Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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3. Aquila & Priscilla – Ministering through Marriage

Acts 18:1-3; 24-28
Introduction
Last time as we caught up with Paul in Philippi on his second missionary journey we learned several lessons from a woman named Lydia. Paul left Philippi and journeyed through what today is Greece stopping in many cities to teach and preach the Word of God. One of the places he stopped was Berea where we get our name Berean. Acts 17:11 says that the Berean’s studied the scriptures daily to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Scripture was their source, their sounding board. What is your source for truth, is scripture steering your life? They didn’t just regularly read God’s Word they rely on it. Today we catch up with Paul in Corinth and meet 2 new partners in ministry, turn with me to Acts 18:1 As a couple they had been:
A. HURT
Scripture says that they had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. How often when we read scripture do we skip over the story and miss the seen. It’s a seen of suffering, think about the seriousness of this statement: Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. They were not just hurt they were homeless. What would be going on in your heart if you were deported: Told to leave and never come back, if the only thing you could take was what you could carry. How would you feel, what would you do? Have you ever been hurt by someone? The truth is that we all have and the greater question is not have you been hurt, but how are you going to handle the hurt? They may have been homeless but they were not helpless. Their focus wasn’t on the hurt done to them but the hope given to them. Today many believers have become bound up in bitterness because of what has happened to them. They have become defined by what has been done to them instead of what has been done for them. Because of the Cross of Jesus Christ hope always trumps hurt, no matter what comes my way I win. The basis for their life was the bible not their bruises, they went back to the basics, back to what they believed. Today we are basing life on a false premise that if we follow God that life will be better, but according to Aquila & Priscilla that belief is bogus. For many of us the only reason we run to God if for results it’s not for the relationship. We pray not to communicate and commune with God but to so He can cater to our cares. I fear for the church because we have become seeks of his hand but not His heart. We are basing things on better not being. But look at Aquila & Priscilla, when things didn’t go their way they stuck to the Word of God. Which way will you go when things go south, the way of the world or the way of the Word? It is here in the midst of the hurt that we see their real heart, and hurt will reveal your heart. Aquila & Priscilla had a heart of:
B. HELP
In this life you are going to get hurt but you don’t have to get hung up on the hurts. Bitterness doesn’t have to become your basecamp you can come back to the bible. So how do you stop from getting high centered and hung up on the hurts? The world will tell you that you just need to move on, but Aquila & Priscilla didn’t just move on they ministered. They partnered with Paul, they opened up their lives and they loved. When we are hurt we have to do what our hearts don’t want to do love. What are you going to do with your hurt, are you going to haul it around and let it hinder. You can’t control the actions done to you but you can control your attitude. So often when we are hurt it causes us to hold back in our relationships but notice that Aquila & Priscilla responded by reaching out and receiving Paul. They invited him into their lives, they didn’t just work together they lived together. They understood what it was like to be a stranger in a foreign land and so they reached out and received Paul. Look at all that they had in common, the same confession Christ, the same profession tent makers, the same problems or persecution, but they also had the same provider Jesus. Are you going to let your suffering suffocate you or be a vehicle to serve others? You can spend your time living in misery and moaning or you can minster. Are you going to let you heart get hard or are you going to use the hurt in your life as a tool to help others? 2 corinthians 1:3-4 says: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” We have a choice we can become calloused and uncaring or we become compassionate. What kind of a helpmate are you?
C. HEART of HOSPITALITY
Despite having been made homeless they were hospitable. So many of us have convinced ourselves that we don’t have a big enough home to be hospitable. But hospitality is not about your accommodation it’s an attitude and an action. They carried on caring and we learn in 1 Corinthians 16:19 that “The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings.” They didn’t have a house but they had a home and the Christian home is still one of the best tools for spreading the gospel. Do guests find Christ in your home? Do you see your home as a tool to share Jesus or is your home primarily about your happiness? Their hospitality opened the doorway of healing and salvation for many. Do you realize that it’s the simple things that often speak the loudest, In Matthew 10 Jesus said “if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” Seriously rewarded for a cup of cold water. Do you have a heart of helping, a heart of hospitality? The truth is you don’t always know what is going on in people’s lives take Paul for example. While in Philippi Paul was put in prison when he was released he went to Thessalonica but there he had to flee when a mob rioted against him. He went to Berea but the mob in Thessalonica came looking for him so he was forced to flee from there to Athens where he was confronted with the discouragement of a city filled with idol worship. So when Paul arrived in Corinth he would have been weary and worn down but look who he meets this married couple who use their marriage to minister. Why don’t we serve because we are selfish, the greatest obstacle to ministry is me. What I love about Aquila & Priscilla is that in an age when the focus of marriage seems to be only on what happens between a husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla are an example of what can happen through a husband and wife. Their effectiveness together speaks volumes about their relationship with each other. What is interesting to note is that you never find Aquila mentioned without Priscilla NOR Priscilla mentioned without Aquila. That means that Priscilla and Aquila were a team, partners in ministry. Their marriage teaches us about the power of togetherness and team work. They worked together to build up the Kingdom of God. What a contrast between our first married couple Ananias and Sapphire who lived for self and Aquila & Priscilla who lived to serve the Savior. They pulled in a partnership to build God’s church, because it was bigger than either one of them. You are either going to pull together or pull apart. Most of us have missed the greatest part of marriage, ministry, because we are making marriage about me instead of ministry. Today we have made the goal of marriage self instead of service, happiness instead of helping. Marriage is about husband and wife coming together to complement not to compete. We live in a world where men put their wives down and where women belittle their husbands. Where most married couples spend more time trashing each other than teaming together. Feminist theology imposes the type of competition and struggle into this 1st century couple that is entirely foreign to anything taught anywhere else in scripture. What these feminist scholars miss is the beauty of what Priscilla had, she had a partner who valued her gifts and teamed with her for God’s glory. She didn’t try to overshadowed Aquila and Aquila didn’t try to crowd her out. We have lesser marriages today because we have limited them to the smallness of self. We see marriage simply as a vehicle to self-happiness and self-fulfillment instead of as a ministry. But Aquila & Priscilla’s partnership served a greater purpose that personal profit, it was about proclaiming God’s plan. Look a marriage with no ministry will become miserable. Your marriage matters, your ministry matters. Are you in a partnership that is pulling or one that is putting down. The secret to a satisfied and successful marriage is when we find ourselves in the sweet spot of serving the Savior together. Are you making marriage about me or ministry?
D. HEART of HUMILITY
Paul and his ministry partners Aquila & Priscilla left Corinth and arrived in the city of Ephesus where at some point Paul traveled on leaving Aquila & Priscilla behind in Ephesus. In Verse 24 we are introduced to “a certain Jew named Apollos, who was a native of Alexandria which was located on the north coast of Egypt and was the second largest city in the Roman empire. Alexandria was noted as a cultural and educational center, its library was the largest in the world and scholars tell us that before it was destroyed by fire it contained over half a million scrolls. Apollos was an educated man, he had the equivalent of what we would today refer to as a university or graduate school education. His credentials were very impressive, not only was he an eloquent speaker but he was bold and spoke with zeal. Apollos was a person in the Word, 24 ‘mighty in scriptures, a Person of the Word, 25a ‘instructed in the way of the Lord’ and a Person by the Word, 25b, ‘fervent in spirit …taught diligently. What about you are your ways a reflection of God’s Word or just your wants? He spoke with accuracy but his knowledge was limited, scripture says that he “had been instructed in the way of the Lord; . . .though he knew only the baptism of John.” We don’t know exactly what Apollos knew and did not know, but it is clear that he had a limited knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He was excited about what he did know about the scriptures, he had an “enthusiastic spirit” which literally means “burning or boiling hot.” But no matter how passionate he was he couldn’t take people any further than he himself had been. As Apollos is passionately preaching Aquila and Priscilla not only hear him but realize his limited understanding of scripture. Here before us is one of the most powerful passages on humility put into practice. I’m not sure who I am more impressed with Aquila and Priscilla or Apollos, for they all reveal hearts of humility. True to form when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home so that they could help Apollos. But I want you to notice that they wrapped their help in humility. They took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. They opened their hearts and their home to this young preacher. Didn’t put him in his place, or publically humiliate him but privately and lovingly completed his theological picture. They could have had an attitude of attacking, “I will show this young buck from the college educated city how little he really knows. But humility doesn’t humiliate, it doesn’t put others down to put self-up. No that’s pride that puffs up and puts down. Aquila and Priscilla didn’t see themselves as superior they saw themselves as servants. They came alongside Apollos they didn’t crash into him. This verse also reveals the humble attitude that characterized Apollos. Although cultured and well educated, he humbly sat at the feet of these tentmakers to learn about Jesus. He was humble enough to go to their home and receive help. He recognize that he didn’t know it all and that learning about the Lord is a life-long process. The Bible is complete but our understanding of the Bible is far from complete and we need open minds as well as open hearts if we are going to continue to learn about the Lord. Aquila and Priscilla used their marriage to mold and mentor Apollos, the result was that Apollos proved to be a powerful preacher. He became a great blessing to other believers. What if instead of building into Apollos they had belittled him? Paul referred to them as fellow workers in Christ Jesus, companions not competitors, people who were willing to risk their lives for others. They weren’t just Sunday morning Christians putting a check mark by church and saying well I’ve done my good for God. No they were committed to using their marriage for ministry, to mentor and make a difference. So let me ask you what are you modeling in your marriage? In your team ministries do you have a heart of, help, of hospitality, and humility? Are you being a companion or a competitor?


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2. John Mark – “The Quiet Quitter”

Acts 13:4-13, Acts 15:36-41, 2 Timothy 4:11
John Mark like several other followers of Christ was known by two names. John was his Jewish name, and means ‘the grace of God’; Mark was a Roman name, which was a bit like a surname, and it means ‘the hammer’. Interestingly he experienced both the hammer of human failure as well as the grace of God’s forgiveness. What do we know of this man named John Mark:
1. FAMILY
A. Biological Family
He had a Godly heritage. In Acts 12 when an angel supernaturally sprung Peter from prison we learn that the first place he went was to the home of Mary, John Marks mother. It is here that we discover that she was most likely a Prominent Woman – a woman of wealth who had a house large enough for the church to meet in. She was a Praying Woman, for when Peter showed up he found them in a prayer meeting. Despite the problems and his imprisonment Peter didn’t find them in a panic he found them in prayer, what truths are you teaching your children. She was also a woman of purpose and power for although the early church was in danger, she trusted God. Not only did he have a godly mother but a Missionary Uncle named Barnabas who was a Great Encourager, a Genuine Example , A Generous Man, and a good and gifted man. John Mark also had a
B. Biblical Family
Not only did he have a godly heritage but he also had a great headstart in the faith. It was probably Peter who won Him to Christ for Peter in 1 Peter 5:13 refers to Mark as his son. Not only did he have a faithful family but he also had a:
2. FUNCTION – Purpose
He was called and commissioned by the Holy Spirit to serve. Men you are not just here to take up space, you are here to serve. We are saved to serve, we have a higher and holier calling than self. This doesn’t just teach us about the meaning of ministry but also the motivation. Its not about the man its about the Messiah. The King of Kings has called and commissioned us to represent His righteousness. The question we need to answer is how will we respond, this isn’t a request it’s our God given role. John Mark was given the position of an assistant, in the Greek this word is a nautical term, it literally means, under-rower, a galley slave who sat in the belly of the boat and rowed. He didn’t determine the direction of the ship he just served to move it forward. Men I want you to note that this isn’t a position of power or prestige, its actually the opposite it’s the unseen work that belongs below deck. It’s the silent sweat, the private prayer that pushes the ship through the watery waves. But most men don’t know about the hard work in the hull because they refuse to be humble. The biggest reason we don’t live out our purpose is pride. We want to stand in the wheel house and be called captain, but the goal is not glory its giving God our best. The galley salve is not a glorious position but it’s vital because without rowers the ship is dead in the water. Without servants the ship will always be is still. Where are you sitting in the ship, are you in the seat that says servant or served? Men how would things be different if we faithfully lived out our function? How would things be different if we made the decision to be dedicated to our calling and not our cares?
3. FAILURE
Like death and taxes, failure is one of those things in life we all have in common. We may not have our failures pasted like Mark on the pages of scripture but we know what failure feels like. Failure hurts, haunts and it hinders us. A faithful family is a wonderful thing but its not enough to keep you from failure. All failure has its start in our:
a. Decisions –
John Mark’s decision resulted in his desertion. This was a decision that involved deliberate disobedience to God’s Will. Are you going to walk out God’s Will or walk out on God’s Will? Verse 13 stands in such sharp contrast to the rest of the passage that it just seems out of place. After successfully defeating Satans schemes John Mark just quietly quits less than half way thru. Why the decision to desert? I think it’s the same reason why many men walk away today? Living a holy life is hard, walking according to God’s Will is all out war. Because obedience involves:
• Obstacles
May be he saw service as an obstacle to success, perhaps his position as an under servant was one of the things that was upsetting to John Mark. So far things had been fairly level, smooth sailing, but now as they land in Perga they have a new challenge, the terrain was changing, in front of them lay the Taurus Mountain range. Things were going to get tough. Not quite half way and already there is one who wants to turn back. You may think that the longer you walk with God the easier it will get, but the truth is the further you journey with Jesus and the more faithful you are to the Father the greater the responsibility you will receive. Despite the disappointment Paul and Barnabas pushed on, don’t let other men’s failure of desertion derail you, determine to be dedicated. Don’t be afraid of responsibility, don’t shy back or shirk God’s call. They didn’t focus on the terrain they focused on truth, they kept their eyes on Author not the adversity. With every turn there is a change in the terrain, when things go from trying to tough. Both ministry and marriage will present you with moments of challenge but they don’t have to be a mess. Don’t focus on the challenges focus on Christ. Serving the Savior can be a steep uphill climb but nothing trumps the view from the top. Not only are there obstacles but there is also an:
You don’t have to hang in there during the Honey moon, hard times????? Where to put????
• Opposition
They were opposed by Bar-Jesus a sorcerer who served Satan. You have an enemy that will engage you. Satan’s servants will stand in the way of you serving the Savior and notice that this satanic servant attached himself to the governor, he anchored himself to authority. His goal was to keep the governor from believing in God. He wanted to prevent him from having a personal relationship with Jesus. Satan’s schemes have not changed since the beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. He wants to seduce you with sin and keep you from the Savior, to get you to walk away from God’s Will. But I want you to see that the Holy Spirit thru Paul didn’t just disarm the devil He disabled him. God didn’t counter Satan he crushed him. You don’t have to be afraid, yes you need to count the cost of serving Christ (Salvation is free but our service will cost), but you also need to consider who won the conquest. As I have said before stop focusing on the obstacle and focus on the opportunity. The obstacle was Satan but the opportunity was Salvation. Are you going to focus on the voices of opposition or the voice of victory? It is in the midst of problems that we often see God’s mighty power.
b. Direction
Your decision impacts your direction. Which path will you travel, that of Self-Will or the Savior’s Will? These men had been sent out by the Holy Spirit, but once in the field Mark began to focus on his feelings instead of the Fathers Will. He didn’t just question His calling he called it quits. Failure comes in many forms, it fit all shapes and sizes but the bottom line is that failure is the result of not following God’s plan. Many are seduced into sexual failure because we choose to serve pleasure instead of God’s plan. When the going got hard John focused on home, Paul and Barnabas focused on the Hope. You have a choice you can focus on and do what God has called you to do or what you want to do, but don’t whine when you get what comes with not follow God’s Will. Focusing on fear caused John Mark to flee, focusing on the Father caused Paul and Barnabas to be faithful and forge ahead. What direction are you heading in, what path are you on, the path of Least Resistance or the path of the Lord’s Rule? Are you walking in god’s Will or your wants? Not only do disobedient decisions impact our direction but they also create:
c. Division
Failure not only brings misery to us but it but it affects the ministry and fractures families. Acts 15 moves us forward two years, where when Paul asked Barnabas to go on a second missionary journey and Barnabas suggested taking John Mark a sharp contention arose. Your decision to live in disobedience can create division. Look around at the fractures in our families they are the result of our failure to follow God’s plan. Our disobedience is not just dividing our families its destroying them. What about you can your family count on you? Just when they needed John Mark the most, he gave up. Fathers according to God’s plan you are foundational to the success of the family, Men we matter, our call is critical. You have been called to be faithful, don’t flee from your calling, don’t give in to the feelings of failure. Fathers who vacate their calling create a vacuum. Are you going to be part of the vacuum or the victory? Are you going to be a fair weather faith or a faithful follower?
4. FORGIVENESS – Acts 15:36-41 & 2 Timothy 4:11
We get to see failure from 2 perspectives, Paul first perspective was that quitters aren’t qualified. He looked upon John Mark as one who was not worth of Kingdom work. The second perspective is not just more positive but it’s the proper one and that’s of Barnabas. Something in his heart wouldn’t let him give up on John Mark. Just because John had given up on him didn’t mean Barnabas would give up on John. 2 years had passed and I’m going to tell you that time doesn’t fix failure forgiveness does. Now the question for all of us that are familiar with failure is which of these 2 perspectives will we pursue? He could have listened to the perspective of Paul and decided that he was done forever, that he had squandered his potential and that his failure was final. Or he could respond to Barnabas and the gift of God’s grace and say yes to the second chance. Never take grace for granted it isn’t cheap, it cost Barnabas a good friend. John Mark could have believed that Paul had a personal vendetta against him and become bitter. He had a choice, settle for a life of grumbling or a life of grace. Do you know what defines a great man, grace. There are no short-cuts to becoming great man of God. If a man tries to run from or remove the disappointments, defeats, discouragements, and difficulties, he is removing the finishing touches of God’s hand in his life. Failure placed into the hands of God can be fruitful. Too often we allow the circumstances instead of the creator to place the finishing touches on our lives. We let the bitter disappointments, and the trials conform our character in such a way that nothing profitable ever comes of them. Don’t just learn from you failure let it cause you to lean on the Father. The gift of God’s grace means that you don’t have to dwell in defeat, you can live in victory. 2 Timothy 4:11 is not just a powerful verse because Paul forgives, but because John Mark is restored to his original call. The Holy Spirit had called and commissioned John Mark to come alongside Paul and serve but he had walked away from God’s plan. You may have walked away from God but He hasn’t quit on you. God wasn’t just giving John another shot at serving he was restoring him to the position of rower. So let me ask you men are you going to row the boat or run? It was in forgiveness that John found the freedom to live out who God had called him to be and what God had called him to do. He stopped looking at his position and started to look at the privilege. God called him right back to the same place, serving alongside Paul. You were not called to serve solo, you need each other. You don’t have to be paralyzed by your past, you can find forgiveness and freedom. Are you going to live under the heavy hand of failure or in the forgiving hand of the Father? It was John Mark the failure who God the Father used to write the book of Mark. And the message of Marks’s gospel is captured in a single verse, For even the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for all” Mark 10:45. Men you were made for more than mediocrity, you were saved to serve, you can finish well or fail at the finish?
The Message of Mark is one of:
A.​Family –We should thank God for our family, especially our faith family.
B.​Faith –We must determine in our own hearts to serve the Lord.
C.​Forgiveness –We should seek to serve and give others a second chance. Are you going to write people off or help them get right?
D.​Failure – Failure is not final for those who find the Fathers forgiveness.
E.​Future –We can all be “profitable” in God’s service.