As the church grew from twelve disciples to thousands of believers, they met persecution from many groups. At first, it was the religious leaders of the community. These leaders were concerned that this new teaching of Jesus of Nazareth was full of error and leading people away from the one true God. They started by warning the Christians to stop preaching the gospel, but when the Christians continued to spread the good news of God the religious leaders became more violent – even to the point of murder. As the church grew in size and influence in spite of the religious persecution, the government leaders began to take notice and oppose Christianity. In the same manner, in order to appease the ruling parties of the community, the civil government began to arrest and even execute Christians.
Where is God when good people are persecuted and killed for doing what He commands? Just as the first church learned, so must we; God is right here and active. Even when faced with persecution and death, the power of the Holy Spirit continues to go before us and accomplish exactly what God wants to be accomplished. Our job is to stay close to God and walk with Him through the trials and tribulations taking the good news of Jesus to whomever will listen.
Even though the holiday season is supposed to remind us of thankfulness and the joys of Christmas, it can often bring burdens and worry. Thankfulness is something we should practice whenever we can and thankful is a state we can be in all of the time. Thanksgiving involves thinking and talking about the good things God has done in your life before and setting your heart and mind on the good things to come. Thanksgiving cancels worry. Thankfulness eliminates fear. Thanks produces joy. A thankful heart instills humility, wisdom, and even leads to compassion for others. In thanksgiving we recognize our need for God, his love for each one of us and when you know his love for you this builds up love for others. Thankfulness does not get rid of the obstacles that tempt you to worry and fear, but it gets rid of the worry and fear allowing you to handle the situation like it’s any other situation.
Practicing thankfulness will eventually enable you to see the good things in the midst of really bad circumstances and be thankful no matter what trial or obstacle you may face. You don’t become naive to the reality of life, rather you wake up and become more real – seeing things as God sees them.
Thankfulness increases when you think about the goodness of God in your life. Leaning on the goodness of God frees you to offer encouragement and help to other people.
Learn not to get hysterical, but to get historical. Thinking about the historic provision and goodness of God in your life focuses your heart and mind on the future blessings that God has promised.
Scripture References: Psalm 136; Joshua 4:1-9; 1 Samuel 17:34-37
The first Christians were confronted with idea of taking the gospel outside of the Jewish community. Today, this seems like an odd problem because the gospel has been preached and delivered to all nations and all people around the world. Yet Peter was the first apostle to bring the gospel message to a Gentile audience. A Gentiles was any person that wasn’t a Jew and all of the first Christians were Jews. God amazed and even confused the first disciples by declaring and showing that the gospel was meant not only for the Jews but also for all men and women. As they did, we too are to take the gospel to men and women who are on the outside of our normal community comforts. Jesus meant for the gospel to go out into the world.
The daily delight of God the Father, is Jesus the Son. The daily delight of Jesus is you and me. He loves us so much that he died for us. What an amazing truth – the daily joy and delight of Jesus Christ is you!
At the annual Fall Festival and Friend Day, we were all encouraged to embrace the great love God has for us – for you.
Jesus says to you, “Whatever problem you have, whatever pain you’re going through, give me the nail and I’ll give you my heart.”
When you think of the life of Paul, what comes to your mind? Maybe: transformation, mighty servant, passionate, zealous. He’s remembered for transformation and zeal because he once hunted for Christians because they dishonored God according to his understanding of God. At first, Paul had much knowledge about God but he missed the greatest piece of knowledge; Jesus as the Son of God. Although he knew much about God and lived a moral life, he ultimately proved that he didn’t know God because he thought Jesus was an enemy. That all changed when he encountered Jesus as the Son of God. He went from a zealous enemy of Jesus to one of the most passionate friends of Jesus.
The surprising fact is that Paul spent some three years after his encounter with Jesus before he began the work he is known for today. It’s easy to assume that Paul was an effective Christian from the first minute of meeting Jesus. As if he started writing parts of the Bible the minute he received his sight after the Damascus road incident. Yet, even he had to go through a time of basic training and growth before he became known as the great Apostle Paul.
A transformed life takes time to achieve and we often forget that. The transformation process is full victory but also full of failure and mess. As a church, we often expect a person to go from terrible sinner to perfect saint the minute after a prayer is said all the while forgetting that it took each of us many years to get to where we are currently at – still far from perfect practice. There is always a time of reorientation and learning. A transformed life is one built though many experiences that teach humility and wisdom. God walks with each of us on our own specialized learning plan to teach us who he is and how to depend on him. The Christian life doesn’t mean smooth sailing, but it does mean that God is with you and for you.
Scripture References: Acts 9:19-30. see also Galatians 1:11-24; Philippians 3:3-7
Preached by Evan Stewart and Cortney Kluver (00:37)
In uncertain times, do you sometimes feel like you’re on the fight? Fighting for your job, your family, your community, or country? It’s tiring, frustrating, and disheartening. You want to do something, but you don’t know what you can do to solve any of these problems. God says to praise Him to overcome fear and worry, but what good is it for anyone of us to hear that praise is the weapon of our fight?
King Jehoshaphat learned the purpose of praise when Jerusalem was surrounded by a vast army. Outnumbered, outflanked, and out of time, he turned to God and praised God before he took action. God told the army to get battle ready and head to the front line, but to wait and watch for Him to move first. They marched to the battle field, praising God as they went, and when they arrived the battle was already over and won. Through praise, the King and his people were reminded that God is on the throne and he is for them not against them.
Praise puts God back on the throne in our hearts and minds. The outcome of any problem may not be the one we envisioned, but through praise we set our minds back on the real prize; God. Through praise the peace of God fills us. Do you want peace in troubled times? Then turn up the praise.
The first community of Christians were known to their opponents as “followers of The Way”. Today, Christians are known by a lot of different group names, but we are still followers of “The Way”. If you are not following what Jesus described as “the way”, then you are not a Christian. There is great room for differences of opinion, culture, and choice within Christianity (contrary to popular opinion), but at it’s core Christianity is the proclamation of “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, the way to God who is Jesus Christ.
There is a set of boundaries defining “the Way” that Jesus walked and calls his students to walk, and when we ignore what Jesus taught then we stop following the Way and start walking a way; and “a way” doesn’t lead to where Jesus is.
Scripture References: Acts 9:2, 20; Matt 7:13-14; John 14:6
The royal treasurer of Ethiopia heard about Jesus, he understood the way to salvation, and then he asked Philip, “Why can’t I be baptized?”
The Ethiopian was a religious man, he traveled across the continent from Northern Africa to Jerusalem to learn about the God of the Jews. Yet, he wasn’t a Christian just by studying the prophets and praying at the Temple. He wanted to honor and obey God, but he didn’t yet know the Son of God. He became a Christian when he trusted in Jesus as the Son of God. That day, the Ethiopian heard and responded to Jesus the person, not Jesus the religious system. The first fruit of the Ethiopian’s decision was his question, “Look, there’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”
Philip showed him that there was nothing stopping him from being baptized. He declared his faith that Jesus is the Son of God and he responded in the first step of obedience Jesus expects; baptism in water.
The book of Acts is filled with stories of mass evangelism. Three thousand people became a Christian at one event, at another some two thousand became Christians, and many other events saw the conversion of hundreds to thousands. Then we come to an event in which only one man becomes a Christian. This story was very much a divine appointment setup by God. A politician from Ethiopia was traveling back to his home country from Jerusalem and he was reading the words of the ancient prophet Isaiah. God sent Philip to the road on which the man’s carriage was traveling. Philip walked beside the carriage and overheard the man reading Isaiah. With one simple question from the man and one act of simple obedience by Philip, one man’s life was forever changed and he took that new life back to the court of the Ethiopian queen.
The story of one man’s conversion highlights the salvation message and our surrender unto God.