Redeeming The Time

TimePastor Barry/ The Gathering: Family Camp Message 2019: Redeeming The Time 

On The Clock! Ephesians 5:15-16

The moment sperm hits the egg the clock is running!  Life begins at conception and immediately time is beginning to run out for each of us.  No one knows, of course, how much of it we have.  Why, in America 1.3 million a year won’t even get out of the womb before they’re aborted, but those of us who are fortunate enough to make it out alive are  already on the clock before we ever see daylight.

Time is something that we should all consider while living our life, especially since we are each given only so much of it. The apostle Paul gave us some very good advice in Ephesians 5:15-16.  I like the way the King James version of the Bible translates it:  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools , but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Paul tells us to walk “circumspectly” (cautiously) and not recklessly like a fool, “redeeming” our time on this earth. “Redeeming the time” infers that we have been wasting it up to now.  The definition of the word is as follows:

redeem  1 recover by a stipulated payment  2 make a single payment to cancel  3 Convert into goods  4 Deliver from sin or damnation  5 To make up or compensate to save from blame.

Have you been wasting your time?  Take a look at the breakdown of how the average American spends 70 years of his/ her life.  Do you see any waste here?

By the age of 70 years old (dead or alive) the average American spends:

—20 years sleeping (includes childhood/ based on 8 hours a day)

—20 years working

—10 years of watching TV, movies or other viewing (i.e. video games, internet, etc.)

—7 years recreation

—6 years eating

—5 years dressing

—3 years waiting for somebody

—2 1/2 years smoking (average smoker @ .5 pack per day)

—2 1/2 years sick in bed

—2 years on the telephone or other related communication (i.e. cell, text-messaging)

—1 1/2 years of devotion to God (based on one hour per week in devotions (10 min per day) plus three hours a week in church and related activity.)

—5 months of tying shoes

—1 1/2 months of sex no matter what most people say! (based on the average American = 2-3 times a month for one hour age 18-53)

 Living in Mediocrity Luke 12:16-21, Proverbs 14:12-15

How tragic it is that the average American Christian spends more time “storing up things for themselves” than on developing a relationship with God and sharing Him with others. Sadly, most Americans will not have taken the time to even meet God, and therefore will not enjoy the benefits of an eternity with Him in Heaven.  Commonly people live their lives in mediocrity.  They accept a life of indifferent quality without a thought.  A second rate “average American” existence instead of the true blessings of God!  How would you like the above time chart to be read as the eulogy at your funeral?  God has so much more in store for those who seek Him first in their living– for those who choose to redeem the time.

Redeeming the time Isaiah 53:5-6, Psalms 1:1-6, Matthew 6:33

God has invested so much into our lives— He has even shed His blood as Jesus paid the price for our wasted time on sin. He also chooses to reward us for the time we spend with Him. There is only one remedy for mediocrity and the same recipe redeems time. There is only one named in the Bible and in the dictionary alike that can do such a thing.  It is the redeemer, Jesus Christ.

redeem’er    1 person who redeems  2 Christ

He will take our wasted time and redeem it, and as we “seek Him first”, He will direct us into excellence!

Moving Forward in Faith Colossians 3:17,23-24

Regarding time, we need to continue to focus on that which is eternal as opposed to the passing pleasures of this world, laying up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Time spent with God is never wasted. Time spent with family develops a legacy of faith. Time spent with the Church and loving others with God’s love (Hebrews 10:24–25John 13:34–351 John 3:17–18) is time well spent, and time sharing the gospel so that others will know salvation bears eternal fruit (Matthew 28:18–20). We should live as if each minute counts—because it really does. As we go from this place let us move forward in faith   because these days are evil and only Christ the redeemer can bring goodness in them.

 

 

Acts #11: Light Anyone?

CampfireThe Gathering/ Pastor Barry  Acts #11: Light Anyone?  To hear this message and others download our free app @ the App Store: Search The Gathering Connect.

Flashlights Please!  Acts 13:1-3, 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

In the dark cold of night, one wants nothing more than a flashlight and a fire.  In the cold and spiritual darkness of the first century God provided such light in the persons of Paul (Formerly Saul the Pharisee) and Barnabas (The “encourager”). According to the passage, we read that there were five bright lights in the church of Antioch (Prophets and Teachers) , but God chose only two for the first missionary journey to the Gentiles (non-Jews).  It is important to also see that God likewise chose the other three to mind the growing church at Antioch.  

So often, Christians look for a “special calling” from God.  We are to bloom where we are planted!  God may want to use you right where you are like He used Simeon (Niger), Lucius and Manaen at the church in Antioch.  Manaen was considered a Christian trophy who was raised in Herod’s court with his own son Herod Antipas (The Tetrarch). Manaen’s conversion made great news for the growing church, and likely helped populate the church in Antioch.  God chose to leave Manaen and the others at Antioch and He sent Paul and Barnabas on a mission.  As Paul would later say in regards to sharing the gospel:   I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow”. In the end, God is the only one to be praised.  We are simply to follow His lead.  Those three who stayed laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and prayed for their successful mission which made all of them a part of that work as well.  The Church at Antioch; therefore,  sent the first missionaries and supported them.  This is also the call of the church today: 

  • To make disciples
  • To train leaders
  • To send missionaries
  • To support their work in prayer, finances and encouragement

Artificial Light  Acts 13:4-12, 1 Timothy 6:17-21

Whenever we set out with the warmth and light of Jesus Christ led by the Holy Spirit, we, like Paul and Barnabas, will encounter artificial light.  The world is full of people teaching lies and vain philosophies for their own gain.  Just look at the self-help section in the bookstores.  Bar-Jesus was one such person in the first century.  He was artificial light, a practitioner of sorcery, and yet was a leader among the proconsul of the Synagogue (a Roman leader assigned to oversee the Synagogue)So often, even the elite are blinded to the truth as they are pacified by wealth and godless philosophies which the world calls knowledge.  When we embrace even a little bit of a lie it corrupts like a fast growing cancer in our soul.  We must be vigilant to keep what has been entrusted to us.

It is interesting to note that God strikes Bar-Jesus with the same wake up call that He gave to Paul.  Blindness for the blindness of his soul.  We do not know what came of Bar-Jesus, when (or if)  his blindness cleared, but Paul converted and became filled with the true light of Christ.  It is always our choice as to what we will do when faced with the real truth.  Has God revealed His “real” truth to you?  What will you do with it? 

Who Wants To See and be Warm?  Acts 13:13-46, Romans 10:9-13, 16-21, 11:-23, 25-26  

You will notice that when Paul and Barnabas first went out on their missionary journey the Holy Spirit led them to the Jewish Synagogues to preach to Jews and Jewish converts (Gentiles who had converted).  When presented with the truth, most Jews rejected the “Light and Warmth” of the gospel.  They chose the cold darkness of bitterness and jealousy so Paul rebuked them and made known that the gospel now belonged to any who would receive it (i.e. the Gentiles). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” (Romans 10:9-13)  God, of course, foreknew that the Jews would reject the message and bring salvation to the world.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 10:16-21, 11:11-23 he explains Israel’s rejection of the good news of Christ and how that rejection brought salvation to “everyone who calls on the Lord.”  He reminds Gentiles to have care and concern for the Jews and reminds us that it is we who were grafted into their promise. We should pray that they all come to know their Messiah, Jesus.  We must also not be arrogant towards them but tremble at the fact that God has disciplined them so.  Will He not also treat us in such a way if we deny Him?  True Israel will be saved! (Romans 11:25-26) The broken off branches will be grafted in once again as we gentiles were.  God is able to save!  The Term “all Israel will be saved” does not mean that every Jew will be saved but that every true child of God will be saved—Jew and gentile.  These are truly “Israel”  (Israel= Lit. Hebrew/ God Contends/ fights)— the ones that God has fought for!

The promise of God’s Light and salvation is extended to the “ends of the earth”  Those who hold onto their darkness (sin)  will perish because they can never be justified by their own works.  It is like putting dead batteries in a perfectly good flashlight.  Do you want to see?  Do you want the warmth of Heaven to fill you with hope?  Then you must know Christ: The Wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 6:23 

A Light for the Gentiles  Acts 13:47-52, Matthew 5:14-16

God had made Paul and Barnabas “a light for the Gentiles”  Some were glad and rejoiced (the Gentiles) and others opposed them (the Jews) and stirred up persecution for them.  But note:  The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.  There is abundant joy in knowing the truth even if it should bring us trouble.  In the end we know that God’s  promises are only delivered to those who hold on to His truth. 

Just as Paul and Barnabas were lights in the first century so are Christians in this present day.  YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!  Some will be glad to hear the gospel you share and others will oppose you, but you are to “bloom where you are planted” go out in Joy asking simply… ”Light anyone?”  Offer that light and be that light!  

 

 

 

Acts #10: Passing The Torch

torchesPastor Barry/ The Gathering                           Acts #10: Passing The Torch   To hear this message and others download our free app at the App Store: Search The Gathering Connect

The Church in Antioch Acts 11:19-30

As we learned earlier in our studies, when Stephen was killed a great persecution broke out and disciples of The Way traveled as far as Phoenicia (5,656 miles from Jerusalem), Cypress (254 miles from Jerusalem) and Antioch (300 miles from Jerusalem), but as we learned last week they only preached the gospel to the Jews until Peter gave the “all clean” message to the church.  Some; however, did go to Antioch and preach to the Greeks (gentiles) there and many were saved! News of this reached Jerusalem after Peter’s vision and then Barnabas went to Antioch to see for himself.  He also saw many come to the Lord and so he went to Tarsus and brought Saul (Paul) to Antioch where they both stayed in ministry there for one year.  Antioch is where the disciples were first called “Christians.”

 A prophet named Agabus came to Antioch from Jerusalem and predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world.  This occurred during the reign of Claudius and is supported by historians Orosius and Josephus. Christians at the church in Antioch sent financial gifts to the brothers and sisters living in Judea through Barnabas and Saul.

“Follow Me” Acts 12:1-4, John 21:18-24

What we find in these verses is life at its most confusing state.  Why do good people die at the hands of evil men, and how is it that God miraculously delivers one and allows another to pass into eternity?  The life of a believer can be compared to running a race with a torch.  One carries it valiantly and passes it on to the next igniting each new generation with an example of faith and courage.  God’s plan is not that we run the entire distance alone, but that we as a team finish well together.

The death of the Apostle James at the hand of Herod appeared to be a horrible end to his life; however, he was successful in handing the torch of the gospel to his brother John and their good friend Peter.  James and John had once been labeled by Jesus as the “sons of thunder” for their zeal in ministry (Mark 3:17). They and Peter were Jesus’ closest friends (see Matthew 17:1). James was the first apostle to be killed, while John would be the last to die, and of old age.  Peter would also die later as a martyr. 

Once Jesus told Peter that he would die in such a way for the faith (John 21:18-19), at that time Peter saw John and asked “what about him?” Jesus answered what he might well answer to us if we were to ask a similar question regarding the death of our loved ones: “what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:20-22)  Jesus was not being rude, he was simply being honest.  Everyone will die, but to die as a public testimony of faith (as Stephen’s death witnessed also to Saul: Acts 7:59-60, 8:1) is to run valiantly indeed!

Passing the Torch “Running The Race” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27         

The history of Olympic fire is based on Greek Mythology, but the symbol of the Olympic torch, first introduced at the Berlin games in 1936, has become more of an ideal of unity,     legacy and endurance.  The Apostle Paul encouraged fellow believers to “run” (live) in such a way as to get the “prize” (the promises of God).  Paul used the Olympic games then to make a spiritual point as I am doing now:  

  • Live to get the “prize” (The promises of God): Everyone lives, but not everyone gets the promises of God- only those who pursue them. Ask, Seek, knock. (Matthew 7:7-8)
  • Train to get the “prize”: An undisciplined athlete will never win a “crown” (olive leaves then). An undisciplined Christian will never enjoy the promises of God.  When it comes time to pass the torch, his children may hold nothing but a smoldering baton.  The greatest blessing is to see your children become twice the person you are in the faith. They are watching and learning.
  • Do not run aimlessly: To live for God we must have a plan. What is your purpose in life?  Is it to accumulate material things, gain knowledge or the accolades of men?  What is the “running” for if it is not to help others also win the prize?  And if we do train others in this worthwhile race, shall we slow down and stop ourselves to become disqualified?  We must run until we reach our goal and pass that blazing torch to the runner who succeeds us.
  • Make Your Body a slave: Your mind should be controlled by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:6). Now; therefore, your mind should tell your body what to do and not the other way around!

 Take It Off! Hebrews 12:1-2, 3-7

Continuing this theme of “running”, the Apostle Paul described his audience as those people of faith that went on before him.  In light of that “great cloud of witnesses”, Paul tells us to throw off everything that hinders us and run with perseverance. 

Greek athletes ran in the nude.  No wind drag, no entanglements, nothing hindered them in their race.  As a matter of fact, all Greek athletes competed in the nude.  Paul is telling us to take off anything that hinders us in our spiritual quest to be like Christ.  What needs to be “thrown off” in your life?  Fix your eyes on Jesus and rid yourself of all distractions. 

Finally, what serious athlete doesn’t have a disciplining coach?  God disciplines us when we slack off in the race.  He convicts us of sin, He rebukes us when we are wrong, He chastises us when we are weak.  God is a tough coach, but he treats us as sons.  He expects His sons and daughters to win the prize and to pass on the torch!  “You must follow me”, said Jesus! 

 Pray Expecting Acts 12:5-17, James 1:6-8

As we read the story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison you will note that neither Peter nor the church (who was earnestly praying for him) really believed that God would deliver him.  We are to pray believing as James (brother of Jesus) reminds us in his letter. Pray like you run: expecting to win!  

The Weak and the Strong Acts 12:18-25, Philippians 3:12-14

The definition of “weak” and “strong” is vastly different in the eyes of God and of the world.  Herod was weak.  For man’s applause he had James killed, in his rage he had his guards killed, and in his pride God killed him (with parasites)! “Pride comes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Real strength is in God and those who choose to depart from him will always face defeat.  “But the Word of God continued to increase and spread.”  As long as there are believers who live out their faith there will be a fire of life that spreads.  We must be people of faith who run the race (life) like James ran his, like Peter ran his after him, and like I will run mine and my children after me. One day, all we who have run will rest in glory (as the winning team) but until then…”press on” and pass the torch!

Acts #9: Made Clean

Cornelius&AngelThe Gathering/ Pastor Barry  Acts #9:  Made Clean  To hear this message and others download our free app in the App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

Aeneas & Dorcas (Tabitha) Acts 9:32-43

In these passages we see that as Peter travels about the country and preaches the good news of Christ great miracles of healing accompany him.  In Lydda God uses Peter to heal a paralyzed man named Aeneas and all those who lived in that town and another close one turned to the Lord.  In Joppa an active  disciple named Tabitha (Dorcas in Greek) became sick and died.  Peter was taken upstairs to see her and he sent everyone out of the room and fell on his knees and prayed. “Tabitha get up”, he said and then he presented her to the people downstairs alive!  This news was spread everywhere and many people believed in the Lord!

Not For Jews Only Genesis 12:1-3John 12:32

Peter’s reputation as a miracle worker and the leader of “The Way” became known everywhere and even to a Roman Centurion in the Italian Regiment who was a gentile (non– Jewish) believer. It is important to note here that Peter and the other Apostles were Jews.  Jesus was Messiah (Christ: the Jewish “anointed one” prophesied about in the Jewish scriptures who came to save His people—the Jews).  At this time Peter was preaching to the Jews about Jesus.  Gentiles also heard his message, but Peter and the others were telling the Jews to repent and be baptized!  The Gospel as Peter understood it was for the Jewish people alone.  Peter and the others were circumcised under the Jewish law, honored Jewish traditions, studied the Torah (Tor-ah: Law: first five books of the Bible) and the Tanakh (Tan-ahk: Old Testament), ate according to Jewish law and went to Temple.

The context for today’s passage has its roots in the covenant that God made with Abram. God said, “I will make you into a great nation…I will bless those who bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3). The key words here are “all peoples on earth.” Even in the very beginning, God’s promise was not just to Jews but to “all peoples on earth.” The Jewish people found it hard to understand that God’s mercy could include Gentiles, but clues to that effect are scattered all throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; Psalm 22:27; Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:9-10; 40:5; 45:22-24; 49:22; 53:6, 55:5; 56:3-8; 60:3; 65:1; 66:18-23; Jeremiah 3:17; 4:2; 16:19-21;Daniel 7:13-14; Joel 2:28-32; Zechariah 2:11; 8:22-23; Malachi 1:11).  Jesus also made it clear that He had come to draw all people to Himself for salvation: John 12:32 (see also: John 3:15; 4:7-26, 39-42,6:35-40, Matthew 24:14;28:18-20, Mark 13:10, Revelation 2:7;3:20;22:17)

Ironically, Peter (who at the time had no idea of the full meaning of his words) preached a sermon at Pentecost in which he quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-21, Joel 2:28-32) saying, “It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people”. He also promised, “It will be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”When Peter spoke those words, he was firmly committed to a Jewish church. It took a dramatic God-inspired vision to open Peter’s heart to accept Gentiles in the church.

 Made Clean Acts 10:1-48, 11:1-18, John 3:16-17,1 John 1:8-9

This God inspired vision had two parts.  One part for a Gentile and one part for a Jew. The purpose was to bring the two together for a revelation that would “draw all people” to Christ.  Acts 10 tells us of Cornelius, a devout Gentile who is instructed by an angel to seek out Peter. Then it tells us of Peter’s housetop vision where God called him to kill and eat animals which were prohibited under Jewish law. Peter responded, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (10:14). But God responded, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean” (10:15).

All food clean? Under the law the Jews were given strict food eating requirements (Leviticus 11). Some try and use Peter’s vision here as proof that God abolished such    dietary laws.  The context of this vision is not about making all foods clean but making all people clean who come to faith in Christ.  In fact, there is no indication that Peter (a Jew) ever changed his traditional Jewish eating habits; however, Peter does speak up against Gentiles needing to be circumcised according to the law in Acts 15:7-11. He concludes: “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” If one is saved without circumcision, then one might also argue that one is saved without following Jewish dietary laws.  In fact Jesus seems to say so in Mark 7:18-23 and Matthew 15:10-20.  The passage in Hebrews 8:6-13 also clearly states that Jesus has made a “New Covenant” with believers unlike the covenant made with the ancestors. This is not to say that these dietary laws or circumcision laws are not good or profitable to keep; however, it is clear in scripture that salvation is not based upon them.

Peter’s vision was followed by God telling Peter to meet with three men and Cornelius. Peter acknowledged his cultural prejudice against the Gentiles (10:28) but in light of his vision received them. When the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles, Peter then knew for sure that God welcomed them into the faith so he  ordered them to be baptized (10:44-48).  “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean” became crystal clear to Peter.

 Baptism, as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:21, now saved Gentiles too— not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. The promise of being made clean  is for “whosoever believes in Him” (John 3:16-17).  If we confess our sins and our need for Christ then He will forgive and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). Have you done this?  None are clean without Him and we must be “clean” to be His child.  Thank God He has made the way “that leads to life”.

A Change in Church Leadership: A leadership transition from Peter to Paul now comes into effect that mirrors the transition from a Jewish church to a Jewish-Gentile church. Peter was the most prominent apostle in the first part of the book of Acts, but Saul’s conversion in  chapter 9 signaled the beginning of a new era. By chapter 13, Saul (Paul), the great missionary to the Gentiles, takes the lead among the apostles, and then we will hear only once more from Peter (15:7-11) when he defends the salvation of the Gentiles to Jewish believers.