Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekly Schedule 7/29/2008

Tuesday July 29th- Dig Into the Sermon 7:00pm

August 3rd- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am- Celebrate Membership Sunday!
Fellowship Dinner following the morning service
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

This week's sermon: Peter Testifies to God's Universal Plan

Acts 11:1-21.
Luke starts out by telling us that the brothers and the apostles heard that the Gentiles had received the word of God. They knew that Peter had told them about Jesus and that they had received the message. Now, if you are like me, you would expect the Jewish believers to respond in one of two ways. Either they rejoice at those who have received the message of salvation, or they reject the notion that Gentiles can be saved. But what we are going to discover in examining the text this morning is that the believers at that time chose door number three.

They heard that the Gentiles had received Christ, and all they can think about is that Peter ate with uncircumcised men. Peter had shared the gift of eternal life, salvation, and living in God’s abundant life now with Gentiles; and instead of throwing a party or holding a theological study to see if that was possible, they are concerned that Peter had eaten with Gentiles. Often times our first reaction to dramatic events reveals our inner person: our priorities, our true feelings and opinions. Their reaction tells me that they are far more concerned with keeping laws that Jesus said brought only death than with bringing life to those who are lost.

We do the same thing sometimes. We can label a place or associating with a certain group of people as undesirable, or even sinful. But the truth is that Jesus traveled around eating with tax-collectors and sinners, and sometimes even staying in their houses. And when he was challenged, he told the religious leaders that it is the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy.

Peter tells them the story, and so we read about the vision of Cornelius and Peter’s trance again. That repetition means that in reading these accounts, we have heard about Cornelius’s vision four times, but we have only heard Peter’s vision recounted twice. Incredibly, it seems that the important fact of the story is not that Peter received a revelation from God about Gentiles, but that God was working in the life of a Gentile before he gave Peter that revelation. God was working in the life of Cornelius, and Cornelius was desiring salvation before Peter had his vision. And the entire point of the story seems to be not that the Jewish believers needed their minds changed, which they did, but that God wants to work in the lives of people from every nation, tribe and tongue to give them salvation. Peter tells the believers here that very thing, he says the angel told Cornelius to send for Peter to hear the message of salvation. God’s purpose in this event was to bring Cornelius to salvation. Changing Peter’s mindset was just part of accomplishing his plan.

And the same is true in this confrontation between the believers and Peter. They are challenging his eating with Gentiles. Their minds need to be changed, but that is not the end-goal. The end goal is reaching more and more people with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God sent his Spirit on the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius’s house as a sign to Peter and his companions, yes; but it was also his direct, personal embrace of the new believers. It was God reaching down and drawing them so close to himself that His Spirit simply overflowed.

Once the Spirit descended, Peter tells the believers that he remembered what Jesus had taught them about being baptized with the Holy Spirit. He remembered the day of Pentecost and he recognizes that God’s purpose in this situation has very little to do with him, and everything to do with ushering in new saints. When God makes his purpose so plain, Peter tells them, how can we oppose Him?

After Peter explains and the believers accept that God is calling Gentiles into the fold, they still aren’t rushing out to tell all of their Gentile friends about Jesus. The majority remain cautiously accepting. But little by little, people begin to branch out as they see God at work. As a result of that branching out, God accomplished his goals and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

Last week we talked about the barriers we have to sharing the gospel with all kinds of people. Maybe the Lord spoke to your heart about walls you have allowed to build between yourself and others who need to hear the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. I want to continue to encourage you to pray for him to tear down those walls. I also challenge you to begin to pray for God to open doors for you to share the gospel. Too often we think, “I’m not equipped,” or “I just can’t get over…” or “I don’t know anyone who needs to hear.” We make excuses because we forget that it isn’t “Me at work” or “You at work.” It is “God at work.”

You and I are just tools. God is the one with the plan. He is the one who directs the hammer to the right nail. The hammer doesn’t have to sit back and examine every nail it sees to try to figure out if this is the right nail. The hammer sits in the hand of the Master Carpenter and when the Master Carpenter directs it toward a nail, it simply follows through. If you feel ill-equipped, call on God to give you the words to speak to share the good news. If you feel like there are things in your own life that need addressing, take them to God and trust that he will take care of them. And while he is taking care of mending your life if he thinks you are strong enough as a hammer to drive in a nail, don’t dodge it. If you feel like you don’t know anyone who needs to hear the gospel, pray for God to open your eyes. There are hurting people that we encounter everyday. Pray for open eyes, better vision so that you can see the opportunities that God is giving you to spread the word.

People need to know that there is a God who loves them enough that he would give up everything just to know them. People need to know that there is a cure for the deadly disease of sin. People need to know that no matter who they are or what their lives have been like, God is still looking to bring them his salvation and give them new life in Christ. That is why it is the Good News.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekly Schedule 7/20/2008

Tuesday July 22th- Friends Women Fellowship 9:30 am at Dottie's
Dig Into the Sermon 7:00pm

Wednesday July 23rd- Pastor Leaves for Ministry Conference. Contact an Elder for immediate needs, and Pastor's cell for emergencies.

Thursday July 24th-Saturday July 26th- Ministry Conference on the Friends University Campus.

July 27th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

This week's sermon: Breaking Down Barriers

Acts 10.

In this chapter, Luke takes his time and gives us incredible detail about what was taking place. He starts by introducing us to Cornelius who is a Roman soldier from Italy, and the equivalent to a captain in authority. Cornelius is a gentile, but he is already familiar with the God of the Hebrews, and in fact has been worshiping that God and has been friendly to the Jewish people. He has not converted to Judaism, but remains a Gentile. He was praying at the third hour, one of the appointed times of prayer in the Jewish faith, and he had a vision of an angel who tells him to look for Peter and listen to the gospel message. Meanwhile, Peter is about to receive a revelation from God about breaking the cleanliness barrier.

Jews were God’s people, and they considered Gentiles to be unclean in their living, and therefore associating with them made a Jewish person unclean. That is why God gave Peter a vision of clean and unclean animals and declared them all clean. In Judaism at that time, it was common practice for Jews to interact in the business and secular world, but not in private and personal matters. Jews, for example, would not have eaten with a Gentile. They would not have gone into a Gentile house, or invited a Gentile into their own houses. Gentiles were free to come to Synagogue to learn about YHWH, and hear the torah, but unless they fully converted they were not accepted as members in Jewish social circles. So, what follows is amazing, and clearly the work of God.

As an officer, Cornelius would not have been able to leave his post without his superior’s permission. So he sent household members, also Gentiles, but devout, and a subordinate soldier in his unit. Peter traveled with these men who came on behalf of Cornelius. They arrived in Caesarea, just four days after Cornelius had his vision, and the day after Peter had his vision.

It is amazing how quickly this all took place. God had everything timed out perfectly. Just like with the Ethiopian eunuch, the Holy Spirit was moving and speaking to each person at just the right time. Cornelius had his vision, sent his men. As they were approaching Joppa, Peter had his vision. As the men came to the house, the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter and told him to go downstairs and greet them, and go with them.

As the Holy Spirit moved, each person was obedient to follow through. This combination of the move of the Spirit and obedience allowed this crucial meeting to take place. If any person had decided not to obey, there would have been a missed opportunity, and we wouldn’t have this incredible story.

When Peter arrives, Cornelius is overcome. He falls on his face in front of Peter, but Peter corrects his misplaced reverence, telling him that he himself was just a man. Peter lays out a reminder of how unusual it is for a Jew to enter the house of a Gentile, and asks again why Cornelius has sent for him. Cornelius tells him about his vision, recounting all the details of the day, how he fasted, how he was praying. And Cornelius does this in front of an audience of his close friends and family. He called them together in anticipation of Peter coming, even though he had no guarantee that Peter would even show up, he was stepping out in faith trusting that God would deliver on His word.

Peter finally allows all of the events to sink in. He sees the whole picture of God at work bringing Gentiles into his family. And Peter openly tells them that for the first time he is realizing that God is not a respecter of persons, He doesn’t play favorites, He is not just the God of the Jews, He is the God of all the nations. Peter tells them the basics of the gospel message. They already know, as any good Centurion serving in Palestine would, about this Jesus who came bringing a message of peace. Peter doesn’t talk much about the details of his death and resurrection, assigning blame is not the point of this message. He simply says “they” killed him, and God raised him from the dead. Peter tells Cornelius that he is among the witnesses who saw Jesus after his resurrection, and about the mission that all his witnesses have to testify that Jesus is the appointed Judge, and through his name, all who believe receive forgiveness of sins. And something interesting happens next.

Peter is not even to the invitation part of the message—he hasn’t gotten to the altar call—and the peoples’ hearts are so touched, and their faith so real that the Holy Spirit confirms their faith for them. God continues to show forth sign after sign that this is the time to break out of the exclusive God only loves the Children of Israel mindset, and begin following Jesus command in earnest to preach the gospel to every nation. Before Peter is done, those who are listening receive the Holy Spirit in a manifest way. They speak in tongues and praise God. It does not say that they all spoke in tongues, and certainly not every person who received the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts speaks in tongues, but in this case an obvious sign of God’s acceptance and anointing of these Gentile believers is necessary to clinch their place in the early church.

Peter and the six men who came with him as his companions are amazed that God had poured out his Holy Spirit on the Gentiles. Peter, who must have been expecting some kind of protest, says “who can keep them from being water baptized?” And with their baptism, these Gentiles become the first to be fully accepted as true followers of Christ.

I am not sure there is a good parallel today for the strict division at that time between Jews and Gentiles. But I know there are barriers today that keep people from sharing the gospel with others. Maybe they are racial barriers—people thinking that only someone of the same race or ethnic background could share the gospel with certain people. Maybe they are social barriers—people afraid that accepting others of different social strata may be harmful to the church. Maybe they are moral barriers—people believing that some sins and consequently some sinners are worse than others and maybe even thinking that some on the fringe are unreachable. Whatever the barriers we face in reaching out for Christ, let me assure you this morning that God wants to remove them all.

In Ephesians 2:13-18 (NIV), the apostle Paul boils down the truth of this story in Acts when he tells us:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

God wants to tear down all the dividing walls, and bring people from every tribe, every walk of life, every background into his family and make us all one in Christ Jesus. Because of Jesus cleansing sacrifice, it doesn’t matter if someone has earthly status; in Christ we all have the heavenly status of sons and heirs. If there is a barrier keeping you from associating with and being a witness to someone of the power and the love of Christ, begin to pray today for God to break down that barrier. You don’t have to break it down, he will do it for you, but you have to be willing to allow him access. It is only when those barriers are down that we are able to obey Christ’s command to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. It is only by allowing God to tear down those walls that we can be obedient to the great commission to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekly Schedule 7/13

Tuesday July 15th- Coffee at Amanda's 9:30 am
Dig Into the Sermon 7:00pm

July 20th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Business Meeting! NOON
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

Ministry Conference July 23rd-26th in Wichita on the Friends University Campus

This week's sermon: Miracles and Growth

Last time we saw Peter he was in Jerusalem with the other Apostles, and before that we see him visiting those who had believed the gospel message that Philip had shared with them. Here Luke focuses our attention back on what Peter is doing in the early church. We find Peter traveling about visiting the saints. He goes to a certain town called Lydda, which is about 11 miles from Joppa, along the sea coast northwest of Jerusalem.

He encounters a man who has been bedridden for eight years. We don’t know if this man was a believer or not. He has a Greek name and scholars have debated as to whether he was even Jewish. Peter comes across this man, and tells him “Jesus Christ heals you.” We have to stop and pay attention here. There are those even today who would tell you that they can heal you. There are even those who will tell you that they can heal you in Jesus name. But that is not what we see here, and in the miracle that follows this one. No, Peter does not say, “I heal you in the name of Jesus,” he says simply that Jesus Christ was healing that man. And he was healing him of something that could not be healed by medical doctors. This man had been paralyzed for eight years. Any number of physicians could have seen him and pronounced him incurable. Peter comes and says, there is one who will heal you in spite of the doctor’s inability. His name is Jesus, the Messiah.

When Aeneas heard Peter’s words, he got up. How simple those words are, and yet how powerful. What else could possibly happen? Jesus Christ healed him, and he got up. Remember the last person we heard about that Peter was involved in their healing? It was the man at the temple, also crippled, also healed by Jesus. In that case, the memorable reaction is from the man who went walking, and leaping and praising God. Here the man simply gets up. It is the reaction of all the people who hear about the healing that is memorable. Everyone living in that area who heard about and saw for themselves the miraculous healing of Aeneas not only believed, but turned to the Lord. So the miracle was to heal Aeneas, but its purpose was to bear witness to the God we serve, and to his Son, the Messiah; to Jesus.

Luke takes us on a little side trip next. In this story it is as if he says, “Meanwhile in a village not too far away…” He points out that in Joppa, only 11 miles away, there is a disciple. Before we did not know whether Aeneas was a believer, but here we have no doubt. There is a disciple named Tabitha—Dorcas, which means Gazelle. And she is a true follower of Jesus, not just in word, but in deed. She is always going about doing good and helping the poor. There are some who will say that if you are a believer, you will never get sick. But what we read here in Acts tells us differently. While Peter is in Lydda, Tabitha, faithful follower of Christ, gets sick and dies.

Her loved ones take her body upstairs to prepare her for burial. Other believers find out that Peter is in Lydda, only 11 miles away, and they send two men to go and get him him. Eleven miles would have been about a five hour walk at a good pace. So it would have been possible for them to send for Peter and have him arrive in the same day. By the time Peter got there the body was washed and prepared for burial.

Whenever Peter arrives, he comes onto the scene of real people suffering real grief: Tabitha, the woman that they loved, and who loved them with more than words, had died. This was no pretend death, or mistaken sickness or coma. She was dead. There were women who knew her in the room. Widows who had been ministered to by Tabitha. They showed Peter the clothing she had made for them and others in need. They grieved for the loss of their friend.

Peter sent them all out of the room, and he did the only thing that he could do, he kneeled down and prayed. Peter did not have the power to raise this woman from the dead. He could not do this in his own power. If it was Jesus Christ who had healed Aeneas from his paralysis, how much more would it take the power of Jesus Christ to raise Tabitha from the dead. After Peter prayed, he turned toward Tabitha and told her to get up. At once she opened her eyes, looked at Peter, and sat up. I want to emphasize something this morning: Peter did not raise Tabitha from the dead. Jesus, the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God did that healing work. Peter simply told her it was time to get up. And she did. He helped her to her feet and presented her alive to her friends and the widows she had helped.

Again, just as with Aeneas, we don’t know how Tabitha reacts. We don’t know if she was disappointed. We don’t know if she was relieved. We don’t know if she was overjoyed. What we do know is that because of her resurrection, because she had been dead and alive again, people heard and believed in Jesus. And Peter decides that he needs to stay in the area for a time, and chooses to stay, Luke tells us with a man named Simon the Tanner, who lived by the sea.

There are some key themes that Luke drives home to us. In both of these accounts, just like in those that have come before the emphasis is on the work of God in the lives of people. Often the book of Acts has been called the Acts of the Apostles, but if you read the book carefully, what you will find instead is that it is a book of the Acts of God in reaching out to people, in healing them, in delivering them, in guiding them, and in building his church. It is all about God at work.

A question we need to ask ourselves this morning is, “Are we seeing God at work or are we only looking at the people he uses?” It is easy to skim over these stories, and attribute the miracles to Peter, but it is Jesus who heals the paralytic, and it is through prayer—seeking God, that Tabitha is raised from the dead. So when something happens in our lives, do we give people all the credit, or are we looking for God at work? When we get a bonus at work, do we think we deserved it, or are we thanking God for his gift. When someone really helps us out, are we only thanking the person, or are we thanking God for bringing them to help us? When we see something miraculous, are we glorifying the person through whom the miracle is delivered, or are we glorifying God whose power is at work performing the miracle?

Another key theme in this passage is God working miracles as a means of testifying to the truth of the gospel to those who are witnesses. In both of these instances, God draws people into his kingdom through the display of his power at work doing the impossible. Many people heard and believed when Tabitha was raised, everyone who saw Aeneas turned to Jesus. God used these miracles to build his church. The question we need to ask here is, “Are we seeking miracles for our benefit alone, or are we seeking God to do the miraculous to build his kingdom?” When we pray for God to deliver, are we just trying to get out of a jam, or do we see a bigger purpose? When we ask for healing, is it just for our own relief, or are we seeking an avenue to testify about God’s power at work? Are we seeking God’s blessings to make us comfortable in our extravagant lifestyles, or do we seek to glorify God and build his kingdom by blessing others with what God has blessed us with?

The larger question behind all of this is: Where is our focus? Is it on the earthly or the eternal? Are we seeking to build an earthly kingdom, or are we seeking the Kingdom of God? Our answers to those two questions will greatly determine how we answer all of life’s questions. If we focus on the earthly, we loose sight of the master plan of the creator of the universe. If we seek an earthly kingdom, we may end up losing the eternal Kingdom of God. I encourage you this morning to do what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first HIS kingdom, and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Weekly Schedule July 6th

Tuesday July 8th- Elder's Meeting 6:30 pm

Sunday July 13th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am
Iglesia Amigos Evangelicos 3:00 pm

Ladies Tea July 19th 2:00 pm
Business Meeting Sunday July 20th following morning service
Ministry Conference July 23rd-26th in Wichita on the Friends University Campus

Bilingual VBS 2008

For VBS we combined forces with our Spanish-speaking congregation and had a great time learning about the Power of Prayer!

All the kids came together for a time of singing songs and introduction to the day's theme with Pastor Tomas.

The Big Kids heard a Bible lesson in English from Charlotte, and a Bible lesson in Spanish from Sandra.

They enjoyed crafts including a praying hands stained glass window collage.

The Little Kids heard Bible lessons and did crafts with Sandra and Cathy.

A BIG Thank you to all of our Helpers and Leaders!

Pastor Charity, Cathy, Charlotte, Tina, Betty Jo, Sandra,
Pastora Lupe and Pastor Tomas

Tina helped with Crafts and Big kid Bible Verse Memorization!

Betty Jo helped in the Kitchen with Snacks and Meals!
Pastora Lupe helped with EVERYTHING!

Our verse for the day was:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."
1 de Tesalonicenses 5:17 "Orad sin cesar."

This week's sermon- Persecutor to Promoter

Acts 9:1-31.
Earlier in Acts we read that Saul was a witness to the murder of Stephen. He then started the first persecution against the early believers in Jerusalem—dragging off men and women and throwing them into prison. It says in the beginning of this chapter that Saul threatened the early church with every breath. To him, persecution was as easy and natural as breathing. He was not content to simply oppose the early Church; he wanted to stamp it out. Saul went to the High Priest to ask for permission to continue his persecution and the go ahead for a major expansion in his efforts to wipe out any who professed that Jesus was the Resurrected Messiah. He wanted to go to all the synagogues and ferret out the believers. At this point in time, all believers were Jews who believed the Gospel message. They were all members of local synagogues, while also gathering with fellow Christians. Saul was not a Jew looking to persecute Christians, he was a Jew looking to bring down other Jews he thought were heretics to keep them from making other good Jews heretics as well. At the stoning of Stephen, Saul was there and looked after the outer garments of those who murdered him for preaching Jesus. This was Saul of Tarsus. He was a determined man. He would stop at nothing to see this sect destroyed and driven out. Until he met Jesus face to face.

As he neared Damascus, a light from Heaven flashed around him. God got his attention. It is funny when we think we have to get people’s attention for God. God is quite capable of commanding complete attention, he does not need any help from us, and we may even be providing a distraction instead of the focus we intend. God got his attention. Luke says Saul fell to the ground, he was overcome. And then he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And Saul did not know who it was; he asked “who are you?” But immediately Saul is convinced that whoever is speaking to him is worthy of the title Lord. “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” And there is no further response from Saul. Suddenly the man who had been so convinced of his own right-ness that he would stand by while others were put to death—the one who would seek out others to put them under arrest, the one who had been breathing out murderous threats—has nothing to say. When we have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ, we suddenly are no longer concerned with “our point of view.” We become completely convinced to our core of the perfect righteousness of Christ and that our own righteousness is filthy rags.

There is another man named in this story. Ananias was a faithful believer living in Damascus at that time. He was minding his own business one day when out of the blue, the Holy Spirit tells him to do something preposterous. God tells him to go to find Saul of Tarsus, hunter of Christians. God even gives him the address. He says, “Go, he is praying, and he has had a vision of you coming to restore his sight.” Ananias was flabbergasted! You have to understand that for Ananias, this would be the equivalent of saying to us “Go, there is a man who has been an active terrorist/extremist who has been hunting down Christians. I want you to go find the house he is staying in and be involved in his receiving back his sight.” Our first response would be “What?!? Give him back his sight? Then he will know what I look like and can add me to his ‘must persecute’ top-ten list! If he can’t see, maybe that is not such a bad thing!”

Ananias reminds God of just who he is talking about… Why do we do that? God tells us, “I want you to reach out to this person or that person.” And our response is to remind God just what kind of person they are. “But God, they are not very nice, they lie, they cheat, they steal office supplies. How could you possibly want me to minister to them? They are not ‘Kingdom Material.’” But God does want us to minister to them, and guess what, whoever ministered to you last may think the same things about you! We are not perfect, and God reached out to each of us in spite of our many innumerable faults. He wants us to reach out in turn to others who are not living right so that they can also receive his grace.

God had plans for Saul. He was to be the messenger carrying the gospel to the Gentiles. And Ananias does not have to worry about Saul getting off free and easy. While God is telling Ananias to go, he is showing Saul all that he will suffer for the name of God. Those whom God has chosen for his work very rarely live charmed lives. Saul when he was called Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 that he wanted to know the fellowship in sharing in Christ’s sufferings, and invites Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:8 to join him in suffering for the gospel. Suffering, on any level, brings us further into a personal identification with Christ. Our faith is tested and we develop perseverance. Our strength is exhausted and we see God’s power at work. Suffering was to be a part of the life Saul lived for the gospel of Christ, and God was showing it to him in advance.

Ananias is obedient and comes to lays hands on Saul. Saul regains his sight. Immediately, Saul makes an outward sign of his conversion by being baptized. He eats, regains strength, and we see that he now has a different message to spread. Verse 20 says at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. Everyone is taken off guard. No one knows what to do with this. Verse 22 says he baffled the Jews in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. By proving it. Here is a man who last week was getting permission to hunt down heretics, and now he is preaching their message better than they were.

His old cohorts were baffled. Suddenly he stopped making sense to them, and they started hatching a plan to silence him, as he had silenced others. It is because of what Saul himself wrote under the name of Paul in I Corinthians 1:18, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” That power of God has to come into our lives before we understand it. Saul did not understand it before his Damascus road experience, but once Christ came into view it changed not only Saul’s life, but it has left for us a witness and a testimony to the power of God at work.

The Christians didn’t know what to do with Saul, the Jews wanted to kill him, but Barnabas came in quietly and took him under his wing. Because of Barnabas, Saul found a place in the community of believers in Jerusalem. Saul began to have conversations with those of the Grecian Jewish community. He wasted no time going to those he had been plotting with to destroy Christians to tell them about his personal encounter with Christ. It is not surprising that they respond just as violently to him as they had the others who had shared with them about Jesus. They tried to kill him, so the believers sent him North for his own safety.

It is interesting what Luke tells us next. The believers had a time of peace in that region. The church was strengthened and encouraged in the Holy Spirit, and it continued to grow. Saul’s buddies may not have converted, but that does not mean that his conversion went unnoticed. Saul’s conversion made such a huge impact that not only did the persecution stop, but the church even grew faster. People wanted to know what it was about these believers that could convince someone like Saul to change his tune. God used both his time of rebellion and persecution, as well as his time of conversion and reformation to grow the early church.

I hope that you have experienced an encounter with Christ. If not, I would encourage you to do what it says in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” God who gives generously to all without finding fault. God who met Saul, killer of the saints, on the road to Damascus, changing his life forever, will meet you where you are, regardless of who you are or what is in your past. All you have to do is ask.