There’s nothing like a near-death experience to give one clarity about what’s most important. It’s in this context that Paul got thinking about succession: leaving a legacy, establishing a lasting influence, and investing in the next generation. In this text we see the shift in Paul from being primarily a sower, to becoming both a sower […]
Have you noticed how often a difficulty arises once you take a step to faithfully do what God wants you to do? In our passage today, strong opposition came against God’s people when king Herod killed James and captured Peter to kill him as well. If you desire to see God break through like only He can do this message will encourage you to anticipate opposition, pray to our King and know with certainty that He will deliver you in His time according to His plan for His glory and your amazement.
A godly disciple named Stephen has been executed. Authorities have entered the Christians’ homes. Male and female disciples have been dragged off to prison. And the One who said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” is seated at the Father’s right hand with all authority in Heaven and on earth. What is King Jesus up to? Beginning in Acts 8, through the whole Book of Acts and up to today, we discover that King Jesus is in the process of unleashing the whole church to bring the whole gospel to the whole world. In this message, we are challenged not to waste our lives and trained how to join Jesus in this mission – until He comes again.
You can sometimes tell a lot about a person, from the way they die. Stephen, the “Jesus is Lord” movement’s first martyr, is one of those cases. The narrative of Stephen in Acts 6 and 7 gives us great insight into someone spiritually mature – someone described as “full of grace and power,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and wise beyond his peers. So how is it possible that someone like that would drive the leaders of a nation into a mob frenzy that ends up killing him? The answer is a surprising one: because God was looking for someone to deliver a strong message to his leaders (“your God is too small!”), and in so doing plant the seed of a disciple-making movement beyond the understanding of anyone else living at that time.
There are two ways to live life. We can live with God, love one another, love our neighbors and serve according to our divine purpose with joy and peace even in the midst of opposition. Or, we can live with jealousy, fear and anger while still considering ourselves religious. In our message today these two ways are contrasted in the lives of the apostle Peter and the high priest Caiaphas. Why was Peter able to serve with love and joy even when thrown in prison and beaten? The answer to this question is revealed in Peter’s words to Caiaphas. It is also the secret for living the life God created for us today.
Discovering the purpose for which God created us is deeply satisfying. Yet, often others will try to discourage us from becoming all that God intends for us to be and do. After healing a lame man and then explaining to the crowd that Jesus was the source of this man’s healing, some people in positions of authority were “greatly annoyed” and “charged” them not to do these things (the exact things that God had created them to do) any more. How these first disciples responded will expand your view of God and encourage you to remain faithful to His purpose for your life no matter what!
Acts 4 picks up the story a few hours after the crippled man has been healed… Peter and John are arrested and detained for upsetting the peace with their “uneducated” teaching, and for convincing people to join the “Jesus is Lord” movement. For the first time, the apostles find themselves in the exact same place Jesus was just weeks prior: in front of the ruling religious council of their day, being strongly questioned. Previously, this environment was the catalyst for Peter’s cowardly denials of Jesus as he observed the hostility and authority of the council to put his master to death. However, in this “second chance,” Peter stays on offense, yet respectfully. Through his response to the council’s intimidation, he provides one of the strongest case studies in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform people fully, into who they were created to be, in the image of Jesus himself.
Two of the most famous Biblical stories are (1) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, and (2) Daniel in the Lion’s Den. They both occur during the 70-year period of Israelite exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC, yet these accounts have tremendous value for us today: they show how God brings glory to Himself in the midst of a culture of critics. Any trial in our lives, no matter how big or small, — when met with courage and faith — can become a demonstration of God’s power and creativity. When that demonstration is simply and humbly attributed to Him, the critics that surround us can become witnesses to an undeniable glory, hungry for more (just like Anton Ego in the animated film, Ratatouille).
As thousands of runners passed by mile 21 ½ for the Denver marathon this morning, many people encouraged them to keep going all the way to the finish. In our service we received 3 encouragements from God’s Word to “run the race with endurance that is set before you.” Endurance is the ability to continue in the midst of pain until the task is finished. If you ever consider giving up on Christ because it is too hard, first reflect on these encouragements and the huge reward at the finish line for all who run with endurance!
While Christians suffer in different ways, the recipients of this letter were suffering because of their faith in Jesus. In this message we discover that suffering for Christ is an essential part of God’s plan for His people in this world. Yet suffering is not the end. Just like the birth of a baby, a spiritual conversion and every good Hollywood movie, so we follow the pattern of Jesus; to suffer, die and rise!