Monday, December 29, 2008

This week's schedule 12/28/08

Tuesday December 30th
- Women of Faith: Encourage Each Other 7:00 pm

January 4th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This Week's Sermon: Respond to Glorify God

Luke 2:20-41.

The Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

The shepherds responded to God's fulfillment of his promise by glorifying him. To glorify in it's most basic sense is to shine a light on something. The shepherds shone a light on the things that God had done.

Simeon also responded to God's fulfillment of his promise to allow him to see the Messiah before his death, by glorifying him. He praised God and blessed both Jesus and his parents in the temple courts. He declared the coming of the Lord's Christ, a light to the gentiles and God's glory revealed to his people Israel. Christ was to be a light to the gentiles, who lived in spiritual darkness, to lead them to God. He was also God's physical revelation of himself to Israel. Simeon declared God's glory had come and there was nothing now that could add to his life. He gave God permission to take him home.

Anna also responded to glorify God. Her words are not recorded, but her story is. She had been married for seven years and then been a widow. Depending on the translation she was either a widow until she was 84, or she had been widowed for 84 years *which would make her 103 years old at minimum.* Either way, Luke describes her as being "very old" and she had been in the temple courts constantly waiting for God's consolation of his people. She heard what Simeon said, came over and gave thanks to God, and then she was off to tell others about God's faithfulness. Luke tells us she went to every person she knew who was waiting for the Messiah and told them that he had come. She didn't use age as an excuse to sit by as an observer, she got right in the action of glorifying God.

The shepherds, Simeon, and Anna all responded to glorify God. They shone a spotlight on God. They made him known. God is glorified whenever he is seen, whenever he is revealed.

When God fulfills his promises to us, how do we respond? Do we respond to glorify him? Or do we do our best to pretend like we never needed his help? When we refuse to give him glory, we are usually in the spotlight. People may be drawn to us, but they are not being pointed to God. Their lives stay the same, and their eternal condition remains unchanged. When we respond to glorify God, he gets the credit. His light shines. People are drawn to him. Jesus said, "if I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself."

If you are interested in growing the Kingdom of God, I urge you to respond to his faithfulness by glorifying him. Shine a light on God at work. Tell others about what he has done in your life. Tell others about what he has done for everyone in sending his son. Tell your fellow believers how God has fulfilled his promises to you so that their faith may be encouraged. Respond to glorify God.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This Week's Schedule 12/21/2008

NO Activities this week.

Merry Christmas!
May the Peace of God surround you as you celebrate the coming of our Messiah and King forever, Jesus Christ the Son of God.

December 28th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Week's Schedule 12/14/08

Tuesday December 16th
- No Activities

Wednesday December 17th- No Activities

December 21st- No Sunday School

Worship 10:00 am
Brunch Following Worship

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This Week's Sermon: Following by Faith

Luke 1:26-56.
The Angel came and told Mary that she was to carry the promised Messiah, the Son of God. This was probably both the most exciting and most terrifying thing she had ever heard. To be pregnant out of wedlock was a sign of adultery and if she were found in that condition, she could be stoned. It is no wonder then, that she chose to go and visit her cousin Elizabeth. The Angel had told her that Elizabeth was going to have a baby, and if that were true, then it would confirm the things the Angel had told would happen to Mary as well.

While Mary was with Elizabeth, she would get a taste of what it meant to be pregnant, and may have even been there for the birth of John the Baptist. These are all speculations but what we know is that the state of her heart is told in her song: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She was waiting for a sign that what God had promised her was true, she did not have the fulfillment yet, she was still facing possible execution on her return home, yet she glorified God and rejoiced in the one she called her savior. And why? Because he had done great things for her. He had remembered her in her low estate and from now on she would be called blessed. She didn’t know these things for sure. She had no proof. She only had the word of an angel.

In her song, she also declares that in this act of remembering her, he was fulfilling his promise to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever. She is confirming that she understands that the child she will bear is to be the promised Messiah. She doesn’t know how God is going to work. She doesn’t know how he is going to come through for her, but she is declaring God’s faithfulness in advance.

Matthew 1:18-25.
God provided for Mary and for his Son and for his plan to be accomplished by paying a visit to Joseph. God gave Joseph a dream of an angel to tell him that God was behind Mary’s pregnancy and that the baby she was carrying was God’s salvation for his people. In essence the Angel hinted very strongly to Joseph that Mary’s baby was the Messiah. Joseph was a righteous man, so when God told him to go ahead and take Mary home as his wife, he obeyed. He didn’t have any proof that what God had said was true, but he was willing to trust that if God had a plan, He would carry it out.

It is hard sometimes when God calls us to do something risky. But really the only stories we have from scripture are those of God asking people to do scary things. Noah had to put himself out there to build a boat before it had ever rained. Abraham had to trust that if God said he would give him a son, he would fulfill his promise. Joseph had to go out on a limb to interpret Pharoah’s dream. Moses had to risk everything to bring God’s people out of captivity, to part the red sea, to receive the ten commandments. The Children of Israel had to actually go in and put their feet on the land that God had promised them in spite of the fact that there were still others who claimed it as their own. In the New Testament, Jesus asked the disciples to follow him. He asked a little boy to give up his lunch—maybe all the food he had for the day. He asked Peter to come out on the water. He asked Thomas to touch his wounds after his resurrection.

All big risky things that God called people to do, but it was worth it.

Because Noah built the ark, he and his family were saved. Because Abraham trusted God, he fathered a nation. Because Joseph interpreted Pharoah’s dreams, he gained power, Egypt survived one of the biggest droughts in history, and he was reconciled with his family. Because Moses obeyed, the children of Israel were set free and made it through the desert. Because the people set their feet on the land, it became theirs. Because the disciples left everything to follow Jesus, they witnessed God on earth. Because that little boy gave his lunch, 5,000 people were fed. Because Peter walked out on the water, he got to see that even when we sink, God pulls us up again. Because Thomas touched his wounds, he learned the truth, that God had raised Christ from the dead.

God asked Mary to take a risk in accepting the role as Mother to Jesus. God asked Joseph to be a care-giver, protector and earthly father. Because they obeyed, Jesus came, prophecy was fulfilled and the world now has access to the God of the Universe in spite of all our screw-ups.
God may call you to do something risky for him. He may have already done so, and you have been weighing the cost. That is ok. Weigh the cost. But trust him and obey. Trust him that if he has called you, he will be faithful to bring about whatever plan he has for you to accomplish. When we trust we get to see God at work. We get to see him do amazing things! If we refuse, we might stay safe in our comfort zone, but safe is not the same as fulfilled. Safe is not the same as joyful. Safe is not the same as amazing. Very rarely can you be safe and stand in awe before the majesty of God. That takes risk. I encourage you this morning, to take the risk. Take the leap. Be obedient. And stand back and watch the Creator of the Universe do amazing things in and through you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

This Week's Schedule 12/7/08

Tuesday December 9th
- No Activities

Wednesday December 10th--Friends Women Christmas Brunch 9:30 am at Mildred's
Kid's Club Christmas Party 5:30pm-7:00pm

December 16th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Elder's Meeting Following Worship and Soup and Sandwich Lunch
Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Coming Up: Christmas Celebration December 21st 10:00 am, brunch to follow!

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This Week's Sermon: What Are You Waiting For?

2Peter 3.

We started this theme of waiting last week. In the Old Testament, there are many passages expressing the heart of those waiting for God to send his salvation, his Messiah. Psalm 85 gives us a picture of the waiting heart:
Psalm 85: 1 You showed favor to your land, O Lord; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. Selah ...7 Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. For this Psalmist, even though God had restored the fortunes of Jacob, there was more to be done. He is still seeking God’s salvation. And when that salvation comes, the Psalmist says:
8 I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints-- but let them not return to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land... 13 Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.

The Psalmist gives us this theme of preparing the way for the Lord. He says that Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. This theme of preparing the way for the Lord is picked up in Isaiah 40, the chapter we studied last week, it says: 3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

There was groundwork that had to be done before Christ could come the first time. Things had to be in place, which is why Galatians 4:4 tells us that “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” The earth had to be ready; the people had to be ready. God moved everything into place and then at the right time, God sent his Son into the world. John the Baptist played a role in preparing the way for Christ. Mark tells us in the very first lines of his gospel:

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"-- 3 "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.... 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Matthew and Luke say “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”)

John came telling people that they needed to repent of their sins and be baptized with water, but he pointed at the one who would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit. John was preparing the way. The Psalmist says that Righteousness goes before God’s salvation and prepares the way for his steps. Repentance and righteousness. These are the things that go before and pave the way for the work that God wants to do in each one of us. Now, all of that was just background for the text that I want to dig into this morning.

2 Peter 3:1-18
Peter is telling these dear brothers and sisters that just as the Prophets looked forward to Jesus coming the first time, to bring salvation, so we are also looking forward to Jesus coming again. The New Testament writers all tell us that there will be a day when Christ will return and judge the earth. Jesus said himself that there would be a day when people would be divided as sheep and goats before him. Those who he knew, those that did the will of his father, were on his right and entered into his rest. Those that he did not know, those that did not do the will of his father, even if they did all kinds of things that looked holy; they went on his left and entered into judgment.

Peter tells his readers that there will be people who will scoff at this teaching and ask “What’s God waiting for? Where is this ‘coming’ he was talking about?” Sound familiar? There are lots of people today who would profess to be Christians and yet don’t believe that Christ is coming again. Many of those people find setting aside that teaching allows them to live however they please. Peter says it is to follow their own evil desires. It makes sense, if you want to live your life according to your own evil lusts; it is very convenient to think that Jesus is not ever coming back. Without fear of judgment, the last barrier is taken away to keep us from destroying ourselves in our pursuit of evil. This is not the first barrier, nor is it the reason why we should serve God or live holy lives, the first reason is love. Once you pass that first reason up and are looking for excuses to do what you please, the last barrier is judgment. The problem with this outlook is that Jesus did indeed say he was coming back, and he did not give a timeline. He said that even the Son and the angels do not know the day or hour. Only God knows when everything will be in place for Christ to come again.

And why is he waiting? He wants everyone to be saved. His patience means salvation for those who hear and believe while he holds back his judgment. He is not delaying so we can party; he is delaying so we can tell more people about Christ. He is delaying so that we can grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So my question for each of us this morning is “What are you waiting for?” We have a tradition of doing New Year’s resolutions. But I don’t want us to wait until New Year’s to do our part in making a path for God to work in our lives. Repentance and Righteousness. Peter says since we are looking forward to his coming we ought to make every effort to be spotless, blameless and at peace with him. What are we waiting for? What will have to happen in our lives before we fully surrender to him? What will have to occur before we will accept his gift of salvation and let him work in our lives? How long will we put off repenting and living in step with the Spirit? How long will we wait to tell the people around us about the Good News of life in Christ?

We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to know exactly what God wants for us in the future. We don’t have to figure everything out. We just need to do what is in front of us right now. And what is here, in this moment is an opportunity to repent; an opportunity to give up what you have been holding onto; an opportunity to present yourself as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to him. I don’t want us to wait to do the things before us when there is no time to lose.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This Week's Schedule 11/23

Tuesday November 25th
- Women of Faith:Encouraging Each Other 7 pm

Wednesday November 26th--No Kid's Club

Thursday-Friday November 27th-28th--Happy Thanksgiving! Church office closed

November 30th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

Monday, November 17, 2008

This Week's Schedule 11/16

Tuesday November 18th
- Friends Women Fellowship 9:30 am at the Church
Women of Faith:Encouraging Each Other 7 pm

Wednesday November 19th- Kids Club Thanksgiving Party! 5:30pm

Thursday-Monday Pastor Charity sick leave to care for Rich post-surgery

Friday-Saturday- EFC-MA Vision Retreat, pray for clarity, unity, and productivity

November 23rd- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: God at Work Without Our Help

Acts 19:21-41.
We come into this account with Paul having been teaching in Ephesus for two years. It was starting to affect the trade in gold and silver idols, and a craftsman named Demetrius decides to do something about it. He gathers his fellow craftsmen together and gives them a nice speech about how Paul has been preaching against man-made gods and that not only will their trade suffer, but their goddess was in danger of being defamed.

Verses 23-28 say, "23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: 'Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.' 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'"

What was the main problem here? Was it that they were so concerned about their goddess being defamed, or were they more worried that they would lose business if people stopped buying their gold and silver statues? To me it seems pretty obvious that if their chief concern was blasphemy of their goddess, they would have been rioting for two years, because that is how long Paul had been speaking to people about the gospel message. They had two years to file a complaint. They had two years to confront him to his face in the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus, where he had been daily from noon to 4 for the last two years. No, to me it seems clear that their motivation here, was disruption of their commerce.

If Paul had come preaching a new god or goddess that they could immortalize in new and different gold and silver statues, these men would have been throwing a party. Instead, because their profits would suffer, they started a riot.

The craftsmen had come because they were mad that their business was down. They began shouting a mantra that would inflame people's passions. Some people got so caught up in the crowd, they didn't even know why they were there. Some people had caught up the chant, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians,” other people were shouting something entirely different!

Some from the Jewish community, probably wanting to give a defense that they were not connected with this Paul trouble-maker, pushed forward Alexander. When Alexander came forward, the crowd saw he was Jewish and began shouting, in unison this time, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for two whole hours. They had been scattered and in disarray, but when Alexander stepped forward to speak, they united in their defense of the goddess.

The problem was that the crowd knew he was Jewish, a worshiper of the One God, who did not have a face that could be carved into stone or molded and cast into metal statues. They were as much of a threat to the goddess and the craftsmen's trade as the followers of Jesus. And the crowd probably still thought of Christianity as an offshoot of Judaism. In this situation, no logical argument concerning separation of the followers of The Way and Judaism would work. In fact, discussion of religion would probably inflame them more.

Finally, the man bringing reason into this mob was the city clerk. He was probably nervous that they would all be charged with rioting. Rioting would cause a more strict enforcement of Roman rule, which meant more guards, more soldiers, more of a mess and a hassle for him. The clerk stood before the people, and calmed them down with a warning that the men brought before the mob were not guilty of any crime. He reminded them that they didn't want to be charged with rioting and directed them to the appropriate channels if there were any grievances. And then, like any good official, he assumed the authority to dismiss the crowd of rioters.

So, what is happening in this passage? Where are the great heroes of the faith doing heroic things? Why is this in here anyway? All very good questions. In this passage we see primarily what happens when culture shifts happen because of the spread of the Gospel message. It still happens today, the status quo is threatened and those with something to loose react poorly. Some craftsmen start a riot because their business is in danger. Other people pick it up because it is hard to resist a good riot. They grab Gaius and Aristarchus because they happen to be the Christians they come across.

Where are the heroes of the faith? Well, Paul is standing back pondering and debating whether he should go to the rescue of his companions. The other believers tell him no. His friends in government tell him no, don't go. So, he doesn't go. The heroes of the faith stayed home, where it was safe.

So why is this passage in here? Why tell us about the time there was a riot and Paul stayed home and no one went to rescue the others from the hands of the crowd, and no one spoke up defending the gospel message? Why? I don't know Luke's reason, but I will tell you what makes sense in light of the rest of the book. Remember way back when we started walking through Acts, how we talked about the name of the book. The book is titled Acts, which we see as the Acts of God; through the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, through miracles and signs and wonders.

I believe this story is in the book because we see God at work in spite of the fact that Paul stayed home. Because it is not what Paul does that is important, but what God does. It is an act of God that the men who were hauled to the stadium by a mob of people, some so confused they didn't know why they had come, that those Christians were not harmed. It is an act of God that the crowd was settled down and dismissed without incident. It is an act of God that the people listened to reason. And that act of God came through who? Through the City clerk, a man who was not a believer, but who God used to deliver his people safe and sound from the hands of an angry mob.

Sometimes God calls us to action. Sometimes he calls us to wait. Sometimes he saves us from harm by giving us words to say in the middle of a tense situation. Sometimes, though, in spite of no friend at hand, in spite of an impossible situation, God rescues us through an unlikely ally. The point is that every time he intervenes on our behalf, it is God alone that saves us, it is God alone who deserves our thanks, and our praise.

James tells us in the first chapter “16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He gives us every good thing in our lives, and he can be trusted to continue to care for us because he doesn't change. He doesn't wake up one morning and decide to take the day off. Jesus said he is always busy causing the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous, and causing the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. God shows his love for us whether we are following him or not by providing a world rich with resources for us to live in. He shows his care as Paul told the Athenians on the Areopagus, by orchestrating our lives--where and when we live--to give us maximum opportunity to reach out and find him.

Finally, he showed his love for us in this, that while we were still his enemies, living in opposition and rebellion against him, that he sent his son to die for us so that we would escape the death penalty and have a chance to be in right relationship with him.

We have a lot to be thankful for this morning. We have a lot to praise God for. Even if it is just that we have food, clothing, a place to live, or people that love us, we all have something for which we can be thankful to the Lord. Let's take a moment to Thank God for the things he has done for us and for who he is in his goodness and mercy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekly Schedule 11/09

Tuesday November 11th
- Elders Meeting 6:30 pm

Wednesday November 12th- Kids Club 5:30pm

November 16th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Church Thanksgiving Dinner at Noon, Come Join Us!

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: Thine is the Power

Acts 19:8-20.
In this section of scripture, we recall that Paul has returned to Ephesus, has helped to correct the “Baptism of John” confusion, and now he is settling into his normal routine of speaking in the synagogue. If you recall, when he briefly stopped in Ephesus on his way back to Jerusalem and Antioch, Paul had gone up to the synagogue and spoken with the Jewish people there. When he had to leave, they asked him to stay and he said he would be back, if God was willing. Apparently God was willing, because here we find him fulfilling his word to return and speak with them further. For three months, Paul spoke and reasoned and argued for the Gospel. After this time, there arose some who were in opposition to the message of Christ, and so Paul found somewhere else to meet.

Luke tells us that Paul began holding classes in the school of Tyrannus. We don't really know who Tyrannus was, if he just rented the space to any scholar or philosopher who wanted it, or if he was a Greek who had come to know Jesus and was a follower of “the Way.” Paul taught every day in this lecture hall, and some manuscripts even give a time-frame: from the sixth to the tenth hour. That was about from noon to four. So, if we were to follow Paul's example we would all have church meetings everyday from noon to four. Then we would all know what is in the scriptures, and we would be really solid on all our theology. That would be great, but we have to remember also, this was some of the first these people had heard of Jesus. They didn't have a copy of the Bible at their fingertips—in fact the majority of the New Testament had not even been written. So, even though they were meeting four hours everyday, we have the word of God available at all times. Don't take your Bible to work? No problem, just Google your favorite version on-line. Paul was there everyday, but it was not necessarily possible for everyone who wanted to learn to come everyday, so it probably varied from day to day who Paul was talking with about the Messiah.

In this two year period of time, God was at work doing amazing things. Luke tells us that God did extraordinary miracles through Paul—miracles that were unusual even for Paul. Luke says that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and evil spirits left them. We here of some similar claims today. I don't know that I would believe most of those claims, because Luke is telling us that these are extraordinary. I am not saying it couldn't happen, God did these miracles through Paul at that time, he could choose to do the same today. But I would imagine that Paul did not advertise and say “send off for your handkerchief touched by me and be healed.” They were events orchestrated by God, not a marketer.

We see next what happens when people try to make things happen in their own power by copying what they see as a formula for miracle making. The sons of Sceva thought they would capitalize on this new trick they had heard about. They knew that Paul was preaching the name of Jesus, and healing in that name, and even driving out demons in that name. They knew it worked for real, and they wanted to be able to use the same technique to do the same in their “Demon Busters” business. This is what they did for a living, they roamed around and cast out demons. Did it work before? I don't know, but Luke tells us that it most definitely was not working for them in this instance. They confront a man who was demon-possessed, and tell him “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, come out!” And the demon says “What? Who are you, and who do you think you are telling me what to do?”

The problem they ran into is that you cannot misrepresent in the spiritual realm. In this world you can misrepresent yourself. You can lie and tell people you have all kinds of knowledge and experience, and they may buy it hook, line and sinker, but it won't happen in the spiritual realm. Do you remember when Jesus came into the region of the Gadarenes? He met that man possessed by a legion of demons and before he said a word, the demons knew who he was and were begging him not to torture them. And remember when Paul was preaching in Philippi and the slave girl followed him for days saying, “These men are servants of the most high God, they are telling you the way to be saved.” She knew this information because of the demon possessing her and its connection to the spiritual realm. You can't fool demons.

These sons of Sceva were impersonating someone connected to Paul and Jesus. The demon said, “I know all about Jesus, and I have first hand knowledge of Paul, but who are you?” They had no authority to use Jesus name. Without that personal connection to Jesus, neither do we. Our power does not come from words or actions or ceremonies, our power comes from a personal connection to Jesus the son of God. Because the sons of Sceva were so foolish as to try to use the name of Jesus with no access to its power, everyone began taking the message of Jesus more seriously.

Even those who already believed brought their sorcery books and gave them up. This event demonstrated that power over our circumstances or other people or the spiritual realm is not found in magic and witchcraft. The only real source of power is in Jesus, and our access to that power is in a personal relationship with him through the Holy Spirit. We might be tempted to be shocked that these believers were still holding onto their sorcery books, but how many of you have read your horoscope in the paper since you believed? How many of you have a lucky charm, or are superstitious about something? I know a minister who thinks that bad things come in threes, that is superstitious. Superstition is anything we do that gives mystical power to something other than God. And it is harmful because it is a form of idolatry.

Luke tells us that the scrolls that were brought by these believers were worth fifty thousand drachmas. A drachma was a days wage for a common laborer, and 2 drachmas was the daily wage of an architect. At that rate, 50,000 drachmas would be 50,000 days wage for a laborer or 25,000 days wage for an architect. Break that down a little more and it would take one man 137 years to pay for those scrolls working every day of his life. It would take an architect only about 68 and a half years. Even if there were LOTS of people bringing these scrolls to destroy them, the money these people had spent on their superstition and sorcery was staggering! And their willingness to give up as worthless what they had spent so much for is even more staggering. Luke sums it up with these words, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”

When we let go of what we've been hanging on to, God's word spreads and his power is manifest. When we hang on to our superstitions and our idolatry, trusting in trinkets or sayings or mantras to bring us power we bind the work God wants to do in and through us. When we try to wrestle power and control from God's hands, we not only stop our growth, we put ourselves in a dangerous place. We have no power on our own. Words have no power on their own. The only power we possess is the ability to call on God and let his power do the work for us.

What are we hanging onto? Are there areas of our lives where we still demand to control and struggle to have power over? We have to let go. We have to turn our worthless things over to God; those things we've been trusting in to keep us safe or to give us what we want. If we aren't trusting in God's power, we are trusting in worthless imitations. Let's give them up. Let's lay them down, and let's allow God to have his way in us so that we can see his power truly at work in our lives.

Monday, November 3, 2008

This Week's Schedule 11/2

Monday November 3rd- Run for Missions Starts at 6:30 am at the Ministry Center!

Tuesday November 4th
- ELECTION DAY!! I don't care who you vote for, just vote your conscience!
Women of Faith Bible Study: Encouraging One Another 7:00pm

Wednesday November 5th- Kids Club 5:30pm
Game Night for all ages 6:30pm

November 9th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: Incomplete

Acts 18:18-19:7.
In this section of scripture, Paul does a lot of traveling. He leaves from Cenchrea, a port just next to Corinth. Luke tells us he made some kind of vow and cut his hair as a sign of his commitment. He travels with Priscilla and Aquila to Ephesus. There he teaches at the synagogue, probably just long enough to find a departing ship for Judea, leaving Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus. He makes his way to Jerusalem for a feast, and then back to Antioch. Luke doesn't give us very many details about what happened during his travel, although it would have probably taken him some time to accomplish it. More important than what happened with Paul on his travels is what happened back in Ephesus while he was gone.

After he leaves, a man comes to Ephesus named Apollos. He knew a lot about the scriptures, and even believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He spoke eloquently and even made some disciples. But there was something missing from Apollos' message. He was preaching that Jesus was the Christ, but he stopped at baptizing people with water for the repentance of sins. He did not go on to offer them new life in Christ, or baptize them in His name. Priscilla and Aquila take him under their wing, and give him the rest of the story. Apollos goes on to be an instrument of spreading the gospel once his theology was complete. He went on to the section of southern Greece that contained Corinth, Athens, and Sparta. This is where Paul had just come from with Priscilla and Aquila. Apollos travels there with the encouragement of those believers in Ephesus, and does a lot of good for the believers in Achaia. There he is able to argue effectively for the gospel among the Jews as Paul had been able among the Gentiles.

The next section of scripture is hotly debated by commentators throughout the centuries. I was surprised at how many different opinions there were about the precise meaning of these verses. For some they see that Apollos has been in Ephesus, and that Aquila and Priscilla have corrected his doctrine but not before he has gathered a group of disciples who have all been baptized with John's baptism of repentance. These are the ones that Paul comes upon after Apollos has gone on to Achaia. They are meeting together, they have distinguished themselves from the synagogue, they believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but they have not received his life. Paul asks if they have received the Holy Spirit, and they didn't know what he was talking about. Paul corrects their error and baptizes them in the name of Jesus, lays hands on them and they receive the Holy Spirit.

For others, who would have an issue with re-baptizing this is unacceptable. They would rather view the verses as referring entirely to John's baptism—that his baptism was the same as baptizing into the name of Christ, and so Paul only lays hands on these disciples. Others take a middle of the road opinion and say that they were re-baptized, but not by Paul he only laid hands on them after someone else re-baptized them. Still others say they were not disciples of Jesus, but only of John the Baptist. Everyone agrees, though, that not everyone baptized with John's baptism was re-baptized, in fact all of the apostles, all of the followers of John who became followers of Jesus, none of these were re-baptized. Not even Apollos himself is said to have been re-baptized.

So, why these 12 disciples who were found in Ephesus? The most honest answer to this question is “I don't know.” The commentators don't know, at best we can guess, but until we are face to face with Jesus and spot Paul walking across the golden streets can we ask him exactly what happened here in Ephesus. Frankly, I don't think the passage is meant to prescribe a certain practice, but only records what was done. Luke calls them disciples, so I believe the obvious reading of that is they were believers in Jesus. Paul seems to be making a differentiating statement when he says that John baptized with water for repentance, but told his followers to believe in the one who would come after him. If you recall John the Baptist said that the one who came after would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire. I think these men were baptized again. Maybe they wanted to be. Nowhere in scripture does it forbid baptizing someone twice, and on the other hand it doesn't recommend it either. In this case, I think the important part is that there is a difference between the baptism of John—with water and for repentance of sins, and the baptism of Christian faith—with the Holy Spirit and with power.

The way this applies to us today is this:God wants more than just your repentance. Repentance is important, it is key, but it is not everything. When John the Baptist came preaching and teaching, he baptized people for repentance of their sins. He baptized them with water, but he said that there would be one who would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire! God wants you to be repentant, but he also wants to give you life in Christ. He wants to fill you with his Holy Spirit. He wants to baptize your life with a cleansing fire, and ignite your passion for Him.

At Yearly Meeting this year, one of the speakers was Bob Adhikary. He spoke on the final day of the conference about the story of Samson and the foxes. He took foxes, tied their tails together with torches and set the torches on fire. Samson released them into the fields of the enemy, the Philistines and they burned the fields to the ground. Bob talked about how those foxes could have run through the fields of the enemy all day, and if they were not on fire, they would have done no good. The same is true for us. If we just run around in our own strength without the fire of God in our lives, we will get nothing but tired. But with the fire of God burning in us, we can take back territory the enemy has stolen.

Have you been immersed in the Holy Spirit? Are you filled with his fire? Do you have a passion for the truth of God? Do you share your faith with others? Are you willing to run into the fields of the enemy because what is in you is more powerful and consuming than your fear? If not, I encourage you to pray. Ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit in a fresh way. Don't spend another day just running to reap exhaustion, run because you are on fire and accomplish the tasks God has prepared in advance just for you. The only way we make an impact on eternity is through his power and strength. Our supply of both comes from the Holy Spirit. If you have never trusted Christ as your savior, I encourage you to ask him to come and cleanse you with his consuming fire, and to fill you with his life, eternal life starting now and going on forever. I encourage you to turn your life completely over to him so that he can take you and use you to build his kingdom.

Commentary on Acts of the Apostles —McGarvey, John William (1829-1911)
According to McGarvey the disciples Paul found were re-immersed because they had been mistakenly baptized with the no longer current baptism of John.
New Exposition of the Entire Bible — John Gill (1690-1771), modernised by Larry Pierce According to John Gill, they were not re-immersed, but that Paul was continuing his description of the baptism of John as fully congruent with Christian baptism.
Wesley's Notes on the Bible ( — Wesley, John (1703-1791)
Wesley argues that they were re-baptized, but that Paul did not do the baptism, but only laid on hands.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This Week's Schedule 10/26/2008

Tuesday October 28th-
Women of Faith Bible Study: Encouraging One Another 7:00pm

Wednesday October 29th- Kids Club 5:30

November 2nd- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Monday November 3rd- Run for Missions Starts at 6:30 am at the Ministry Center!

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
October is Missions Emphasis Month--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: Unexpected Protection

Acts 18:1-17.
We see Paul here settling into a familiar pattern of reasoning in the synagogue. He was a tentmaker, and when he came to Corinth, he met a fellow tentmaker and his wife. These people are mentioned here casually, but they become instrumental in the spread of the Gospel message. They disciple a man named Apollos and are mentioned by name in Paul's letters to the churches. When he meets them here, we don't know if they have accepted the gospel message, or even if they have heard it. Luke identifies Aquila as a Jew, not a believer, so I am inclined to believe that they were not followers of Jesus at this time.

Aquila and Priscilla were from Rome, but had to leave when Claudius, the Roman Emperor, ordered that all Jews be expelled. This puts the time of their meeting after AD 49—the earliest date given by scholars of the expulsion of Jews from Rome. They had made their way to Corinth, and here we see Paul sharing a common craft with them—tentmaking, and Luke tells us that he stayed and worked with them. So, he finds a niche in business, and settles in with friends in the Jewish community to whom he is bringing the message of the Messiah's coming.

Silas and Timothy had not caught up with Paul in Athens as planned because Paul moved on to Corinth before they got there. When they arrived, Paul was able to devote more time to preaching. Before they came, he had needed to work to provide for his physical needs and now he was free to preach and testify about Jesus. Paul did not receive a great response of faith from the Jewish community, in fact they so opposed him that he stopped reasoning with them. If we think about what Paul had been through up to this point and he continued to try to share the gospel, and here he is shaking out his robes and clearing himself of any responsibility for their lack of conversion; it must have been bad. What would they have had to do? He had already been run out of several towns, he had been stoned, and he still went back into that town. What would these Corinthians have had to do in order for Paul to give up on their salvation? He washed his hands of them and told them he was going to preach the message to the Gentiles!

Paul left the synagogue and didn't make it far, just next door. I wonder if that was just to spite the Jews in the synagogue. He left them and went next door to the house of a Gentile. But even though he was a Gentile, Titius Justus was a worshiper of God, and Paul probably met him at the synagogue. So, not only does Paul leave the Jews and go next door, not only to the house of a Gentile, but to the house of a frequent visitor to the synagogue. If I was a teenager, I'd say “Oh, snap!” Paul preached the gospel message there, and won several converts, including the leader of the synagogue, and his whole family. We had better believe that this was not acceptable to the synagogue crowd.

In spite of this situation where the message and Paul had been rejected and his moving on to the Greeks and the kind of escalating tension in Corinth between Paul and the Jewish community, God tells Paul to stay put. God had Paul in Corinth for a reason. He had him talking to these people for a reason. And he told Paul to trust him to provide protection if necessary to spread the message of the gospel to those who would receive it. “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.” These are God's commands to Paul in spite of the fact that he is facing fierce opposition. In spite of the fact that they so abused him that he told them he wasn't going to talk to them anymore. God said, “I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

God showed Paul his hand. He said, I have this one covered, you don't have to be afraid. Now for some of us, this is surprising. Why would God have to tell Paul he would protect him? Wouldn't Paul-Super Missionary know that already? Hadn't God protected him enough for Paul to just intuitively know that God was watching out for him? Maybe, but since God had to come to him in a vision, I am going to go out on a limb and say that he was not altogether confident that God was going to protect him here. He might have decided to move on because of the conflict. He had done that in the past few cities, moved on when the tension was too high. Maybe Paul was discouraged. Maybe he thought he would always be the Missionary on the run. God tells him here that he can relax and simply preach the word and trust God to protect him. Paul did, and he stayed with the Corinthian believers for a year and a half. This is the longest he has stayed anywhere except for Antioch.

When the unsettled people in the Jewish community decide to make a united attack against him, God proves his promise to Paul in an unusual way. The men brought Paul to court and made charges against him. Paul has been in places like this before and has probably been thinking about what he needs to say in his own defense, but before he can say anything, the proconsul makes a surprising statement. Gallio tells the complainants that they are wasting his time. The charges being brought, he tells them are not even a misdemeanor. They are disputes over their own law and religious practice and he refuses to hear them out. With that statement he is done with them and the trial is over. He had them thrown out of his court.

When they hit the street, the men who had come to prosecute Paul turn on their own leader and beat him up in front of the court, but Gallio ignores them. God protected Paul by means of an unconcerned Roman official, who could not be bothered by internal matters of a strange monotheistic religion. You can't get much more unexpected than that.

So what do we take home with us from this passage?

The first application we can take with us is that it is not bad to make friends and work with people who are not believers. That may seem obvious, but there are many people who avoid unbelievers like the plague. Paul lived with some. Aquila and Priscilla were just common tentmakers. Paul was too and he needed a way to supplement his income while he was separated from his travel companions. So, he stayed with them and worked with them. And guess what God did, he worked in the lives of Aquila and Priscilla to make them into a leadership training team like no other. When we encounter people who don't know Christ in the workplace or in our neighborhood, we may be tempted to shy away from them. I understand that we don't want to condone their sinful behavior or pick it up ourselves, but if we don't bear a little discomfort and reach outside of our bubble, we may miss out on the opportunity of leading them to Christ and watching them grow into their God-given potential. Don't be afraid to live and work with people who are outside the body of Christ, it may be the only way that they will become a part of it.

Another application in these verses is trusting the protection and provision of God. There may be times when we need to back off or move on from one witnessing opportunity or another, but when God is moving in your heart to do or say something, trust that he will be the one to protect you. I like to say, that when we are obedient, we can trust God to handle the consequences. Sometimes there are real consequences that are serious, like when Paul was dragged out of town and stoned at Lystra. God was able to handle those consequences. Sometimes God preempts the serious consequence like here where he stopped the trial before it started. Sometimes the consequence for sharing our faith is our very life, like Stephen testifying before the Sanhedrin. But even in that case, Luke tells us Stephen's face shone like an angel and he committed himself to the Lord, forgave those who were stoning him and fell asleep. God was able to handle those consequences as well, and you better believe there was a party going on in heaven to welcome him home.

For most of us, the consequences we face for sharing our faith have not been that serious, we may risk a friendship or a relationship with a coworker. We might face a little embarrassment, or rejection. We have got to trust God with that. He can handle the consequences of our obedience. We are in his hands, we are under his wings, we are subject to his protection. Knowing this gives us the confidence to be bold in sharing our faith, in loving the lost, and in following the Lord wherever he leads.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This Week's Schedule 10/19/2008

Tuesday October 21st-Coffee at Amanda's 9:30 am
Women of Faith Bible Study: Encouraging One Another 7:00pm

Wednesday October 22nd- Kids Club 5:30

October 26th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
October is Missions Emphasis Month--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: You are here X

Acts 17:16-34.

Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens. Luke tells us that he was distressed by the idol worship going on all around him, and Luke gives us the reason for this eclectic idolatry in verse 21- all the Athenians and foreigners spent their time doing nothing but listening to the latest ideas. Typically in this time, a region or city might have its own deity, its own god to worship. These were collected all together in the Greek and Roman Pantheons, recognized as official gods of the empire. And even though each region recognized the gods of the other regions, they didn't necessarily worship them.

Here in Athens, people came from all over to study philosophy. Athenians were so interested in new things and knowing all the various philosophies and gods that they built monuments and worshiped gods from all over. Paul had been traveling around Asia-minor, and South-eastern Europe encountering various idol-worship, but here in Athens he is surrounded by it on every side. He sticks to his usual method of evangelism and goes to the synagogue to reason with them there, but he also goes into the marketplace to preach the good news to anyone who will listen.

Paul gets quite a lot of attention by preaching in the marketplace, because all of the philosophers gathered there to discuss and debate their particular philosophies. To them, Paul is just another philosopher with his own thoughts and ideas to share. But what he is teaching is beyond their typical range of discussion. He is talking about one supreme God and the idea that this Jesus person was his son, and about the concept of resurrection and life after death. They didn't get this conglomeration of ideas and philosophies. It is not that they hadn't thought of each idea separately, but all together, they didn't know what to do with them. So after much debate, they bring Paul before the Areopagus.

Now, not being ancient Greek scholars, most of us don't know who the Areopagus was. I am not even sure that most bibles have foot-notes telling us what the Areopagus was. Anybody have footnotes about the Areopagus? This was a hill that was used by the Council of Areopagus for their meetings, and it had a series of step-seats that the council sat on to hear cases brought before them. The Greek is kind of ambiguous, so we don't know if they took him to this place to talk so that they could all hear him and ask questions of him at once, or if they brought him to an actual meeting of the Areopagus council. The council was the original system of government in Athens, the Elders of the city used to meet to bring justice. They were the governing body until the Romans took over, but in Paul's time they still heard some cases. Depending on the translator's view of the Greek, you will have either that the philosophers brought him to the hill or to a meeting of the council in your version of the bible. I don't think it matters too much either way, because the council really only heard cases of murder or corruption, and Paul was not being charged with either. It would simply be a matter of how many men heard his message on that day.

Paul stands before the people who have gathered to hear his message, and he tells them that they are horrible sinners going to hell...No, he does not. He stands before them and commends them for being so religious! What? It seems counterintuitive for most of us who have been steeped in the idea that in order to evangelize one must first point out how bad the other person is and how they are headed for the hot place if they don't get it right. But here, we have Paul setting a different kind of example. He comes to this city of Athens and is in distress over their idolatry, so we know that he is not accepting their sinfulness, but that is not where he starts. Remember last week we talked about Paul debating the life of the Messiah in the synagogue? Well here he is giving a philosopher's presentation in a way that will be heard and understood by his audience. And he starts not with their evilness, but with their virtue. He tells them, I was walking around and among your objects of worship and devotion, and I couldn't help but notice how uncommonly religious you are. He starts with their strengths. And in that strength, he finds an open door to present the gospel. He says that they are so religious and don't want to leave out any god, that they even have a monument to the unknown god.

It is through the avenue of their interest in finding all the gods and honoring them that Paul finds an opening to present them with the good news that the Creator of the universe has set everything up—all our lives, where we live, where we are born, what we see—just so we might reach out to grope for him in the darkness and find him. In him we live and move and have our being—which would have upset the stoics who believed the opposite that “god” had his being in all things. Paul tells them, from the sayings of their own pagan philosophers that if we are God's offspring, he obviously is not made of wood, stone, or metal. He sets out the basics of who God is, and who he is not.

Then Paul tells them that in the past, God had tolerated this ignorance of who he is and his basic nature, but now God wants people everywhere to repent. The Greek word here is metanoia, literally “to think afterward.” It means to realize that what was before was in error, and in the case of the teachings of Jesus to allow that realization to change the rest of one's life. In this context it would have held a kind of double meaning, Paul was talking about their ignorance, and now he tells them God wants them to return to wisdom, to knowledge and realize their former ignorance. God, Paul tells them, has given the authority of judgment on those who do not come to this repentance to his representative—Jesus, proven by his death and resurrection. That last statement both turned some off and others onto this message that Paul was teaching.

While some disregarded him, there were others who wanted to hear more, and there were some who took what he said to heart and became believers. One of those who believed was a member of this Areopagus council, a man of status and prestige. Another convert given by name is Damaris, a woman who may have been an educated lady allowed to help the Areopagus council and listen to their debates. Both of these converts would have been important because they were not uneducated or ignorant people, but those who held positions of authority in this community. Conversions like theirs set the stage for Christianity becoming an acceptable faith in Greece and Rome.

So what do we take from this passage of scripture? I think there are several applications we can take and make a part of our everyday lives. One that stands out to me is that evangelism does not always have to be aggressive and condemning. I find that many people struggle with feeling like they can evangelize because they don't have aggressive personalities. In this chapter, though, we find Paul starting not with a confrontation, but a commendation. He starts by saying to the Athenians, just like a map in a park or a mall “You are here X.” Maybe the people in your life need someone just like you, with a mild personality who can love them and gently say I notice this is where you seem to be in the area of religion and spirituality—and take it from there. We have to first understand where people are in order to give them directions to where they need to go. Too often, people are given a map and told, you need to find Jesus. Without that little help of a “You are here X,” they may not know where to start.

I believe another application from this passage is that we need to not be discouraged by those who reject the message of the gospel. I am so glad that Jesus did not tell his followers to go and make X-number of converts. NO, he told them, go and make disciples. No numerical requirement. Paul preached before these people, and many scoffed at what he had to say. Not just didn't believe, but openly mocked him. That wasn't important, though. Luke doesn't tell us the names of those who scoffed and scorned, instead he tells us of two who particularly strongly embraced the gospel. We may share the gospel, our faith, our testimony with many who will reject it and us. What we need to realize, though, is that there will be some who will take it to heart. And even some of those who initially reject Christianity may still come to Christ at a later time. Paul tells us in Galatians 6:9 not to get discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.

I encourage you not to give up. Let God use you to reach out to those around you. Don't get bogged down with thoughts of how evangelism has to look. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would give us words to say as we testify about him even before kings. If that is true, how much more will he give us words to say as we testify to those we love and hold dear in our everyday lives. And if you experience rejection of the gospel message, don't take it to heart, Jesus said there are some who will reject us just like they rejected him. Take it as proof of your discipleship to him, and draw strength from him to continue so that you will reap a harvest at just the right time—Don't give up.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This Week's Schedule 10/12/2008

Tuesday October 14th-No activities

Wednesday October 8th- NO Kids Club
Elder's Meeting 6:30

October 19th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
October is Missions Emphasis Month--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: A tale of two cities

Acts 17:1-15.
In these verses, we see Paul and company travel to two cities: Thessalonica and Berea. Both cities have large enough Jewish communities to have synagogues, in both Paul reasons with the people about the Messiah, both produce some believers, both have riots in town because of the missionaries' work. But one city is commended over the other. So what made the difference?

Luke tells us that Paul spent three weeks reasoning and debating with the Thessalonians about the Messiah, and what his life would be like. Specifically, he talked about the sufffering of the Messiah, that he would have to die and be raised to life. After debating these points for three weeks, he comes to his conclusion: This Messiah is Jesus. There were some Jews who believed, some God-fearing Greeks, and some Greek women accepted this message as well. As a result of these conversions, there were some in the Jewish community who felt threatened, and decided to make a public protest by starting a riot.

The mob stormed the house where Paul and company had been staying, and dragged off the owner of the house, Jason, and some other believers. They threw them before the town authorities charging them with honoring another king besides Caesar. The men were fined and let go, but it was enough of a scare that they sent the missionaries on to their next destination under cover of night.

When they came to Berea, Luke tells us they went right to the synagogue and began their evangelizing efforts anew. Here is where we see the distinction in the two towns, Luke tells us that the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians because they embraced the teaching with joy and began to diligently search the scriptures daily to confirm the teaching that Paul had given them.

As a result of their reaction to the gospel message, many Jews believed, many prominent women, and even some Greek men came to faith. The different reaction brought about an abundant harvest in the lives of the Bereans.

We need to ask ourselves: Do we receive teaching with Joy? and Do we search the scriptures diligently to see if what is being taught is the Truth of God? These two can make the difference between barren lives, lives bearing little fruit, and lives producing fruit abundantly. They accepted the teaching with Joy because they were seeking to learn the things of God. They did not think that they had arrived at the place in their lives where they did not need to learn any more. They recognized that God still had things to teach them. Notice, though, that these Bereans did not just absorb what was taught, they diligently searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true. We have to do the same if we want to see fruit in our lives.

We need to be humble enough to seek the things of God and learn what we are still lacking. We also need to be concerned enough to diligently seek whether what we are learning is the Truth. That applies to every teaching we receive, not just from Bible teachers we don't know, but even our Sunday School teachers, even our Ministers! I invite you to search the scriptures to see if what I tell you is the Truth of God. If it is not, I invite you to tell me, so that I can get it right as well! This is how we will grow in the knowledge of the things of God, His Truth; and that knowledge leads to greater growth of His Fruit in our lives which can spill over into the lives of others around us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

This Week's Schedule 10/5/2008

Tuesday October 7th-
Women of Faith: Encouraging One Another 7:00 pm

Wednesday October 8th- Kids Club 5:30-6:30
Game Night for All Ages 6:30pm

October 12th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
October is Missions Emphasis Month--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: The Key to Freedom

Acts 16:16-40.
The slave girl who was trapped in bondage to demon possession and her owners were gaining a profit from her spiritual bondage. She had the ability to tell fortunes because of her demon possession, and as a result of this she knows that Paul and Silas are there to tell people about Jesus. She follows them around for several days, shouting to the crowds, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Nowhere in scripture does it say that fortune-telling doesn’t work. Sometimes it does, and that is the worst kind. In order to gain knowledge of what is happening in the spiritual realm, people expose themselves to demonic oppression, or even possession as in this case.

The slave girl knew that they were servants of the Most High God because the demon inside her knew. I don’t know why she followed them for several days announcing this information to the crowds. I can’t think of any reason why the demon that was possessing her would want to do this. The only reason I can think of for her to follow these men, shouting their allegiance to God and their purpose in telling people how to be saved was because even in her place of bondage, she knew they could help her. Luke tells us she followed them until Paul got so bothered, that he turned and cast the demon out of her. He was tormented by the fact that she was in such bondage that even though she obviously knew the truth, she was unable to ask them for help. Paul turns around and casts out the demon without being asked. And by doing so, he makes her owners and many other people angry.

A mob drags Peter and Silas to the marketplace where they are thrown before the magistrates. The authorities have them whipped and jailed with no trial, no chance for them to give a defense. It is understandable when you know the situation they were in. Remember last week we talked about how Philippi was a Roman colony. Well, in Rome at that time, their pantheon of gods had grown so large that they did not want any other gods added to it. They made a law forbidding the introduction of any new god. The Jews were already seen as suspicious people because they didn’t participate in the worship of many gods, but only one God. So bringing these men in to the authorities and saying that they were Jews, they were already on the watch list. Then saying that they were introducing new religious customs that were not acceptable under Roman law, the deal was sealed. According to the laws of the times, if they were guilty of the charges, they received their just penalty.

They were handed over to the jailor, who added to their discomfort by throwing them in the inner jail—no windows or fresh air, and putting their feet in stocks. So what was the response of Paul and Silas? Did they respond like typical prisoners, banging on the bars, yelling obscenities, begging for legal representation, or demanding their rights? Did they react with anger, hopelessness, sadness, despair? No. They sat in their chains reciting psalms and singing hymns. One commentator said he thought they probably recited Paschal or Passover hymns that come from Psalm 113-118. I don’t know if these were the songs they were singing in the middle of the night, but it sure would have been awesome to hear, “Tremble, O earth at the presence of the Lord!” and then to feel the earth shake! Paul and Silas had freedom that night, before their chains were broken. They were already free in the Lord. The chains falling off and their freedom the next day were just a bonus.

As they praised the Lord, and all their jail-mates listened, the ground shook, and their chains fell off, and their doors opened. And no one moved. The poor jailor was about to commit suicide rather than face death at the hands of the authorities when they found out that all the prisoners had escaped on his watch. I don’t know how Paul knew that the man had a sword out and was going to do himself in, but somehow he did, and he yelled from his cell that they were all in their places. No one had left. In my mind, I can’t decide which is the greater miracle—the chains and the doors, or that somehow without being told, the prisoners all stayed in their places.

Whichever is the greater miracle it is the last one that makes the jailor sit up and pay attention. When he knows that the prisoners are still there, he also knows that his life has been saved, and having already heard all about the girl who was yelling that these men came to tell people the way of salvation, he throws himself at their feet and asks how he can be saved. The answer that Paul gives him may have been one of the greatest shocks of his life. As a pagan who had made sacrifices to the multitude of pagan gods that the Romans followed, I imagine that this jailor was shocked to hear that the gift of eternal life was free. All that was required of him, and anyone else who wants that life, was belief. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Not only was this offer for the jailor, but all in his household who would believe as well.

The jailor’s family gathered around to hear the gospel message and after the jailor had cleaned their wounds with water, each believing member of the jailor’s household was baptized symbolizing the cleaning that had happened in their hearts. Now Paul and Silas were no longer treated as prisoners, but like members of the family as food was laid out for a midnight meal. The jailor’s heart was filled with joy, because he had come to believe in God, and so had his whole family.

There are three stories of deliverance in this chapter. So often, when we hear the Sunday school lesson, the emphasis is on the miraculous release from jail. We see God at work bringing both physical and spiritual freedom in this chapter, but this morning I believe the more important liberations are spiritual. The slave girl was released from her demon-possession, and was no longer exploited in that way, but she was still a slave. Paul and Silas had already been released from the bondage of despair after their imprisonment and flogging, even before their chains fell off. Yes, Paul and Silas were released from their chains, but even if they hadn’t, they would have been ok, because they knew in their hearts that the power of God giving them eternal life was greater than any earthly punishment. The jailor was given new life, he and his whole family, although he was still the jailor and dependent on the Roman government for his survival.

Sometimes God grants us physical freedom, but at all times, it is more important for us to receive spiritual release from bondage. Because of our new life in Christ, we may not be able to change every unpleasant or difficult circumstance, but we can live and walk through those circumstances with victory. We can and should ask God to help us in our circumstances, but whatever his plan for our deliverance, you can be sure that we can praise the God who gives us victory in all our life situations through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This Week's Schedule 9/28/2008

Tuesday September 30th-

Wednesday October 1st- Kids Club 5:30-6:30

October 5th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
October is Missions Emphasis Month--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: God at Work through Math

Acts 15-16:15.
Division- Paul and Barnabas have a sharp disagreement over taking John-Mark with them on a journey to encourage the new churches they just planted. They come to such an impasse that they must go their separate ways. Many have tried to determine who was at fault, but it seems that the most likely answer to that question is: No one.
Paul and Barnabas were two very different people with two different purposes and personalities. Barnabas was a man who continually put his own reputation on the line in order to bring those on the fringe with much potential for ministry into spiritual maturity. We saw him do this with Paul, now he is doing the same for John-Mark.
Paul is a man with a single-minded mission to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. He can not risk mutiny in his mission team interfering with spreading the good news.
So their division is not sinful, but a natural result of two different people coming to a place where their mission and ministry requires that they part ways. And they were not enemies after this, in fact Paul speaks of Barnabas later with great respect, and even calls for John-Mark to come to his aid when he is imprisoned.

Addition- Because of their separation, Paul takes Silas, and Barnabas takes John, and they both set out to encourage the churches and continue to spread the gospel. There is an addition to the ministry teams that are at work. Now instead of one two-man team, there are now two two-man teams preaching and encouraging.
As he and Silas travel, Paul is impressed with Timothy, a young man in Lystra. They add him to their ministry team as well. Now, because of the addition of new members, the ministry teams have five preaching, teaching and encouraging.
In order for Timothy to be able to teach in the Synagogues, they circumcised him. This was not an issue of his salvation, simply an issue of conforming to cultural norms in order to reach those to whom God sent them to preach the gospel.

Multiplication- As the ministry team of Paul, Silas and Timothy (and in these verses Luke shows up with a "we" statement) are traveling to Asia, God turns them around and shows them that at this time the gospel is needed in Macedonia. God gives Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia crying out for help. They are obedient to go, and God rewards them with new converts, including a merchant woman named Lydia.

From these verses we learn that not every conflict is a result of sin. Sometimes issues arise because people need to move in two separate directions. As a result of Paul and Barnabas splitting up, they covered more ground and trained new leaders. We also learn that sometimes in ministering to those God has called us to, we must conform to aspects of their culture (that are not sinful in themselves) in order to reach them with the good news. Another lesson is that wherever we go, we know God is working there ahead of us to prepare the way. When Paul and his team came to Philippi, God directed them to Lydia who heard and responded to the gospel and then insisted that they allow her to provide hospitality for them while they were in the area.

As a result of the division, addition, and multiplication in these verses we have the foundation and background of four of the most influential New Testament writings: Galatians, Philippians, and I&II Timothy. And through it all we see God at work, building his kingdom and strengthening his church.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This week's schedule 9/21

Tuesday September 23rd- Friends Women 9:30 am

Wednesday September 24th- Kids Club 5:30-6:30

September 28th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This Week's Schedule 9/14/2008

Tuesday September 16th- Coffee at Amanda's 9:30 am
NO DIG INTO THE SERMON GROUP, will resume next week

Pastor will be out of town Tuesday through Sunday

Wednesday September 17th- Kids Club 5:30-6:30

Friday-Sunday- Friends Women's Retreat in Wichita

September 21st- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.

This week's sermon: Acts 15 Circumcision and Salvation

Acts 15.

Paul and Barnabas are settled back in Antioh, and there came some men from an outside group to tell the gentile converts that they not only needed to follow Jesus, they must also follow Moses in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas argued with these men, but the church there in Antioch realized this was a big issue. It needed to be discussed by more than just a few believers, and taken to the most authoritative gathering of believers, which at that time was in Jerusalem. So the church sent Paul and Barnabas along with some others to go and seek further counsel on the matter of circumcision and salvation.

I find it interesting that as they traveled to Jerusalem, they stopped in every town where there were believers and shared testimony of what God was doing in bringing gentiles to faith in Jesus. And as they arrive in Jerusalem, they begin the conversation with praising God for what he had done through them to reach the lost. They didn't start by coming in all angry and contentious, looking for a fight, they came in doing what each of us should do when we are faced with difficulty, they gave testimony to God at work in their lives.

Paul and Barnabas let the opposition bring up the issue of circumcision and salvation. They came praising God, and someone from a Pharisee tradition—which Paul had also followed devoutly before his conversion, stood up and in one sentence, discounted all of the great things Paul and Barnabas were praising God for. Can you imagine? Someone comes in praising God for working in their lives to bring others to Christ, and someone else saying, “They aren't really saved unless they God's grace.” It seems outrageous to us, but people do it all the time. We say we are saved by grace, through faith and that it is a gift from God; then when someone actually takes those words literally, we tack on a list of our own pet rules that people have to follow in order to gain salvation. Don't get me wrong, there is a big difference between what is required for salvation and what is required to maintain and grow in our faith. Just like there is a difference between what it takes for there to be a new life and what it takes to keep that life going. Today it we often see added something like God's grace plus baptism, or God's grace plus church membership, or God's grace plus doing good things in order to gain salvation. For them, the original addition to God's grace was converting to Judaism and following the law of Moses, particularly circumcision.

Peter doesn't lay out a theological argument here, although he does that in many other places. Instead he simply appeals to each person sitting in the assembly. He asks them why they think the law of Moses, which they have already admitted was not effective for salvation in their lives, why that law would affect the salvation of another. And above their judgment, he calls on God's testimony to their conversion in that they had also received the Holy Spirit. If their salvation was incomplete or not real, why would God confirm it with the gift of the Holy Spirit?

James agree that the Gentiles need not convert to Judaism in order to be saved. In fact they also don't put all kinds of rules on them to follow in maintaining their new life in Christ. I love the way James puts it, “why should we make things more difficult for them? They are already turning to God.” So the general rules they propose are to keep accord between Jewish and Gentile believers, they are also an echo of the very first commands God gives to Noah after the flood. They are basic guidelines for living a life glorifying to God.

The first is to not encourage and engage in idolatrous practices. Meat sacrificed to idols was often sold in the marketplace, sometimes it was eaten as part of a ritual celebrating or invoking the idol. It seems obvious why one who does not believe in the power of idols to offer salvation would avoid supporting the system of idolatry with their money and why they would not want to engage in anything resembling an idolatrous ceremony. The second guideline is that they abstain from sexual immorality. That might seem obvious to us as well, but it was not seen as a bad thing in Greek society. In fact it could help one gain power and position. It makes sense that someone who puts their trust in God to provide for their needs that they would put aside empty pleasure in exchange for eternal pleasure. The third guideline is to abstain from meat of strangled animals which directly relates to the final admonition to abstain from blood. There is some discussion as to whether the abstaining from blood means not eating blood or not taking life. Either way, the point is to respect the life that God gives and not try to claim power over that life by consuming blood or by killing those we are trying to reach with the gospel.

These guidelines bring relief and hope to the gentile brothers. Their salvation is confirmed by the brothers in Jerusalem, and they have not been given an impossible list of rules to abide by. And I want to emphasize that in the letter, the brothers tell them the gentile believer will do well to avoid these four things, they do not make them a condition of their salvation, but a result of a desire to continue to do well in the faith.

I want us to ask ourselves what it is we are most likely to add to the gospel message. Are their subtle or even blatant requirements we are heaping on the backs of others, telling them that these things are required for salvation? Have we let someone else convince us that we have to add something of our own in order to gain salvation? Yes, we have to make a choice to believe and follow, but if we add onto that we are saying that God's grace is not enough. Or perhaps even worse, that God's grace is not free. Once we choose to accept the gift of salvation, we will find there are many things we are no longer free to do. Most if not all of these things have obvious reasons why we should give them up. They are not a condition of our salvation, but continuing in those practices damages and destroys the life that God has given us in Christ.

We cannot expect to maintain life when we are constantly feeding it the things of death. We cannot follow Christ and continue to worship idols. We cannot follow Christ and continue to practice sexual immorality. We cannot claim to believe that God holds the power of life, while trying to gain that power in the pagan practice of drinking blood. They are contrary to the faith we profess just like poison is contrary to health and life.

Monday, September 8, 2008

This Week's Schedule 9/7/2008

Tuesday September 9th- Elders Meeting 7:00pm

Wednesday September 10th- Kids Club 5:30-6:30
Game Night for ALL Ages 6:30 pm

September 14th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for: Dorothy J's family; Galen and Cordelia (and Karen); Ray V.'s Family; Nellie's sister Mardellya recovery from a bad fall; Cloyce T. recovery from open heart surgery; Raymond V's health; TJ (Bobbi's daughter) and husband Craig!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This week's sermon: Acts 14-Hardships, Healing, and Humility

Acts 14.
We see God at work in this chapter in the midst of hardships and persecution to strengthen the missionaries, and to reach those who have never heard. We see God at work healing those who are sick, proving himself through miracles, and closing the gap between the Jews and Gentiles. We see God working in Paul and Barnabas to bring humility even when others want to give them the status of gods. They complete their mission to take the good news of the gospel to the provinces of Asia and the Gentiles, and return to Antioch rejoicing and praising God for the great things they have seen him do as they were faithful to preach the message of salvation to those who would believe.

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Week's Sermon: Branching Out and Prodigal Son Syndrome

Acts 13:13-52.
Paul and Barnabas continue to spread the gospel as they travel and stop for a time in Pisidian Antioch. There they share the gospel message with those in the local synagogue. At first, their message seems to be well-received, or at least tolerated by those in attendance. They are even invited to return the next Sabbath to share more.

When they return, word has spread about the message of hope they bring: reconciliation and justification before God. So many people show up at the synagogue that Luke tells us almost the whole town came to hear what they had to say. This is where the Prodigal Son Syndrome rears it's ugly head. Those Jews who were part of the synagogue were jealous because the message was being shared now with gentiles. They had accepted the message the week before when it was just for them, now they were angry and spoke abusively against Paul and Barnabas.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells us the older brother had a similar reaction when the Father asked him to join a party celebrating the return of the younger brother. The older brother had spent all of his life doing what the father had wanted him to do, but never realized that the heart of the father was to bring home the lost prodigal. The Jews in this story are in the same situation. They are God's chosen people, and they have spent the last thousand years following God's instructions, but they never saw that what the Father wanted was for them to "be a light unto the gentiles." God wanted to use them to reach out to those who were in darkness. Now that the message has been shared with the gentiles, an open door to justification before God without the requirements of the Law, they are furious. Their "it's not fair" button has been triggered.

We are in danger of developing Prodigal Son Syndrome, where we see the prodigal son in everyone except ourselves. We begin to believe that we deserve God's love and we have earned his favor. The truth is that we can only come to God because of his grace. The Jew's did not choose to seek God any more than the brothers in the parable chose to be born to that father. God chose the Jews to be his people, a light to the gentiles, the ones through whom the whole earth would be blessed. We have this blessing in Christ Jesus, who came through the Jewish nation. We have the truth of his offer of salvation to all who would believe. We are the sons and daughters of God through his grace. Let's not fall into the trap of believing that our only purpose is to preserve our position or to work to deserve God's favor. Our purpose as his children is to bring home our lost brothers and sisters.

How do we avoid the Prodigal Son Syndrome? By pressing in to the heart of God, so that his heart's desires are our heart's desires. We need to draw so close to him that our hearts beat in rhythm with his. His heart is that none should perish, our heart needs to beat with that same passion for the lost. God has not been stingy in extending his grace to us, let us not be stingy in offering that grace to others in Jesus.

This Week's Schedule 8/24/2008

Tuesday August 26th- Friends Women Sewing Day! 9:00 am
Dig Into the Sermon 7:00pm

Friday-Monday- Family Camp @ Quaker Haven

August 31th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for: Dorothy J's family; Galen and Cordelia (and Karen); Ray V. of Newton; Raymond V's health; TJ (Bobbi's daughter) and husband Craig; And all our kids & teachers for the new school year, the Christian school starts Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Weekly Schedule 8/17/2008

Tuesday August 19th- Coffee at Amanda's 9:30 am
Dig Into the Sermon 7:00pm

August 24th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for: Dorothy J's family; Galen and Cordelia (and Karen); Ray V. of Newton; Raymond V's health; And all our kids & teachers for the new school year, the Christian school starts Wednesday!