Page 169 began early as I went in to work to clean bathrooms, glass doors, and touch up other areas of the building so it was ready for our Sunday worship gathering. As I went through the building in the quietness of the early morning hours, I began my time of worship praying for the message that would be spoken and for the people who would gather to lift up the name of Jesus while being encouraged, challenged, and even convicted by God’s Word as we shared in it together. Once the building was ready for the morning, I went home and got myself cleaned up and ready for the morning.
Our Sunday School class is doing a study of 1 Timothy, and this morning we prepared to look at chapter three by sharing a variety of verses which speak to the responsibilities of leadership within the church body. Paul will address the character of leaders when he writes to Timothy, and we’ll eventually get to that within our class, but the reason the character is so important is because of the responsibilities they have to shepherd and serve the flock of God which is among them.
After the Sunday School hour, we gathered for a time of worship in song, in giving, around the Lord’s Table, and in the Word. David continued a series he is doing through the first half of the book of Acts with a message from Acts 5 that he titled, “Living Dangerously”. The chapter opens with the account of Ananias and Sapphira making a claim about their generosity toward God that wasn’t true. When questioned by the apostles, they continue their lie and God strikes them dead on the spot. While most Christians are probably familiar with that story, I’m guessing we tend to gloss over it because the truth behind their actions, and God’s actions, might hit just a little too close to home. We know the Bible teaches that sin brings death, but we often live according to the lie of satan that says, “you surely won’t die.” The story makes it clear that they were actually free to do what they did, the problem was misrepresenting their actions — they did one thing but said something else. In today’s culture many, even many within church leaderships, would say that’s no big deal — things change, accomplishing what we want is more important than how we get there. God’s Word still tells a different story — live with integrity, let your yes be yes and your no be no.
While that story set the background, much of the sermon was focused on the rest of chapter 5 as God used the apostles to speak boldly in the name of Jesus even after “great fear” had spread among all the people because of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. Here are the main points we considered:
- The enemy is relentless — Stay Engaged: Temptation comes in many forms and the enemy is good at knowing just what we’ll listen to when it comes to distracting us and moving us away from God. Through God’s Spirit we have been given a complete complement of armor to help us be protected during the battle for our soul. Satan is relentless when it comes to stalking and waiting for a “more opportune” time with the hope he can catch us off guard. The early church was under attack and it seemed like the attacks were coming from all sides — including inside. The integrity of the body was being attacked by a lack of integrity of individuals. Dealing with the sin in the body caused great fear among all the people. The proclamation of the good news of Jesus brought about the arrest of all of the apostles. Yet in the midst of all these attacks, and more, those who believed in Jesus stayed connected to one another, and to God, and continued to be engaged in sharing the good news of Jesus no matter what.
- God can use anything — Stay Strong: It is often easier to look around us and see what can’t be done rather than noticing what God can do. The actions of one couple in bringing deceit into the body of believers, and God’s dealing with it, brought about an atmosphere of fear that would appear to make growth of the church nearly impossible. Add to that the arrest of all of the leaders, with the command to quit speaking of Jesus, and it would appear that the early church was finished before it could really take root. Yet, to believe any of that discounts the power of God to use anything to accomplish His purposes and will. I think of Joseph’s words to his brothers, who sold him into slavery, when they finally meet after years of separation, “What you meant for harm, God has used for good to accomplish the saving of many people.” While God can, and does, use anything, it seems there are many times He delights in using our failures to show Himself strong and accomplish His purpose.
- The situation is never hopeless — Stay the Course: Sometimes the greatest temptation for a Christian isn’t to commit some sin that would bring shame to us and to the name of Christ, but it is to get us to simply give up. It would have been easy for the early church to look around and question their decision to follow Jesus. With the apostles in jail and being threatened by those in authority, hopelessness would have likely been a very human reaction. Yet when it comes to our life in Christ, God makes it clear that this race is not necessarily won by those who are the fastest but by those who finish. When I think of staying the course, I think of the three Hebrew men who were being threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace because they would not bow before the image of the king. While the situation looked hopeless, their response is the ultimate “staying the course” — “We know that our God can save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not bow to you or any other god.”
After the church service, we had lunch and eventually made our way to the farm to visit with my mom and dad on Father’s Day. With the long day, I didn’t get the writing part of the page done and I didn’t end up taking any photos. So, today’s photo is one from our Saturday trip to Potato Creek. As I thought about the sermon title of “Living Dangerously”, the look of this osprey seemed to be similar to the reaction we may have at the thought of living dangerously for Christ. 🙂
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- If each day is seen as a day of worship, it would likely change the way we go about our daily tasks — or at least it should.
- Biblical leadership isn’t the same as leadership in the world so we shouldn’t use the same criteria for church leaders as the world does for its leaders.
- There is often a big difference between one who wants to lead and one who wants to serve.
- God takes integrity more seriously than people often do.
- God not only wants us to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, He has equipped us with everything we need to do so.
- You don’t have to be like anyone else to be used by God — you just have to be the person God created and called you to be.
- The things, and people, that we often discard are often the ones that God chooses to use greatly.
- God’s reward of eternal life is given to those who are faithful to the end.
- Today’s situation — good or bad — isn’t permanent. The end of the journey — eternal life in Christ — is.
- Fear can destroy us or motivate us to action.