Defining Christianity - Part 1
Sun, Nov 06, 2016
Duration:51 mins
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. (Acts 15:1-2 ESV) Christians are good people. Christians are people that keep the 10 commandments. Christians are folks that love God and love their neighbor. Christians are people that go to church. Christians are individuals that are good citizens. Christians are Bible people. Christians are people that do the right thing. How do these descriptions sit with you? Are they accurate? Are they complete? How would you describe a Christian? This week Luke relays the events at a critical moment in the history of the early church. In Acts 15 the question of what it meant to follow Christ was on the table. What were the qualifications? Did the path to Christ go through Judaism? Did following Him mean keeping the Law? Luke outlines the first church counsel where this critical issue was decided. You might think these issues have long been settled but our quandary over those opening questions in the first paragraph might demonstrate otherwise. Take some time to read through Acts 15.
Simple Christianity
Sun, Oct 30, 2016
Duration:56 mins
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:21-23 ESV) Progress = complication. That’s how I feel about our world. We live in a time where things are amazing! Technology has enabled amazing things in travel, in information, in medicine, in education, in 'you name it'. But to be honest, sometimes I day-dream about going back to simpler times, becoming a kid again with less complications. Unfortunately, I think we often treat the Christian life the same way. We think that progress = complication. A deeper spiritual life means discovering secret paths to growth. Or we read books that tell us specifically how to pray, read, parent, live, etc. And after awhile we get tired, frustrated, and then just overwhelmed. We feel like a failure. But is that the Christian life? This week, we take another look at Paul & Barnabas’ first missionary journey. As they continue on their adventure, I want us to discover the simple Christian life they taught. Take some time to read through Acts 13-14. Also, I want to encourage you to invite someone. Or if you haven’t seen someone at church in a while, why not give them a call, write a note, or email them.
Everyday Missionaries
Sun, Oct 23, 2016
Duration:52 mins
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3 ESV) If you grew up in the church, like me, a missionary visit meant cool things from faraway place, slideshows, stories of adventure, and massive amounts of guilt to-go. I remember one missionary weekend when a large snake skin was rolled down the aisle and I also got to shoot a poison dart blowgun. To be honest, the next week of ‘normal’ church was a bit of a let down. With those types of experiences we tend to think of missionaries as slightly awkward people that go to faraway places to speak in another language and share the gospel with people who have never heard it. With that kind of thinking, I can understand why there is a disconnect when they say that we are all missionaries. This week we will continue to explore the book of Acts in our series, Gospel on the Move. We will see what many call the first missionary journey of Paul's, in Acts 13-14. Take some time to read through this section. And take some time to think about where today, you might be a missionary, too.
Fighting God
Sun, Oct 16, 2016
Duration:57 mins
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. . . So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:1-5 ESV) Let’s be honest. Most of us are pessimist. Our outlook on the future is bleaker then our faded memories of the past. We sometimes then mask our fear with escapism, “God come and get us out of here!” And in moments of honesty we look around and wonder what is going on. Has God gone on vacation? Are we being judged? Did something slip by Him? This week in Acts we will witness the final curtain call for Peter. He has been the predominate figure throughout the first half of this book. But now through miraculous circumstances, he will exit. But as he does, we get to see a glimpse of who is really in charge, in both difficulties and triumphs. Take a few minutes to read through Acts 12. It’s an important and steadying reminder in this season of uncertainty. Then plan to join us on Sunday.
Forgotten Heroes
Sun, Oct 09, 2016
Duration:46 mins
Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:36-37 ESV) Most of us want to be the superstar. We want to be famous. We want the adulation and notoriety. If we are trying to be pious we might fain humility but we would really like it if people whispered our name as we came in the room. The danger of this mindset is that, either overtly or secretly, we foster a wrong perception of ourselves and others. And even worse, we minimize who God has made us to be. This week I want to tell you about a man named Joseph. (Not Jesus’ earthly dad). He’s better known by his nickname, Barnabas. He was pivotal in the development of the early church. But in contrast to Peter or Paul, he often seems to have worked in the background. To prep your heart and mind to worship together, would you take some time to prayerfully read through Acts 11. It begins with Peter’s mission report about the Gentiles, but our focus will be on the latter half of that chapter.
A Bacon Wrapped Gospel
Sun, Oct 02, 2016
Duration:49 mins
In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”(Acts 10:12-14 ESV) With the receipt nervously rustling through my fingers, I waited for my number to be declared across the loudspeaker. As it was called out, I felt that I was instantly the winner of the day. I grabbed the brown paper sack that was slowly becoming transparent, as the grease in its contents seeped through. Then as I dug through the fries, revealing the treasure of my Lil Bacon Cheeseburger - All The Way, my mouth began to water. I thought I heard a heavenly chorus. I peeled back the foil to reveal it’s goodness. As I bowed my head, I uttered the words, ‘God, in this moment I supremely thank you for the New Covenant and my participation in it! Amen’ After that narrative, two things are probably happening. First, you're hungry, (so treat yourself today!) Second, you are trying to figure out what in the world my 5 Guys restaurant experience has to do with the New Covenant. To figure that out, you need to be there on Sunday! We will continue to work our way through the book of Acts, but if you want to take a few guesses, read through Acts 10 before Sunday.
Gospel Encounter
Sun, Sep 25, 2016
Duration:53 mins
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2 ESV) If we are honest, we believe there are people that are beyond the grace of God. They might be someone in the news who actively and maybe even violently live opposed to Christianity. It might even be someone close to you who may not be opposed to the faith, but just ambivalent to it. But if we are honest in a "getting real" moment, we believe they are beyond God’s grace. Sometimes thatmay even describe ourselves, because we are more aware than anyone of our heart and actions, to the point of becoming acutely aware of our distance from a holy God. The study of Acts 9 breaks through these kinds of ideas. This week we will hear the story of the key figure in the New Testament, outside of Christ. I want to encourage you to read through the story of Saul in Acts 9. Also, this would be a great week to invite someone to come along with you!
Gospel Expansion
Sun, Sep 18, 2016
Duration:57 mins
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1 ESV) Do you fear that persecution for your faith might happen to you? How does that make you feel about the future? What would that do to your desire to communicate about Christ to those around you? This week, we will take a look at Act 8. Jesus had told his disciples that they were going to be his megaphones to the world. It would begin in Jerusalem and ripple out from there. So far Jerusalem had been rocked. But what about the rest of the world? With the strain of persecution, we find them forced to head out of town. And along the way, the gospel impacts some pretty unusual individuals. Come this week and hear how messy evangelism can be, but how we have the privilege to communicate his message.
The Connecting Gospel - Part2
Sun, Sep 11, 2016
Duration:59 mins
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”(Acts 7:51-53 ESV) Some people are judicious with their words. They are clear but careful. They know who they are talking to and gently weave their words together. Others are bulldozers. They are a verbal wreaking crew unleashing havoc, maybe intentionally and likely on purpose. Which are you? We might be tempted to read Stephen’s words above and label him as the later. He pulls no punches. He is direct and cutting. But I think there is something deeper going on here. He is not speaking to godless pagans, but to individuals that have staked their livelihoods and reputations on their righteousness actions. These are ‘good’ people. So what is he doing? This Sunday we will take another look into Acts 7. I want to encourage you to read through the narrative in Acts 6-7 to refresh yourself with the context. Then, plan to join us for worship at 10:30.
The Connecting Gospel - Part1
Sun, Sep 04, 2016
Duration:49 mins
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8 ESV) Where do you most feel the presence of God? Is it in a specific church? Is it while singing a specific song? Is it out in nature? For the Jews of the first century that was an easy question to answer. The presence of God was located in the temple in Jerusalem. It was a monument to his grandeur and glory. It contained the holy artifacts. And it was the spot where all proper worship took place. So you have to imagine that it was disruptive to be told it was nothing more than an edifice that would be destroyed. And that it would disappear, and with it, also how you would relate to God. But that’s exactly what Jesus said. It was of no surprise then that a charge of sedition and blasphemy was leveled against him. But what did he mean? It was a couple of years later that Stephen announced similar ideas. And it caused the same level of disruption. But before we cast stones, might we be guilty of the same thing as the first century Jews? Isn’t church where you go to be close to God? This week we head back into Acts 6-7. We will be looking at the charges and sermon of Stephen. Take a few minutes to read through the chapter. It has a ton of connections with the Old Testament story-line. We will try and connect as many of the dots as we can. Your familiarity with the passage will help. Also, this week we will be celebrating communion together.
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