Part 12: You’re In Good Hands
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Following Paul’s Mad Mission
Paul Clearly Felt Called to Rome
“I must visit Rome also.” Acts 19:21
“I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.” Romans 1:15
“I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain.” Romans 15:23-24
So Why Bother With Jerusalem?
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”
Paul’s Personal Mission
So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you [in Rome] on the way. Romans 15:28
Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there. Romans 15:31
Somebody talk some sense into this guy!
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. Acts 20:37-38
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos…We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. Acts 21:1-4
…a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” Acts 21:10-14
Acts 21 is when the you-know-what hits the fan…
…some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place…
The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”
2 Years Later…Paul Finally Gets His Day in Court
…the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” -Jesus from Acts 23:11
“Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
-Jesus from Matthew 10:17-20
Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”
Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. Acts 25:8-10
If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared:
“You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! Acts 28:30-31
3 Promises that you’re in Good Hands
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Part 11: Building Bridges
Sunday, November 15, 2015
What’s your favorite way to kill time?
Idling in Athens – Acts 17
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.”
The Areopagus (“the Rock of Ares” the Greek god of war)
Also known as Mars Hill, this ancient site was used as the high court or appeal for criminal cases and then later for political council meetings. In the time of Paul it became a place where people met to met to discuss contemporary philosophies.
Founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. Stoicism teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions; the philosophy holds that becoming a logical and unbiased thinker allows one to best understand universal reason.
Epicurus, 307 BC, believed that pleasure is the greatest good. This led one to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain. The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form.
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. Acts 17:16-34
Understanding Different Perspectives
“I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship.” Acts 17:23
Finding Common Denominators
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law so as to win those not having the law…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Meeting Real Needs
It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.
-Jesus from Matthew 10:42 (The Message)
Finding what’s in common
Part 10: Recipe for Decision Making
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Where do you get your information?
The Top Story Tonight…Circumcision?
Historical Event: The First Church Council…Jerusalem HQ
In Case it Comes Up in Trivial Pursuit…
The First Council of Nicaea – 325 AD: The Trinity
The Council of Chalcedon – 451 AD: The Incarnation of Christ
Council of Trent – 1545 AD: 18 Years, 5 Popes
Second Vatican Council – 1962 AD: Last of the Major Councils
Going Before the Council – Acts 15:1-29
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon [Peter] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
“‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’
things known from long ago.”
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God…”
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. With them they sent the following letter:
“We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.”
3 Ingredients for Making Good Decisions
God’s Written Word
“The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written…”
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Holy Spirit
“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth. -Jesus, from John 16:12-13
The Counsel of Others
“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Recipe for Good Decisions
- God’s Written Word
- The Holy Spirit
- The Counsel of Others
Part 8: Bustin’ Out
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Top 5 Best Escapes…
Peter’s Prison Break- Acts 12:1-18
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
Busting Out of Life’s Traps
No Dead Ends
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Always A Better Way
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Persistent Prayer Pays
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10
Don’t Go Solo
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Part 7: Rules Made to be BrokenSunday, October 18, 2015
The Buster Posey Rule
The new rule, 7.13, states “a runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate).”
Time For Another Rule Update
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
Gentiles: All Non-Jewish Peoples
God-Fearers: Gentiles who were sympathetic to Jews and expressed a faith in the God of Israel.
Proselytes: Full Gentile converts to Judaism who underwent both baptism and circumcision (for males).
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”The voice spoke to him a second time,
“Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. Acts 10:7-16
According to the Rules…
You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a divided hoof you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the hyrax. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a divided hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. Deuteronomy 14:3-8
Of all the creatures living in the water…anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat.
You may eat any clean bird. But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, any kind of raven… and the bat. Deuteronomy 14:11-18
As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” Acts 10:25-29
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right…While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” Acts 10:44-48
The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying,
“So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6
Cultural Boundary Markers
Boundary markers are observances such as circumcision, food laws, the sabbath, etc. that drew clear lines between Jew and Gentile. These markers served to easily distinguish who was within God’s Covenant by seeing who followed these laws. However, Paul came to do away with these boundary markers so that Jew and Gentile would be unified under the New Covenant now offered by God through Christ. -E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism
“‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.
For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
1 Corinthians 11:6
The Overriding Principle
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our Cultural Marker
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
-Jesus, from John 13:35
Part 6: Unlikely Hero
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Seeing What No One Else Could See
“The minute I saw Joe move, there was no question in my mind that he was the best I’d seen,” former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh said referring to Montana’s pre-draft workout. “I knew with the offense I planned to run, Joe would be great.”
Meet Saul of Tarsus
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh,
I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. Philippians 3:4-6
The Pharisee (“separatist”) party emerged largely out of the group of scribes and sages. Their name comes from the Hebrew and Aramaic parush which means “one who is separated.” One of the factors that distinguished the Pharisees from other groups was their belief that all Jews had to observe the purity laws (which applied to the Temple service) outside the Temple. The contemporary historian, Josephus, notes the Pharisees were considered the most expert and accurate expositors of Jewish law.
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him,
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Saul’s Own Account
“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ Acts 26:9-14
A spiked stick used for driving cattle.
“To kick against the goads” was a common expression in ancient times—a rural image, which rose from the practice of farmers goading their oxen in the fields.
Goads were typically made from slender pieces of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other. Farmers used the pointed end to urge a stubborn ox into motion. Occasionally, the beast would kick at the goad. The more the ox kicked, the more likely the goad would stab into the flesh of its leg, causing greater pain.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. Acts 9
1. What am I kicking against in my relationship with God?
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
-Jesus from John 12:24-26
2. What do you see in others?
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew
Meet Paul (“Little”)
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:9-11
Can You See Other’s Through God’s Grace?
Part 5: Rule Change
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Why do they keep changing the rules in sports?
Philip on Assignment
Acts 8:4-8, 26-40
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
A Eunuch Situation
Eunuch: A man who has been castrated, especially one employed to guard the women’s living areas of a royal court.
The word eunuch comes from the Greek word for bed watcher. Eunuchs were used throughout the ancient world by monarchs as “keepers of the couch,” or guardians of the royal harem. However, it was not uncommon for eunuchs to also hold high positions of authority in government.
On the Outside Looking In
No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.
“In a culture in which honor was gender-based, to be sexually ambiguous was to blur clear-cut gender roles and expectations and viewed to bring shame upon oneself and one’s community…Further, eunuchs, by belonging neither to the cultural expectations of male nor female, were in conflict with purity codes. This was especially true in Judaism, which prohibited the physically defective, like eunuchs, from entering the temple and interacting with the larger social body.” -Parsons, Acts
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?”
So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
Prediction for Change
Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant,
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.”
“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”
-Ponyboy, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together.
Ephesians 2:19-22 The Message
Who is God calling you to include?
Part 4: Stepping Up to the Next Level
Sunday, September 27th
Have you ever liked the sequel better than the first?
A New Challenge for the Church – Acts 6
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
Hellenistic vs. Hebraic
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The origin of the Deacon…
Diakonia – to minister, serve, wait upon
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
“One of the first problems the early church encountered was the challenge of keeping up with meeting the needs of a growing community. Finding new leaders and delegating ministry tasks was vital, as it is now, to the health of the church.”
Building on our First Year to Improve our Second
Highlight Reel: Growing Families and Growing as a Family
What’s going to make our next year together better?
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
Everybody’s Got Something
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7
Together We Have Tons to Offer
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
-Jesus, Luke 12:48
Make our second year even better by using your gifts!
Part 3: Four Basic Food Groups
Sunday, September 20th
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Teaching – Fellowship – Breaking Bread – Prayer
“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
-Jesus, Luke 6:47-49
1. I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit & born of the Virgin Mary.
4. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting. Amen.
How strong are you anchored in Biblical teaching?
Koinonia: In Common, Community, Joint Connection
The word has such a multitude of meanings that no single English word is adequate to express its depth. It is a complex, rich, and thoroughly fascinating ancient approach to building community or teamwork.
But God has put the body together…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:24-27
How well are you connected?
“Christians recognize the power that eating together holds. For Christians, sharing food is crucial because in the sharing of food, we are actually shaping our communities. The early church practiced the Love Feast or Agape meal, and my denomination, the Church of the Brethren, is among several modern denominations, continuing this practice today.”
-Dana Casell, Practicing Our Faith
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
-Jesus, Revelation 3:20
When can you share life and a meal with those around you?
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
“Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience. But a brother is sinful as we are. He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin. Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Who is praying for you?
Part 2: Worth Waiting For
Sunday, September 13th
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Peter Addresses the Crowd
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” Acts 2:1-15
- Greek meaning: ”the fiftieth” (day) the Feast of Weeks, a prominent feast in the calendar of ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses at Sinai.
- Pentecost was a pilgrim festival. That meant that according to Jewish Law, all the adult Jewish men would come from wherever they were living to Jerusalem and personally be in attendance during this celebration.
The Jewish diaspora refers to the dispersion of Israelites, Judahites, and later Jews out of what is considered their ancestral homeland (the Land of Israel) and the communities built by them across the world.
Experiencing God’s Plan Begins With Waiting
“Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”
– John Ortberg
Surrendering to God’s Timing
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
Expecting that God Will Show Up
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3
Be Faithful in the Meantime
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
What are you waiting for…?
Clarity? Provision? Healing? Growth? _______?????
Part 1: Roadwork Ahead
Sunday, September 6th
The Book Called Acts is the Sequel to The Gospel of Luke
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:1-3
Luke’s Preamble To His First Book
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4
Who was this Most Excellent Theophilus?
Theophilus = Beloved of God
- Converted Roman Official
- Wealthy Benefactor of the Apostles
- Paul’s Roman Attorney
- The Jewish High Priest
- Metaphor for All Those Who Love God
Whether this Theophilus was a Jewish High Priest, an influential government official, a wealthy benefactor who supported the Apostles ministry, Paul’s Roman lawyer, or simply a metaphor for all who love God, does not really matter. We cannot know for sure who Theophilus was, but we can know what Luke’s intentions for writing were. His stated reason for writing to Theophilus was “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”. Luke wrote an historical account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and detailed the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His intention was to give Theophilus certainty that the “things he had been taught” were indeed true and trustworthy.
Jesus’ Unexpected Answers to a Question
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Luke 1:4-9
Jesus’ Huge Vision for His Church
Jerusalem = Local
Judea & Samaria = Regional
Ends of the Earth = Global
How in the world did the early church spread so fast?
A World Prepared by God…
Pax Romana “The Roman Peace” (31 BC~AD 250)
The long period of relative peace and minimal expansion by military force experienced by the Roman Empire in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The Pax Romana is said to be a “miracle” because prior to it there had never been peace for that many centuries in a given area of human history.
Koine Greek “The Common Greek”
The common form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity. It developed through the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and served as the common peoples’ language throughout the duration of the Roman Empire.
Religio Licita “Approved Religion”
A phrase used to describe the Roman custom to permit or even encourage the subject peoples of the provinces and foreign communities in Rome to maintain their ancestral religion, unless specific practices were regarded as disruptive or subversive: A religio was licita for a particular group on the basis of tribe or nationality and traditional practices, coupled with the proviso that its rites were not offensive to the Roman people or its gods.
From the inception, Jesus intended His church to always be reaching out on all levels.
“The whole journey was never about making a roster…I wanted to take a risk, put myself out there and put my faith in action. Faith without action is dead. This whole journey I’ve never felt so alive.” -Jarryd Hayne
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17
What roads are we being called to take as a church?