Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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29. From Sinner to Servant – Part 1

Acts 9:1-3
Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.

As we have been going through our series “Living in the Reality of the Resurrection” we have seen the risen Savior intersecting and transforming people’s lives, during the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension. Last time we looked at the ascend and saw the Savior heading to heaven and we may be tempted to think that it’s over, but today we will see that the Savior is still touching and transforming lives with His truth. It’s here that we come to the conversion of Saul a man who despised the disciples of Jesus Christ. Yet as he was on his way to put these believers in prison he met Jesus and we see his transformation from sinner to servant, as he goes from persecuting to preaching. It’s here that we see that the war on terror is not a new thing. There have always been those apposed to the Almighty. Now I want you to imagine for a moment that a group of terrorist is on their way to target your church. Their plan is simple death and destruction. Knowing that they are on their way you fall on your face prostrate before God in prayer, but here is the question what would you pray for? That God would punish them and somehow strike them dead or that God would protect you supernaturally by sending His angels to set up guard around you? Would any of us pray that they would be converted and saved from their sins? Would the focus of our prayers be saving our skin or saving their souls? Its here in Acts 9 that we meet a radicalized rebel named Saul. Who as he targeted God’s people for animation met the Almighty and had the trajectory of his life radically redirected. Saul’s salvation is especially significant to us today because it’s here that we see that God has the power to transform a terrorist from a killer to a Christian. The scripture starts with Saul’s:
1. Struggle
Saul was a Pharisee who believed that he needed to kill Christians because Christianity was a threat to Judaism. As a result he actually believed he was doing God’s will by wiping out followers of the “way.” In his mind, believers in Jesus were heretics and blasphemers. Saul was very religious, radical and filled with rage, in that regard, he was like many terrorists today who thinking that those who didn’t believe like they do should be eliminated. When Stephen was martyred in Acts 7, we read that the executioners “laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” In Acts 8:1, we learn that Saul not only stood guard over their outer garments, he was complicit in their actions: “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” Last time we saw that after Stephen was slaughtered, persecution broke out against the church and the apostles scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. We saw how God used persecution as a passport to scatter and sow the seed of His Word wherever they went. Acts 9:1 gives us a window into what kind of man Saul really was: “Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers” It reveals the venom in his voice and the hatred in his heart, he didn’t just despise Christ’s disciples he wanted them dead. Verses 2-3 tell us that this wasn’t just an ideology or a philosophy it was a practice. Saul was committed to his cause, he was willing to travel hundreds of miles to terrorize and terminate the followers of Jesus Christ. He was on a mission to murder, armed with the legal documents needed to destroy the church. Just like radical terrorists today who are moved to murder based on sharia law. Like Saul they have the law but they don’t have love. He was religious but he didn’t have a relationship with God; he thought he was doing “God’s work,” but he wasn’t doing God’s Will. Maybe that describes you today? You may be zealous and passionate about your mission but you’ve missed the Messiah. Or maybe you’re just far from God because you are so busy pursuing your purpose that you have missed His plan. Is your religious passion based on a love for the Lord or is it fueled by anger, hatred and bitterness? Sadly today many Christians are more defined by what they are against instead of who they are for.

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28. Focusing on the Future – Part 3

Acts 1:1-11
In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. 4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
After the plan came the:
4. Parting Vs 9-11
His parting was crowned by a “cloud” the Shekinah glory of God that filled the Temple in the Old Testament and appeared to Jesus at the Transfiguration. This cloud conveyed the presence and power of God, it was first seen in the wanderings of God’s people enroute from Egypt to the Promised Land (Exodus 16:10). This cloud was also present hovering over the holiest part of the Mercy Seat, resting between the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. Just as the blood of the Temple sacrifices was brought into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat, so Jesus ascended into Heaven as both Priest and Sacrifice. His sacrifice satisfied the demands of sin. The disciples stood staring, gazing into glory. What is it that has got your gaze, is it God? Is what you are looking at and longing for the Lord. Jesus didn’t just disappear, He arrived at His destination where Mark 16:19 tells us that he is seated in the place of honor at the right hand of God. Seated because He has completed His mission to cleanse us from sin and conquered Satan. While we have an enemy that wants to accuse us we need to remember that we also have an advocate with the authority to intercede for us. It’s here that the angels remind us of His return, this is only a temporary parting because there is going to be a reunion. And when He returns it will be personal, it will be the Savior not some substitute. It will be powerful, He will come on the clouds, even the president the most powerful person on the planet needs a plane. Not only will His return be personal and powerful but it will be palpable, every eye will see. There are over 300 verses in the New Testament that reference the return of Jesus. Christ’s coming should cause us to pursue His plan which leads us to:
5. Participation Vs 9-11
They watched His parting, they waited for His power, and they witnessed to people. There is a time for watching, a time for waiting and a time for witnessing. Witnessing without watching becomes work and witness without waiting is worthless. We need to watch and wait on the Lord but we also need to be a witness and share His Word. Today many have minimized the mission to what they are comfortable with but when the church gets comfortable with the commission it will always face a crisis. In Acts 1:8 we see the commission to go to the ends of the earth and in Acts 8:1 we see the church caught up in the comfort of the city. Instead of journeying out of Jerusalem and taking Jesus to Judea and Samaria they had settled. But it was when they became comfortably complacent that the church faced a crisis. Steven was martyred while God’s people were pursued and put into prison. From a human perspective it was a disaster but from a spiritual perspective it was a present. Because persecution purged and pushed the church out. Persecution caused the church to pursue God’s plan. It says that the people ended up scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria, that wherever they went they preached the good news. They were scattered like seed. What the enemy used for evil God used to engage and evangelize. Persecution is not a terror for the church it’s a tool. Today we are whining about persecution instead of using it as a wave to motivate and move us so that we can witness and share Jesus with the whole world. We want the church to be a comfortable safe little sanctuary where we can sing our songs in secrete. But do you really think the Deity is just going to let His disciples be disobedient. The great commission isn’t a suggestion it’s a command. We are called to be a witness to a watching world. A witness simply shares what they have seen, they share their story about the Savior. I am not called to be a lawyer and argue the Almighty and shove truth down people’s throats. I’m not called to be the judge and make a ruling or be judgmental. I am called to be a witness and simply share my story of salvation. Which plan are you pursuing, Christ’s commission or the cultures comfort? We are all called to participate and point people to the Savior, Peter preached, Steven was steadfast, John wrote, we all have a story to share its not so much about the method it’s about the Messiah.