Coming into the NT. How does the Story come together? Who is the one we were looking for?
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. - James 1:17-18 (ESV)
The grace of God is a beautiful truth. When we realize what God has done for us it can be overwhelming. But when we encounter difficulty and tragedy, our rest and awe of the grace of God can grow dim. How do we continue to see God’s grace even in the difficulties of life? As we come together this week we will consider God’s good gifts to us by looking at James 1.
I’m excited to have Jon Wymer open up God’s word to us. Jon has joined us for the last few months. He is here on temporary assignment to the Redstone Arsenal. But in civilian life he is the pastor of York EV Free Church in York, Nebraska. It's been great to get to know him. I’m looking forward to what he shares with us.
Closing out the OT. We are looking at how the Prophetical and Poetical books fit into the Storyline.
. . . and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:19-20 (ESV)
We see their mug shots on the news. We quickly drive by them when see the ‘chain gang’ picking up trash on the side of the road. We fear what they have done and what they might do. In our minds, criminals are there because of their bad choices and sins. We think they need help. We doubt they could ever help us. And we would look with suspicion at any of them that would seek to lead or teach or preach to us. After all, they're criminals.
But this week, we encounter a criminal. He would be locked up for the rest of Acts and be in that state for most of the rest of his life. While Paul has had freedom to travel and blast the gospel into the corners of the known world, now his freedom will be restricted. How would you respond if your pastor, friend, or missionary was locked up? Would you have fears? Would you go silent or would you protest? Or would you see it as an opportunity? Take some time to read through Acts 21-22 as we look into this next phase of Paul’s ministry. And why not invite a friend to join you.
When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. Acts 21:17-19 (ESV)
Missionaries are those people that cross oceans, speak different languages, enter into different cultures, and endanger themselves and their families for the gospel. That's how we often think of them. This allows us to both support them and distance ourselves from them. They are adventurers. We are the home bodies. They are risk takers, we are the constants. They are the missionaries, we are just church folk.
Part of our mission statement at Hope is that we would be people that are 'fearlessly on mission'. This is something that I dream for us to realize both corporately and individually. In a real sense it's a desire to eliminate the gap in our thinking between the 'missionaries' and us. This is a desire and a dream that we have yet to realize.
This week we enter into the final section of Acts. Paul is focused on two places - Jerusalem and Rome. His face was set to reach both. The first was to encourage and give to those who had been the epicenter of the church. The second, Rome, was to plunge the gospel into the heart of the Empire. What Paul knew is that this mission involved danger, but he didn't care.
Take a few minutes to read through Acts 21 to prepare your heart and mind for this Sunday. We will also be worshiping through some special music and communion. So plan to be there!
Program note: we have been trying out FB Live. So in addition to the podcast of the weekly services. You can now watch live at about 10:55 on Sundays by going to the Hope FB page or you can go watch the video afterward. Pass the word!
And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship. - Acts 20:36-38 (ESV)
Working alongside people in ministry develops friendships and bonds. We are meant to weave our lives together. And when we do this in the body of Christ, embracing our messiness, giving each other grace, and pointing each other toward truth, we then become more than friends. I’ve experienced this. And when that is lost through distance or death or disagreement, it’s jarring. Sometimes we can struggle with a fear of reengaging because of a feeling of loss.
Paul had spent almost three years working in and around Ephesus. It had become his second home in many ways. They had seen the gospel powerfully advanced. They had struggled against social and economic forces that viewed Christianity as a threat. But now he was leaving. In a world without phones or emails and with uncertain travel, the prospect of his return was questionable, if not impossible. So what would he say to the friends and leaders he was leaving? How would he want them to remember him? This week, we wrap up our look at the story of his stay in Ephesus that was developed in Acts. In this final scene, we see Paul address these leaders of Ephesus. In it, we will see Paul’s heart and concern for the church. Take a few minutes and read through Acts 20 as we prepare for Sunday. I look forward to seeing you then!