Monday, June 30, 2008

Weekly Schedule 6/29

Tuesday July 1st- Dig Into the Sermon 7:00 pm

Friday July 4th-
Church Fellowship Get together!
6:30-ish on the parsonage lawn
Bring meat to grill, a side to share, and a chair to sit on!

Sunday July 6th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

Membership Class- 6:00 pm, for more information call Pastor Charity

This week's sermon: Philip on the Fly

Acts 8:26-40.
Philip has just been fleeing persecution. Fear was his motive for travel, but God used that travel time to grow the Kingdom of Heaven in Samaria. Here Philip’s motivation for travel changes and he goes from being a fleeing food service worker to being an evangelist. An angel of the Lord, God’s messenger came to Philip and told him to go south to the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. He may have even had to go through Jerusalem, or pretty close to it, to get to this new road. Now he is on the road, not running away from trouble, but running toward his mission to share the gospel.

Out of all the people he met on the road, the Holy Spirit directs him to one of the most important people he will ever meet. This is the man in charge of all of Candace’s—the Queen of Ethiopia’s—money! Before this, Philip had been sharing the gospel with people like himself, everyday people. He had been preaching to the Samaritans, who it could be argued he felt were beneath him. God had directed him to go South on the road to Gaza, and he obeyed. He traveled possibly as much as 30-40 miles to get to this point. So here he is on the road to Gaza and God says, go up to that chariot and keep pace with it. This was not a parked chariot; it was going down the road. Philip had to catch up to it, and run beside it. And in spite of the fact that he had probably never spoken to anyone of this social level before, he obeyed.

Can you imagine for a moment all of the elements that would have had to come together in order for Philip to happen upon this Ethiopian? The man just happened to be a Jew or at least a Gentile who was convinced of the existence and supremacy of the Jewish God. We know this because he was coming back from having worshipped at Jerusalem. When Philip comes up to his chariot he just happened to be reading scripture, and he just happened to be reading Isaiah, and in Isaiah he just happened to be at the passage that describes Jesus being led like a sheep to the slaughter. In order for all this to be timed perfectly, Philip would have had to leave the place he was staying at just the right time, and he would have had to walk at just the right pace. All of these things had to come together in order for Philip to share the gospel that day with the man who would take the good news all the way to Ethiopia. So, either this day was the greatest coincidence in history, or the God of the universe was at work to bring about his will.

The Ethiopian responded to the gospel message and was so eager to accept this gift of God and proclaim his newfound faith that he pointed to some water at the side of the road. They stopped and Philip baptized him. After they came out of the water, the Holy Spirit took Philip away, and the Ethiopian never saw him again. Philip had accomplished the task that God had set for him that day with the Ethiopian, and it was time to continue spreading the word of the gospel to the ends of the earth. The Ethiopian took the Truth with him back to Ethiopia and no doubt in his joy he spread the word.

Philip ended up in Azotus, which is about 30 miles from Jerusalem and about halfway between Joppa and Gaza. We don’t know if he was taken ahead of the Ethiopian along the road, or if the Ethiopian was further south on the road to Gaza. What we do know is that Philip started in Azotus, three miles from the Mediterranean and worked his way over 60 miles north and east up the coast until he got to Caesarea. He went from town to town, no longer running from anything, preaching the gospel in each town he entered. It is this story that earns him the name Philip the Evangelist. He is now completely surrendered to God’s plan for him. He is preaching the gospel to anyone who will listen. He has proven to himself that he can preach to people both above and below him on the social ladder and that God will produce fruit.

Sometimes I think we don’t give God enough credit for carrying out his mission. We think it is up to us to carry out our plan of evangelism on God’s behalf. In this story, if Philip had tried to strategically preach the gospel to those most likely to listen to him, if he had taken focus groups to see the best method of sharing the good news, if he had tried to plan the most expedient route to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, he would have missed God’s opportunity. Too often we think it is up to us to decide who needs to hear the gospel, where we should go and how we should go about telling others about Christ. With Philip, and indeed with all of those we will read about in Acts and the New Testament, God determined who, what, when, and where. And in fact later we will read about how Paul wanted to go a certain place and the Holy Spirit would not let him. We have to allow God to be the director of our outreach both as a church and as individuals. That does not mean that we sit around doing nothing.

Was Philip just sitting and waiting for a neon sign before doing anything? No, he was fleeing persecution and ended up in Samaria. While he was there, he shared the gospel. He continued to share the gospel there until God told him to go somewhere else. Philip wasn’t inactive, and I don’t think we should be either. We need to focus on sharing the gospel with those God has already put in our lives. Share the good news with those you meet everyday and right where you are. Most of us haven’t taken that risk. We haven’t reached out to those closest to us with the gospel. Why do we think we are ready to reach out beyond that circle? If we will share with those around us right now, then when it is time for something else, God will let us know. He will reveal to us who we need to share the gospel with—those who are most prepared to accept it. He will show us where and when—when we need an organized outreach he’ll show us the best way. He will also help us with how to best share the gospel. Remember Philip could not have arranged for the Ethiopian to be reading a messianic prophecy when they met. God did that, and opened the door wide for Philip to share from the scriptures the testimony of the prophets about who the Christ would be and how Jesus fulfilled those prophecies. The only way that happened was by the power of God at work, and Philip’s willingness to be obedient.

For Philip obedience was the only role he had to fulfill. Philip was obedient to do everything that God asked him, even if it didn’t make much sense. It didn’t make sense to just go walk on a certain road without a destination. It didn’t make sense to go run alongside a chariot. It didn’t make sense to talk to someone so powerful about something that people were getting drug off to jail for back home. It didn’t make sense to find himself suddenly not where he was with the Ethiopian, but in Azotus up the coast. It just didn’t make rational sense. But Philip didn’t argue with God, instead he had a heart attitude of obedience. He followed God’s directions, and because of that obedience God sent his message to the East Coast of Africa.

If there are three things to take with you today, take these: 1. Obey God in your everyday life; 2. Share the gospel with those around you; and 3. Trust God to lead us as individuals and as a church body how to reach out beyond that everyday circle of acquaintances to reach the world with the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You may be surprised at what comes of God’s power at work through our obedience.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekly Schedule 6/22

Tuesday June 24th- Friends Women Fellowship 9:30 am at the church.
Dig Into the Sermon 7:00 pm

June 25th-
No Kid's Club

Friday June 27th-
Bilingual Vacation Bible School!
Our theme is the power of prayer!
9:30 am - 3:30 pm
For ALL kids ages 3-12
Breakfast and Lunch provided

Sunday June 29th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

Membership Class- 6:00 pm, for more information call Pastor Charity

This week's sermon: Not For Sale

Acts 8:1-25.
Stephen’s death, and in particular his prayer made a big impact on Saul, and later when he was called Paul it was something he never forgot. But immediately after the death of Stephen, Saul takes this experience and uses it to fuel a wave of persecution against the early church. Luke tells us in verse three that he set out to destroy the church. He went door to door looking for people to drag out and make an example of. And his passion to punish and destroy burned so greatly that he not only persecuted the men of the church, he dragged off both men and women who followed the teachings of Jesus and threw them in jail.

Many people were scattered, fleeing from the persecution. But in the face of this persecution, God accomplished his purpose. In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus tells his disciples again that they are going to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. He had a purpose for his gospel to spread, and up until this point, the new church had stuck close to home. God used this wave of persecution to spread those who had experienced his saving grace throughout the known world. Time and time again through history, God has used the enemy’s efforts to destroy his church to fuel its growth. As people were scattered, they spread the gospel message. They preached the word wherever they went, and as a result they fulfilled Jesus statement that they were going to be his witnesses through all the earth. Our main focus today is what happened with one believer who fled and took the gospel with him.

Philip is the same man who was among the seven appointed to take care of the widow’s distribution (Acts 6:5). He fled from the persecution and ended up in Samaria. The Samaritans and Jews were at odds as to how they were to go about worshipping God. If you remember the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, She summed it up nicely when she said, “Our Father’s worshipped on this mountain, but the Jews say we must worship in Jerusalem.” Samaritans practiced a mixture of Jewish religion and superstitious idolatry. They had been outcast and not allowed to join with the Jews in temple worship since they returned from the Babylonian Captivity. So, they established their own place of worship which was atop this mountain—Mount Gerizim.

Jews did not associate with the Samaritans, so for Philip to go there and to preach the gospel was very much out of his comfort zone. But as he went out of Jerusalem and into Samaria, he did exactly what Jesus had spoken about in his final instructions to his disciples. Philip brought the message of the gospel with him as well as the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave not only the words of life, but the power to live to those who were ill, crippled, paralyzed, and demon possessed. And he was greeted with Joy.

People were glad he came. They had been hungry for the truth. The Samaritan woman at the well had responded with incredible enthusiasm to Jesus announcing himself to her as messiah, and here her people are rejoicing in the message of resurrection and hope, and the healing of those who had been sick. The people accepted his message, even though it was a drastic departure from their common practice. There was a man in Samaria named Simon. He had been practicing sorcery and amazing people with all the things he could do through his own power. He traveled around, and because of these great feats, he was given respect, and he gained a big head. He received compliments, but he also boasted about his own abilities.

The key to understanding just how incredible his actions were, look very closely at what people say about him in verse 10. He is the divine power known as the great power. They said, this man is God. They were convinced of his divinity, and they followed him. The big change comes when they hear the message of the gospel and see the REAL power of God. They believe the gospel and they are baptized to show their changed faith. And here is something amazing, the man who had boasted that he was someone and even allowed people to put him on the same level as God, he believed and was baptized as well. He left his life of sorcery and began to follow Philip and he was amazed at the things that Philip could do for others in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The apostles sent Philip some reinforcements and Peter and John came to meet the new believers. When they got there, the believers had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit and so they prayed for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. Apparently Simon missed that part of the action—the prayer part. All he saw was the apostles laying hands on people and conveying the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, that initial awe at the gospel message and coming face-to-face with the REAL power of God are overcome by the thought that he would really like to be able to bestow the Holy Spirit on others as well.

Some people have speculated about Simon’s faith because of his actions in this account. Did he really believe? Was he just faking it to join in the newest faith fad? Was he impressed at seeing true miracles that he could not perform and curios as to how they were happening? We don’t know for sure, except to say that Philip who preached the gospel message was convinced of his faith enough to baptize him, even knowing his background. Luke was convinced enough to tell us that he did believe and that he was baptized to demonstrate his faith. How far that faith had penetrated in the short time it took for the apostles to send representatives, we don’t know. It could be that the temptation to power was just too great for him to resist. It may be that he simply didn’t realize that not everything we want is for sale.

Peter rebukes Simon harshly. That is probably exactly what he needed to snap him out of his worldly power hypnosis. He got caught up in the possibility that with the power to bestow power, he could really go far. Peter brings him back down to earth, in only a slightly more harsh manner than Jesus had done for Peter in the many times Peter had gotten ahead of himself. We have to remember that a rebuke is not the end to anyone’s salvation. Just recall Jesus saying to Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan!”

There is a time and a place for a sharp rebuke, but just like when Jesus rebuked Peter, there was included in Peter’s rebuke to Simon a chance for repentance. Simon was bitter and captive to sin. Yet he had this desire to participate in the ministry of laying on of hands. Peter tells him he has no part in that ministry. He needed to have that part of his life cleansed and re-shaped before he could consider being eligible for ministry in any capacity. He needed time to grow.

Simon would not have been able to handle the temptation of ministry containing such visible power. He might have fallen completely back into his self-made-man lifestyle. Peter sees this weakness and tells him the answer is repentance. Simon, though, tells Peter to pray for him so that he does not have to suffer the consequences of his actions. I don’t know if he later repented. I don’t know if he ever had a ministry role in the church of Samaria. I don’t know if he walked away that day and never looked back. And I am not sure that it matters. I am not sure that is the point.

The question we need to ask is not "What did Simon do?" Rather, when Luke tells us this story, what does he want to communicate? When the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include this account in the Book of Acts, what was God’s purpose?

One obvious answer to those questions is that God is not for sale. The Gospel is not for sale, Paul tells us that in Romans when he says “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” And in Ephesians he tells us that salvation is “not by works, so that no one can boast.” Simon couldn’t earn his salvation. He couldn’t buy the power of God. We don’t get things from God that way. Everything God gives us is a gift. Every power he places in our lives he does so at his own pleasure. We can pray for things to happen, but it is God who makes them happen.

Another purpose in this passage is simply to put forth once again the basics of the gospel message: we are caught in sin; we can repent; if we do: God will forgive and restore us in Christ. We have the same ability that Simon had that day to bring our sinful selves before the throne, to repent and receive the forgiveness that God is holding out to us all the time. It is through repentance that we can accept the forgiveness. It is not how the forgiveness is made, or formed, or produced. That happened on the Cross and in the resurrection.

Repentance puts us in a place to receive that forgiveness, mainly because we recognize that we need it. Without repentance we walk around in rebellion, avoiding God because we have justified our actions and see no need to talk to God about it. With repentance, we come to God and give him what he already knows is broken, we recognize that we are broken and in need of repair. We see our need for Him in our lives. I would encourage you to evaluate how you approach God. Is it with a list of your good deeds in one hand and your list of what you want in the other? Are we seeking to buy from God what is only available as a gift? Are we avoiding God and trying to avoid our conscience by sidestepping opportunities for repentance? If this is how we are relating to God, we need to stop and recognize our need to repent.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekly Schedule 6/15/2008

Tuesday June 17th- Coffee at Amanda's 9:30 am for fellowship.
Dig Into the Sermon 6:30 pm

June 18th-
No Kid's Club

June 22nd- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

Membership Class- 6:00 pm, for more information call Pastor Charity

This week's sermon: Faithfulness

Acts 6:8-7:52.
Stephen, along with handing out food, was preaching the gospel and doing miraculous signs and wonders. In the middle of this a certain group of Grecian Jews took issue with him. When they could not win an argument with him, they turned their energies to finding false witnesses and bringing him up on charges in the Sanhedrin.

The charge against him was blasphemy against Moses and against God, and making statements that Jesus would destroy the temple and change their customs. This was not a new fear that the Synagogue of the Freedmen was playing on. Remember Jesus himself said in Matthew 5;17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus had been accused of trying to abolish the law, but what those who made that accusation did not consider was that their idea of the Law and God’s idea of the Law were two different things. Jesus was bringing a righteousness that surpassed that of the scribes and Pharisees and teachers of the law, and making that righteousness accessible to all who believe.

Stephen answers the accusations against him by speaking to the Sanhedrin directly from the Old Testament history of their own people, they can’t argue against what he is saying, because it is all true. He emphasizes God as the mover and planner behind all the events in their history, they can’t argue with that. He tells them that they rejected and threw out both Joseph and Moses, who God used to rescue their people and lead them. They can’t argue with that. He presents to them the sin of the people in seeking their own solutions, even to turning to idolatry to gain what only the one true God can give them. They can’t argue with that either.

The last point he made in this section was that God was with them before they had the tabernacle, before they had the temple. He had given his promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and used Moses to bring them out of slavery, these are the most important events in the formation of Judaism and they all occurred before there was a representative physical structure in their midst, no tabernacle, and no temple. If God did all of those things before the tabernacle and temple, and if God himself says that he does not dwell in houses made by men, why would he need the temple to continue his ministry among the people?

Stephen then moves from historical dissertation to personal application. Stephen is telling them that they have not changed; they are just as unspiritual as their ancestors. Just as their predecessors had persecuted the prophets and rejected God’s leaders, they had rejected Jesus Christ the Righteous One. They had set themselves up to be judges over God’s anointed one, and yet they have not been obeying the Law that God had given them.

When Stephen brought all of this home, the people of the assembly could not bear it. They were overcome by their anger and rage and they murdered Stephen. The actions of those gathered in the Sanhedrin that day were not only wrong, they were illegal. In order to execute someone, they had to convict someone of specific charges and bring it before a vote in the elders of the Sanhedrin. Then, because the Sanhedrin had no direct authority to execute anyone, they would have had to get permission from the Roman officials before taking any action. So what they carried out that day, out of self-righteous indignation, was not an execution, it was murder.

And in the face of that murderous gang, Stephen looked to Heaven. As they pummeled him with stones, he saw Jesus at the right hand of God, and commended his soul to Christ. And as the life was being beaten out of him, he prayed for forgiveness for his attackers including a young man, zealous for the protection of his faith, named Saul. That young man would go on to be the greatest persecutor of the early church and then the greatest promoter of that same church. Stephen had no idea of the things to come, or that one of those who stood by giving approval to his death would change the world, but he prayed for their forgiveness out of the heart of mercy and compassion given to him by the Holy Spirit.

In spite of his not knowing the full consequences of his prayer, Stephen made an impact on the young Saul. Luke, the author of this book, was a traveling companion of Paul. The information about this story almost certainly was given by Paul or at least was contributed to by him. Otherwise how would Luke know that a young, un-influential man was standing by guarding the coats of those who were throwing stones at the first martyr of the faith?

There are a couple of things I want us to take home with us today. The first is a continuation of last week’s emphasis that all tasks in ministry are important and make a big difference. But today I want us to add to that theme that spiritual maturity and knowledge of the things of God are important for anyone serving in any ministry position. I am not talking about a seminary degree, but a careful, diligent study of the scriptures, and a relationship with God in Christ are essential no matter what the ministry. It is easy to think, “Oh, I just serve cool-aid. Oh, I just greet people as they come in. Oh, I just take up the offering. Oh, I just clean the church every once in a while. I don’t really need biblical knowledge or spiritual strength to do those things.” And we neglect our own spiritual growth because we think it is not necessary for us to do the job.

I want to challenge you today to view every task you do for God or for the church as a bona-fide ministry. What would happen if you prayed for every person that you served cool-aid to that God would touch their life? Or for every person you greet at the door that God would open their heart to hear from him? Or for every contribution to the offering, that God would multiply it and use it to build his kingdom? Or for those who will use the parts of the church you clean that they will be without distraction as they worship and hear from God? What would happen if we truly saw everything we did as being a service to the kingdom, a service to the king?

The second emphasis this morning is that you never know who your faith and obedience will touch. Stephen did not set out that day to become the first martyr. He did not set out that day to give a speech in the Sanhedrin. He did not set out that day to make such an impact on a young zealot that it would stay with him the rest of his life. Stephen set out that day to do what he did every day—live in obedience to the Savior who had given him life, and to be a faithful witness to the gospel in whatever circumstance he found himself in. Too often we are in a BIG hurry to do BIG things for God. The reality is that God can do so much more with a determination to obedience and faithfulness, than he can a determination to do big things for the kingdom.

I want to challenge you to be faithful, even in the little things. As you go to work, as you clean your house, as you care for those in need, as you volunteer, as you work in your garden, as you live your life in all of the seemingly insignificant things you do, do them as unto the Lord. Do them in obedience and faithfulness to the high calling we have all received. And as we do those little things as unto the Lord, we ought not to be surprised when God uses those little things to give us big opportunities to witness to the truth of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Weekly Schedule 6/8

Tuesday June 10th- Kids returning from Senior High Camp will be at the church between 4:30 and 5:00PM.
Elder's Meeting 6:30 pm

June 11th- Larry Fessler Memorial Service 2:00pm. Interment to follow at Ramona, Ks.
No Kid's Club

Saturday June 14th- Camps are over! Jr. High Campers return home. Thanks for praying!

June 15th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

Membership Class- 6:00 pm, for more information call Pastor Charity

This week's sermon: Service and Power

Acts 6:1-10
There were divisions among the Jews who had converted. Some came from a Hebraic background: they were born and raised in the area of Palestine, they studied and spoke Hebrew, and they very conservatively followed the teachings of the Torah. Others were Grecian Jews: not necessarily from Greece, they were Greek-speaking, they studied Greek philosophers and were people of the world who were not as concerned with the centralization of Judaism in Jerusalem. There was already a division between these two groups before they became Christians. They found common ground in Christ, but even when we are in the body of Christ some of our old divisions and prejudices may remain for a time. Here we have some inequality going on in the daily ministry to the widows and it is causing further division.

The complaint comes before the apostles, and they gather everyone together. We know from previous accounts that the early church was made up of more than 5,000 people. There are simply too many people for them to do it all. They can’t preach the gospel, teach the new converts the things Jesus had taught them, and look after the physical needs of every person in the group. It is not that the job of distributing food to the widows is unimportant or unspiritual, it is simply that they can’t do it all. They were the ones who had known Jesus, heard him teach and preach, they were the ones who could pass that on to others. So, they prioritize teaching and preaching over distributing food. They asked the people to choose spirit-filled men to take on the ministry of caring for the widows. The people chose amongst their own number and everyone got a chance to participate in the process. The Apostles told them to pick men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We get too caught up sometimes in finding people who are “qualified” when all we really need is someone filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Just about everything else can be learned, but in the church the two most important qualifiers are the same today that they were then: Holy Spirit, and wisdom.

They chose seven men, and instead of just putting them out there to work, they laid hands on them and commissioned them for ministry. They took time to recognize that even in feeding widows, the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit was necessary. Even in the job of caring for the physical needs of people, God is still the source of the ministry. When we recognize this fundamental truth, it gives God room to work in phenomenal ways.

As a result of clearing up this potential divisive issue in a way that glorified God and met the needs of the people, three things happened. 1. The word of God spread. The Apostles were freed up to do the work that only they could do. They were free to preach the gospel and make new disciples. As a result of that freedom, 2. the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly. And in fact as a result of the caring for widows, the preaching of the gospel, and the increase in the number of disciples, 3. there were a large number of priests who became obedient to the faith.

The priests have been watching. They have been seeing these people gathering daily in the temple courts. They are hearing the gospel preached. They are seeing people’s lives change. They are part of the hearings where these men are forbidden to preach, and they see them continue with a boldness that is inexplicable. All of these things working together with a concern for caring for the needs of widows make an impression on even the highest and holiest.

We distinguish too much between what we think are ministry positions in a hierarchy. We put Pastor or Missionary or Superintendent on top, then all the other ministries and way at the bottom of the list would be Coffee and Cool-aid Hosts. If we want to know where our mindset is regarding a hierarchy of ministry positions all we need to do is ask the question: When was the last time we prayed over our people serving as ushers, greeters, and coffee hosts? When was the last time we prayed for wisdom as we served in those capacities? We think they are easy jobs, things we can do without God’s help. The truth is that everything we do in service to the Lord needs his power behind it to make a difference.

Stephen was distributing food. He was doing miraculous signs and wonders among the people. He was unbeatable in an argument about Jesus, and he was distributing food. Stephen is a perfect example of someone who was serving in a capacity that we think of as second rate, but it put him in a position to leave a powerful testimony. The men who were serving in the ministry to widows were interacting with the priests and there was a sharp contrast between those priests who accepted this gospel with joy and those who rejected it even more strongly. In the face of that kind of opposition, these men in food service had to be strong in the faith and rooted in the Holy Spirit's power.

Each of us must prioritize the things which God has uniquely gifted us for. And don’t feel bad if you don’t know what that is yet. I am not sure Stephen would have pegged himself as the food distribution kind of guy before that day. But God had a particular reason for wanting him in that place. He had to be seeking God to know what His plan was for Stephen's service. Every ministry, every service we offer to God matters in a big way even if what we do seems small. Distributing food to widows does not seem to be on the front lines in the excitement, but God used those men to feed people that could very well have starved otherwise. And the main man in food service was about to become the first martyr.

It doesn’t matter if you are teaching, preaching, cleaning, ushering, greeting, changing overheads, or serving Cool-aid, if you are offering your service to the Lord in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading, he will use it to build his kingdom.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Weekly Schedule 6/1/2008

Tuesday June 3rd- Kids Leave for Junior Camp Meet at the church at 8:00AM! Kids returning from Kid's Camp will be at the church between 4:30 and 5:00PM.
No Dig Into the Sermon Group.

Wednesday June 4th-
No Kid's Club

Friday June 6th- High School Kids going to Sr. High School Camp meet at the church 8:00AM! Junior Campers will be back at the church between 4:30 and 5:00PM.

June 8th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

Membership Class- 6:00 pm, for more information call Pastor Charity

This week's sermon: Catch and Release

Acts 5:12-42

The New Church, the new group of believers was attracting attention. People saw them meeting in the temple courts and they took notice. Those who did not believe didn’t dare to join with them in their temple meetings, but continued to hold them in high regard. The number of people who were coming to faith in Christ continued to grow in spite of the fear of persecution from the temple leadership. And people continued to bring those in need of healing before the apostles. These were the circumstances in which these new believers found themselves. They were feared, respected, celebrated by those who were healed, joined by those with faith and highly regarded by all. This was good for the believers, but not so good for the temple leadership who—if you remember from weeks past—were interested in keeping their position and power.

The Apostles were teaching that Jesus had risen from the dead, which was completely outside the Sadducee way of thinking. And on top of that teaching which contradicted their theology, these men were gaining status. They didn’t just dissipate and die out like other sects had done. In fact they were gaining members, and even those who did not join them held them in high esteem. So this time they gather all the apostles and throw them in the public jail. This is different from the instance before when they held Peter and John overnight, probably in the temple under guard. This time they threw them into the public jail, quite possibly under Roman guard. This was serious business. The power and position of the temple elite were in jeopardy and they did not want it to go any further. But here we see that God is bigger than the political machine. The apostles were thrown in jail, but God sent an angel to release them and tell them to go to the temple and teach the full gospel to anyone who would listen. The angel called the gospel the message of this new life. They weren’t standing in the temple courts giving nice little moral lessons; they were opening the door to a new life for anyone who would believe.

So when the Sanhedrin gathered at the temple, and sent for the apostles to stand before them, they were nowhere to be found. The guards had no idea what had happened. There was a guard all night, and everything seemed secure. There were no broken locks or chiseled bars. The apostles were simply not where they should have been. This really left the chief priests scratching their heads. Then someone tells them to look out into the courts, because there are the apostles. And they are teaching the same message of life and hope that they were teaching the day before.

The guards go and gather the apostles once again and bring them to stand before the Sanhedrin. Luke tells us that they did not use force because they were afraid of the people who had gathered to hear the message of the gospel. But obviously the apostles did not resist them either. There was no need to use force because the apostles went with them willingly.

The high priest and the rest of this ruling body wanted to know why they were continuing to teach in the name of Jesus. They had warned them on previous occasions. They had just arrested them the day before. Yet here they were again doing the same thing that had gotten them thrown in prison the day before. It makes no sense in the worldly point of view. Why in the world would someone continue to put themselves in a position to be arrested like that? And there was one particular part of the story that the Sanhedrin really didn’t like. They really were concerned with the apostles telling people about the role the Sanhedrin played in putting Jesus to death. They didn’t want people to think about that. It is not like it was news to anyone who was part of Jerusalem’s Jewish society. They already knew all about it. But the Sanhedrin had justified their actions to themselves so many times that they didn’t want to hear that they were responsible in any way for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Peter and the other apostles, though, are not easily intimidated. They know all about the events of the crucifixion because they were there. They were with Jesus. And Peter had even followed him after he was arrested and made to stand before the Sanhedrin. They were witnesses to these things with their own eyes. And they were under a divine mandate to continue teaching the gospel message. Again they ask if they ought to obey God or this council of men. They assert the basics of the gospel, that God raised Jesus to life after these men had given him over to be crucified, and that God had exalted Jesus and made him Prince and Savior so that there might be repentance and forgiveness of sins. These statements are the same ones we use today to share the gospel. Jesus was put to death, rose from the grave, and God through him has granted forgiveness of sins. That is the basic gospel message. And it has not changed in almost 2,000 years of telling. The apostles witnessed these things, and are bearing witness along with the Holy Spirit before these men.

Sometimes the truth infuriates people. It did in this case. The apostles told it like it was and the members of the Sanhedrin were ready to stone them for it. Remember before that they did not take action against Peter and John for healing in the name of Jesus because they were afraid of the crowds? Here they are angry enough that they don’t care. My thought is that some of them were under conviction. They knew that what they did was wrong. They knew that they had participated in Jesus execution, and they didn’t want to hear it. They could not stand to have their own wickedness brought before them. So they were ready to take them out and stone them.

But God was at work that day to bring about good in at least one man. Gamaliel, who was actually the teacher of Saul (who later became Paul). He was the foremost Pharisee at that time, and as a Pharisee had less of an argument with the resurrection theology of the apostles. He was a greatly respected man and was seen to be a man of integrity both in the council and among the common people. So when he stood in the assembly, he was probably the only one who could have commanded the attention of the men who were so close to running out in a murderous rage. He has the apostles put out of the room for a moment and gives a word of wisdom to those who would stone the apostles. He tells them something that I believe is very relevant in all times.

Through the years there are many who rise up and claim to be in possession of a great revelation. All of them with time come to an end. But what remains, what perseveres is the truth of God. In the face of persecution, the truth remains. In spite of all the efforts to stomp it out, the truth perseveres. God will keep his truth alive. All imposters will eventually be thrown down. Not by us, but by God. If their purpose is of human origin, it will fail, but if it is from God you will not be able to stop them because you will be fighting against God. A room full of scholars and rabbis and religious professionals, and only one is wise enough to see that God is the one who is holding all the power. Only one who understands that God really can’t be threatened by false teachers, because he is God.

Gamaliel was able with his words to keep the apostles from being stoned that day. They were flogged instead. And they were told once again not to speak in the name of Jesus. So the apostles turned and sadly went home because they were told not to preach Jesus anymore. NO! They rejoiced. They rejoiced that they had been considered worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus. They kept on teaching. They kept on preaching. They continued to walk in the Truth of God. And God continued to hold them up, to strengthen them, and to keep them in a place to continue in his service.

So what does this mean for us? What do we take from this account in Acts? It is easy to hear a story and feel good about the ending. But we need to take a piece of it and let it affect how we live our lives. The most obvious application from this story is perseverance in the face of persecution. The apostles are a great example of that here. But how can we persevere? It is easy to say it; it is hard to do it. What was at the root of their perseverance? Were they just really brave? No, these are the same guys who ran and hid and locked the doors after the crucifixion. They were not naturally brave men, so what was it? It was the Holy Spirit working in them. It was the Holy Spirit testifying through them to the truth of the gospel message. And it was the knowledge that if God could release them from prison, he could protect them from the Sanhedrin. And it was the security in knowing that even if the Sanhedrin stoned them, God was big enough to take care of them.

Ultimately, Gamaliel and the Apostles both demonstrate this same confidence in God’s sovereignty: Gamaliel in saying, “If it is human it will come to nothing, but if it is from God, you can’t stop it;” and the Apostles in speaking the Truth of the Gospel message with a boldness that only comes from a confidence in the God who is greater than death itself.

We gain all kinds of strength and courage in the simple act of seeing God for who he is. He created the universe. He raised Christ from the dead. He rescued each of us from our sins, and is changing our lives. If he can do all of that, what is it that we think he cannot handle? Allow his Holy Spirit to continue to reveal to you the greatness of our God so that you will gain the confidence to step out in obedience trusting him to handle the consequences.