How to grow a church

Acts 5

Busy chapter.

Ananias and his wife lie to the Holy Spirit and die.

The apostles carry on Jesus’ healing ministry. All who come to them are healed.

The apostles teach openly at the temple about Jesus.

The church continues to grow which make the Jewish leadership jealous.

The apostles are arrested, jailed, set free by angels, teach more, re arrested and told to just quit it. Quit teaching about Jesus. Just stop already.

Peters reply is “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”’

Then a very wise man named Gamaliel says something that gives me hope

“38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”’

Then the apostles are beaten up, flogged, and let go.

“41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

This new thing, the good news of Jesus coming and dying for our sin. It’s a new way of living. It’s a heart thing. It’s no longer about external shows. Our heart has to be right inside of us. The Good news is that Jesus can do that. He can make our hearts right.

There is power in this new life. Power to heal, power to be witnesses of what Jesus Is doing in our lives. Power to keep going even in great opposition. The opposition is heating up. It is more visible and more real and more menacing then I have I ever seen.

Jesus strengthen my weak arms and feeble legs so that I can stand and be a witness to the amazing love, amazing mercy, amazing grace, that you have for me. Not just for me but for all people who come to you and repent.

Carrying on

Acts 4

“8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,

which has become the cornerstone.’[a]

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”’

Jesus had been crucified, was dead and buried. He rose from the dead, taught his disciples, told them to wait for power and then he ascended into heaven.

Now it’s just the disciples carrying on. The church is growing. From 72 to 3000 and now because of this healing it has swelled to 5000 believers in Jesus.

Jesus had warned them about the opposition they would face. Back in Luke 21, ”

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.”

We will face persecution and opposition when we believe in Jesus. In it we will find the power to tell our story. I was lost, but now I am found. I was broken but now I am in the process of repair. I continue to contend for healing for the sick, wounded world I live in.

Jesus thank you for saving me. Help me tell other people about you.

Lunatic, devil or Lord?

We are at the point in Matthew 26 where Jesus is going to make a statement that condemns him. He claims to be God.

what are we to do with this information. Here is what C.S. Lewis said about the matter,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Here is the story from Matthew 26:

“57-58 The men who had seized Jesus took him off to Caiaphas the High Priest in whose house the scribes and elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a safe distance right up to the High Priest’s courtyard. Then he went inside and sat down with the servants and waited to see the end.

59-61 Meanwhile the chief priests and the whole council did all they could to find false evidence against Jesus to get him condemned to death. They failed completely. Even after a number of perjurers came forward they still failed. In the end two of these stood up and said, “This man said, ‘I can pull down the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62-64 Then the High Priest rose to his feet and addressed Jesus, “Have you no answer? What about the evidence of these men against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the High Priest said to him, “I command you by the living God, to tell us on your oath if you are Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “I am. Yes, and I tell you that in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of Heaven.”

65-66 At this the High Priest tore his robes and cried, “That was blasphemy! Where is the need for further witnesses? Look, you’ve heard the blasphemy—what’s your verdict now?” And they replied, “he deserves to die.”

67-68 Then they spat in his face and knocked him about, and some slapped him, crying, “Prophesy, you Christ, who was that who hit you?”’

It isn’t a crime to claim you are the son of God, if in fact you are the son of God.

Jesus is the son of God, I say is, not was, because he lives, he is alive today. He suffered, he died, he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and he is returning some day, one day, possibly soon.

Our eternal destiny hangs in the balance of our answer to this question: What do you believe about this man Jesus?

Plugging into power

Acts 3.

“6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

As a child I spent 21 days in a hospital bed. I was a complete surprise to me when I was able to try and walk that my legs would not support me. I just crumpled to the floor. After just 21 days of not using my leg muscles, they had atrophied so much they wouldn’t support me. This man had never walked.

This healing then is actually two-fold. The beggar was not only given the ability to walk but also the strength to walk.

Then Peter uses the miracle as a platform from which he told everyone there about Jesus.

Jesus had said to his disciples that they would be “Empowered to be My witnesses”.

Jesus healed folks and we see in this story, his disciples healing. Today what is happening?

Where did the power to heal go? What changed? Is wasn’t God. Jesus Christ is same, yesterday, today and forever.

It feels like being late to a 4th of July party and the fireworks are over. When you arrive the people there say “oh, you should’ve seen it, wow it was great!” Or when the old timers reminisce about the good old days, “back in my day…”

It is today. I am here now. What miraculous signs will God do through me today? Through us today? I believe God’s healing power is still available to us. I’m Praying for healing for cancer patients, for babies hanging on for life in crisis pregnancies, for people healing from surgery, for GERD, for rashes that won’t go away, for food allergies and the list goes on. For marriages, ones in bliss and ones on the rocks. God please hear and heal and touch. Show us us your power God. Most important God, save us from our sin. Forgive us and clean us.

Midnight memory parade

Psalm 25

Do you ever wake up at night a rehearse all the stupid things you’ve done? The feeling of shame wraps you in a suffocating hug. Where is the escape hatch? Where is tag out button? How can we get separated from our past? It’s like our shadow, we can’t get away from it.

We have 2 options: forgetting it, or forgiving it.

“6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,

for they are from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth

and my rebellious ways;

according to your love remember me,

for you, Lord, are good.

8 Good and upright is the Lord;

therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right

and teaches them his way.

10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful

toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

11 For the sake of your name, Lord,

forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?

He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.[b]

13 They will spend their days in prosperity,

and their descendants will inherit the land.

14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;

he makes his covenant known to them.

15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,

for only he will release my feet from the snare.”

God forgives sin. Jesus died to take away the sin that we confess to him. The memories don’t go away but we can cling to him and his forgiveness.

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”’

Forgiveness is a prayer away.

From long, long ago

Psalm 22

Written about 1000 years before Jesus was born. Yet it describes his death so accurately.

“12 Many bulls surround me;

strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13 Roaring lions that tear their prey

open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

it has melted within me.

15 My mouth[a] is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,

a pack of villains encircles me;

they pierce[b] my hands and my feet.

17 All my bones are on display;

people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my clothes among them

and cast lots for my garment.”

Jesus knew what he was getting into. He knew what was coming for him when he left heaven, (left heaven?) and all its glory, to come Down here, become a baby, live life on earth with its dust and dirt and dryness and pain, and to be crucified for my sin, for our sins. He came to die so that we could live with him forever.

Thank you Jesus. You knew what was coming and did it anyway.

Gethsemane

The next story in Matthew 26 is about the garden of gethsemane. I don’t like this story.

“Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”’

What happens if you pray for a problem to go away and it doesn’t go away?

Mercy Me has a song that I think deals with this. Even if you don’t.

“They say sometimes you win some

Sometimes you lose some

And right now, right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage night after night

Reminding the broken it’ll be alright

But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing

When there’s nothing to bring me down

But what will I say

When I’m held to the flame

Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith

To move a mountain

Well good thing

A little faith is all I have, right now

But God, when You choose

To leave mountains unmovable

Oh give me the strength to be able to sing

It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good

All of my days

Jesus, I will cling to You

Come what may

‘Cause I know You’re able

I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul

Songwriters: Bart Marshall Millard / Benjamin Glover / Crystal Lewis / David Arthur Garcia / Tim Timmons

Even If lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Music Services, Inc

There are two things that I see here this morning. The first is the answer to the question, can I still trust God if I pray for something to change and it doesn’t change? Jesus had said that we can ask anything, that if we have faith we can pray for mountains to move and they will move, so can we trust in God if we ask for a mountain to move, and it doesn’t? Jesus prayed for a plan b. Plan b did not happen and yet he was obedient to God because he trusted God and God’s plan. We can too. We can pray and trust in God’s plan.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus knew what was coming and did it anyway. He knew about the whipping, the hitting, the spitting, the beating, the thorns, the nails, the cross, the pain, the spear and the grave. He loves us so much he continued on in the plan that would destroy him but make a way to save all of us.

And now the offer is open to all of us, “if you will confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that he was raised from the dead, you will be saved”.