When we think of great New Testament Christians, the apostle Paul certainly comes to mind. In Acts 13 Paul’s experiences on the mission field in a way parallel our own lives. There were bumps and bruises for the apostle Paul and there were blessings and benefits. Paul would have some victories and then he would have some defeats. He would have some blessings and then he would have more bumps. We tend to have rather high expectations of a carefree life and want to live without being hassled. And if we avoid all responsibility it may seem we will be “happier.” If you don’t witness to people you won’t get put down by them. But some of the greatest joys come from seeing a person come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. You’ll never have that privilege if you don’t have a few bumps along the way talking to unbelievers about Christ. If the greatest Christian, in my opinion the apostle Paul, experienced difficulty in Sharing Christ, we may expect the same. But what a joy it will be to see people come into a relationship with Christ as well as meet with them in heaven. And really the responsibility for success belongs to the Holy Spirit and that relieves a lot of the pressure. Our responsibility is to share the claims of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God. See you Sunday.
We all want our church to be on mission. Mission includes local. Mission also includes global. In Acts 13 we find the first inklings of modern missions. But in order to be biblical we have to see how scripture qualifies and sends missionaries. Several things become obvious: local leadership is sent into global leadership; and missionaries are called to a work more than to a location. Prayer, financial support, and international connections (usually provided by a formal mission agency) are the foundations for successful missions. But just because missionaries are good people, doesn’t mean they won’t face opposition. Also how will we know whether or not our missionaries are successful? Three or four principles stand out in Acts 13. Do we have a process by which we select missionaries? What minimum qualifications should a missionary have? The health of the local church, spirit filled, biblically-based, praying, fasting, worshiping, and evangelism creates the environment that produces great missionaries. How are we doing?
I love the Olympics. I love seeing athletes from all over the world competing at the highest level in their respective sports. But more than that, I love the storylines that inevitably emerge from each Olympics. Last week, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics officially ended and brought with it numerous stories of athletes doing extraordinary things. In Acts 11, we see the early church doing extraordinary things. Using illustrations and analogies from these Winter Olympics, we will dive into Acts 11 and see how we, like the early church, can live with extraordinary purpose.
Finding God’s will. In Acts 11:1, Peter says "I was praying." A good start. But we need to also take into account other aspects of finding God's will. Science. All truth is God's truth. 2+3 equals 5 in all cultures regardless of language or religion. However a lot goes under the name of science that is more speculation than irrefutable truth. Experience plays a big part in our decision making. Tradition has sometimes a good and sometimes a detrimental impact on our lives depending upon what the tradition is based upon. If it is a life-changing decision, we better look to the Bible. Of course that assumes we have a correct method of interpretation. Generally speaking that means a literal grammatical historical contextual understanding of the word of God. The word of God is without error. So when it comes to major change, we need God's instruction. Let’s pretend we are going to make baptism an optional requirement for membership or switch from grape juice to real wine in communion or accept polygamous marriages. Now none of those events are going to happen in our lifetime, however if those things were on the table how would you approach them? Peter correctly finds God‘s will in Acts 11. This Sunday we will consider several aspects of how to find God‘s will. So why should we change anything? Spiritual motivations guided by the word of God in anticipation of biblical results is our modus operandi. But how do we get there? This Sunday will make an attempt.
When we think of helping people find and follow Jesus, do we really include everyone? Peter, who should be an example, had difficulty realizing that Jesus the Messiah was also for non-Jews. Obviously people are not the same. But the kind of disciple that God uses crosses cultural barriers to reach people for Christ. And we don’t have to be perfect. In other words admitting our partiality is part of the key to bridging the gap with those who are unlike us. In Acts 10 Peter has to make adjustments. To think that your whole heritage is a non-issue when it comes to the gospel requires an agonizing reappraisal. God promised that Israel would be a light to all nations and apparently by the first century A.D. they had forgotten their mandate that Messiah would be for all people. So hopefully this Sunday as we look at the life of Peter, we can emphasize and maybe look at some of our own blind spots. I must be honest that there are people groups that I think are not receptive to the gospel. But Paul tells us in Romans 12:13 to be hospitable. Is our church ready for company? The gospel crosses cultural barriers and we have to look where God is already working in order to have maximum impact for Christ. Believers in the Philippines put believers in the United States to shame when it comes to seeing people come to Christ. What have the Filipinos learned that we have missed? Acts 10 will give us some interesting challenges to our personal thinking.Principles of Communication
Most Christians want to make an impact for Christ. We have a relatively unknown person in the book of Acts who made a major impact for Christ. She has none of her words recorded, however she reminds me of the words from Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing: “If I could give you information of my life it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths to do in His service what He has done in her. And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing. I have worked hard, very hard, that is all.” Like mother Theresa, Florence Nightingale, left a legacy. Dorcas left a legacy in acts chapter 9. This Sunday will see how ordinary people can have an extra ordinary impact.
The apostle Paul is the mega impact person in the church of Jesus Christ in the first century. No less than 13 books of the Bible are attributed to him. Half of the book of Acts talks about his evangelistic impact. He preaches more sermons than anyone but Christ. He planted in the neighborhood of 21 churches. Probably led more people to Christ than anyone else in the first century church. I don’t know about you but I am intimidated by such a track record. So what does the apostle Paul have to do with my life? It has relevance in the sense that to get to the place that God wants you to be requires more than character and giftedness. We will look at events in the life of the apostle Paul and see how relatively unknown people, other than Jesus Christ, had a major impact on Saul becoming Paul. Normal believers were used by God in powerful ways. I got a reminder that I need to appreciate the people who influenced my life over the course of my ministry. We will look at minor characters in the book of Acts that had a major impact. You also can have a major impact if you use your spiritual gifts and your relationships to help people become all that God wants them to be.
On Monday, our nation remembered and honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While known mostly for his activism against racial injustice, he was first and foremost a minister of the Gospel and his faith served as the foundation for his commitment to achieve social justice. Dr. King lived his faith boldly and often incorporated scripture and the Gospel message in his now-famous speeches. The Bible calls believers to live their faith boldly and gives an example of what that looks like in Acts chapter 5. Join us Sunday as we dive into this example and see what it can look like to live your faith boldly.
Hypocrites! It is one of the great barriers in our endeavors to tell people about Christ. Why is it that Christians sin and there seems to be no consequences either in terms of their relationship with church or their relationship with God? In Acts 5 we find that sin has consequences. This chapter is so scary some commentators try to make it an apostolic episode that is not repeated in our time. But we will look at the consequences of premeditated sin and a failure to admit that sin in order to cover up our sin action and protect our pseudo-spirituality. It’s true on judgment day if you are truly a Christian, no sin will keep you out of heaven. But take for example 1 Corinthians 11 in which the apostle Paul says because some people have taken communion with a frivolous and unexamined heart, thus some are weak, some are sick and some are dead. We have to be careful not say that all illness comes from a previous sin action. A better way to say that is not all sin actions lead to illness. Also sin actions by unbelievers are not judged until judgment day. But premeditated sin with a concerted effort to hide that sin when confronted, may have dire consequences. And if there are no consequences, it’s possible that you’re not a Christian. Hebrews 12. So sin is a serious consideration. Let’s look at how to view our sin in light of what God’s word has to say. This Sunday Acts 5.
In Acts chapter 4 the disciples encountered strong opposition to the gospel. After healing a man and saying there is no salvation except in the name of Jesus, they were no longer allowed to worship in the temple. They had to learn a new lifestyle. That new lifestyle would be to live in a miracle on the edge of disaster. This requires a biblical focus in your prayer life. The disciples picked the right issues on which to stand. Those issues generally centered around the theme of making Jesus known. The disciples shared their temple leader opposition with the whole church. This conflict became the focus of the church’s prayer life. But before they prayed about the specific needs, they focused upon God’s character, God‘s role in history and God‘s role in prophecy. With those three things in mind, the disciples prayed with confidence and were empowered to make Christ’s name and the word of God clear to everyone that would listen. So this Sunday we find out how the disciples lived out their faith.