gospel of John is one of the last testimonies of Jesus Christ included in the Bible ~ likely written the last decade of the 1st Century, decades after the death of Jesus. As an old man, John, a disciple of Jesus, looks back at his time with Jesus and reveals his insights for the greater meaning of Jesus. In the opening verses of John, in poetic form, the disciple John testifies to the eternal nature of Jesus, how Jesus is like a light shining in the darkness, how Jesus was truly a man in every sense of the word. Now, in these beautiful two-sides-of-the-same-coin matching words, we are given the first insight of what makes Jesus tick: “… He came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Grace and Truth! Two complimentary ideas that perfectly describe what Jesus is about.
Christmas Eve at the Sumas Advent Christian Church has always been a wonderful tradition as the community gathers to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This year, with COVID19 restrictions, the service is made available online. You are invited to join us for the singing of traditional Christmas Carols, Bible readings, the inspiration story of a giant of faith who died exactly 100 years ago, and a message by Pastor Carl Crouse from John 1:14: The Depth of the Glory of God.
NOTE: The video was unexpectedly stopped, so the last few minutes of the candlelight and a prayer are in a second video.
There’s an ancient question intended to confirm your skepticism if you are a doubter of the Christian faith, or for people of faith the question highlights the sovereignty of God who is beyond anything we can imagine. The old question: Can God create a rock to big for him to move? /////////////////////////// To the skeptic, this is a cute little question that proves God cannot be everything: it is a logical impossibility, either way he has limits, can he create that rock that is so big he can’t move it, but if he does create the rock he can’t move then there is something he can’t do….
I received a note yesterday from a woman named Gini. She responded to a 10 year old sermon on the website, “People Can Change.” Gini’s note is a reminder of why we are a church: “I came across this article while searching for a word from God this morning. My mom is dying in a nursing home and my family is fighting amongst themselves. Brothers who loved each other now hate each other and their wives. God led me to this! My life has changed since knowing Jesus and now I pray for change in my family. There is hope and I have faith! God is faithful.”
We are working our way through Acts and the story of the early church, how the people of God transition from Jesus Christ on earth to the resurrected Jesus in heaven and the followers of Christ guided by the Holy Spirit. This story of Peter and Cornelius is the challenge of the gospel reaching across cultures. The AXE of the Holy Spirit is a challenge to them/us to go forward in ways we’ve never done before, to go places we never thought possible, to believe in the power of the gospel to change lives, to love and believe in those who we never imagined could be reached. The outline of this message is a W-O-R-L-D… lesson of Peter and Cornelius: how to make a WORLD of difference.
One of my favorite titles for people who put their faith in Jesus Christ is people of The Way. [The Way] is a lesser known designation for people of faith which did not stick… you heard it last Sunday when Chad spoke about the amazing life transformation that took place with Paul and us… READ Acts 9:1-2. If my quick search is correct, only 2 more references of The Way in the Bible, both Acts 24, refer to Christians as followers of the Way (Acts 24:14, 22) Paul speaking in Acts 24:14 READ.
The Way did not stick as a title, but it’s a beautiful title ~ a way of life, emphasizes the transformation Chad spoke of last Sunday… Everything changes, live a new way, think a new way, new values, new habits, a new life of service and purpose.
Acts 9:1-31 Paul's Amazing Tranformation to the Christian faith(and How Ours may be different) ~ Chad Hammond
Five truths from the scripture:
1. Nothing we can do to deserve God's grace
2. Jesus is always near.
3. We need other people to help us in our journey
4. We are saved for a purpose.
5. Jesus transforms us. It may be a sudden tranformation like Paul, or more commonly, a transformation of incremental changes.
(The correct orientation comes a few moments into the live stream)
As difficult as last week’s message was about Simon the Sorcerer, the contrast could not be more stark with this week’s story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Dennis Shaw wrote a note in response to the sermon that he has always seen Simon as a complete egomaniac, wanting the attention… Yet the Bible says Simon believed and was baptized. He is so unlikable it makes us wonder if he’s sincere… contrast that with the Ethiopian Eunuch.
a self centered egostical showman in Simon vs. the ultimate servant in the Ethiopian Eunuch. As a eunuch it means he’s been castrated; in those days Kings would often use Eunuch’s to be in charge of their harem or wives ~ (The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts ~~ EE ~~ is in charge of the treasury under Queen Candace of Ethiopia. I read that in Ethiopia, the King was revered as the child of the sun. He was so holy, his mother served in his place, “Queen Candace” is not actually a name, but means Queen mother… it was common in the ancient world for servants of the court to be eunuchs (it still happens)….
The story of Simon the Sorcerer is disturbing. / liberating. You might hate it, / love it. Simon the sorcerer (Magus, magician, witchcraft, etc) is disturbing because he is converted to faith without letting go of his past. Simon’s story is similar to the story of the mass baptism of the Crusader soldiers. As they went down into the water of baptism signifying their commitment to Jesus Christ, they raised their fighting hand with sword drawn high not ready to commit all to Christ. As we seek to unlock the mystery of this story do so with humility asking the Lord to learn from the example of Simon the Sorcerer striving for Christian maturity.
I love the story ~ it gives me hope for my own salvation in that I am still a sinner; Jesus loves me so much he [puts up] with my sins while challenging me to [mature].
[First part of sermon is an intro do the current reality of persecution and martyrdom of Christians around the world.]
Stephen is an early martyr who is killed for standing firm in his faith. Persecution of Christians has never stopped! Let’s take a few moments and spotlight persecuted Christians and martyrs in today’s world. An excellent website for current information is Open Doors (opendoors.usa.org).
Stephen is a great man of faith! He stands firm in the face of fierce opposition in the conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is unwavering in the truth that Jesus Christ is alive! ~ “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Stephen dies with the same forgiving attitude found on the lips of the dying Jesus: “do not hold this sin against them.”
Today and next week we focus on Stephen, a man with an incredible story used by God in a most amazing way. This week what happened, next week Stephen’s threatening message. Many challenging lessons can be pulled from Stephen’s example, and chief among them: On what hill are you willing to die?
4-5 times a person asking for help from the church will feel a need to tell me how they believe in Jesus/spirituality but they don’t like the organized church. I smile. I said to one young man who needed gas money to get to a medical procedure, “How did you find me?” ~ He saw the church. He called me. I smiled. He got my gentle sarcastic point. He smiled. But he doubled down on his criticisms anyway. All I can do is love people as best as I can… only God can change the heart.
Problems are common in churches, disagreements, new people bring a new flavor, new outreaches can be awkward as we’re called to do new things in new ways we’ve never done before. Today’s scripture begins a major turning point in the young Church… an exiting movement of the H.S. emerges that continues to this day. The early church is shaped by diverse groups forming a movement like the world has never seen. The church always faces problems ~ let’s view problems like the early church: opportunities to refine our mission and strengthen our calling to carry the banner of Jesus Christ.
Life with Christ is full of surprises!
Psalm 55 contains some sympathetic words that describe how many people feel in today’s world: a desire to be liberated from the conflicts and suffering of the day. READ Ps. 55:4-8. “Oh that I had the wings of a dove”. As Psalm 55 peaks, there is no indication God brings David peace by whisking him away to a secluded cabin on a lake in the woods ~ David simply affirms an eternal truth of what life with God is like: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall…[and he ends with a direct prayer to God: “as for me, I trust in you.” Ps. 55:22, 23c). God answers our deepest prayers in His way…. Our desire may be to check out of reality and get away… but that is not God’s typical plan. People of faith are forged in the fire. Life with Christ is full of surprises! There are a many fun surprises in today’s scripture.
Acts is a beautiful story from life with Christ on earth transitioning to his followers carrying on the same mission after Jesus ascends to heaven. The way forward is through the AXE of the H.S… as He empowers and emboldens his followers to continue Jesus’ mission of sharing the message of salvation to a lost and hurting world. Today’s scripture is a pause in a breathtaking story that summarizes where the young church is at this early stage….it is worthwhile for us to consider where we are as a church.
Before we look closely at this scripture, listen to the first verse then I have an open question…. READ Acts 5:12 (explain Solomon’s Colonnade or “porch” ~ the church is so young it is still a branch of Judaism…) It says “All the believers used to meet together”… I invite you to respond, (we’ll visit same questions at end to see if any additions)….
What motivated the people to meet together? Expectations? Purpose? Or if you don’t like that question, what is our purpose of meeting as a Church? Motivation, expectations? As we gear up to gather again, this is an important question ~ I don’t want to gather just because that’s what we do… what are reasons/expectations…. [List answers on sheet of paper]
Carl Crouse, Pastor
At SACC we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Every Sunday the worship service includes a message from the Bible. My words are an attempt to understand and apply the Bible to our daily living. I post weekly sermons and other biblical messages on this page. May you find meaning and hope as you read through each message and seek to hear God's voice. Leave a comment to ask questions or inspire others with your insights.