The Journey Continues

Click here to read Acts 28.

Paul makes it to Rome.

His journey to Rome was full of turmoil, danger, unrest, and more. Yet through all of this, Paul kept his faith. That’s remarkable!

Paul believed God when He said Paul would make it to Rome. I wonder how many times Paul had to remind himself of that? After all, the shipwreck would have been enough for many to give up and lose hope. But Paul does not lose his faith. He keeps encouraging the soldiers to keep going. He keeps sharing about God every chance he gets. Paul is the one person who seems to be holding it all together.

Think about your life journey. How many hardships have you lived through? How many times did you consider giving up? It would be easy when things just got too hard for us; but we should keep pressing forward, especially if God has truly called us to do what we’re doing.

It would be so nice to be able to say that our life is going to be easy. But that would not be accurate. Our life will be filled with more hope, more peace, more joy, more love all because of Jesus Christ. Oh, we will falter at times; but He is always with us. Jesus guides us and we get to bring people to Him in every circumstance.

What I love about the book of Acts is the movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of ordinary people. Ordinary people who have answered the call of God on their lives and went out to do incredible things because of the power of the Holy Spirit within them.

Paul’s life is remarkable, to me, because he seems to keep his faith (most of the time) in all situations. His is a story that inspires me, not to be just like Paul but to be able to continue proclaiming Jesus Christ wherever I am and through whatever I’m doing.

This may be the end of the book of Acts, but the story is not complete. We get to carry on what the Holy Spirit began in us and continue to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world. How will you live out the calling God has placed on your life?

Acts 1:8

Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

Connecting Points

Click here to read Acts 17.

“All you need to do is to teach that person how to…” This sounds simple enough; but is it really that easy to get people to learn new things? Just teach them? When we teach, we are actually connecting the person to what they have seen, what they have experienced and give it meaning.

The same thing is true for sharing our faith. If we listen to the stories of those around us, we can hear something that we can help connect them to Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus did. He would look around and see everyday objects and use them to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven. Think about your life for a moment, what part or aspect has someone used to help you know Jesus Christ or help you deepen your faith in God through Jesus Christ?

When the Apostle Paul was traveling, his goal was to preach Christ. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul writes, “I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it.” He was showing that when we go to people, we find what speaks to them and go with it. He understood where he was, and knew the people’s culture, so he spoke to them in the way they were most comfortable with and he gave the people the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

Many people turned away; but many accepted the message. I’m sure it bothered Paul when people criticized him for the message of Jesus Christ; but he stayed the course and kept preaching Christ and him crucified and raised. He may have used the language, symbols, culture of the people, but his message was always clear cut. When we speak with people, we should have this same kind of conviction.

Acts 17 gives us a time when Paul had a great opportunity to share his faith, and he gets ridiculed. He is placed in front of some of the smartest and brightest minds in Athens to be mocked. How would you feel if you were placed in that position? Paul never waivers; he searches around and sees all of the gods the people have made. It must have been hard to try to find something to relate to Jesus Christ; but there it was, a statue to the “Unknown god.”

That was his starting point. Paul used the people’s own poetry, about Zeus, and gave it new meaning to point the people to the real God. Again, some accepted, some left. But, he stood firm in the gospel message and people responded. Imagine what would have happened if Paul never spoke then? Imagine what happens when we don’t take time to really connect our lives with Christ to another person so they can experience Christ.

There are connecting points all around. Look at everything you can see and you might be amazed at how the Holy Spirit gives new meaning to worldly objects.

SENT OUT: to Follow

What do you seek? Why are you Christian? Why do you go to the church you attend? When was the last time you thought about the consequences to following Jesus?

Do you really like to be a follower? Or, would we rather be the one(s) in charge and receive the glory and recognition?

Last week we began a new sermon series called SENT OUT. We talked about how our identity as a child of God defines our purpose and gives us greater things to live for instead of our own comfort and our own preferences. This week, our focus is we are SENT OUT in the world to follow Jesus Christ.

I invite you to click on the link and take time to read John 1:29-42.

“Lamb Of God”

Disciples did not know what they were getting into when they said yes to following Jesus. Think about that for a second. Would they have followed a man who would end up at the cross? If we were in their position, would you? It may seem like a pointless endeavor to follow someone who would die just a few years later.

When John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God,” I’m sure the image of lambs in the Old Testament would have come into the minds of the people. Lambs were used for slaughter and sacrifice to “remove” the sin of the people. This is a great foreshadowing of what will occur to Jesus in the next three or so years. So basically John could have been saying “Here comes the dead man walking who will show you what it means to live fully in the presence of God.”

Later on in scripture, Jesus tells his followers they are to “take up their cross and follow him.” This means that he is calling us to be living sacrifices and deny ourselves for the grander purpose of the Kingdom of God. I love the following story of what “take up your cross” means to different cultures.

One market day in their village, two Chwang tribesmen heard a colporteur preach the Gospel. Then he began to sell Gospels, promising blessing to those who not only read but obeyed the precepts contained therein. Both men purchased copies, and taking them home, they read along till they came to the statement, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” In their desire to obey the Word of God, they made two crosses of bamboo, and tied them on their backs. (The Chinese translation of the words, “Take up his cross,” is “Bear his cross on his back.”) They carried these crosses as they visited the market or went about the country, and then carefully hung them on the front of their houses when they were home. Seeing their earnestness of heart, God did not leave them long in the dark. Soon a Chinese worker discovered them, briefly explained the Gospel to them, and advised them to go to Liuchow for further instruction. They did so, and after a week of instruction returned to their village and began to witness for the Lord. Several months later they went back to Liuchow, requesting baptism and further instruction. We were glad to grant both their requests as they exhibited an earnestness seldom seen anywhere. (Alliance Weekly)

“Come and see”

Jesus’ invitation to his new followers was not as gruesome as the death seen of the cross. Neither was it, “get your act together and then follow me.” Disciples asked Jesus,  “Where are you staying?” Jesus answered, “Come and see”

The invitation is to follow…we don’t have to be perfect. How does this make you feel? Aren’t you glad you do not have to be perfect before we accept the invitation of Jesus Christ?

Jesus did not leave the disciples in the place of remaining in their sin. Nor did he allow them to be the same. The imperfect disciples grew in their love and faith as they followed Jesus.

What does all this mean for us today?

S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

When we follow Jesus Christ, our actions change and what we have the heart of God for the least, the last, and the lost. We get to follow wherever Jesus is leading us in our lives. Keep in mind, this does not mean we are passive and do not take the lead. There are times, many times, that Christ calls us to lead people. We are able to lead better because we follow Christ.

So, what are some things we can do to tangibly keep our lives and church in line with Christ’s mission for His church? The challenge is that we will look at all of this and say “I don’t have time to do everything!” or “We’ve never done that / we’ve tried that before.” Or “Ok, if I do this, I’ll keep my place in heaven.”

What are some things you can see yourself / your church community doing to reach out into the world in the love of Jesus Christ?

  • Community missions such as food pantry, clothes closet, helping with utilities, etc?
  • Community (off church site) Bible Studies and times of prayer and worship?
  • Form or strengthen care ministries to the community of faith (homebound, nursing homes, hospitals, sick, etc) and to those in the community?
  • What else can you add to this list?

These are just a few ideas that will have lasting impact within the community and the church community which will end up spreading the love of Jesus Christ out into the whole world.

We do not do this alone! We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go where Christ calls and do the work he calls us to. This is done because we are being leaders in our community (or faithfully being the helpers). We are able to do this because we follow the call mission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8 as examples). It is ALL by God’s grace that we are able to do these acts (Ephesians 2:8-10).

We do not have to do everything; but we can ALL do something!

Are you ready to follow?

  • Bring people to faith in Christ by building authentic relationships and bring them to worship
  • Care for the sick and homebound (widows and orphans)
  • Find out what the community needs (from the community people) and find ways to make it happen)

Carry your cross on your back, check the box that you can follow and not have to lead…

Follow Christ to see where He is leading us in 2017 so we can continue to provide ministry through this church for the future generations (thinking for the next 100 years) to come to follow, know, and love Jesus Christ.

Let’s talk about the vision God is giving you for your life and His church.

What Drives You?

James 3:14-18 “However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.”

This week, we’re continuing to look at wisdom and our lives. Today, I’ll ask the question, “what drives you?” Maybe a better way to ask this is, “where do you get the motivation to do what you do?” I think this is a very important question to ask because it shows where we get our “wisdom” from: culture around us or God in heaven.

If we get our wisdom from the culture around us, we’ll be more interested in what the majority of people think. We’ll look to news and media for sensationalism and entertainment instead of seeing the world as a broken place that God is working in. We’ll say it’s okay to be jealous because people are messing with “our possessions” or our relationships. We’ll focus more on what we want and do anything to get it instead of doing what we can to improve the lives of those around us, including our own.

Wisdom from God is different. It is a way of life that sows the seeds of the gospel for the good of the Kingdom of God. We’ll see evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our way of life, our actions will show this. God gives us a spirit that, if nurtured, will grow and bring forth fruit that will transform the world with the power of God working in us and through us.

What drives you?

Jesus, we call on you to work in our lives and nurture the gifts you and given us. May we have the wisdom to hear from you and allow you to continue to work in us and through us for the transformation of the world. Amen

Wise and Understanding

We’ve been on this journey through the book of James. There have been times where, I hope, we have been challenged and yet encouraged. Challenged to help us have lives that demonstrate our love for Jesus Christ, and encouraged to help us grow in our relationship with God and with other people.

This week, we begin to look at the passage which is considered to be the heart of the letter. At the end of this week, we’ll see a response to God we can take on a daily basis.

James 3:13 “Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom.”

These are important questions we should ask. But, how do we know if we have wisdom? If we know we have wisdom, how does this affect our lives? Are our lives humble enough to allow the wisdom from God to define us?

One of the first things I think we should look at are definitions. Definitions of “wisdom” and “humble.”

wisdom: 

: knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life

: the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand

: knowledge of what is proper or reasonable : good sense or judgment

humble:

: not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people

: given or said in a way that shows you do not think you are better than other people

: showing that you do not think of yourself as better than other people

If someone were to tell you how your life appeared to them, what would they say? It would be difficult for me to hear someone else describe my life. After all, they don’t know what I feel or what I’m thinking.

But, I think this is the point. We all want to think people know the real us; but what if they knew our thoughts and our feelings we don’t show? How humble would we be if another person gave us their perception of us?

I invite you today to pray about wisdom and see how this impacts your life. I’m still learning and growing; but God is good and faithful to send wisdom when we ask. Then, we seek to understand what we have learned. I believe one of the tricks is to not let wisdom make us feel better than other people, but to seek out to better our understanding to be in relationship with them which will help our relationship with God.

Lord, thank you for all you have given. I pray for your guidance today. Help me see you and your work in this world. Amen

Prayers for Love & Fruit

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God. (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭9-11‬ CEB)

I love this letter that Paul writes. After he gives thanks for the people and their faith and devotion, he flat out tells them what he’s praying for. This is convicting to me because I don’t always pray for these qualities in people. 

So often, I believe, we pray for physical needs and health, as we should; but we can also neglect the spiritual needs and health. I have come to the understanding that we should focus on the spirit of people just as intensely as we focus on physical health and healing. 

Paul is praying for their love to be developed in such a way that his congregation, and us, become even more rich in knowledge and insight (wisdom). Our love grows more rich when we take time to abide (remain) in Christ and allow His Spirit to fill us and transform us. 

God freely gives wisdom and understanding to all who seek it. We can find this in many ways. God can choose to give wisdom through people, reading, praying, visions, dreams, directly to our minds and spirits. Truthfully, God is not confined to any method. Paul is praying for his people to be open to this; and this is my prayer for you and I today. 

When our love grows, the fruit God produces in us grows even more abundantly. What is this fruit? When we allow God to live in and through us, the fruit we see growing is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control. Imagine how the world would be if we lived in this manner and really allowed these qualities to blossom in our hearts and be manifested in our lives. 

Jesus Christ came so we could know life and live abundantly. I pray, as Paul prays, that your love grows strong. That you will see great fruit in your life. 

Today, I encourage you to read John 15:1-16. Read it and reflect on it to see what it looks like to remain in Christ. I also invite you to journal what you think about and talk with another person what God revealed to you. 

#LifeIsSoMuchMoreWithChrist

Everyday Prayers

IMG_0174

Ephesians 1:15-19 Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. 

One of the things I love about Paul is how much his life revolves around prayer. Paul prays all the time and for everyone he has encountered. This shows us how serious Paul took praying and how it impacted his life. Something else that stands out to me is not that Paul prayed, but what he prayed for.

What are some things you personally pray for? I hear people pray for healing, for successful surgeries, for health, for safe travels, for blessings on meetings and events. It seems many of us, including me, look at prayer as something to do only when there are health issues or we want God to bless “our” efforts and work.

There are also people who pray for so much more than just physical healing or ailments. They go straight to the human condition, adding in spiritual, emotional, mental, AND physical healing and wholeness for those they love and those they consider to be enemies.

Going back over this passage today, we can see what it was that Paul was praying for. Bottom line is, he prayed for the power of God to be evident in each person so that we remember who we belong to and what it is we truly work for. So Paul begins by saying he thanks God for each person. What a great prayer. A simple “thank you” prayer. Lately I have found myself praying and giving thanks for the challenging people and situations in my life. It has helped me to see them and work with them as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Not everyone or everything will go smoothly, but we can thank God because He is with us and is also with the other people.

He also goes on to say he prays for the spirit of wisdom so that God is made known to the people. We should do this today so that others come to know the joy that is found in Jesus Christ. Who do you know that you can pray for to come to faith? Have you prayed for yourself in this area for your faith to become stronger?

Paul also basically prays for the light of Jesus Christ to be shown through each believer so that the incredible power of God will be made known among those around us. Think about this, Paul has been beaten and has been imprisoned, shipwrecked, thrown out-of-town, mocked, ridiculed, and so much more. Through all of this he ca still praise God and give thanks for the people. Many of his converts were also people who did some of the things to him. Think of the forgiveness Paul had in his heart. He remembered he was no where near perfect, and this helped him to pray for all people, give thanks for them AND for God’s power and presence to be made known in them and through them.

We are challenged daily to go beyond superficial prayers, through we need to continue praying for physical healing and safety; but we should also look toward the spiritual realm, the emotional realm, the mental and relational. God is so incredible and big enough to handle things we may not want to lift up. This is part of the power of the gospel.

#TheGospelChangesUs