Monday, February 29, 2016

Following Philip

Acts 8:25-30 - Philip = one of the 7 "deacons".  Eunuch = no Jewish heritage, but had either embraced Judaism or was on the brink.  Had been to temple to worship.  No more record of who he is, but according to the church fathers, he became the father of the church in Ethiopia.

Reading from Isaiah - scroll written in continuous script:  no spaces or capital letters or punctuation.  Therefore, read aloud.

With proper form should read:
children's laughter
needs a tan
opportunity is now here

Acts 8:30-36
Acts 8:37 - this verse not in NIV - it did NOT appear in oldest manuscripts.  Usually in a footnote.
Acts 8:38-40
Acts 21:8-10 - Philip now known as "the evangelist"

Acts = historical narrative, BUT, there are practical life lessons within the historical narrative -
1 Cor. 10:11-13

I.  Philip's instructions
The messenger = angel, Holy Spirit, Both!!!
The message - clear - specific - personal

Question:  How was the message relayed?  verbal?  visible?  Answer:  Don't know.  Doesn't say.  Compare with the prophets - messages received by various means

Question:  Is the same mode of communication available today?  to me?
Answer:  YES!!!  BUT....
1)  this is God's prerogative  (not our choice)
2)  this is the exception (not the norm) - God generally does not do it this way. 
Compare to miracles:    many back in early church days, not as prevalent now.

Our part = 1) be open (receptive)
  But          2)  be critical - don't be a stupid, naive Christian.   1 John 4:1   Matt. 10:16
                 3)  don't fear "I don't Know" - uncertain does NOT mean unfaithful!!!
                 4)  read and heed what He has already said.  (and IS saying ... through His Word and the Holy Spirit) - Heb. 4:12

II.  Philip's Message
On one hand - it's not recorded
BUT, Acts 8:35 - "Good news about Jesus"
The Ethiopian Eunuch needed more than "God loves you".  He needed a CAT
       Content - Rom. 10:14
       Assent - verbal
       Trust - internal surrender, submission - Rom. 10:9-10
On one hand, cannot Know his heart, However, he made the request!  Example:  Pentecost/Jailer

III.  Philip's Ministry  - "the Evangelist"
Philip clearly was Called - Gifted - Responsive - Successful

for which of the above is Philip responsible??? - His calling?  His gifts?  His success? 
Philip was responsible only for his RESPONSE!!

As with Philip, so with you and I.
IF you are a Christian, you have been:
1)  CALLED - to Christ to MINISTRY - Eph. 2:8-10
2)  GIFTED - enabled to perform ministry - 1 Cor. 12:7
4)  SUCCESS - apparent effectiveness, visible, measurable outcome = God's business
Example:  Holy Spirit's work/ hearer's response.  It is clear that how effective our ministry is not up to us.  There may be no evidence at all.

Philip was called to a responsive people.  Contrast Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Moses!! - Preached for years to hard-hearted, stiff-necked people with no results at all.

Philip = open, submitted, responsive ..... FAITHFUL in whatever asked to do.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Church Expansion Beyond Judaism

Acts 8:1-25
Have seen persecution start - this is the hinge that the expansion hangs on

SUBJECTS:  (Sermons)...
#1.  The ministry of the laity (common people) - Acts 8:4
All Christians responsible fo re spreading the gospel, expanding the Kingdom.  (Christianity not a spectator sport)   True faith is portable faith = goes with you wherever you go.

#2.  The miracles of Phillip - Acts 8:6-7
Purpose = to validate the message and the messenger - John 10:37-38

Question:  Should miracles be prevalent today? 
Answer: that's God's call!!  So.... pray for  A)  what you know is God's will, ie.  that He's with them, has their best interests in mind, is there to give comfort and ease, wants to use situation to reach others.
                                                                B)  what you hope is God's will - what you desire

#3.  The acceptance of the Samaritans (by the church, into the church) 
This = predicted by Christ - Acts 1:8 - Great Commission
So was accepted by the Apostles
And, confirmed by the Holy Spirit - Acts 8:17

This presents a challenge (ongoing) to the church - ie:  how to maintain Unity with great diversity
Which is clearly God's intent and plan
Eph. 4:3-6 - yet, Hebraic/Hellenists --> Samaritans --> Gentiles

#4.  the heart of Simon
Was he sincere?  saved?  need to re-repent?  did he?
Extra-Biblical history states:  he was a great heretic, the Father of Gnosticism"

Scary part:  we might be more like him than we care to admit!!!!

Likely description of Simon:
He didn't change his beliefs, he just tried to add Christ to his beliefs = gnosticism

His was not a desire to serve God, but was  a desire to have God serve him - Genie in a Bottle

This was an attempt to accept and receive Christ without any submission to Christ - Savior but not Lord.

He wanted to obtain the blessings of God without doing the will of God.  (point = there's a little "Simon" in all of us)

God's favor (salvation) cannot be purchased, earned, manipulated - it comes by grace and grace alone.
Must be accepted and received - Eph. 2:8-9

On one hand = available to all who will accept and receive
However, there are terms, conditions - must have a CAT -
Question:  which did Simon have?  Which did Simon lack?

 What about you???

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stephen - the First Christian Martyr

Stephen - the first person to die for the faith - was one of the 7 chosen by the Apostles

Acts 6:7-7:2 - People other than the apostles were working miracles at this time - not record of what in scripture, but just notes that they did.

Must understand that the Jews valued above ALL things:  #1 - the land, ie.  Jerusalem and surrounding
                                                                                       #2 - the Law
                                                                                       #3 - the Temple

Stephen's Sermon = 1)  condensed history of God's dealings with Israel
                               2)  a review of their repeated rejection and rebellion (resistance)

#1.  Concerning the History -- Note the Charge  Acts 6:13-14

Jews:  "God has given us this Land, this Law, this Temple."
Stephen:  "Yes.  But, these are a means to an end .... NOT the end itself!!!"

Illustration: - a train = the vehicle, means of traveling to a destination.
                  a train is NOT THE DESTINATION - it is a means, a tool to get you there.

SO, the Land, the Law, the Temple = vehicles to carry Israel where God wanted them to go ... ie:  to Christ!!

#2.  Concerning the rejection/Rebellion

Israel rejected Joseph.... who was to be their deliverer.
Israel rejected Moses... who was to be their deliverer.
and now you've rejected Jesus......the Christ/Deliverer  (The Messiah)
They have a history of rejecting the deliverers that God sends

Conclusion:  Acts 7:51-53

Response: - acts 7:54-60, 8:1 - now he has committed blasphemy because he attributed the 'right hand of God' position to Jesus

Outcome:    Acts 8:1-4
1)  persecution
2)  dispersion
3)  evangelism - they took the Word with them

The text = a Narrative, not Instruction
Nevertheless = recorded for our Instruction...... So:

#1.  don't let the church become your destination.
On one hand, it is VERY important --> (HIS church, HIS bride, HIS purchase, therefore you should gather, support, serve
However, the church is NOT the Goal - it's the vehicle, the tool.  It's about relationship with God, grow - develop, bring others
If going to church, working in the church, teaching a class, is ALL there is, you may be worshiping the church!

#2.  Recognize that with privilege comes responsibility  Acts 7:53 - You!!???
Compare the US - 21st. century Americans!!!  - We are PRIVILEGED beyond any others.  Unlimited access to the Word, churches readily accessible, top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world, freedom to worship, etc.

#3.  Be warned:  to be used of God is not always pleasant.  Example:  Stephen.
Isa. 6:8-12    hence  "service" - work, serving, not always enjoyable
Heb. 12:2 - "endured"

#4.  (but) remember:  God can (and will) use bad things to accomplish good!
Example:  Stephen martyred --> dispersion --> evangelism --> Phillip --> Saul!!
Rom. 8:28
Tertullian, 2nd. century church father, made this statement:  "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

#5.  True faith is portable   Acts 8:4 - doesn't stop at a particular age, when you get tired, ticked off, retirement, etc.  It continues until the end.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Church Leadership 101

Last week - the church's 1st. squabble (dis harmony, discord)
Today = the leadership selected/appointed to deal with that

Acts 6:1-7 - the apostles had a larger task of praying, teaching, trying to set up "how to's" of establishing a new church, rather than taking care of food issues.  
Note:  there were thousands of priests and they changed every week so were hearing Peter and John's teaching a lot.  Many of them believed and joined the new church.

I.  The Job (task)  - "oversee the distribution" - were no social agencies, networks at this time to handle these types of tasks.

             What duties? - make decisions, handle money, represent the congregation, free the Apostles, restore harmony!!!

             Are these the first deacons? - on one hand, the office of deacon was not yet formally established.
However, these were the first formally appointed officers (exception being the apostles)

            Are they (then) Servants?  or Leaders? - Answer::  BOTH!!!  They are to serve in this position of responsibility - ie:  servant leader.  1 Pet. 5:1-3

II.  The Choosing (selection process)
        here = congregation chooses, Apostles approve the appointments
        elsewhere = Biblical Methods of Choosing Church Leadership
                          Numbers 8 = Levites - chosen by God, hands on by all Israel
                          Numbers 27 = Joshua - chosen by God, hands on by Moses, people approved
                         Acts 13:2 = Barnabas and Saul - chosen by the Holy Spirit, hands on by the prophets and teachers
                         Acts 14:23 = elders - chosen by Paul and Barnabas and appointed to each church (in the area)
                         Titus 1:5 = Elders - chosen and appointed by Titus (according to instructions by Paul)
                         2 Cor. 8:19 - Titus as messenger" to Corinth, chosen by the churches he would represent
                         Acts 6 =  the 7 - chosen by the congregation, hands on approved by the 12
                          Summary Verse - Acts 15:22 = the Council at Jerusalem sending official messengers to churches.  Each church free to select model, method which best suits its need.  (ie:  within parameters of scripture and Biblical models)

III.  the Qualifications  (*additional qualifications listed in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus)
but here = A Man OF:
          A)  character = more than a good man, but  = Godly man = "full of the Holy Spirit"
Question:  how to measure that? - by the FRUIT?? - Gal. 5:22-23 manifestation of nature within = fruit on outside.
         B)  Competence - "wisdom" (good head)   ie:  practical application of knowledge.  Point here is:  means more than a man with a good heart, but also with a good head!!!      
        C)  Reputation (good) - "known to be" - commonly known by the people  (this phrase common to scriptures on leadership selection)

This text often used as guidelines in selecting church leadership.
Today = Broaden Application to fit ALL of us"!!

What God Requires of His Leaders He Desires of us ALL!!

1)  Godly Character - is there a different "fruit" list for NON-LEADERS??  ie:  rotten fruit

2)  Ministerial Competence - Are only leaders to minister and serve?  to be capable?  productive?
1 Cor. 12:7   1 Pet. 4:10 - EACH one.....

3)  A Laudable Reputation (worthy of Applause, approval)
Because you represent:  A.  Christ - "Christian" = little Christ
                                     B.  Your Church
                                    C.  THE Faith = Christianity

Add 1 more thing God requires of Leaders but Desires of us all ----
 4)  Willingness... to serve --- to Lead --- to Assume responsibility.  We are not compelled, but choose to accept.

We are all called to lead in God's Kingdom

We are all measured by the same criteria  (same scale, standard, measure) - God doesn't measure individuals in different manners.

We are all expected to grow, develop, increase, improve our character, competence, reputation!!

1 Pet. 5:1-4

Monday, February 1, 2016

Full Harmony to First Squabble

The new church is getting started in a big way.  Even after threats of persecution by the Sanhedrin:
Acts 4:31-33 - were in full harmony!!!!  - very typical of the early days of the church.

THEN:  Acts 6:1 - the first squabble!!!
Acts 6:1-7  These were Hellenistic Jews - probably reading the scripture in Septuagint - were some differences but not fundamental.  NIV reads "complained", KJV - "murmured" which is more descriptive of what was actually happening.  A complaint is voiced and dealt with, but murmuring is nitpicky behind the scenes - to one another - not to deal with but create unrest.

I.  The source/origin - The Root of the Problem
Sin?  Sinfulness?  sinful tendency(s)?   which manifests 'self in 2 entities:
1)  demons - fallen angels
2)  people - mankind

Example:  A _________ church is made of _________ people.  You fill in the blanks using the same word in both.

Our response to this:
Obviously, we should:  #1 - Recognize imperfections (within the church)
                                    #2 - Address significant issues  (as here)

But also should  #3 - Tolerate minor offenses
Scripture says:  "bear with - be patient - be kind and compassionate - forgiving one another"

WHY does it command that?
Because:  #A.  There will be imperfections/offenses
               #B -  if we can't bear with that, there'll be NO CHURCH!!!

Our response to this?

#4  Admit that you are part of the problem   Example:  what's wrong with our church is partly me!!

II.  The Complaint of the People - may have been legitimate, BUT was not properly expressed!!!  Was done with murmuring and muttering.
Murmuring is more than an complaint that needs to be dealt with.
Murmuring #1.  suggests mal-intent (evil purpose, selfish agenda)
                 #2.  promotes discontent  (more than complaining.  = recruiting others to your way of thinking
                 #3.  quietly/subtly undermines the church  Example:  tornado proof building without termite protection.

Is murmuring a BIG deal?    Num. 14:26-29
So, guard yourself, watch the fellowship, WARN one another.   Should not be unwise of Satan's ways to destroy

III.  The Response of the Apostles
"appointed overseers" - - will deal with this next week.
 which....A.  promoted harmony within the church
              B.  presented a witness beyond the church

So, Acts 6:7

This DOES NOT MEAN that  if we admit our faults and suppress our murmurs, therefore all will be well in the church!!!  However, it's a good place to start!!!!

AND, it starts with me!!!!