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We are coming up here on the second Advent season in a lot of years where I’m not in the pulpit. I remember after preaching about a dozen years of Advent/Christmas messages feeling the well was a bit dry. How many more ways can the story be told, afresh? Maybe there are pastors out there who will benefit from 21 of the Advent message series I preached over the years. Maybe God will again touch something here with inspiration for your pulpit work this season.

Are You Expecting? 1994

Tangled in the Tinsel 1995

Celebrate the Gift 1996

All I Want For Christmas 1997

It’s A Wonderful Life 1998

A Time For Joy 1999

All Is Calm 2000

God of Wonders 2001

Dark Streets Shineth 2002

Adoration 2003

Everlasting Joy vs. Xmas Cheer 2004

Narnia/ Always Winter, Never Christmas 2005

Hopes and Fears 2006

Wish List 2007

Desire of Nations 2008

Foretold 2009

Incarnate 2010

Expecting 2011

Happy Holiness 2012

Stump of Jesse 2013

Holy Days 2014

Each series was 3-5 messages, usually four plus a message for Christmas Eve. Here’s a link to an excel spreadsheet which will give individual message titles and scripture texts for each message in the series. I have manuscripts for each also, I think, if you’d want a peek at any of them – borrow freely from anything I have. For most of them we have artwork also, but you’d have to figure out how to crop out our church name.

Here’s an example of how I promoted a series and laid it out:

foretold

Here are some of the big ideas which are behind this series FORETOLD: A Prophetic Christmas

  • People today are hungry for prophetic insight
  • God does nothing without first revealing it to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7)
  • Prophets foretold Jesus’ first coming with specifics and detail
  • Many missed Jesus’ first coming in part because they were prophetically-challenged.
  • Jesus’ Second Coming is foretold and therefore we need to immerse ourselves in the prophetic revelation of his Second Coming or we’ll miss that too.
  • Last weeks message: Is There a Star to Follow?, Genesis 49:10
  • This weeks message: The Due Date on Advent’s Calendar, Daniel 9:20-27

I love everything about Charles Spurgeon and have been a big fan for my entire ministry life. In fact, I’m related to him – five generations back. My great grandmother was a Spurgeon. So to cast him here in a negative light isn’t something I do lightly.

On Sunday September 5, 1855 this famous and very fruitful nineteenth century mega-church pastor, the one we call the Prince of Preachers, preached a message simply titled Election. In his third point he commented on Evolution which of course became very popular in his day…

Years ago we thought the beginning of the world was when Adam came upon it; but we discovered that thousands of years before that God was preparing chaotic matter to make it a fit abode for man, putting races of creatures upon it, who might die and leave behind the marks of his handiwork and marvelous skill, before he tried his hand on man.

Frankly, it baffles me that he said this because it so blatantly contradicts other passages I know he wouldn’t budge on. If indeed there were millions of years of extinction, death and killing before sin entered the world through Adam then all that is in Romans 5:12f about death entering the world through Adam becomes entirely false. Certainly Spurgeon wouldn’t toss aside Romans five to accommodate scientific theory with it’s fantastic speculations and faith-based impossible odds and so I’m left to think he didn’t think through the fact that without Genesis, there is no need for Jesus.

What if?

Here we had an opportunity for nineteenth century mega-churches and very popular ministers on both sides of the Atlantic to stand up and smack down an anti-god, anti-life ideology in it’s infancy. Who knows, they did influence many key men who did go on to shape the world, so what’s to say they wouldn’t have influenced a few key university founders and professors on this issue? Instead, Darwinism began to dominate and today Darwinism has resulted in many millions being exterminated and millions more turning from God entirely. Sadly, kids today are taught they are just the next accidental and random mutation in an unguided evolutionary process. Instead of a teaching a concern for the most vulnerable in society, we teach survival of the fittest as a fixed rule of life.

Why don’t big churches take on big issues? To some extent they do; poverty, clean water, human trafficking to name a few. But we are really selective with our salt and our light is notably intermittent. Issues like evolution, abortion and marriage are left alone. Or how about how violence in society is escalating? Why don’t big churches take on these big issues too? One reason is pastors fear their churches won’t be big for long if they venture into things controversial. Pastor, if this is your concern I’d ask what other passages are you avoiding so as to keep people in their seats? My story is that when I started speaking out on big issues my church grew – people today are looking for spiritual and moral leadership. There is an enormous moral leadership vacuum today and the truth is, someones worldview is going to shape this next generation, the only question is whose?

Losing more than we’ve saving

One of the concerns is that these issues are a diversion from the Gospel and our primary task of saving souls. However, think of how many millions have been killed by the tentacles of social Darwinism and its offshoot “favored race” eugenics fueling various atrocities and holocausts. Think of how many more millions are headed to hell because they’ve graduated our universities entirely secularized. Spurgeon spoke to an impressive 10,000 in his church week after week and many thousands were saved. However, because he and others like him did not take on this big issue it just may be that millions more were lost forever.

The Gospel is more than just getting people to heaven. The message of forgiveness of sin is just the door into the kingdom. And though Jesus said “my kingdom is not OF this world” his kingdom is absolutely IN this world. While pastors today are working hard to get people to heaven, Jesus is chompin’ at the bit to return to the earth. Heaven as we know it today is temporary, a place of rest and reward. However, we will be raised and return– we come back! –that’s the classic Christian Hope. Until then, Jesus taught us to pray on earth as it is in heaven. That means part of our task is to bring heaven’s culture and values to earth.

Do we believe the Bible speaks to all of life or don’t we?

Today, traditional values are being undermined and marriage and family are being re-defined… all on our watch. It’s not hate to love only what God loves and then champion it with boldness. Do we believe the Bible speaks to all of life or don’t we? The Bible has much to say about the economy, about devalued currency, about debt- borrower/lender nations, about working for what we eat as opposed to entitlement mentalities, about healthcare, care for the elderly, good and bad presidents/kings, immigration, crime, punishment, prisons and justice, the value of human life, fatherlessness, marriage, etc, etc. The Bible has a public and a private theology and we ought to preach more than messages pertaining to just our personal relationship with Jesus.

Pastors, I have a suggestion for a book to put on your summer reading list. It’s called A City on a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History. America does have a long history of pastors shaping the conversation. Don’t worry about the IRS, you can talk about any issue you want from the pulpit and you should. Pastor, are your sermons changing history?

There is lots of talk these days about people’s views on marriage evolving. We are fools if we think marriage evolution stops at gay marriage. If this is all evolving, who’s to say this or that can’t marry what or whom they love? When marriage becomes anything, it becomes nothing. Maybe preachers should look ahead prophetically at marriage evolution and what that means for society.

A Prophetic Preventative Role or a Pastoral Consoling Role?

Another hero of mine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said the task of the Church is not just to tend the victims run over by the wicked wheel of society, the task of the Church is to drive a spoke in the wheel itself. In trying to stop Hitler, he did that with his life. Today pastors need to decide if they are called to a prophetic and preventative role or merely a pastoral role tending victims wounds. Are we only called to comfort or are we called to confront cause factors? When our nation experiences a horrific shooting, pastors shift into comfort and consolation mode. Wouldn’t it be better to be preventative and prophetically decry violent movies, video games and violent sports like cage-fighting, or whatever else and use our influence to champion Sermon on the Mount non-violence?

America had a prophetic voice like Amos in Martin Luther King Jr.. America today needs an Amos! “When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” (3:6)  “I withheld rain… struck your fields and vineyards…  sent plagues… yet you have not returned to me…” People today wonder what the heck is going on. We need to do more than just rightly divide the Word, we need to rightly interpreting the times. America needs an Amos who can rightly interpret the times, prophetically.

This summer I’m ramping up for a series I’m calling Hot Potatoes. Week after week the plan is to talk about a variety of issues most churches won’t touch with a ten foot pole. Stay tuned for more on that series.

Spring 2013 Message Series at Church at the Gate, Sioux Falls, SD

Spring 2013 Message Series at Church at the Gate, Sioux Falls, SD

There are some people you need to know.

We all need a Barnabas in our life to encourage us. We all need a prophetic friend like Nathan to speak the truth in love. We all need a mature Godly couple like Priscilla and Aquila to open their home and lives to us to “show us the way of God more adequately.” Each weekend this spring, Pastor Steve will be making these key introductions.

There are others we will focus on… including a mystery person (at least one who is unfortunately a mystery to many Christians). That person is the Holy Spirit, the one Jesus told his followers to wait for and not proceed without.

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Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was stripped naked and hung by his neck on April 9, 1945 in Hitler’s concentration camp at Flossenbürg. In his now classic Cost of Discipleship he wrote: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

The world is increasingly a dangerous place for Christians. Globally, in unprecedented numbers, Christians are being beaten, imprisoned and killed. Yet here in America, pastors preach “dying to ourselves” to people sitting in comfortable chairs and then they serve them jelly donuts and Starbucks after the service.

Though there is this uniquely American deception among Christians that Jesus suffered so we don’t have to, or that we will escape it—the Bible actually says the opposite: “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) It’s time to revisit the central Christian message of suffering for Christ. Even in free nations religious liberties are being taken away.

This season of Lent through Easter as Christians worldwide remember Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, Pastor Steve will underscore how the LIFE of Jesus is revealed in ridicule and mistreatment, mockery and martyrdom. You won’t leave forlorn, fearful or depressed.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Messages are free for downloading or streaming here.

Here are some of the highlights of the first three messages in the series:

– This aversion to Christian suffering and persecution is extra-Biblical and uniquely American.

– There is a grace for suffering and persecution; martyrdom is a spiritual grace/gift. How could it be a gift? Certainly that would be a gift no one would want?! Spiritual gifts aren’t toys to play with they are graces for spiritual breakthrough. There is a grace to give up your life for Christ. Martyrdom is the one spiritual gift you aren’t sure you have until you need it and it’s the only spiritual gift that you can only use once.

– The propellant behind the grace of martyrdom is love. Martyrs are sustained by grace and propelled by love. (1 Cor 13:3, John 15:13)

– Martyrdom is simultaneously a holy detachment and a holy attachment as we love Jesus not so much our lives. (Revelation 12:11)

– You can’t even be a disciple without taking up your cross and following him. (Mt. 16:24)

– Martyrdom was the expectation of the early Christian Church, not the exception.

– The cost of following Jesus is about to skyrocket. There have been 45,400,000 twentieth century Christian martyrs – more in the last century than in the previous twenty centuries combined. We typically refer to the first century as the Age of Persecution or martyrdom. However, the Bible teaches the latter age of martyrdom will be far worse and we are in that latter age of martyrdom. (Matthew 24: 9-14)

– Lots of wasted human life these days. Yet there is no such thing as a martyr dying in vain.

– If grace is what sustains a martyr and love is what propels him, loyalty is what describes him. The epitome of love and loyalty is martyrdom.

– If grace sustains martyrdom and love propels it, loyalty is what describes it and willingness is what allow it. Martyrdom isn’t accidental or unavoidable, it’s a choice. It’s choosing to follow Jesus down the path he took. Hebrews 11:25 says “Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”

– Fear of death is not a Christian concern. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “do not worry about your life…  who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” He was saying don’t worry about preserving or prolonging your life.

– When the martyr dies, who wins and who really loses? Tertullian said: the death of the martyr is the seed of the church. Something greater comes forth. But we think of death as a horrible defeat. That’s not how God sees it. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Ps 116:15).

– This confidence in facing death comes from good theology. This fear of death among Christians is evidence of a shallow theology. Many have ungodly beliefs about death and dying.We have this ‘fraidy cat view of death, that it is this travesty. We see it as final, as the worst thing that could happen. God views it very differently. Jesus took the sting out of death for the believer and the believer doesn’t have to face the dreaded second death (Rev. 2:11).

– Self-preservation is not a Christian virtue. It certainly is a human instinct but it is not a Christian virtue. A Christian virtue is… greater love has no one than this, that he lay his life down for others…

– Letting go comes natural for the martyr as they lived a life of faithful giving in the little things.

-If you can’t give your stuff, you won’t give your life. If you can’t give your money, what makes you thing you’d be willing to pay the skyrocketing cost of discipleship?

– Giving your life to Christ means giving your life up for Christ.

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Friends, what I’m planning to talk about in these next few weeks will forever change your life, your family, your finances, how you feel, etc, etc…. I’m going to talk about self-talk, speaking to your spirit, how we hang ourselves by our words, how to speak life over yourself and over each other, and much more.

The devil is liar and he may plant a thought in our minds but we don’t have to speak it out in agreement. Words are seeds and grow into either good or bad. Since the beginning the serpent has challenged what God says is true: Did God really say?  YES God said it, and we should be repeating what God says about us every day.  The fact is God’s Word coming out of your mouth is just as powerful as God’s Word coming out of his mouth.

You can chart an entirely different course for your life simply by changing what you say. Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” James 3 says the tongue is like a rudder on a large ship able to, despite strong winds, turn your life around. Each week we will talk about the tongue and cover a variety of topics from sins of speech like gossip, slander, course joking, exaggerating, complaining to positive confessions, speaking in tongues, and the spirituality of shutting up (radio silence!).

One of the most powerful weapons we have is our confession and so I will be teaching how to write and speak out a daily confession for your life and family. On the back of the weekend bulletin we have printed a daily confession we have prepared for our church and we will be handing out laminated cards with that daily confession printed on them so we can declare it daily for ninety days starting this Sunday. The tongue is number two on a list of the most mentioned body parts in the Bible. The heart is number one. But even there, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

Imagine how your life and our church will be different in ninety days if we daily and boldly speak out what God wills for us!!

This weekend, January 2, I am excited to begin a series I have been working on for some time. Here’s a preview…

To a young person, grounded for life sounds like harsh punishment. Those who go a bit further in life know how important it is to be grounded. More and more, even in the church, people are tossed about by every wind and wave—following feelings, fads and chasing after fringe unorthodoxies.

Simon, Cephas and Petros are Aramaic and Greek names that all mean the same thing… rock or stone. And all three of these are names for the disciple (and later apostle) known today as Peter. Frankly, it’s an interesting name for one who, at least in his early years, was anything but a picture of stability. His over-eagerness, immaturity and mistakes make him the disciple with whom we can most easily empathize. Yet he became a rock during the foundational period of the church and the initial wave of tribulation that came against the followers of Christ. Each of the four gospels, as well as the book of Acts, set forth his life as a witness to us. His letters, 1 & 2 Peter, comprise exhortations for us as “living stones” to be grounded, especially in anticipation of the end times.

The first weeks and months of a New Year are key times to get grounded which is why Pastor Steve is focusing in this season on the theme grounded—based on the life and letters of Peter the Rock. In a weekend message series that is at the same time both a character study and a book study, it will become clear why Jesus said: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” – Matthew 16:18

This summer we are focusing on some of the heroes of the Christian Faith—men and women who have been faithful witnesses for Christ in their generation. The Book of Revelation says testimonies pack power to overcome adversaries and the Book of Hebrews teaches how all ages are encouraged on by the example of those in the Great Cloud of Witnesses.
Each Wednesday evening in a special mid-week service, we will introduce one of the trailblazers of the faith and set forth the distinctives of their contribution to the Kingdom of God. You’ll meet people like Amy Carmichael, Rees Howell, George Muller, Watchman Nee, Smith Wigglesworth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and, among others, revivalists and patriot pastors from our nation’s past. On Sundays, I will be basing my messages on the testimonies of key Biblical trailblazers like Joseph, Caleb, Gideon, Josiah, Deborah, John the Baptist and Anna.
More importantly, you will be challenged to be bold with your testimony throughout the week as God gives you occasion and to live as an example knowing others are following closely.

This weekend, on Mother’s Day, I start a new message series, a three-week mini-series that I’m calling “Small World.”

 

Small World is about having a global perspective and concern – it’s about the big things our big God wants to do through little ol’ you and me. 

Small World is a missions series where I’ll explore the mandate of God on the Church to reach the world – no one is exempt from this call. I’ll talk about the unprecedented connectedness of the world and globalization and how historical and geographical divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant. I’ll talk about what the Bible says about the immigration issue presently facing our nation. I’ll address the fact that global problems are here in our backyard and that yes, we are to be our brother’s keeper.  It’s a series on being a World Christian, not a worldly Christian, but rather someone who has not only a passport but has a passion for the justice issues facing the hurting in our world.  This isn’t a series about how bad the world is…. it’s a Good News series…. He’s got the whole world in His hands!

“…established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.” Psalm 89:37

Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on church services, programs and activities catered to every age group. And yet, what kind of “Christian” is the result? Are we producing hit and miss cultural Christians who are really functional atheists and spectators?  Or, are we producing “faithful witnesses” as they are called in the Book of Revelation.

Tomorrow I start a new three-part message series called Faithful Witness which is focused on the caliber of believer the Bible says will reflect God and prevail in the hard times to come. A faithful witness is one who shines bright in the darkness, as Psalm 89:37 says, like the moon. They will be unwavering, established and bold during a coming time when darkness rules.  They will testify to what they’ve seen first hand. As “night” falls over the nations of the earth, they will be faithful to embody and announce the entire Gospel of the Kingdom, not just the parts of it that are easy or that people want to hear.

Recently I’ve been encouraged to make available past message series I’ve done. We put a TON of work into these in terms of graphics and quality but mostly what we aren’t wanting to waste is what is really there – dump-truck loads of content– Biblical exposition and revelation.  Some people cut corners at work, however when it comes to teaching on the weekends, I don’t.  In fact, I do agree with those who are telling me it is a shame that this stuff just goes in and out our ears only once. So, I’m going to start featuring past series here and you can order them here.  More to come.

I did a seven part series called The Fall Away Factor back in 2007 as a follow up course to the Omega Course….

The Spirit clearly and explicitly says that in the latter times some will abandon the faith.” (1 Timothy 4:1) Of all the glorious and much anticipated facets surrounding the Second Coming of Christ for his Bride the Church, there are significant horrors as well. One being a foretold great falling away of those who were previously settled in the fold. The soft spirituality and hardly-committed American Church will surely see the greatest defection when being a follower of Christ really starts to get difficult. This abandonment will go beyond backsliding and backpedaling and into the realm of betrayal and renouncing core Christian beliefs. In a message series that runs parallel to The Omega Course, Pastor Steve walks through six factors fueling apostasy underscoring how we can ensure our lamp oil does not run dry.

Contains seven audio messages;

  • Part 1 – Don’t Let Your Love Grow Cold
  • Part 2 – Standing on Unstable Doctrines
  • Part 3 – Standing With Israel
  • Part 4 – Mad at God
  • Part 5 – Half-heartedness
  • Part 6 – Understanding the Times to Come
  • Part 7 – Bonus Message – The Days of Noah

$15 plus shipping – order here.

Last weekend I kicked off a new Lent/Easter message series called Tough Week which is focused on the last week of the life of Jesus.  Hope part one is a blessing to you – you can listen to it here.  Hope you can join us for part two this weekend.

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