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 add...to 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!