Sermons by Brian Morgan
Acts 21:1-26 In our text this week, Paul makes his historic return to Jerusalem. Historic because he has representatives from all the churches he has planted traveling with him, along with a significant amount of money collected from each church for the poor in Jerusalem. The gifts are the first fruits of his ministry among the Gentiles and symbolize the unity of the church. Like a college graduate returning home, not just with a degree, but with money to pay his parent’s back for his or her education, one would think the homecoming would be one of unadulterated joy. But there are disturbing warnings in every port that serious trouble awaits him, but Paul refuses to be deterred. The text addresses some key questions: How do we discern God’s will when both parties believe the Spirit is guiding them? And why is “coming home” often so difficult?
Acts 20:17-38 After the riot in Ephesus and return visits to Macedonia and Corinth, Paul was eager to get back to Jerusalem with the offering he had collected from the Gentile churches before the day of Pentecost. On the way he summons the elders in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus, for his farewell speech, where he commissions them to follow his example in life and ministry as the new leaders of the Ephesus church. This text not only sets a high bar for church leaders, it also sets forth what all followers of Jesus should aspire to.
Acts 19:21-41 Last week we observed how Paul’s tireless preaching unleashed the power of the Spirit bringing life and healing throughout the city of Ephesus and the wider community. The most striking example was public confession and renunciation of former magicians demonstrated by the public burning of their costly magic books worth 50,000 pieces of silver. In our text this week we learn what happens when the gospel begins to have a financial impact on a community and threatens the profits of the powerful. The enemy does not go down without a fight.
Acts 19:8-20 In our previous study in Acts, we celebrated the gift of the Spirit poured out afresh on twelve disciples, as Paul began his ministry in Ephesus. This week we will witness the power of God’s Spirit as it is unleashed and confronts the magical, political and religious powers that made Ephesus the greatest commercial center west of the Taurus Mountains. This will be the climax of Paul’s public ministry and his most productive time, as he proclaims the gospel in Ephesus for almost three years. Looking back on those days, Luke says, “The word grew and was strong in accordance with the power of the Lord.”
Acts 18:18 – 19:7 This week as we resume our studies in the book of Acts, Luke gives us two incidents where deficient faith is addressed and corrected. The text addresses the questions—What truly defines a “Christian?” Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit a second blessing after conversion? What is the difference between being “baptized” by the Spirit and being “filled” with the Spirit? And more importantly, “how” do we correct others when their faith is deficient?
Acts 26:1-32 This Easter we will have a dramatic presentation of the Apostle Paul’s testimony of the risen Christ before the Roman Procurator Festus and King Agrippa. This is Paul’s fifth and most elaborate defense speech. It is a masterpiece of rhetoric, designed to not only acquit him of the false charges against him, but also to present the living Christ before his hearers in a rational, yet persuasive way. At the conclusion even Agrippa is unable to refute his claims and responds, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” To which Paul responds, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Now that we have heard, we too can no longer remain neutral. How will you respond to his testimony? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Matt 2:1-12 On this, the third Sunday of Advent, Matthew answers the third question concerning the birth of the Messiah through the voice of the Magi “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” The question is fraught with political overtones as it was addressed to one who claimed to be king of the Jews. Matthew’s portrayal of the Magi and Herod set in bold contrast two differing “ways” and “destinies.” One leading to life, the other to death and their is no third. Which one are you?
Mark 4:26-34 As we continue in our summer studies in the parables, Jesus gives two more parables setting forth the mysterious ways the kingdom of God grows in “good soil.” Both set forth God’s extravagant grace. The first speaks of a harvest that requires “sleep,” rather than human toil or understanding to achieve it. The second stretches our imagination beyond the limits and “warns us against underestimating the significance of the proclamation of the kingdom of God, however unimpressive its initial impact may seem.” (R. T. France) It will be nothing less than a New Creation.
Acts 18:1-22 Just as Dr. Luke has faithfully documented the Apostle Paul’s sufferings and triumphs, so we also are blessed this week to have Dr. Ron Jimenez with us to share his life’s travails and successes entitled, “A Poetic Testimony: The Road Less Traveled.”
Acts 18:1-22 Have you ever felt like you were doing what God had called you to do, but could not understand why it was so hard? When Paul arrived in Corinth, he tells the Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness and fear, and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3). Though he was directed by a vision to minister in Macedonia, it was more difficult than expected. He was severely beaten in Philippi and forced to flee Thessalonica and Berea before raging mobs. Though he achieved a hearing before the Areopagus in Athens, he was politely dismissed with contempt. Now he arrives in Corinth, dejected and alone in a city whose pride and immorality were doubly intimidating. What happens next is a miracle greater than Corinth’s patron god, Poseidon.
Acts 17:16-34 Athens was not originally part of Paul’s agenda for mission, but God had other plans and placed Paul right in the cultural and philosophical center of the world. As N. T. Wright observes, “This demands a different game plan, a different strategy… Athens is a major showdown between the new young faith and the old, established, tried and tested philosophies of the Western world, which still, in various modern guises, dominate people’s thinking.” Paul’s remarkable speech to the Athenians is an example of how we need to think creatively to engage our intellectual world with the gospel.
Acts 17:1-15 After Paul and Silas are forced to leave Philippi after the shock of public beating and imprisonment, they arrive in Thessalonica only to have their troubles follow them with even more intensity, resulting in an official ban from ever returning to the city. How surpising it must have been that out of these afflictions, the strongest bonds of unaffected love and support were formed by people they had only just met. Is this what Paul meant when he later wrote, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ?”