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Posts tagged ‘serving’

6. Church Begins – Paul is sent

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6. Church Begins – Paul is sent

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Acts 9:10-31 “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

He said, “Behold, it’s me, Lord.”

9:11 The Lord said to him, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying, 9:12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”

9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. 9:14 Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 9:16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

9:17 Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 9:18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized. 9:19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus. 9:20 Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God. 9:21 All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Isn’t this he who in Jerusalem made havoc of those who called on this name? And he had come here intending to bring them bound before the chief priests!”

9:22 But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. 9:23 When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, 9:24 but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, 9:25 but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. 9:26 When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 9:28 He was with them entering into Jerusalem, 9:29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the Hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him. 9:30 When the brothers knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. 9:31 So the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Transformed

From the conversion of Paul, we go to the consequences of his conversion. The first consequence we maybe aware of is that he changed his name: changed from Saul of Tarsus to Paul of Tarsus – we read that in Acts 13!  Paul’s conversion was a total transformation. His attitudes, character & relationships with God, fellow believers and the unbelieving world were utterly transformed. A changed life is the uultimate proof, that conversion is real and the Holy Spirit is working. Now that through Jesus and his cross, Paul had been put right with God, Paul, as with all believers, enjoyed direct access to the Father, as the Spirit witnessed with his spirit that he was the Father’s child (Romans 8:16). Perhaps his prayers were for forgiveness of sins of self-righteousness & cruel persecution of Jesus & the church. And no doubt they contained worship. The mouth that breathed murderous threats against Jesus like a roaring lion, was now breathing prayers & praises to God like bleating lamb. Paul’s life was changed from self-righteousness to righteousness through Jesus. The evidence of this was a change in the way he lived his life.

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5. Church Begins – Converted

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5. Church Begins – Converted

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Acts 9:1-6 But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he travelled, it happened that he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him. He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He said, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise up, and enter into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the sound, but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one. They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. He was without sight for three days, and neither ate nor drank.

The conversion of Paul is perhaps the most famous throughout the history of the Church. Luke tells us the story three times. But was Paul’s conversion special? Many people say “I have not had a Damascus Road experience“. There were, it is true, special events on that day, which make Paul’s conversion unique. Let us look together at his conversion experience.

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4. Church Begins – Let’s Get Organized

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4. Church Begins – Let’s Get Organized

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Today we go back to the beginning of Acts 6. So far in the book of Acts, we can see that the Church has come under attack by the world (through persecution) and satan (through deceit & moral compromise).

A new crisis has appeared. Unable to destroy the church by way of persecution and deceit, satan now tries to create a split in the church by getting believers to argue and fight with each other. If satan had succeeded in creating an implosion within this church, the only church in existence at the time, then the effects could have been devastating. I have had people tell me they want a church without any form of organizational structure. If a church has no organizational and leadership structure then it will soon have chaos instead of harmony, and will collapse rather than grow. Of course, some leaders are corrupt or make wrong decisions as we have seen already, but Godly leaders will not be corrupt and as we shall see, make decisions that are wise and based on prayer and spiritual insights.

So, what was the problem, what was the solution and what happened after it was resolved?

The Problem! (Actsv1)

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily service.

  • Good news – they were growing, but this had caused a problem!
  • Bad news – Some widows were not being cared for!

Hebraic Jews had always lived in the then nation of Israel, spoke mainly Aramaic and some Hebraic. They would have been well used to life in a Jewish society, the Temple and avoiding those who were not Jews: the Gentiles..

Grecian or Hellenestic Jews were part of the Jewish Diaspora, born elsewhere within the known world and had returned to Jerusalem. These mainly spoke Greek, and were well used to working with Gentiles.

We know that widows were and are important to God, because justice is important to God. God is a God of justice and mercy. In the Old Testament, under the Law of Moses, God commanded provision for those who were widows, oppressed or uncared for. The Apostles would have known about God caring for the widows and in Jesus teaching about justice for the poor and the oppressed. We know this because earlier in Acts 2 and 4, people were selling and sharing possessions and ensuring that people within the Christian community were being looked after and cared for. This included making sure that everyone got fed, particularly those who had no family to care for them. Somehow, unintentional or not, this group of widows were missing out.

What then happened?

The Solution! (Actsv2-6)

The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word.” These words pleased the whole multitude. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the apostles. When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

Three things about the solution

Transformation of the Apostles – James, Peter & John particularly (v2)

Its not stated here, but a transformation had taken place! Only a few short time ago, the disciples of Jesus had refused to wash feet as an act of service (Peter); some had wanted positions of power and greatness (James & John). Their old nature must have started asking questions and prompting them to react negatively. The world has attacked the church, satan has attacked the church, and now satan would have been using the Apostles old nature to attack the church. But – as they are transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit and now have a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ, they react much more righteously and judiciously.

All together now! (v2-5)

Notice they gathered all the believers together for a church meeting. The gave their opinion or judgment if you like, that their ministry or time would be better spent doing what God had called them to do – to be leaders of the Church, praying, preaching, evangelizing and discerning how best to apply the 3 years of teaching that they had had when travelling with Jesus Christ before His ascension. Their time, rightly so, was best spent doing that, for that was their ministry of service. But other people in the church gathering, who had a ministry of service and overseeing the food distribution, could spend their time doing that! So what of these seven men with Greek names? They were elected by the whole church, both Grecian and Hebraic, to perform this duty. They may already have been doing it, but now were being set apart especially for this role. These men were controlled by the Holy Spirit and were wise. They were chosen to give relief to the leadership so that the Word of God and prayer would not be hindered.

Commissioning (v6)

Interestingly enough, the word diakonia is translated here as ministry. Another way to translate it is as deacons. But, they were not deacons in the way the Paul uses the word as part of a church government in 1 Timothy 3. Rather they were deacons, set apart for this specific task – it was their ministry. It may well have been from here, that Paul developed what some parts of the universal church understands of the role of deacons. So these seven men, were prototypes as it were, for the Paul-ine idea of deacons.

Note also that the Apostles didn’t say their work was more important than serving. They were just following what God had called them to do, just as God had called these seven men to take responsibility for providing food for the widows. So they were commissioned by God, by the laying on of hands and set apart to perform it. We know only of Steven and Phillip and that they continued doing other ministries as well as this.

The Result! (v7)

The word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly. A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

The result was growth! Growth and witness may well see the conversion of former enemies. Growth and witness may well see reasoning and transformation.

Now that the Apostles had time for their dedicated and unique ministry, all the widows could be fed, and all believers able to participate within the life of the church. Not only that, Stephen was instrumental in reaching the Apostle Paul (Acts 7:58). Philip was instrumental in reaching the city of Samaria and won over for Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian Eunuch who then took the gospel to Africa. (Acts 8)

This growth was where the word of God increased in its effectiveness in the lives of those unbelievers who would listen to the gospel. This growth was not merely addition but multiplication! It was explosive! So explosive that even former enemies were becoming converts! Sadducees were Jewish believers who didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection – yet they came to faith and started to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not hard to imagine that some of those Priests coming to faith in Jesus Christ were former persecutors of the Church! They were watching the church to see how best to attack and debate them. Yet found that they were joining the church, rather than continuing to oppose it. The church was preaching one thing and acting upon it. There was no hypocrisy within the church. The church was transparent – it lived as it believed. The church was seen as transformative and servant-like. While the Church continued to reason with others about the validity of Jesus Christ’s claims to be the Messiah, it would have not been effective if lives were not being transformed. If lives were not being changed, then no amount of reasoning alone would have seen the growth in numbers being added to the Church. Just as transformation and change alone would not have been the catalyst for growth, without the reasoning behind it.

Transformation

The early Church was a radical community of believers, growing quickly. At Pentecost, the church community began when the Holy Spirit filled the Disciples (Acts 2v4). The hallmarks of this community were commitment and transformation. This community was radical. It was where people’s lives were being changed as the Holy Spirit filled them. Instead of being a withdrawn people filled with fear of retribution from the Roman government and Jewish leaders, they became a people filled with boldness and joy. This church in Jerusalem grew by being a radical community imbued with radical individuals engaging with others and serving. It was a church where every member was asked and expected to play some role, in the life of the church. .

The Christian life is to be dynamic and active. As we have seen the word “deacon” here denotes ministry. Ministry is any service for Jesus Christ. When you serve as God’s deacon in this way, God’s honour is released. That’s why the embryonic Church in Jerusalem grew and flourished. This is done because service shows the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ to those being served and to those watching. That is to be our motive for service. Serving and ministry should never to be about what you and I can get out of it. When that is the motive, God is not glorified. God’s glory and supremacy is our goal as Christians. Spiritual growth comes from serving rather than being served. This is because what ever is given in service of God and others, faith grows and Jesus Christ gives back even more. Jesus speaking in Matthew 25v15-30 tells of the rewards for faithful service and the penalties for being faithless.

Serving others is a sign that you are trusting God and having faith in God. Serving God and others is the mark of a spiritually maturity and through service, the greatest servant of all, is reflected: Jesus Christ, who came to serve and give his very life for others (Mark 10v45). As Christians, we are to be as Jesus Christ (Romans 8v28; Philippians 2v5) and to serve. Yet if we are honest, we sometimes feel incapable, just as Moses did (Exodus 3). An excellent example to follow is that of the deacon Stephen.

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Chocolate Christianity

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How not to be a Chocolate Christian

or

How to change Ch-rch to Church!

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Have you ever noticed that chocolate melts under pressure & heat? If you haven’t, take a piece of chocolate and hold it between your fingers! It will soon melt! If you are a Christian, you need to be active in your local church so that you don’t melt under pressure and you will remain firm in your faith! Otherwise you will be a chocolate Christian who easily gives up under the stress and pressure of every day life!

At a church local to where you live, you are needed regardless of who you are!

Perhaps this is you?

  • Interested observer but not a committed Christian
  • Not bothered
  • Not good enough
  • Just want to be left alone
  • Don’t know how to be involved
  • Don’t know why being involved is important
  • Too busy

But why should you be involved?

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Chocolate Christianity

choco_man_new.jpg

How not to be a Chocolate Christian

or

How to change Ch-rch to Church!

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

Have you ever noticed that chocolate melts under pressure & heat? If you haven’t, take a piece of chocolate and hold it between your fingers! It will soon melt! If you are a Christian, you need to be active in your local church so that you don’t melt under pressure and you will remain firm in your faith! Otherwise you will be a chocolate Christian who easily gives up under the stress and pressure of every day life!

At a church local to where you live, you are needed regardless of who you are!

Perhaps this is you?

  • Interested observer but not a committed Christian
  • Not bothered
  • Not good enough
  • Just want to be left alone
  • Don’t know how to be involved
  • Don’t know why being involved is important
  • Too busy

But why should you be involved?

(more…)

Think Spot – 1 August 2011

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Think Spot – 1st August 2011

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G’day! Welcome to Partakers Think Spot at the start of new week on Monday the 1st August 2011!

Obedient Life

As a Christian you are to be a little Jesus! In your local communities, wherever you happen to live, work, study or be! You are to live a life of obedience, of and to, Jesus Christ! For you are being transformed by the Holy Spirit who lives inside you! You are to be totally and willingly obedient to Him! Obedience, not out of some kind of slavish duty or ritual, but obedience borne from willing loving God and loving others.

Imagine

People will know you are a follower of Jesus, if you are obedient to Him, practically showing love to all! Imagine the community where you are transformed for Jesus Christ! Imagine your community filled with people seeking to know about our Jesus, because you and other Christians were sacrificing their time and possessions! Imagine the communities you are involved with wanting to give Jesus the glory and honour in every aspect of life!

Transformation

Transformed communities of people devoted to Jesus and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in bringing people back to God the Father! Loving God and loving each other as He commanded would help do this in your local community!

Be Obedient! Be bold! Be strong! Be courageous!

But you need to be obedient to Jesus Christ in both small and large things.

Jesus said in John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

You will face pressure to disobey Him, even sometimes from those within your church. But if He has commanded you to do something for Him, you are to obey Him. It is far better to obey God and disappoint people than to obey people and disobey God.

Go into this week, lovingly willing to be obedient to God! Trust in Him and ask Him for the strength to be lovingly obedient to Him. He will help as you ask! It can sometimes be very difficult to be obedient to God, particularly as some people, even other Christians, will try to get you to disobey. Be strong in the Lord! Be bold! Be courageous! Need help? Then ask somebody to pray with you! Then be prepared for opportunities to be lovingly obedient to Jesus – in small and big things!

Prayer

A Prayer to help you this week.

Father, help us to live obediently to you. May the Holy Spirit encourage us as we seek to live worthily of Jesus Christ, in obedience to Him. Father, it is in His name we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Think Spot

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Think Spot – 25th July 2011

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G’day! Welcome to Partakers Think Spot at the start of new week on Monday the 25th July 2011!

God’s love in the Bible is seen as unfailing, everlasting, intimate, sacrificial, unbreakable, all-conquering, personal, great, immeasurable and all-knowing. This is seen supremely in the Cross of Jesus Christ, when He died for the sins of the world. Supreme love overcoming all that is not love. Even when great acts of evil are committed in the world, such as the slaughter of innocents in Oslo Norway this past week, love is all around. Love continues despite such acts.

How are Christians to respond to this love of God?

The apostle John writes in 1 John 4v15-16 – If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

Our motivation as Christians is to love and to be love. This is a love, which is sacrificial and self-less. It is tough love which is of service to other people.

Loving and serving others, are the primary ways of showing you love God! It is easiest to love your friends. But Jesus commanded that his followers also love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-45)! Now that is very radical and can be difficult! We see constantly in the media and elsewhere, that regards our enemies, we are to be confrontational or at best to just ignore them!

How is it possible to love our enemies? It is only with the help of God and His abundant grace towards us! We depend on the Holy Spirit who lives inside all Christians to empower and guide! To only love those who love you is what is expected by people everywhere as normal behaviour. But as a Christian, you are to do more! You are to be seen to love more than other people. You don’t have to like others as friends, but you do have to love them as fellow human beings!

Go into this week, being prepared to show your love of Jesus Christ, remaining close to Him and serving other people generously with abundant grace-filled love! By loving and serving others, you become God’s arms and legs in a physical world. One of the greatest limitations you face in loving and serving other people is a severe lack of imagination! So as you go into this week, ask God to expand your imagination to love and serve; as well as asking for the opportunities to do them. Loving and serving are hallmarks of an authentic Christian life. Love continues even amidst chaos and turmoil all around. Go and be part of the continuing of love. Thank you.

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