I wonder today if any of you reading the View are feeling like you have been wasting your life. Do any of you feel as though you haven’t been living your life in a way that matters or is significant? Can you look back on the days that have gone by and see a selfish life? Or maybe a lazy life? If you feel that way, I have really good news for you – today can be the day of living in a new direction. It gets even better than that – God can “redeem” or use all the junk in our past as we place it in His hands and ask for a new beginning. You may be tempted to think that your failures or ruts are just too deep to get out of, but I want to assure you that is not the case.
This week in our WayPoints Series we are looking at Acts 8. The Church is growing but the opposition is growing as well. In fact, in the previous chapter we have the story of Stephen; the first martyr recorded in Scripture. As Acts 8 begins we are told: “1On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3But Saul began to destroy the church.”
Right from the very beginning we see that the church has always not only faced opposition but has “excelled” when forced into refinement. We pray for peace filled lives and removal of difficulties but I am not always so sure we see things the way God does. By the way, I pray for peace and the removal of tough stuff for me and the people I love all the time! I just need to ask for God’s perspective at the same time.
Back to our text and the topic of possibly “living in a new direction.” Have you ever heard of the Apostle Paul? He is often referred to as the greatest missionary in history. You may or may not realize that you have just been introduced to him in the previous verses from Acts 8. He wasn’t always known as Paul. The first half of his life he was known as Saul of Tarsus. He was a passionate and learned man. He was highly thought of within the Jewish power structure and we meet him in verse 3 as the one that “began to destroy the church.”
That’s right! Paul’s initial interaction with the church was to do all in his power to destroy it. How is that for being off track or in a deep rut? Nothing is too difficult for God. The resurrected Jesus confronted Paul later in the book of Acts and changed him into a man that literally gave his life for what he once was trying to destroy. This God of ours is still on the move today taking misdirected, messed up and even lazy lives; then igniting them into lives of eternal significance. God Almighty wants to do that in our lives today. Remember, He can redeem it all! Nothing is wasted in the way God sets us free.
Are you familiar with the phrase “to go above and beyond”? I love being around people that go above and beyond. I hope you have encountered these people in your life too. I also hope you appreciate them and let them know what a blessing they are. I can confidently say that Oak Hill has many of these people. I rub shoulders with them and see them doing their “thing” week after week, year after year. I am so very thankful!
One of the most common components of these people’s outlook on life is that they notice things and then they act simply because they can. For instance, Barb described her Grandpa as being very good at anticipating the needs of others. She has told me how he would sit at the dinner table and pass things to people before they asked. For example, before a word was spoken but at just the right time he noticed they could use a bit more gravy on their potatoes or jam for their bread. That can seem like a small thing, but when it is a person’s everyday perspective it is amazingly powerful. For us, it is a must if we want to follow Jesus. In the Bible, it shows up whenever and wherever Jesus shows up.
We see it in Jesus’ words regarding “putting the other first” and we encounter it in its most extreme case as Jesus hung on the cross for us. Jesus anticipated our every need and He came from heaven to earth to meet them. Am I willing to be inconvenienced to help others and give them what they need? We all like to give a knee jerk response to this question – “Of course I would, after all, I follow Jesus.” But if I am honest I must admit that I am missing out to a certain degree on the singularity in focus that Jesus always had for “the other.”
I am exceedingly aware Jesus is my savior because of all my shortcomings including my tendency toward self-focused living, but that doesn’t mean I should settle for missing out on all the good things God has in store for me as I live my life for others. Even though the previous sentence may sound selfish, it actually shows one of God’s many great truths. We find our full life when we give our life to others! I love how the power of God always blesses both the receiver and the giver.
One of the most common words used to describe this kind of living is service. Time and time again in Scripture we are called to serve. We are even told that the spiritual gifts we possess are for the “common good” and not just a personal blessing. God expects us to interact with each other in a spirit of service. What if we went so far as to deliberately prefer the preferences of the other over our own? That is truly a radical concept but that is exactly what God calls us to in Philippians 2:
1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
This Sunday’s message comes from Acts 6:1-7 where the early Church sees the need for service in various forms if the followers of Jesus are going to do what God has called them to do. See you Sunday!
Serving with you,
Have you ever noticed that for you to get “faster, stronger or smarter” it takes effort? There is a natural beginning spot in most of life and if you are going to find yourself in a different spot, you will need to do something to get there. In fact, you could say there is something naturally “opposing” you from ending up at that new place.
For instance, if you want to learn to speak French, you will need to dedicate time, energy and effort to become bilingual or you will continue to rely upon subtitles during that next French film. Or let’s say that you want to learn to dribble a basketball with your left hand; this will not occur just by thinking about it during your next daydreaming session. If you are going to adequately learn to dribble a basketball with your “offhand,” you will need to commit time, energy and effort to conquer the natural “opposition” that tells you to just use your right hand – you are naturally better with that hand.
When it comes to walking with our God I think this “opposition” perspective is also very real. For me to become a person of faith, I need to actually have faith. If I claim to have faith in God but never live by faith or trust God’s Word and Ways to guide me, then I am only living a life that talks about faith instead of actually possessing faith. Faith requires for me to move from trusting myself and my ways to truly trusting God.
In the same way, the Church of Jesus Christ claims to follow Jesus in the good times and the tough times. How will we react to opposition? Jesus has shown us what to do. We are to hold onto truth and love at the same time. We are to be proclaimers of grace and forgiveness while standing up against injustice and oppression. This will not be easy! We will need each other’s encouragement and gifts to get to this new place of living lives of faith.
This is exactly what we see happening in our passage for this Sunday. In the fourth chapter of Acts the opposition that stood against Jesus now rises up again against Jesus’ Church. What we see happen is both beautiful and powerful. The believers cry out to God in prayer for boldness [vss. 23-31]. God hears their prayers and they receive His strength. They move to a new place of bold and radical dependence upon God and each other. The Church is on the move and it is absolutely magnificent! God wants nothing less for His Church today.
Boldly United in Christ,
Have you ever started out doing something and then ended up doing something completely different? Or how about you look back to review and realize you missed the main point?
This can manifest itself in small ways such as heading out to the garage to grab a garbage bag, but while you are out there you notice the shovels are all messy, which leads to shoveling out the left over icy gunk from the cars, which leads to laying de-icer on the driveway, which obviously leads to getting the mail and getting the bills paid. Back into the house with no garbage bag in sight!
This can also show up in more important places in life when we simply do everything but the main things. We have jobs and school and tasks that need to be done. We have stuff to take care of and maintain. We have our “status” to update and our image to build. While these demands and many others vie for our attention the main things often get overlooked. In a nutshell, the most important things are God and people. And I don’t mean just a momentary bumping into each other. Our love for God and people need to be driving all the other things that occupy our lives. Isn’t it easy to get this messed up?
I mention this because this week we move into Luke’s second volume for our WayPoints series. We have walked through the Gospel of Luke to encounter the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Sunday, we begin Luke’s book “The Acts of the Apostles.” It walks us through God’s establishment and building of the Church. This week’s message will focus on Acts 2 and Pentecost. This is the event that really ignited the Church as God poured out the Holy Spirit for all people of all nations beginning in Jerusalem.
The main role of the Holy Spirit is to clarify the work of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit creates and grows faith in God’s people. The Spirit of God is referred to in numerous places as the Spirit of Truth. This is vitally important as we often need to be reminded of what the Church is TRULY about. All through history, the Church of Jesus Christ has been tempted to focus on things that are not the main thing. Some of these can truly be good in their rightful place but if they take the place of prominence the Church loses its power and purpose for existing.
For instance, if our emphasis is on a program or a method or a style or a building project – we will miss the main thing and over time Jesus takes a peripheral position instead of being front and center. In our day of image and power we often want to appear a certain way or sound a certain way more than we want to know God’s Word more. Therefore, the Holy Spirit needs to be at work in our day and in our lives. The Spirit of God has been bringing the Church back to the main thing for 2000 years. If Oak Hill or any other congregation does not have the same center and mission and values as the Church that began in Acts 2 – an adjustment is needed. Please pray that Oak Hill will be continually guided by the Holy Spirit to build God’s Kingdom through the completed work of Jesus.
Connecting Lives in Grace and Truth,
Pastor Nick Mundis