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Showing posts from November, 2017

Acts 7, part 2 - Questions for reflection & prayer

This week we finished looking at the story of Stephen in the Book of Acts, including his martyrdom at the hands of his opponents (Acts 7:54-60).

Here we see Stephen living out what Jesus wants and teaches us all to do:  to love our enemies.  As the crowd rushes towards him in anger and as they stone him, Stephen calls out for the Lord to forgive them for what they are doing - thereby mirroring Jesus' own ability to love even in his most difficult situation.

This is probably the hardest thing for any of us to do:  to love those who are working against us.  This is where we truly see that loving like Jesus is not an emotion.  It's a courageous act that requires tremendous resolve.

When we do this, we move beyond simply loving as we are often encouraged to do in our culture:  to love those who are like us.  We usually love where we know there will be a return on our investment.  Jesus' talks about this cultural way of loving in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:43):  "love …

Join us Sunday!

This Sunday @ GPC
"The Kind of Love that Changes the World" worship @ 10:30 am
Join us as we consider Stephen's example in Acts 7.
Then, after worship, we'll prepare our church home for the season of Advent.
Advent is when we look with expectation towards the promise of Jesus' coming into our world.

Acts 7 - Questions for reflection, conversation & prayer

St. Stephen by Luis de Morales
This week we waded into Acts 7, Stephen's speech to those who have grown suspicious of his actions.  For the first 50 verses, Stephen gives what amounts to an Old Testament history lesson - recalling the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and the Israelites journey from slavery through the wilderness to their settling down in the Promised Land.

In v. 51, though, he turns a corner.  He begins to chastise his audience for resisting the Holy Spirit, for thwarting God's movement in their lives.

In looking at Stephen's speech, we talked about the movie A Man Called Ove, the story of a man whose experienced so much heartache and trouble that he's giving up on life.  He wants to return the ticket.  Ove is, I believe, an important study on why it can be hard to keep trusting God and to let God lead us.

Where do you sense God inviting you to "follow him"?  As you think about going in this direction with Jesus, what feelings do you have?  …

This Sunday - Our Harvest Dinner

I Am Confident of This ...

"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:6

When the Foundations Crumble

I was eating lunch with some friends last week, and our conversation turned back time a bit as the lunch crowd started filing out of Myer's Market.  We ventured into the older days when IBM was still here in town, and my imagination was set into motion as my friend began describing the days when the freight trains would arrive at the plant carrying the reams of paper the size and weight of hefty trucks.  I saw the massive rolls unloaded and pushed through the plant, cut into still smaller and smaller sheets until each common punch card was produced, down to that 8 inch by 3 inch slender card.  My friend held his palms apart and then his thumb and forefinger as he resurrected an image etched into his memory.  It was his job at one time to check those specifications and to press the card stock between h…

Acts 6:8-15 - Questions for reflection & prayer

This week we learned more about an early leader in the dynamic Christian community named Stephen.  While his presence in Acts is relatively short (just chapters 6-7), it is clear that Luke wants us to realize what a special man Stephen was.  He is a man of "grace and power" (v. 8), which immediately connects him in our minds to Jesus ("full of grace and truth" Jn. 1:14).  And, of all the speeches given by leaders in Acts, Stephen's speech in chapter 7 will be the longest.  Luke is showing us that Stephen is the embodiment of being a Christian.  Stephen's life speaks and shows the way of Jesus, even in his death by stoning at the end of chapter 7.  Here, in other words, is a "saint" for us to both emulate and to take encouragement from.

Who have been the "saints" in your life - the men and women who have helped you see what it means to be a Christian?  Give thanks to God for the gift of their example.
In exploring Acts 6:8-15, we talked ab…

Superhero Tales & The Book of Acts

The Martydom of St. Stephen
"In all my years of going to church," he told me yesterday, "I don't think I've ever known a pastor preach a sermon on Ananias and Sapphira."  The way he said it made it clear that he thought I was either very foolish ... or very brave ... or both!  I told him I knew I was the former, and hoped I was being the latter.
For the last several weeks, we've been journeying through the Book of Acts, one passage at a time, one Sunday at a time.  I never realized how many pitfalls there would be on this road.  The story of Ananias and Sapphira is just one such moment.  Try preaching a sermon about Ananias and Sapphira and watch what expressions you get from the people.  Confusion if you're lucky.  A few angry stares if you really push it too far.  This all seems just so severe.  And I'm not just talking about this one incident.  
Whole crowds being swept over by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit.
Tongues of fire descending upo…

Acts 6:1-6 - Questions for reflection & prayer

As the Holy Spirit empowers the Christian community, new life emerges and new members are added.  This is a beautiful thing, and it is extremely important to point out that this is God's doing.  God is initiating diversity within the Christian community.  However, this also creates new tensions and new challenges.

Acts 6:1-6 gives us our first glimpse of a tension that will extend all the way to chapter 15, until the leaders of the early Church come up with a way to address the growing differences within the Christian family.  Some feel that they are being left out and that others are getting preferential treatment.  The Hellenized Christians feel they are getting the short end of the stick.

All of this is extremely relevant to thoughts and feelings occurring in our own day and age.  Across the spectrum, a majority of Americans feel like they face some form of discrimination.  But, it also points to an ongoing challenge we all face from time to time, the challenges that arise when…