Acts 4: Trials Make You Taller

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Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Acts 4: Trials Make You Taller Hear this message and others: download our free app @ the App Store: Search The Gathering Connect

WHAT’S THE USE? Acts 4:1-3

Last week we learned about the amazing things that occur when we leap out on faith in God.  Peter and John, two ordinary men, on their way to “church” Temple) one afternoon, prayed over a crippled man and he was healed.  Peter used this opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with those who witnessed the miracle; it was only fitting, since the miracle was not something he did but was done in the power of Christ (Acts 3:11-12).  For this “good” thing, he and John were thrown in jail!  Have you ever done something good for someone only to be treated badly?  Have you ever done what Jesus directed you to do only to be “locked up?” If you have you may have thought “what’s the use?” 

TAKERS:  Most people are takers.  They take what they can from others and give nothing back.  These people rarely say thank you and when they do it is only so that they can take more later on.  Takers come in all ages, shapes and sizes, and many of them even claim to be followers of Christ; they have much to learn of course, because they lack the obvious trait of a Christ follower by not being givers.  Jesus said:  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 He also told us who follow Him: Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  Luke 6:38 

GIVERS:  God’s true disciples are givers, and you will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:20).  A giver recognizes and appreciates all that has been given to them by God and by others and wants to reciprocate (give back).  A giver gives out of a cheerful heart of appreciation.  That is why it hurts so badly when a giver is taken!  Peter and John were givers.  They were filled with appreciation for what Christ had done for them and they wanted to share it with a crippled beggar and those who witnessed the miracle of his healing…but they were taken!  Taken to jail!

AMERICA GIVERS & TAKERS

As we look towards the celebration of Independence Day, it is givers and not takers who have made America great, men and women who bled and died for our posterity– those who loved God and nation more than themselves.  The takers of today have set us on a path of destruction. Self-centeredness, godlessness, liberalism and socialism are rising like a tornado on the horizon and threatening our great nation and future.  For the sake of our nation, our children and grandchildren we need to stop expecting more and start giving!  In the famous words of President John F. Kennedy, we need to:  “Ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for your country”.  Stand up and be bold American Christians.  Don’t let the unpatriotic and ungodly kill America and the Judaeo-Christian values that this country was founded on.  Stand up even in the face of persecution and be bold. 

WHO LOVES YA’ BABY?  Matthew 25:31-40, Colossians 3:23-24

When feeling abused or discouraged for giving we must remember who is pleased with us. Our encouragement must come from He who sent us to serve in the first place, it must come from the source of our strength, who is Jesus.  Jesus commanded us to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20) and to serve the “least of these.”  He also promised a reward for doing so (Matthew 25:31-40).  His reward will far outweigh any discouragement or persecution dished out by man.  “No eye has seen…” 1 Corinthians 2:9 When you are discouraged in your service, be encouraged by His Word and the promises He has made to His faithful ones. Remember , all we do we do as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).   

If we are to continue being encouraged to serve God then we must not look for that    encouragement from other people, but from God Himself.   

“THE NEXT DAY” Acts 4:3b-22, Hebrews 11:35b-40, 12:1-3  

As little Orphan Annie would sing:  “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya’, tomorrow your only a day away.”  This is a good song to live by! Reading further along in Peter and John’s story, we see what God saw all along.  Yes, they were locked in jail, but “the next day” came.  So often we get discouraged because we can’t see beyond the trial to the blessing that waits tomorrow, next week, next year, or in the experience of some great missionaries, many years down the road:

* William Carey was in India for seven years before he baptized his first convert.

* David Livingstone served eight years in Africa before seeing anyone converted.

* Hudson Taylor in China, waited ten years!

And then still there were “others” it speaks of in Hebrews 11:35b-40 who never even lived to see the fruits of their faithfulness to God.  Yet, because of their faithfulness to God’s service the gospel of the Kingdom of God was brought to earth…and ultimately to you and me. They will have their great reward! Revelation 22:12 

In Acts 4: 11-12 Peter boldly proclaims the reason for the sharing of this gospel with a  prophetic Psalm from David (Psalm 118:22-23) once quoted by Jesus to the chief priests and Pharisees who questioned His authority (Matthew 21:42-44).  What a slap in the face of Annas and Caiaphas who were largely responsible for His crucifixion (John 18:13-14, 24).  Peter put them face to face with their utter rejection of their Messiah (“cornerstone”). 

Note: The cornerstone (foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones are set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

In the threat of opposition and persecution, Peter and John proclaim that they will “not stop speaking about what they have seen and heard.”  Neither can we…

    If we are to continue serving joyfully today then we must anticipate the intervention of God in our tomorrows.

RAGING SMALL & GROWING TALL!  Acts 4:23-31, James 1: 2-4   

 Selfish people lash out when they don’t get their way.  They rage, plot, and threaten   persecution to those who stand against them.  When we live as servants of God we must remember to look above their smallness and worship Him.  If we do this we will grow taller spiritually as that early church did even in the face of scorn. When we stand firm in the truth and live as givers even in the face of discouragement and opposition the places we meet will be shaken too as we are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak the word of God boldly. 

 Are you a Giver or a taker?  Are you shrinking in self-centeredness or growing taller in Christ and His calling.  The choice is yours and so are the consequences.

 

Acts #3: Leap Of Faith

frogPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church    Acts #3: Leap Of Faith  To hear this message and others download our free App @ The App Store (Search The Gathering Connect)

Like A Frog Acts 3:1-10, John 14:9-14

Wouldn’t it be great to be used of God like Peter and John were in this story!  When was the last time that   you were used by God in such a way?  Have you ever led someone to Christ?  Have you ever been the vehicle through which God brought healing or spiritual encouragement, wisdom or knowledge?  Do you realize that Jesus promised that you too could do these things?

In the gospel of John, Jesus rebuked Phillip  for his disbelief. “Don’t you know Me?” Jesus asked.  Then He went on to say something incredible!  He told Phillip that anyone who has faith in Him will do the things He did and even greater things!  He also said that if we ask Him anything in “His name” that He will do it!  

So why don’t we see more miracles among the church in our day and age?  Why don’t we see greater things being done than even Jesus did?  Why aren’t we living in the excitement and energy of that early church?  The answer is simple… WE NEED TO LIVE LIKE FROGS! 

That’s right…Frogs!  Leaping out in faith like Peter did when he saw the need of the crippled beggar.  Leaping to our feet when God calls like that healed man and then jumping and praising God everywhere we go!  Acts 3:68 

Frog Facts and Christian Similarities

  • Frogs rise up from the mire (swampy ground) and then are placed firmly on solid ground to sing a “new” song! In God’s standard, we too have come up out of the mire of sin and have been placed on solid ground (Christ, “the rock”) to sing His praises!  Psalm 40:1-3 
  • Frogs go through the process of Metamorphosis (from a swimming tad pole to land leaping frogs) In the same way we need to be morphed from our old dead life into a new life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17   We must be “born again!”  John 3:3-7
  • Frogs adapt to water or land (frogs are amphibians, they can exist in two worlds) In the same way Christians live in two worlds.  We live in this world but we are not to be “of this world.”  Our citizenship is in heaven.  Philippians 3:20-21
  • Frogs can leap far beyond themselves (frogs can jump a distance of 10 times their body length. About the same comparative distance as a kangaroo). Christians too, by trusting in God, can go far beyond themselves.  We can do everything through Christ who gives us strength.  Philippians 4:13 
  • A frog Fully Relies On God! (frogs are what they are because God created them to be what they are) We can learn a lot from a frog!  Mankind attempts to be self made.  We are God made!  Mankind attempts to form his own brand of law and morality.  God has laid down both.  Mankind attempts to be god.  He is not!  Frogs are content being what they are and depending on their creator.  Psalm 73:23-28 

    Back To Basics Acts 3:11-26, Ephesians 5:10-16, Matthew 7:21-23

    So why don’t we see more miracles among the church, why don’t we see greater things being done than even Jesus did, why aren’t we living in the excitement and energy of that early church?  The answer is simple…We need to Fully Rely On God like that first century church did. The early church did not rely on their government for financial aid, personal protection, education, medical care and prosperity.  The Roman government over taxed them, persecuted them, overworked them, kept them ignorant and impoverished. And let them die.  God works when we fully trust in Him.  Americans have become selfish, entitled and weak.  The American church has largely followed this trend.  We need to get back to basics if we are going to see God work like he promised. 

    Notice how Peter gives all the praise to Jesus for making the man walk (Acts 3:12). Do the “healing televangelists” of our day do the same? No first century Christian ever got rich off of Jesus.  Real miracles and the “favor of all people” (Acts 2:47)  can only happen when man stops making Christianity a show for simpletons! No power or godliness of man will ever make a man walk or ever has. Christians should be shunning and exposing such charlatans instead of flocking to their shows and paying for their lavish lifestyles (Ephesians 5:10-16). These phonies will one day pay for such blasphemy (Matthew 7:21-23), but all Christians pay the price for them now.  Many in our world today see Christianity as a sideshow of hypocrisy.

    Peter and John set a great example for us here of Fully Relying On God and receiving the full benefits of that trust when about two-thousand came to Christ (Acts 4:4): They followed Jesus. They were “morphed” by the power of the Holy Spirit into new creations. They lived on the earth but looked forward to the Kingdom of God. They “leaped” beyond themselves on faith in the one they fully relied on and they gave glory to Jesus and took no glory for themselves.

    Conditions  2 Chronicles 16:9

    Peter and John saw God work because they were seeking Him. They were on their way to “church” to pray.  So often we don’t see God work because we are not seeking Him.  God looks for those who seek Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).  Jesus promised that we would do greater things than He but it was a promise with two conditions:

    1. That we would “have faith in Him” John 14:12  “Faith comes by hearing the word of God”  (Romans 10:17).  and then putting it into practice (James 1:22).
    2. “Ask in His name” John 14:13 Asking in “His name” is another way of saying “asking in His will.”  Ones name would never be affixed to something outside of one’s character in the first century.

     

    God is working miracles today but only through those who are living like F.R.O.G.s  “The greater things” are waiting for all those who Fully Rely On God…will you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acts #2 Spirit Filled

SpiritFilledPastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church    Acts Series #2: Spirit Filled    To hear this message download our free app. @ The App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

Denial Acts 2:12-13, 2 Peter 3:3-4

Historically  and typically people always seem to make fun of or mock the things that they can’t understand or relate to.  It is a form of denial.  A person can be in denial about anything that makes them feel vulnerable or threatens their sense of control, such as an illness, addiction, eating disorder, personal violence, financial problems or relationship conflicts. We can be in denial about something happening to us or to someone else and downplay the possible consequences of an issue in an attempt to save ourselves from the emotional stress of dealing with the truth of a situation.  That is what happened here in Acts 2:12-13 when the Holy Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost.  People were “amazed and perplexed” and said “what does this mean”, some however “made fun of them and said “they have had too much wine”.  This kind of spiritual denial continues  today with those who refuse to believe that there is a God who created us and who is coming back to judge the earth (Matthew 25:31-46, Acts 17:31, Revelation 19:11). As God’s people, we should never be dismayed by those who disbelieve our witness, or who mock us for our devotion to God. Truth will prevail despite those in denial.

A Lesson from “Space”

As we look to America’s 50 year recognition of man’s first steps on the moon we are  reminded of such denial and mockery of early flight.  In 1906 the U.S. military refused to even see a    demonstration Wilbur and Orville Wright’s Flyer causing the brothers to seek contracts with France. Newspapers in France labeled the brothers as “liars” rather than “flyers”, but within less than a decade flight would become a public novelty lifting the world into the Golden Age of Aviation.  Less than 50 years later in, 1969, the Apollo 11 crew would fly to the moon and    astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin would take man’s first steps there. 

Within only a few years of that world watched moon walk a conspiracy theory developed that has since spread rapidly through the internet that the whole thing was staged and grew to  include six other manned U.S. landings between 1969 and 1972.  Regardless of NASA’s attempts to explain each conspiratorial attack, the astronaut’s testimonies, thousands of pictures, moon rocks, a documented and detailed space program and over 400,000 people who worked on the moon projects, a growing number of Americans deny that we have ever been on the moon at all.  Can you imagine being one of those unappreciated astronauts?                                                                                

There is no doubt that there will be protesters at the 50 year anniversary, but at least Neil  Armstrong won’t have to hear them.  He left this earth August 20, 2012 to take his first steps into Heaven.  He was a solid believer in Christ.  After His historical walk on the moon he was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov.  As he went up the steps to the Temple Mount he asked if Jesus had ever walked there.  The archaeologist proclaimed, “Oh, yes many times on these very steps.” To which Armstrong, replied, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.”

NOTE:  Nobody has set foot on the moon since December 1972, when the astronauts of Apollo 17 departed for Earth. But that could change soon. NASA is working to return  astronauts to the moon by 2024, as instructed by President Donald Trump. The space agency’s current plan calls for the construction of a small, moon-orbiting space station called the Gateway.  NASA also plans to build a long-term outpost on the moon over time. 

We Have The Spirit! Acts 2:14-21, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16

Peter countered the mockers with bold truth. Quoting the prophet Joel he announced the  fulfillment of his prophecy. Before the ascension of Christ, God’s Spirit was bestowed only on occasion to men. God’s Spirit would bestow special strength, the gift of prophecy, or miraculous power on an individual, but afterwards His Spirit would be removed. Pentecost brought the Holy Spirit of God to all believers permanently!  Once we respond to God’s call to salvation we now immediately receive The Holy Spirit and He reveals truth to us and helps us to understand the things of God.  The man without the Spirit can not understand the things of God.  That is why we must be a witness and speak up about our faith.  We may be the only Bible that some ever read.  What is written on the pages of your life should draw others to accept Christ so that they too may be filled with the Spirit and walk with God in understanding.

Last Days?  2 Peter 3:8-13, Revelation 6:12-14

The prophecy that Peter quotes from Joel (Joel 2:28-32) begins with Pentecost, where God “pours out His Spirit on all people” and culminates to the early church, into our present age and onto judgment (Revelation 6:12-14).  Pentecost was the first day of the “last days”. Peter tells us in his second letter that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years”(2 Peter 3:1).  The church age is “the last days” and we are to preach the gospel so that people will be saved! 

“What Shall We Do?” Acts 2:22-41

The same Peter who denied knowing Christ three times (John 18:15-18, 25-27), the same Peter who hid after Jesus’ crucifixion (John 20:19), the same Peter who once went back to fishing (John 21:3) speaks with boldness and conviction and without fear or reservation.  We too will be filled with holy boldness and accomplish things we never thought we could when we give ourselves to Christ, but that’s just it…we are not doing them…The Holy Spirit is!  

Peter’s message cut people to the heart as he reminded them that the one they crucified was both Lord and Messiah (Christ). “What shall we do?”, they pleaded.  Sometime it is so easy to overlook what is lacking in our bland and tasteless recipes for living?  We “cook up” the same lousy recipes for living and feed them to our children?  If they haven’t worked for us how will they work for them?  We must (repent) from our worldly diet and be filled with the Holy Spirit!  

New Ingredients” Acts 2:42-47, John 14:15-20 

The Holy Spirit brought new ingredients into the believer’s living:  Devotion to “the Apostles teaching” (the teachings of Christ: The Word of God) Fellowship Encouraging one another in the faith (Church) Breaking of Bread & Prayer (talking to God regularly/ communion) Giving  putting the needs of the Church above their own Meeting together with gladness (positive friendships with each other) Praising God Worshiping togetherAs a result of being Spirit filled the early church enjoyed the favor of men (they were well   respected) and God added to their number daily those who were being saved. The world (those in denial) cannot accept the Holy Spirit (John 14:17).  We must humbly come to realize that we do have a Creator and He made a way for us to meet Him…Repent!

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acts #1: Power From On High

Penticost

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Acts #1: Power From On High  Pentecost Sunday   Hear this message + others download free App.:  App. Store @ The Gathering Connect 

Pentecost John 14:26, Hebrews 10:16-17, Romans 8:7 

Today we begin our study series in the book of Acts on the perfect day to begin such a series… today is   Pentecost Sunday!  Pentecost (lit. Greek for 50th) is the Greek name for the Jewish holy celebration of   Shavuot (shah-voo-oat), which is celebrated by the Jews every year— 50 days or seven weeks after Passover— and has been since it was commanded as recorded in  Leviticus 23:15-21. 

This celebration is also called The feast of Weeks and is held in remembrance of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1-5, 20:1-20, 31:18), fifty days after the Jew’s departure from Egypt. It was celebrated by offering the first fruits of the grain harvest to the Lord (showing gratitude to Him for the land they now ate from) and then counting fifty days and offering a new grain offering to Him in remembrance of the law He so graciously gave them to govern that land and His people.

It was this day that God choose to send the promised Holy Spirit to His Church because of the promise of Christ recorded in John 14:26. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” God’s law, first written on stone and held as a witness of God’s faithfulness and the judgment against man’s sin, was now a punishment paid in full by Christ and written on the believers heart (Hebrews 10:16-17). In Hebrews the apostle Paul was teaching that, when we are born again we are forgiven in Christ and the Holy Spirit comes to us.  God gives us a new heart and a new spirit and the result is that the law of God written in Scripture is no longer offensive to us. We are no longer hostile to it like Paul speaks of in Romans 8:7. We are not hostile to the word of God, but rather, we are submissive. We delight to do God’s commandments. It doesn’t mean that we know them all by heart, because they are written on our hearts. It means that, when we read them in the word, the inclination to do them is in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This is a great work of the Holy Spirit, purchased by the blood of Christ and called the “new covenant” in His blood.  Matthew 26:28   

On Pentecost, we who are believers in Christ, celebrate not only the perfect law and covenant that God gave, ( which we have shamefully broken time and time again) but the amazing grace and forgiveness that He provides to anyone who repents and believes in Jesus, the one who paid the price for our sin; and the gift of the Holy Spirit who changes our heart and direction forevermore! 

Introduction To The Book Acts 1:1-5

The book of Acts was written by the physician Luke, the Apostle Paul’s dear friend (Col. 4:14). The author of the gospel of Luke.  According to Luke’s introduction it is obvious that his gospel was written first.  Acts is written to give an account of the early church and therefore includes historic events that affected the church and yet there is no mention of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. For this reason we can rightfully conclude that it had not yet happened and date both Luke and Acts before that date.  Luke was a Gentile and not one of the twelve disciples but did accompany Paul from Troas on his second missionary journey.  The recipient of the book, Theophilus, was likely a wealthy Roman believer who funded Luke’s two books.  The gospel of Luke related “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1); whereas, the book of Acts begins with Jesus’ ascension and tells the story of how His message was spread far beyond the confines of the Jewish community and into the whole world by His Apostles by the power of the holy Spirit.

The Promise of Power Acts 1:6-13

Power, who doesn’t want it?  Libraries and bookstores are full of books on how to get power, public speakers fill audiences with messages on it, nations have gone to war for it, people die for the possession of it everyday. History has taught us that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  With power comes responsibility; but most want power alone.  America is the most  powerful nation in the world, but how are we doing with responsibility:  Our nation kills her offspring for convenience, is over 22 trillion dollars in debt, is morally corrupt, and allows millions of people to flow through our borders unvetted while people experiencing homelessness flood our cities uncared for.   

God is “all powerful” and He alone is worthy to possess it.  With all of the power that was at Jesus’ disposal He never abused it.  He even restrained Himself to accomplish His mission to die for the sins of the world. He showed His omnipotence when He raised Himself from the dead and then ascended into heaven 40 days later from the Mount of Olives to which the Angels said He will one day return (Zech. 14:3-4). We can bank on that promise because He is responsible!

The disciples were excited to be a part of the power to restore the kingdom of Israel (for Rome to fall and the Messiah to reign forever), but real power waits…that was not the time then.  Israel became a nation in 1948 but even still we wait for Jesus to return again to reign there.  Jesus command to His disciples was to “wait” in Jerusalem and then power would come (Acts 1:4b) and they did (Acts 1:12). 

There is no doubt that the disciples would have left Jerusalem if Jesus had not commanded them to stay; they would have been eager to hurry home to Galilee, and to shake their feet from the dust of the city where Jesus had been slain and then departed in a cloud. But it was in Jerusalem and nowhere else that the Apostles would secure the best audience for their witness.  So they crushed their natural desire to go “home” and stayed in their dangerous position. We likewise should ask, not where we should be most at ease, but where we will be most efficient as witnesses for Christ, very often the presence of adversaries makes the ministry ‘great and effectual.’ 

“Waiting” is not “Doing Nothing” Acts 1:14-26

Jesus told His disciples to “wait” but that did not mean to do nothing.  The church “joined together constantly in prayer” and also made plans to carry on the ministry that Jesus taught them by replacing Judas who had fallen away.  (Two godly believers were chosen for leadership: Joseph (Barsabbas or Justus) and Matthias.  No one could decide who would best fill Judas’ place so the left it to God in prayer and cast lots.  Matthias was chosen. Note:  We know nothing of Matthias except he served Jesus in His ministry Acts 1:21-22 and that he preached the gospel and was martyred in Ethiopia.) Judas wanted power but he was not   patient to “wait” on the Lord.  Judas sought to become powerful himself by using his trusted position for selfish gain.  Whenever we choose to depart from God’s guidance and promote ourselves we do so as an enemy of God.  Judas’ death is a grim reminder that power outside of God is destruction. Are we waiting or running ahead? 

Power! Acts 2:1-13, Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Peter 3:11-12, John 17:20-21

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.”  There is much to be said of this small verse.  It is to say that they were being the church.  They were of the same mind, the same heart, the same purpose…”all together in the same place.” The power of God comes when we seek Him together.  It is His plan and His will that we accomplish the Great Commission together (Matthew 28:18-20) now and “speed” up the day of His coming kingdom (2 Peter 3:11-12).  We cannot do it separately.  Alone we may enjoy the presence of God, and individually we may know His grace and salvation, but only collectively can we experience His power unleashed as the Church.  That we all might “be one” that “the world may believe.”  (John 17:20-21)  This is our true witness! 

God’s Spirit moves like the wind (as He pleases).  God’s Spirit refines and purifies like a fire.  God’s power is unleashed as the Church comes together seeking Him.  God’s power comes so that the whole world (All nations declared in many languages or “tongues”) may “hear” His truth.  The tongues they spoke were in languages of those who were visiting in Jerusalem.  Although it isn’t written in scripture they were likely praising God and declaring the gospel in those tongues. That is what it was all about!  Mockers will always laugh, but the Church “will come      together” And whenever they do there will be supernatural POWER!  Do you want it?  Come Together!