Meaning, purpose, to be part of something greater than ourselves
The same was true for the earliest followers of Jesus
This is what it looks like when the people of God are on Fire, Full of the Holy Spirit, faith-full in word and deed
V 12 Many signs and wonders- People are experiencing transformation, healing, deliverance on such a scale it must be God. The city was different because of the love and good works of the faith-full.
V 12 All together- working together as Body of Christ
V 13 Held in high esteem- known in the community, reputation for love and good works both in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns
V 14 More than ever believers were added to the Lord. The first followers were making disciples of Jesus Christ. They were fulfilling the great commission. (Matthew 28:16-20)
When you come to Jesus are you looking for adventure? Are you reading to join Jesus in healing the sick, bringing good news to the poor, releasing the captives, battling evil, and changing the world?
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Lord’s prayer also includes “Deliver us from evil.” There is a cost to fully following Jesus. When you battle evil, it’s going to fight back.
A story of the brave Christians in Cuba
Verse 13 says, “None of the rest dared to join them.” Even though the Christians were doing great things by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though they were respected by the people, it was still dangerous to publically associate with the Christians.
17 Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18 arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.
There’s an old question to check your commitment to Jesus. “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” There was no doubt Peter and the Apostles were followers- preaching, teaching, healing, caring for the poor. They were loud and proud. They were battling evil and evil is going to make them pay, first by imprisonment.
God provided for their escape. Did they run, no! Even though they were just arrested, they kept preaching and teaching publically.
Reading Acts 5:19- 28
Jewish leadership is jealous of so many people coming to faith and the Christian’s high regard of the people. The Jewish leadership is scared. They fear the crowd will believe Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, that they killed him, and the crowd will now stone them for it.
In verse 28, the apostles are accused of filling Jerusalem with their teaching. What would it be like if Sarasota were filled with the teaching of Jesus? Siesta Key?
What kind of effort would that take? Every single one of us equipped to share the gospel, testify, pray with people, invite people. Every single one of us, and all the other Christians in town wanting to do it, brave, courageous. Every single one saying, “This is the most important thing I do because this has eternal consequences.”
Reading Acts 5:29-39
They take a stand for Jesus then they start sharing the Gospel with the Jewish leadership! The leaders’ main mission is to protect the word of God, the temple, the worship of God from false Messiahs. Gamaliel reminds them that if Jesus is the Messiah, what the apostles are doing cannot be stopped. You could actually be fighting against God. If not, it will fail and fade.
Here we are over 2000 years later still following Jesus. The Gospel did not fail or fade. This gives us the courage to share it. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
39b They were convinced by him, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42 And every day in the temple and at home, they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
Why do we come to Jesus? What are we looking for?
Come to Jesus for the adventure
Come to Jesus. Take up your cross. Suit up, warrior. Get in the game.
Come to Jesus. Battle evil. Change the world.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s risky. There is a cost, but it’s of God. If it’s of God- nothing will be able to stop it.
Renewing our Commitment to Christ, His Mission, and Church 1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
2. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
3. Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
4. According to the grace given you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
Love your enemies
Pray for those who persecute you
How, oh Lord?
Love your family
Your friends, co-workers, classmates
Your leaders, your neighbors, your competitors…
How, oh Lord?
Love yourself, the Enemy Within
The inner critic, the wounded
The addict, the success, the sinner…
How, oh Lord?
It is beyond me, but nothing is beyond you
In forgiving I reconnect with your forgiveness
In blessing I dive into the deep pool of your provision
In laying down arms I find the war already ended
My heart of peace is your heart beating within me
Jesus, your salvation is wholeness
Make me complete as you are that I may hold and be held
Make me a person of integrity
Molded from my sharp, shattered self
by your everlasting mercy and grace
This prayer could be offered by a single voice, a group praying in unison, or as indicated with a single voice on the regular print and all voices on the bold print.
Yes, we are merely clay jars
But within us is treasure
The extraordinary resurrection power of Jesus Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Yes, we are afflicted
Yes we are confused
But within us is treasure
The extraordinary resurrection power of Jesus We are not crushed We do not give in to despair Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Yes, we are persecuted
Yes, we are knocked down
But within us is treasure
The extraordinary resurrection power of Jesus We are not abandoned We are not destroyed Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Yes, death is constantly at work in us
Yes, we are chipped and cracked, frail and mortal
But it is nothing compared to the brutal death and suffering of Jesus
It is nothing compared to his victorious resurrection
His extraordinary and endless life is at work in us We are his treasure We wield his power Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Ten 20th Century Martyrs remembered over the great west door of Westminster Abbey, London. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The thought behind the photo:
Prophets speak God’s truth to power, giving voice to people and situations without a voice. Their sacrificing perseverance makes way for awareness, compassion, justice and peace.
These representative ten are drawn from every continent and many Christian denominations. They stand for all who have died and continue to die suffering from and/or working to end oppression and persecution. Unveiled July 9, 1998.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 23:29-37 NRSV
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
The December 21, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 11:7-11, The Message
When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’ Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.”
Earlier in this chapter, we read that John the Baptist, upon hearing what Jesus had been doing [The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,] sent his own disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”
Whatever this Jesus had been doing didn’t quite match up in John’s mind to what he had envisioned the messiah would do. Jesus, this man of God and prophet mighty in deed and word left John scratching his head, wondering if Jesus was the real deal.
Jesus, on the other hand, told the crowds that John was “Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear.”
What would you expect from a prophet?
Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.
Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.
Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><
Revelation 2:8-11 NRSV
The Risen Christ says, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.”
If the first mark of a true and living church is love, the second is suffering. The one is naturally consequent on the other. A willingness to suffer proves the genuineness of love. We are willing to suffer for those we love. Evidently Christians in Smyrna had not lost their pristine love for Christ, as had the Christians in Ephesus, for they were prepared to suffer for him. – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3
Wesley Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Matthew 5:10-12 NRSV
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
John 15:18-20a NRSV
During the Last Supper, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. – Dietrich Bonheoffer
Where are the marks of the cross in your life?
Are there any points of identification with your Lord?
Alas, too many Christians wear medals but carry no scars. – Vance Havner
When we try to live in solidarity with the pain of the world—and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will surely encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” Many say pain is merely physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance to, denial of, and our sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. As others have said, pain is the rent we pay for being human, but suffering is to some degree optional. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with all the pain of the world. Deep reflection on this mystery can change your whole life. – Richard Rohr, Holding the Darkness
1 Peter 2:20-23 NRSV
If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
Prayer for Suffering
Risen Christ, Humble Jesus, so many of your children suffer as you suffered- beaten, imprisoned, enslaved, separated from friends and family, cut down at the prime of life. They sacrifice far beyond what we can imagine, all for the love of you. Bless and protect them, Mighty One. Encourage them and provide for them. Fill them with your strength and power. Remind them that they are not forgotten by us and not forgotten by you.
Through their witness and your Word, move us to follow you as fully and as deeply. Awaken us from false understandings and false security. Rouse us from apathy and compromise. Forgive us for choosing comfort over commitment. Free us from fear, imagined and real. Free us and renew a right spirit within us- a courageous spirit, a sacrificial spirit born from true love of you. Free us and use us for your glory. Amen.
This is the second of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.
Click here, for more terrific work by today’s featured artist, Luke Flowers.
Click here for another reflection on suffering entitled God will wipe away every tear by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.