Preaching Connection: Holy Spirit

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Movies for Preaching

Tender Mercies (1983) – 1

Tender Mercies (1983). Written by Horton Foote.  Directed by Bruce Beresford. Starring Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, and Wilfred Brimley.  92 Mins.  Rated PG. He’s not necessarily a fellow one wants to hang out with, or even meet.  Robert Duvall’s Mac Sledge, a role for which Duvall won the Academy Award for Best Actor, is an…

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Additional content related to Holy Spirit

Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 103 promises that God will satisfy our desire for good things, using words that will sound familiar from the reading of Isaiah 40: “so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” The parallels between these texts are instructive. Psalm 103 does not begin with God’s promise of satisfaction but with forgiveness, healing, liberation…

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1 Corinthians 6:12-20

When Paul asserts that God’s dearly beloved people’s bodies are “a temple [naos]* of the Holy Spirit [Hagiou Pneumatos],” (19) he makes a claim that’s more extraordinary than most Christians may realize. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s preachers might consider helping our hearers more fully appreciate that claim’s astonishing nature. Christians as a “temple of the…

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Acts 19:1-7

It’s even more sad than ironic that baptism is at least arguably one of the most divisive issues among Jesus’ friends. Christians whose baptism the Spirit unites sometimes argue almost endlessly with each other about things like the nature, proper timing and efficacy of baptism. Among the questions churches and denominations try to answer about…

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Mark 1:4-11

If you were following the Gospel lectionary texts in December, then the first four verses of our text today will be familiar because they were also in the passage for the second Sunday of Advent. In my commentary for that week, one of the things I focused on was the fact that God decided that…

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Romans 7:15-25a

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s Paul simply can’t understand what he does. He repeatedly asserts that he knows what’s right and holy. Yet the apostle also just as persistently insists that he doesn’t do what he knows is right and holy. Throughout approximately the first quarter of his letter to the Romans, Paul talks a lot…

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Romans 5:1-8

In the space of just two verses (2b, 3a) Paul twice says that Christians “rejoice” (kauchometha). Few Christians are likely surprised by the first cause of our rejoicing that the apostle identifies in this text. Many of Jesus’ friends, however, may be startled by our rejoicing’s second cause. So those who proclaim not just this…

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Acts 2:1-21

It was an annual holiday and so people knew what to expect.  That’s how it goes with regularly occurring events.  Yes, there can be minor variations but when it’s Christmastime, we all have our typical ways of celebrating the occasion and the same goes for Easter or Thanksgiving or even the Fourth of July.  We…

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John 7:37-39

For Pentecost this year, our lectionary text places right smack dab in the middle of it all, in Jerusalem at the Festival of Booths (better known to some as Sukkot or the Festival of Tabernacles). It’s important to have a few things in mind about this particular festival. First, it’s the festival. It’s the weeklong…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

The singer Sting says he’ll be watching “every breath you take.”  The pop group Berlin gave the original Top Gun movie its romantic lead theme music with its song “Take My Breath Away.”  Taylor Swift has a whole album titled “Breathe” and its lead song says that after her love went away, she just cannot…

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Romans 8:6-11

Remote controlled vehicles, whether cars, boats or even airplanes, make wonderful toys. So wonderful, in fact, that children sometimes argue and even fight over who will control them. There’s something about completely controlling something’s movements that can prove to be almost irresistible. But you’ve ever watched two children grapple over the same “joystick” you’ve probably…

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Palm Sunday: Salvation’s Hospitality

In the summer of 1991 my wife and I spent some time traveling in Germany. One of our stops was a two-day visit to a pastor and his wife in Wittenberg. At that time, the fall of the Berlin Wall was still a very recent event. What had been the communist-dominated East Germany was still…

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Matthew 3:13-17

In the early third century church, it was the baptism of Jesus that focused the Epiphany celebration, not the visit of the Magi. In fact, Epiphany was included with Easter and Pentecost as the major Christian festivals marked by the Church (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church). In the fourth century, Epiphany came to…

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Joel 2:23-32

This is the “happy” section of Joel but it probably needs to be seen in context.  More on that at the end of this sermon commentary. For now we can see a connection to last week’s Old Testament Common Lectionary text from Jeremiah 31, which pointed to the promise of God’s giving his people a…

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Psalm 84:1-7

In the Calvin Seminary Chapel above and behind the pulpit area is a large clear-glass window with a cross in the center.  A few years ago during a May Term preaching class in the chapel, we all noticed that a large Horned Owl had made a nest in the uppermost window pane near the top…

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Galatians 3:23-29

Occasionally the Revised Common Lectionary’s choice of where to begin and end a Lesson isn’t just puzzling. It’s also downright bewildering. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson is a case in point. After all, the chasm between verses’ 23-25 and 26-29 may seem to be a kind of grand canyon that has no bridge that crosses it….

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John 16:12-15

You may have heard it said that the Holy Spirit is the “shy one of the Trinity.” The description is meant to denote how the Spirit of Truth always points us to Jesus Christ—as Jesus seemingly describes in our passage today. It seems to me, though, that an unintended consequence of this descriptor is what…

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Romans 5:1-5

A quick glance at the church year’s calendar may make gospel proclaimers’ pulses race. Trinity Sunday has, after all, come again. It may make proclaimers’ palms sweat not just because, as the New Testament scholar Beverly Gaventa to whose commentary I owe a great deal for this commentary, notes, “reference to the Trinity is itself…

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Acts 2:1-21

COVID-19.  Has anything in our experience ever made us think as much about the act of respiration, of breathing, than the global pandemic we have been in for over two years now?  Way back in 2006 I visited Japan.  At that time there was no particular flu bug worrying anyone.  Yet I was struck to…

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Romans 8:14-17

My last surviving parent’s death last year reminded me that inheritance can be complicated. My mom and dad, while never materially wealthy by North American standards, did what they could to ensure that their children as well as worthy causes would inherit something from them. But, of course, so many others also wanted a “piece”…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Sample sermon: You wouldn’t think a wasp could do so much damage. Unless you are allergic to bee and wasp stings, getting stung by these bugs, though briefly painful and annoying, does not generally create any lasting effect or damage. However, about 150 years ago there was one particular kind of wasp that appears to…

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John 14:8-17 (25-27)

The lectionary helps us to focus on the Holy Spirit in this passage by assigning this text to Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday in which we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost we remember and express gratitude for yet another one of God’s promises fulfilled: the promise of a “True Friend” (Dale Bruner’s…

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Acts 16:9-15

How did the Holy Spirit prevent Paul and company from entering into the regions of Asia, as Acts 16 narrates this for us?  Yes, Luke (our narrator) makes clear that the Spirit “prevented” them from going in the direction they were minded to go, but I wonder just how that all worked out.  Should we…

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Acts 11:1-18

Luke is hands-down one of the best writers ever used by the Holy Spirit to compose a portion of Scripture.  His narratives in the first two chapters of his Gospel alone prove as much.  Other examples of narrative wizardry abound in Luke and Acts.  So it is a bit odd in Acts 11 to encounter…

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Balkanization is a concept we generally link to the breakdown of countries, regions or even society into various, often competing factions. Careful observers of the 21st century Church, however, also sense balkanization within the Body of Christ. North American Christians who label themselves “evangelical” or “progressive” often view each other with suspicion, if not outright…

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11

An old cliché suggests that the more things change, the more they stay the same. However, Christians might like to think that the Church is immune to such inertia. After all, among the Reformers’ most cherished claims about the Church is that she is “always reforming.” Yet a comparison of Paul’s first letter to Corinth’s…

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Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)

Though the power of Mary’s song always draws my heart’s cry for justice and hope, this year I’m particularly drawn to what we learn about the way of God in the support that Elizabeth offers to Mary. After Mary gives her big “YES” to God’s plan for the salvation of the world, past, present and…

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Ephesians 3:14-21

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s first five words, “I kneel before the Father” (14) suggests that its hearers are eavesdropping on Paul’s prayer. However, the Scriptures’ prayers always almost make me wonder, “How do you preach about an inspired yet overheard prayer?” and “Should we even preach about an overheard prayer?” But Jesus’ friends might argue…

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Acts 2:2-21

Arguably it is harder to write a fresh sermon on Pentecost than on Christmas or Easter.  Those last two major events in redemptive history are proclaimed in multiple Biblical texts, so there are different angles to take on Christmas and Easter.  Pentecost, on the other hand, is reported in only one text, our text for…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

You have to look pretty close to figure out what brings the latter portion of Psalm 104 to the fore on Pentecost Sunday.  But then you read verse 30 and perhaps you are reading a translation that capitalizes the word “Spirit” there, and then you connect the Lectionary dots.  That capital “S” signals that the…

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John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Well before Jesus ever preached his first sermon, there was John the Baptist.  Long before Jesus ever uttered a parable or healed a blind person, there was John.  John had come to prepare the way for his cousin Jesus.  And when John preached about this great and coming One, he talked a lot about the…

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Romans 8:22-27

There’s a whole lot of groaning going on not just in this Sunday’s RCL Epistolary Lesson, but also in God’s world. Sometimes, in fact, that groaning’s so loud that you don’t even have to listen very carefully to hear it. The Greek word that English Bible’s generally translate as “groan” is systenezai. It carries with…

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Acts 10:44-48

We are swiftly coming to the end of the Lectionary’s celebration of the mighty acts of God in Christ.  Ordinary Time is nearly upon us.  But first we commemorate Christ’s Ascension next Sunday and Pentecost the Sunday after that.  Today our focus is on what many scholars call “The Gentile Pentecost.” Our text is one…

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Acts 4:32-35

Very early in my preaching ministry, I was producing one theological/exegetical masterpiece after another (in my own mind).  My wife wasn’t so convinced.  She put up with it for about a month, when she nailed me with this simple question.  “So what?  What difference does all that make?” In the Old Testament (?) readings for…

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1 John 1:1-2:2

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s proclaimers might lead into their presentation of it with a story of how they needed an intercessor. A number of years ago I traveled to sit with members of our church during their family member’s major surgery. Using an inaccurate map, I became lost in a maze of one-way streets. After…

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

This remarkably sunny text may seem a peculiar choice for the dark journey of Lent, unless we see it in the light of theme of covenant on which the RCL has been focusing during this Lenten season. We began with God’s covenant with Noah and all of nature, the covenant on which all life on…

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Acts 19:1-7

The woman who told me with a puzzled look on her face, “I don’t think anyone here has the Holy Spirit,” had been part of a church community I pastored for about six months. Yet in that short time she’d concluded that members of our church didn’t have the Holy Spirit. So she sadly left…

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2 Peter 3:8-15a

We usually think of a “last will and testament” as a dry legal document by which a now-dead person divvies up his or her possessions. Yet we periodically see or hear about a last will and testament that’s really a kind of testament that communicates the deceased person’s final thoughts. Sometimes its words scold family…

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

All of us likely have a vision of the ideal pastor, missionary or other church leaders. Yet our visions probably also vary widely. Some, after all, think of the ideal pastor as a terrific preacher. Others believe pastors should be able to minister to a variety of people. Many think good leaders have some combination…

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Psalm 25:1-9

Samuel Johnson is reported to having once said something to the effect that we need more often to be reminded than instructed.  Intuitively probably most of us have a pretty solid sense of what he meant.  It’s not that I don’t know the basics of knife safety when I am slicing and dicing vegetables in…

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Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

Years ago F. F. Bruce published a book titled The Hard Sayings of Jesus.  That title prompted a friend of mine to comment, “Hard sayings?  I didn’t know there were any easy ones!” But, of course, it is true that some of what Jesus had to say was easier to puzzle out than some other…

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John 20:19-23

My friend the Bible teacher/commentator Dale Bruner is a wonderful teacher of biblical stories.  He is largely retired now but years ago part of Dale’s teachings usually included some dramatic re-enactments of the story at hand.  He always elicited a chuckle from the class at this point in John 20 when he reaches a certain…

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1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

God’s adopted sons and daughters profess that the Holy Spirit graciously gives us a relationship not only with Jesus Christ, but also with other Christians.  The Spirit whose Pentecost Christians celebrate on this Sunday links us not only to Christ our brother, but also our adopted brothers and sisters in Christ. God’s people generally like…

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Acts 2:1-21

Every pulpit veteran has preached on this story many times, but this year we have a ready-made angle into it.  We have seen more than our share of violent winds the past year, haven’t we?  Hurricanes in the Caribbean, tornadoes all over the South, and in my home territory of West Michigan those bomb cyclones…

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Acts 1:6-14

On this Seventh Sunday of the Easter season, it is fitting that the first reading is about the Ascension of Jesus.  There is a real sense in which Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension are two parts of one glorious act; he rose from the dead and he kept rising into heaven.  Between the two risings…

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Acts 7:55-60

On this fifth Sunday of the Easter season, we continue our journey through the Acts of the Apostles or, as some call it, the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  That title fits Luke’s constant emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in the growth of the early church. That is surely the case in…

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Colossians 3:1-4

On that glorious first Easter morning an angel shocked people by insisting that God had raised Jesus from the dead.  Two thousand years later an aging apostle may no less shock Colossians 3:1-4’s proclaimers and hearers by insisting that God also raised us with Christ. After all, if it’s sometimes hard to believe that Jesus…

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Psalm 122

Psalm 122 is one of fifteen psalms extending from Psalms 120-134, each of which is labeled “A Song of Ascents.”  The sense of that title is that these were pilgrimage songs sung by Israelites as they ascended up to Jerusalem.  Not surprisingly, therefore, the terms “Jerusalem,” “Zion,” and “house of Yahweh” occur with great density…

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Haggai 1:5b-2:9

For me, one of the greatest proofs of the Bible’s divine inspiration is its applicability to life in every era of history.  The prophecy given in Haggai was written in the last period of Old Testament prophetic activity, after Israel’s return from Exile, in the year 520 BC.  And yet its narrow focus on a…

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2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

So here we are at the most intimate, and soul laid bare, part of Paul’s letters to Timothy. In these sermon commentaries, we’ve hinted all along about what Paul reveals in these verses—that he’s at the end of his earthly life, abandoned by fellow ministry partners, waiting on his imminent death. The lectionary selection leaves…

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Psalm 84:1-7

In the Calvin Seminary Chapel above and behind the pulpit area is a large clear-glass window with a cross in the center.  A few years ago during a May Term preaching class in the chapel, we all noticed that a large Horned Owl had made a nest in the uppermost window pane near the top…

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2 Timothy 1:1-14

The lectionary brings us this week from Paul’s first letter to his second letter to Timothy. Right away, we can feel that the stakes are higher, the emotions more intense. There’s talk of tears and mothers and grandmothers, of emotional longings and deep faith and trust. Why? Because things haven’t gotten better since the first…

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Sample Sermon:  You wouldn’t think a wasp could do so much damage.  Unless you are allergic to bee and wasp stings, getting stung by these bugs, though briefly painful and annoying, does not generally create any lasting effect or damage.  However, about 150 years ago there was one particular kind of wasp that appears to…

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Acts 2:1-21

We have come to the conclusion of our fifty day celebration of Easter.  It is fascinating to me that our exit from Dr. Luke’s account of the spread of Easter faith is the on ramp to that whole story.  With this Pentecost story, we loop back to where it all began.  Even as Luke tells…

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Acts 16:9-15

This first reading for the Sixth Sunday of Easter continues to trace the progress of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, as it focuses on an abridged section of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.  I say “abridged” because the Lectionary starts our reading in mid-paragraph leaving out some crucial historical and theological details found…

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Acts 11:1-18

In this season of Easter, the Lectionary has directed our attention away from the Old Testament readings that are usually the first reading.  Instead we have been following the book of Acts, which traces the new thing God did as a result of the Resurrection of Christ.  That new thing was the spread of the…

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Luke 4:1-13

“He ate nothing during those days and at the end of them, he was hungry.”  Luke 4:2 I’ll say. This curious line in verse 2 is easy to glide past en route to the real drama to come once the devil shows up to woo Jesus to his side.  At best we see this as…

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

In the more than twenty years that I’ve ministered with and to the church I currently serve, I’ve never preached on 1 Corinthians 13.  Now I remember why.  Not only is it so lovely that it nearly defies description.  It’s also like a figurative lit stick of dynamite.  So I take comfort in the assertion…

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Acts 8:14-17

While it’s at least tangentially related to this Sunday’s gospel lesson, Acts 8:14-17 may seem like a rather odd text for the second Sunday of the new year.  It isn’t, after all, just a mysterious text that even the most learned scholars struggle to fully understand.  While the Lectionary longs to unite Christians around the…

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1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

This first Sunday in the season of Advent liturgically marks the beginning of a season of waiting.  Not just of waiting to celebrate Jesus’ first coming.  Advent is also the season in which God’s adopted sons and daughters at least try to concentrate on waiting for Jesus’ second coming. We’ve had 2,000 years of practice…

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Ephesians 4:25-5:2

“Imitation” may be, as Charles Colton once famously wrote, “the sincerest of flattery.”  However, some attempts at imitation may also be the sincerest of sheer folly.  A son may, after all, flatter his mother by trying to successfully cook like she does.  Who can, however, as Paul’s calls us in Ephesians 5:2, imitate God? Even…

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2 Samuel 6:1-5; 12b-19

2 Samuel 6 contains enough action and vivid images to fill a whole Netflix series.  It, after all, features a mysterious box, stumbling oxen and impetuous priest.  Our text also gives us a dancing king, livid queen and one great big party. David has spent many years running from Saul.  However, as 2 Samuel 6…

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Acts 2:2-21

Throughout nearly all of recorded human history, people’s inability to communicate with each other has divided us.  So for people to somehow come (and stay) together, something dramatic must happen.  In fact, since human efforts to fully unify people have proved largely futile or temporary, we might add that something dramatic must happen to us….

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Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Where besides Acts 1 does Matthias’ name appear in the Scriptures?  The answer is, of course, “Nowhere.”  After all, as quickly as Matthias appears in Acts 1, he disappears again.  Yet while that might render him as little more than a biblical footnote, it’s one of Acts 1’s details that may be an avenue to…

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Acts 10:44-48

May Christians ever give up hope for the salvation of any living person?  Can we, in other words, simply abandon anyone to Satan’s captivity?  What about those who have already received God’s grace with their faith?  May God’s adopted sons and daughters ever deliberately or even unconsciously abandon these fellow Christians? Certainly some early Christians…

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Acts 8:26-40

If the Holy Spirit is a bit like a stone dropped into the middle of a pond, then Acts 8:26-40’s story is like one of the concentric rings that ripples out from it and across God’s world.  But it’s only one of the first of a series of rings that continues to spread to this…

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Isaiah 64:1-9

It’s always tempting for those who preach and teacher God’s Word to talk more about prayer than actually pray.  So those who proclaim Isaiah 64 won’t just want to explore, exegete and apply it carefully this week. We’ll also want to actually spend time praying, perhaps using its structure and themes to do so. The…

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Matthew 15:(10-20) 21-28

Years ago F.F. Bruce published a book titled The Hard Sayings of Jesus.   That title prompted a friend of mine to comment, “Hard sayings?  I didn’t know there were any easy ones!” But, of course, it is true that some of what Jesus had to say was easier to puzzle out than some other things. …

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Acts 2:1-21

Just before he ascended to the heavenly realm Jesus promised his disciples they’d his “witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”  Yet nothing any of them had done or said up to that point had even hinted that they were up to that task. In fact, the gospels consistently portray Jesus’ disciples as a…

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