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 (notes.i.vi.xx) — Wesley, John (1703-1791)
Wesley argues that they were re-baptized, but that Paul did not do the baptism, but only laid on hands.