Advent is celebrated by Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants

  • Originally a season focused on preparing new Christians to be baptized
    • There was a stronger emphasis on Jesus’ baptism than on his birth
    • This meant a lot of Prayer and Fasting
  • Then connected with the 2nd Coming of Christ
  • Only later connected with the first coming, Christmas

Matthew 3:11–17

  • 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

It’s a beautiful picture of what can happen when we pray.

  • We become aware of an open heaven above us, with gifts pouring out
  • The Holy Spirit rests upon us because we have become still
  • God affirms us as his beloved children
  • Sent out (what happened after Jesus’ baptism?)
    • Empowered to overcome temptation
    • Sent on mission

As a community, we are somewhat constrained by the pandemic. We have an opportunity to observe Advent as a time to focus on our prayer lives, to prepare ourselves to be baptized in the Holy Spirit again and again.

  • Regular witnesses (you all) encouraging us to pray
  • Focusing on MWF prayers, inviting people to them
  • Take a moment now to work on a goal for your prayer life:
    • Increasing time?
    • Reading more Scripture?
    • Incorporating Family Prayer + Lord’s Days (Sabbath)?

Let’s spend this season growing closer to God.

Thanksgiving Prayer Meeting

1.         Q: How many times did Jesus give thanks in Scripture?

a. 4

b. 23

c. 36

d. 12

A: Jesus gave thanks 4 times in Scripture

1.         Jesus Gives Thanks for Revelation (Matthew 11:25–27)

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (And v.27 says “this Revelation comes to us through Jesus) 

Scripture says: 

First are last; last are first

Proud humbled; lowly exalted.

Wise are foolish; foolish are wise

God gives revelation to the humble and he hides revelation form the wise

Be proud in a good way; be confident

Paul said, “I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13)

But, be humble. The tax collector comes to mind (Luke 18:9-14)

2.         Jesus Gives Thanks for the Loaves (Matthew 15:34-38)

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus gives thanks for what was provided and it multiplies into way more than was needed. If we give thanks to our Father for what He has provided, it’s blessed. Then, when we try to give what he has provided away it multiplies.

3.         Jesus Gives Thanks for Being Heard by the Father (John 11:41-43)

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

Jesus already knows – may we pray for an increase of faith

Our Father hears our prayers.

Give thanks then Pray intercession every day.

Let’s pray intercession 

4.         Jesus Gives Thanks for the Cup and the Bread (Luke 22:14-20

 Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks to his Father he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.  For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and after giving thanks, Jesus broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The cross was before him yet Jesus gave thanks.

What do we need to be thankful for . . . 

Our community –

Beloved brothers and sisters

Paul said, “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Thessalonians 5:16–18)

The Offseason

  • Is this the offseason? In some ways maybe…
  • In sports, the offseason is about putting in the work behind the scenes.
    • Nick Saban’s practices known to be more difficult than games.
    • The work behind the scenes, the training, the preparation becomes evident on “game day”.

Pursuing Holiness

  • What can we do during the offseason? 
    • Pursue holiness. (always… especially when God tells you to)
  • The passages from 2 weeks ago, Nov 2nd.
    • Ephesians 5:25-27 – Jesus wants a holy, spotless bride.
    • Acts 5:1-2 – Give everything to God, don’t hold anything back.
    • Romans 12:1-2 – Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
    • John 3:17-20 – Come out of darkness and live in the light of Jesus.
    • Philippians 2:3-5 – Be selfless like Jesus and serve one another.
  • Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1–2)
  • According to this passage, what does holiness look like?
    • Holiness is God-centered: Remembering God, Pleasing God, Seeking God
    • Holiness looks like a life of worship and being transformed.

Holiness Pleases God

  • We want to please the people we love. Their pleasure is a powerful motivator.
    • Christine, what would bring you pleasure? Walk, bike ride, tv show?
    • We can be joyful when we’re making sacrifices because we know what we’re doing will please the one we love.
      • We can be happy doing the dishes as a service for our family member.
  • When we make choices for holiness, it brings God pleasure.
    • Which motivations to pursue holiness do you find the most powerful?

Clean Vessels

  • Martin Luther’s story about the young man and the hermit. The young man told the hermit about his struggle with unchaste thoughts and other sins. “You cannot prohibit the birds from flying over your head, but make sure they stay in the air and do not build a nest in your hair.”
    • Since we believe God is calling us to pursue holiness, what’s one area of holiness you can pursue this week?

Our “Exile Moment” continued

1.         Two weeks ago I talked about us being in some sort of exile – Our Exile Moment. Looking back on history, I spoke about the Israelites and the Exilic period – and Babylonian capture under King Nebuchadnezzar. He moved the Israelites to Babylon – first in 597 BC; then in 587/586 BC, then in 582/581 BC. Consequently, most Jews were absorbed into the Babylonian culture. But the Remnant held fast to the covenant – the 10 commandments, especially the first 3, and the words of the 3 great prophets – and refused to be absorbed into the culture.

Communities are built by the grace and power of God. Communities are also built on loving, inspiring, and caring people who want to be disciples – people who want to live and give away the Gospel. Many prophecies given have come true.

Here is one about our mission that was given 50 years ago:

“You will reap a harvest you did not sow. You will sow, and in years to come will see the harvest. The work you have seen begun here will spread….I will bring many to you…and I will baptize them in my Holy Spirit. I will raise up spiritual sons and daughters for my work. I will send people to you from all across the nation to receive a message they will take back [with them]….”

Felicia and I lived this. We have seen God raise up communities all across the world – 15,000 people in Sword of the Spirit and People of Praise plus millions touched by the work of covenant communities – including The Word Among Us, God’s Word Today, New Covenant magazine, hundreds of books, conferences, and all kinds of service to the churches – 10,000 priests.

Here is another message that was given about 10 years ago:

A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my church, a time of glory is coming for my people.  I will pour out on you all the gifts of my Spirit.  I will prepare you for spiritual combat; I will prepare you for a time of evangelism that the world has never seen.

And, today, we have all seen the first part of this to be true in many forms, not just COVID. But, the second part will also come true. 

2.         With far less personal contact with each other it’s more difficult to stay focused on our way of life. This is precisely what happened to the Israelites. This is why so many lost their way. But, the remnant came home to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple. The Prophets Haggai and Zechariah and the leaders Ezra and Nehemiah – and many others – poured themselves out on a broken nation. Haggai said, “My house lies in ruin.” And the people were moved to re-build God’s house. Ezra began prayer meetings. 

We, in the Spirit of Christ community, have been called to join together and be the Remnant of Christ. Certainly we are not the only remnant, but, nonetheless w are a remnant. Like those in exile we have to hold the ground God has given to us and we have to expand the ground.

As the prophetic word above said, “You will reap a harvest you did not sow. You will sow, and in years to come will see the harvest. The work you have seen begun here will spread.” And,  “As this time of darkness comes, it will be a time of glory for you. I will pour out my gifts on you. I will prepare you for a time of great evangelism.”

As of today, 10 million people in the US and 50 million in world have been infected,

238,000 died; 1.25 in world – that death rate was when 60,000 affected people per day – now it is over 100,000 COVID cases per day. So, the death rate will proportionately increase. These are dark numbers.

However, we received some good news today. Pfizer has a vaccine for COVID that is 90% effective. Pfizer stock up 8% today.

I believe this is a grace-filled time for us – a time to be the Ezra’s and the Haggai’s of our day. It’s a time to be a light to others – and tell them – by word or witness – that Jesus matters.  

3.         So, how can we be the Remnant of Jacksonville?

A.        Let’s try our best to make time for Jesus each day

By setting aside time to worship & worship as a family if you can

By repenting for your sins and reading the Word every day

By coming to morning prayer if you can

By coming to PM with “expectation” – that God will bless us

By coming prepared – with Words of Knowledge, Prophecy, or words of encouragement and with personal witnessing

  • Let’s make it a point to increase our love for others

By Words of inspiration – peace, inspiration, joy, encouragement – to others

By not saying any divisive or negative words to others 

By doing acts of kindness to family, friends, and neighbors

By inviting other people to come to morning prayer

By gifts of money or supplies to those in need – 

  • Let’s make it a point to be like the remnant of Israel

Many Israelites fell into idolatry and worldly ways but the remnant remained faithful to God – even as others tried to undermine their way of life.

Like the remnant, each day, let’s wake up and say, I will hold the ground that God has shown me and given to me and to our community.

Let’s know that God is with us and he will never forget or abandon us. He is with us forever. Scripture says, “Do not fear, for I am with you for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).