Acts chapter 15 opens as Paul and Barnabas have returned to Antioch from their missionary journey, and now some Jews have come and started to teach that Gentile believers must be circumcised and fall under the law of Moses to be saved! Of course this flies in the face of what Paul and Peter have experienced in God pouring out his Spirit on Gentiles, and so a council is convened to deal with this rift and difficulty in the early church made up of Jews and Gentiles. Pastor Steve teaches a message of grace using this first big test of the early church as a backdrop. Grace is what will make us the church that God wants us to be, working together and giving grace to one another as we do God's work in unity.
David Barton, president of Wallbuilders, an organization dedicated to preserving America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional foundation, presented a message titled "Know Your Bible" showing the incredible familiarity with the Bible and its content that was assumed and expected at the time of the foundation of our country. Dr. Barton called for the church to reinvest themselves in knowing God's Word, challenging them to read it from cover to cover each year as many of our founding fathers did.
Moving on in Acts 14 through Paul's first missionary journey, they have arrived at the city of Lystra. After teaching there, Paul is led to heal a lame man, which leads the people of the city to think that Paul and Barnabas are gods worthy of worship! After convincing the locals not to worship them as gods, the Jewish resistance shows up and convinces the crowds to stone Paul! Instead of dying as they thought, Paul awakens outside the city and he and Barnabas return to the city before going on to Derbe. The chapter ends with them retracing their steps through all the cities, strengthening the young believers in each place and appointing elders to care for these small new churches in each town.
In this message, one of our elders, Todd Giszack, encourages us to consider the corporate blessing of our individual salvation. God's plan for the church is clearly seen in Scripture, and while the Lord calls us to Himself one by one, as Christians we should recognize that we are also members of this corporate, worldwide body of Christ called the church.
Who or what is your first love? Is your first love God, or has He been replaced by someone or something else as the highest love and priority of your life? Pastor Tom takes us through Revelation 2:1-7 in this message, pointing us to this timely application for our lives today. Let's examine our hearts in the light of scripture and see if we need to remember, repent, and redo the first things that expressed our love for Jesus. He desires to be the first and primary love of our life!
On this communion Sunday, Pastor Steve took a shorter section of Acts as we entered chapter 14, teaching through the first few verses as Paul and his companions have moved on in their journey to the city of Iconium. In verse 2, the passage talks about the local Jews "poisoning the minds" of the people and Pastor Steve took time to make application to what might be poisoning our minds away from the truth of God's word in the present day.
Continuing from our message last week in Acts 13, Paul and his traveling companions are still in Pisidian Antioch, and after the powerful message Paul gave at the synagogue, many have begged him to stay and speak again the following week. But, instead of being glad that people want to hear God's word, the Jews are filled with envy and begin to oppose Paul and the believers. As the Jews reject the message Paul boldly speaks about their focus now turning to the Gentiles who are ready and willing to hear the message. In the end this gets them kicked out of town, but the disciples are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and continue traveling on.
As we are now following Paul's first missionary journey travels in Acts chapter 13 and beyond, he has left the island of Cyprus and arriving in the area of Pisidia, coming to the town of Pisidian Antioch. Paul goes to the Jewish synagogue and preaches a powerful message walking them through their nation's history, finishing with the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament. Listen in as Pastor Steve teaches through this section of Acts 13.
One of our elders, Todd Giszack, shares from God's word how we are to understand and perceive the current culture around us, and how God wants us to interact and challenge the social and cultural norms of our day that go against God's design and plan for life.
Most importantly we have to understand that the enemy of our souls, the devil, is wanting to kill, steal, and destroy, but 1 Corinthians 15 gives us the beautiful picture of his demise through Christ's victory. Death will be swallowed up in victory!
This day is a time to look back at 2016 and reflect on what the year was like for you. How was 2016? Tough? Painful? Tiring? Great? Full? Disappointing? How would you sum it up?
Its also a time to look ahead at 2017. What lies ahead? Are you hopeful? Fearful? Anxious?
Maybe you are aware that the month of January was named for the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions and doors and gates and time. He was pictured with two faces, one looking forward and the other backwards.
In Phil 3, Paul gives some great practical advice on dealing with the past and future. How much time do you spend dwelling on the past? Focusing on past hurts causes deep roots of bitterness that choke out joy and hope and progress. Focusing on past success causes complacency and laziness and even self righteousness.
So what do we do with our past? How do we handle the future? Listen in as Pastor Steve shares from Philippians chapter three as we head into 2017!
On this Christmas Eve, Pastor Steve wrapped up a three part series in Luke chapters 1 and 2, focusing on a few key details of the Christmas story. On this night, Pastor Steve talked about peace, and more importantly, why is our world missing a sense of peace when the angels clearly talked about "peace on earth" as part of the promise of Jesus's coming. Listen in as we explore why there is a missing "peace" and how Jesus can provide it personally for those who seek after Him.
For the last week leading up to Christmas Day, Pastor Steve took some time out of our study in Acts to walk through the Christmas story, beginning today with a look at the announcement from the angel Gabriel to Mary in the first chapter of Luke. The amazing part of this story is to consider the age of Mary (a young teen girl, most likely) and her response to the angel to this unlikely visit! Listen in as Pastor Steve talks about a "Christmas Wish"
Jumping into Acts chapter 13, we see the first intentional missionary activity of the early church. As the leadership fasted and prayed, God led them to send out Paul & Barnabas to go start spreading the gospel beyond Antioch. John Mark went along as an assistant. This first section details their time crossing the island of Cyprus from end to end. Pastor Steve talked about the work of God guiding us as we consistently seek Him through prayer and fasting, as the overseers in Antioch did.
For communion Sunday, Pastor Steve is teaching a series about relationships in the context of our faith. Matthew chapter 7 gives us a humorous picture of the "speck" and the "log" to compare and contrast our quickness to judge others versus the way we see ourselves and our sins and mistakes. Pastor Steve exhorts us to use the same measuring stick for others as we measure ourselves with.
Moving from the last few verses of Acts chapter 11 into chapter 12, we encounter what is the first experience of government-led persecution of the church, as Herod Agrippa starts to take action against the leadership of the church. After killing James, he has Peter put in prison awaiting execution after the Passover. The response of the church is "fervent prayer" on behalf of Peter, the beloved apostle and leader of the early church, and miraculously God answers their prayers and frees Peter from prison the night before his execution. Pastor Steve challenges each of us in our commitment to prayer and especially corporate prayer as we desire to be a church that is seeing God work and inviting Him to work through us as a church body!
As we start Acts chapter 11, Peter comes back to the Jewish-centric church in Jerusalem and has to explain (and overcome some criticism about) what has happened at Cornelius's house and why it is now clear that God has accepted the Gentiles into the church by pouring out his Spirit on them as they received the Word of God.
Listen in as Pastor Steve shares the truths we find in this chapter and applies this story to our own potential judgements and biases in the church today.
Last week in the first part of Acts 10, we saw the Holy Spirit working in both Cornelius and the apostle Peter to prepare them for this coming together of Jew and Gentile to hear the truth about Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized as full believers! In this section of chapter 10, Peter comes to Cornelius's house, aware now that God has made it possible for him to do that, and as he preaches the word, he is interrupted as they are ready to believe and are filled with the Holy Spirit! Every pastor's dream! Now a new era of the church will begin as Peter and his companions realize that God's good news through Jesus is available to all, not just the Jews.
Pastor Steve continues our study through the book of Acts, where our attention turns to a Gentile, Cornelius, a "God-fearer" who is visited by an angel, starting the wheels in motion for the Gentiles to understand faith in Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile God has to provide a vision to the apostle Peter to help him understand that God is accepting the Gentiles as full participants in the church and receivers of the Spirit's power! Listen in as Pastor Steve unfolds this story in the first section of Acts 10.
Listen in to this powerful testimony from Sarah Liu, a Chinese evangelist saved at age 18, arrested multiple times, and spent 6 years in prison in China for her faith. Sarah was tortured and interrogated, and shares how she found that God gives strength to withstand these trials when we need it. Her joyful hope in Christ even through these trials challenges us here in our comfort and relative ease; listen in to this powerful story!
One of our elders, Dave Vollmer, teaches from Romans 8 on five ways that we are built up and strengthened in our faith through Jesus Christ. Listen in to this message of encouragement to be strengthened in Christ!