What do all these things in the following list have in common?
At one time in my life I was passionate about each of them. I collected them and spent time and energy to “enhance my life and improve my well-being” through them. How is that for an over the top evaluation of momentary hobbies? Passions come and go. Some of our passions may have to do with recreational activities, travel, or musical preferences. Other times we may be consumed with healthy eating options such as tofu over beef and a seaweed smoothie over a shamrock shake. Nope, that is ludicrous. Does that reaction reveal a passion?
My point is that we all get excited about certain things at certain times. Are the things I’m most passionate about the right things to be passionate about? I believe there is a natural human tendency or pull away from the things of God toward things that keep us from freedom and significance in Christ. The Disciples were continually doing battle with Jesus regarding the way He was choosing to do things. The Twelve often expressed disdain for a Kingdom of God that wasn’t about traditional power and hype.
Oak Hill and every other congregation needs to make sure the passions of God match our passions. In our culture of shallowness, accumulation, “look at me,” “likes” and “hits,” we need to be different. Jesus has always been counter-culture and today is no different. Our call is not to have Jesus fit into our culture – our call is to present a “Jesus
culture” that is wholly other. We present something deeper that has the ability to deliver a foundational passion to every context in every age. This passion is simply living in response to what God has done for us. This is a life of worship that pours out the grace and truth that has come to us.
Corporately and individually we are invited by our God to live passionate lives. We were not created for lives of drifting, selfish comfort and insignificance. We were also not created for pursuing passions that in the end are empty. We are made in God’s image and that means we were made to be in communion with God Almighty. Jesus lived his days perfectly. His passion was crystal clear; God and people.
He did this through day-in and day-out relationships of time, conversation and love. All that Jesus did was other-focused and no one ever lived a more passionate life of significance. All of Jesus’ “side passions” like storytelling and hospitality were set in the context of God and people.
In our text this week [Acts 26] we see Paul also inherited this singular passion from Jesus that is God and other focused.
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
May we also be people of Jesus’ passion,
You have a story to tell. It is a story that is unique and identical to no other story ever told. It is also a story that has aspects very similar or virtually “identical” to what others have experienced. This story is the story of your life. You alone can tell it because you alone know it.
God wants to interpret it with you so that you completely understand your life and all that it means to be uniquely you. Problems often arise when we don’t want to tell our story. We pretend to be living a different life and therefore we tell a lie – we try to live as someone who God didn’t create us to be. We live in opposition to God and we deal with daily internal tension and turmoil as we try to live as an imposter of ourselves.
I can try to appear to be better, stronger, cleaner or more together than I really am. I can try to convince myself and everyone else that I have no struggles with pride or fear. I can tell everyone around me that all is well when it is not. I can come across as disciplined as I hide my addictions. I can talk big about my deep spirituality and just be going through the motions. Don’t live a phony life!
Another common problem for many Christians is to be embarrassed and dishonest about our past mistakes or experiences. I am convinced if we deny our past we are probably also hiding things in our present life as well. Scripture gives us example after example of the power of God to redeem our mistakes. When they are placed in the hands of God they become a key chapter in the story of our lives. They are commonly the very areas by which we connect to others and can then deliver the message of Jesus.
We don’t rub shoulders with too many perfect people but we encounter plenty with rough edges or mistakes they don’t want to relive. Every single chapter of your life story matters in the way God wants you to understand your life and His transforming power. Your triumphs and your tragedies all have their place. Your celebrations, conquests, tears and fears all have their place in what God wants to reveal in you and through you.
We see this clearly played out in Acts 22. Paul lays out his life story with all its “good, bad and ugly” components. He doesn’t run from any of it to appear to be someone he is not. He tells his story as he tells God’s story. The overlap is the way God intends for each of us to understand our lives. All of us who are followers of Jesus have some common themes of grace, forgiveness, hope, faith and love. But even though we have these things in common, each and every life story is unique. Even though no two lives are identical, God has the capacity to have them connect in a way that gives us the ability to deeply relate to one another.
God invites each of us to live the life that is ours alone to live. It will be filled with twists and turns. It will have days that are easy and probably more than a few that are tough. But through it all God is faithful and through it all you will have a story to tell.
From one story teller to another,
When I was ten years-old I built a treehouse in the woods behind my house. My buddies Paul and Pat joined me in this momentous endeavor. We took time to draw up plans and dream of our “home away from home.” Pat was the artistic-designer one in the group, and I did most of the hard-core engineering. Paul already had a tool box with his grandpa’s old tools so he would be the primary carpenter. We took about a week to come up with our design and gather the construction materials. It was time to build!
When you are boys of a certain age, summer breaks are made for this kind of adventure. Each day we packed our lunches so we wouldn’t need to go back home until dinner time. We worked diligently and used all our combined “talents” to create our dream – a two story tree house with a shingled roof that would withstand the ravages of nature and time until the return of Jesus. This was going to be an edifice worthy of comparisons to all treehouses that had gone before. Three weeks later we had our first “overnight vacation” in our magnificent structure.
What a night! We made a fire and roasted hotdogs. We told ghost stories and then settled in for the night. We laid out our sleeping bags, took out our flashlights and ate our “midnight snacks” of Old Dutch potato chips washed down with grape Kool-Aid. This is living!
Then about nine o’clock pm the wind began to pick up and it started to rain – both outside and in the tree-house. An hour later we were soaked and some boards seemed not to be holding the way they were supposed to so we decided to sleep in my bedroom instead. Our plan was to make a few tweaks to our initial design and sleep in the treehouse tomorrow. In the morning about half of our structure was on the ground completely torn apart by gale force winds the night before of 20 mph. That’s right – not much of a storm at all; what we built wasn’t worth much other than a life lesson for this article.
Ever since that failed foray into construction, I have greatly appreciated people that can build things that actually stand up to the elements. I am in awe of carpenters, construction workers and engineers who create things worth the effort. I so appreciate people who have the training, tools and abilities to take plans off a blueprint and bring them to life. It is also nice to not worry if floors will crumble beneath my feet or ceilings will crash down on my head.
I tell you all this to ask you a deeper life question – what are you building with your life? We have each been given the gift of life. What are we doing with it? Are we doing things that matter? Are we doing things that matter to our God? Are we meeting the needs of others around us or are we mainly surfing the web, listening to podcasts and watching TV? Get connected to real people and give them what they need!
Paul describes this type of living in Acts chapter 18 which is our text for this Sunday’s message.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and
give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted
anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine
have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did,
I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the
words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
I have grown up over the years in that I now realize how little I know in the grand scheme of things and I have so much to learn from others. Now, that doesn’t mean that everything other people know is right but I can always gain depth just by being humble as I encounter other people.
Because of fear and pride we are often slow to put ourselves in a position of humility and learning. We are fearful that others will not see our value if we are not the one “in the know.” We are prideful in that we believe our value does come from being the one “in the know” or we just like to be in charge.
Our WayPoint this Sunday is meeting a man named Apollos that is described in various ways as being a very bright, capable and eloquent man. He is the kind of guy that has it all together or so we might think. He is speaking and teaching with great effectiveness. There is a crowd that is very impressed with his words, delivery and countenance. But we learn in Acts 18.24-28 that he needs some additional information to accurately give his message. This impressively brilliant and bold man is about to be taught by a couple of lowly tentmakers. And the amazing thing is that he listens!
Verse 26 describes it this way, “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”
Apollos was highly educated and impressive in so many ways. He would become one of the great teachers in the Church during its early years. He could become such a key figure in Church History because Priscilla and Aquila took the time to show him the fulfilled promises of the Old Testament in Jesus. And then Apollos was humble and confident enough to learn from people that could have been perceived as “beneath him.” Arrogance and superiority are blind spots that come very naturally in our culture if we are not aware of our need to do battle with them. Or maybe your blind spot is in the ditch on the other side – living with a sense of fearful inferiority that keeps you from engaging where you should.
Each of us needs to be aware of our own personal struggles in these areas. Don’t kid yourself – we all need a correction from time to time in how we perceive ourselves or others. So, the question for us today is twofold – who do you get to “invite to your home” to share God’s Kingdom with and who do you get to learn from so that you understand things “more adequately.” God intends both elements to be active in our lives if we are going to be serving and growing in God’s Kingdom. We are invited by our loving Heavenly Father to live thankfully and joyously in His Ever-expanding Kingdom of grace and truth.
Learning and serving together,
Pastor Nick Mundis