When in doubt or when confronted with our own desires as opposed to God’s direction, a vision becomes a clear presentation of what needs to be done. In this case of the vision of a Macedonian man begging for Paul to come, we know the vision came about because of the hope of the gospel but specifically this is not mentioned. As the story unravels, this becomes more clear.
In fact, maybe the man was not really a man – maybe it was Lydia – as she is their first and powerful encounter, maybe he was the spirit possessed slave girl, or maybe the Roman jailer and his family – you get the point – “come.” Come to share the gospel – to hear how my life can be transformed by God who raised Jesus from the dead and then raised Him and subsequently us, to new life. With my rental car this week I receive satellite radio and am enjoying The Message. They are advertising a special called – Chains Broken. The call for help was for people to be set free from being all that God has purposed us to be and to learn how they could be a blessing to others.
Take the first encounter – Lydia. She is already a follower of God, practiced going to the synagogue, praying with the women and discussing what they had heard and hoping that the next visiting preacher expound on something more. She wanted to worship and did not understand how.
This vision was an introduction to two new themes in the book of Acts – needs and openness – two awesome mission initiatives that motive ministries like Partners International.
When people are open and when people are hurting – the gospel moves forward. Are we ourselves not finding ourselves in a spirit of hope when we sit during the presentation of the gospel – are we not asking ourselves – will my suffering be alleviated and what does God want me to do?
During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. – Acts 16:9-10
I HAVE A HOPE
When I look at the national leaders who are going into regions of the world who have never heard the name of Jesus before, I see their passion for Christ as being the soul of this bold calling for their life, an interior thrust to serve without reservations, and always the fresh source of an indestructible hope.
Today, we can celebrate our Church because of those who have shown an example of heroic witness to the faith, who have known persecution, which in turn unites all Christians in their places of suffering and making our shared sacrifice a sign of hope for times still to come.
“The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” – Acts 15:23-29
… through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved. Peter compares these two contrary points – to have hope in the grace of Christ and to be under the yoke of the law. So if we cannot receive salvation until the yoke of the law is removed then it follows that salvation is not in keeping the law at all and it also follows that those who have accepted the grace of Jesus are not subject to the curse of the law. So it is that we hope for salvation by the grace of Christ.
To speak of salvation it is assumed that one would need salvation from something. Jesus said He had come to seek and to save the lost. What does it mean to be lost?
- To be without hope and without God in this world.
- To not know what it is to live now, and have no hope for life to come.
- Those who were dead while they were still alive.
- It means to spend eternity in hell.
We believe…our church is doing a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed – here is a bit of a taste of why such a statement of faith was necessary for the early Church. Peter here is declaring his first statement of faith – “we believe through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.”
“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” – Acts 15:6-11
We Believe – Kenneth Cope.wmv
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. – Titus 2:11-14
Grace, charis, is a basic Christian concept and is of central importance to Christianity. Grace is what the New Testament is all about, describing and revealing our God as the God of all grace, and the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of grace and in Jesus all of our hopes that are set on eternity rest on Him.
So our message is one of hope. The gospel is good news for every person – whoever we are, and whatever condition we are in.
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. – Acts 14:1-3
Redeemed – Lyric Video – Benji Cowart (Big Daddy Weave)
Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. – 1 Peter 1:21
In these simple words, “God raised Him from the dead”, repeated again and again on all possible occasions, was the great truth of Easter first preached to the world. The Resurrection was ‘an eminent act of God’s omnipotency,’ worked before the eyes of all in heaven and earth, and it has been the glory, the comfort, and the hope of the Christian world ever since.
“My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’ As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “I will give you the holy promises made to David.’ Therefore he has also said in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you: “Look, you scoffers! Be amazed and perish, for in your days I am doing a work, a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’ ” – Acts 13:26-41
Jeremy Camp – Same Power
Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always continue in the fear of the Lord.
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off. – Proverbs 23:17-18
I love the way Job phrases the elements of the universe all seeking wisdom and it cannot be found. Then he slips in God, the God of the universe, who knows what, where, how, when and why. What Job makes pretty clear is that the conduct of fearing God and running away from evil all lead to a more infinitely preferable, more prudent and secure life when we look and take in the future we are about to experience once we pass through this life. Regardless of that – a wise person will enjoy their life in this world with complete happiness too, but it is the life we spend in eternity that stands on its own, there is no rival to it, and therein lies all of our hopes and I dare say, all of our pretensions.
“Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air. Abaddon and Death say, “We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’ “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight, and apportioned out the waters by measure; when he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the thunderbolt; then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. And he said to humankind, “Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’ ” – Job 28:20-28
So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints – Ephesians 1:18
When you think about the tribe of Levi receiving no inheritance except God – my first thought was wow – no place to call home. Then you realize that home is where your heart is and what an honour to live and serve God wherever He has called you to be. Imagine the hope this honour inspired in their hearts and strengthen their abilities to give.
But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance, as he said to them. – Joshua 13:33
All Sons & Daughters – This My Inheritance
When we think of Joshua and some of the horrific battles he had to lead, you wonder how the land could ever rest from war. We know for sure that it did not rest because peace was made with their neighbours, that was not allowed, so then it had to be a peace from them. As much as those battles were terrible in of themselves, what a comparison to those who follow Jesus and the rest He promises from war once the warfare is completed. When we take God’s Word and how He works we can see His intent – the work and the promise. As followers of Jesus we can never put off our armour because we cannot expect peace until the day we leave this earth. In fact, as our strength and our usefulness increases, in ratio, we can expect more difficult trials. This is true, but no worries, for the seasoned, mature follower understands that whatever battle is before us, we have already been prepared for it by the Lord. Jesus stands to intercede on our behalf and between Him and ourselves, we will not fail regardless of the assault Satan wishes to launch at our direction. Our spiritual warfare reveals our patience in all of that because we are encouraged by the joy we have in our hope – rest from sin, sorrow, pain, suffering and war – when we spend eternity with Jesus.
As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. Joshua 11:15
Peter proclaiming to the house of Cornelius the good news is a truth right from heart of God with equity and love, sweeping away all the narrow-mindedness which, in this case, was the hope of salvation found in being circumcised or in the theology of the Rabbis. For ourselves, we too may be wrapped up in the theology of our favourite theologian or in our faith’s dogmatism too. What Peter preached was similar to the words Paul used in Romans —
Because[a] if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. – Romans 10:9-10
We will only taste the full meaning of salvation when we call on the Lord by whom we shall be saved.
Believing in the name of Jesus does not refer to a general, vague sort of belief. Rather, it is specific and personal. To believe in Jesus means that I believe He is the Lord who gave Himself on the cross for my sins. I believe the promise of God, that whoever believes on Him receives eternal life as God’s gift, not based on any human merit, but only on God’s free grace. To believe in Jesus means that I no longer rely on anything in myself to commend myself to God. Rather, I trust only in what Jesus did on the cross as my hope for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
When Jesus Christ arrived, He destroyed the effects of evil everywhere He went. He did this openly, before witnesses, where everyone could see. He came to a world that was lost and despairing, without hope. Everywhere He went He set people free and brought again to human hearts the hope that there is a way out of the desperate bondage of fallen humanity.
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” – Acts 10:34-43
The story of Joshua’s attack on the city of Ai has elements of loss and victory, laying out very well the cost of the curse and the blessing. It reminds me of the blessing and productivity that can come into and through my life when I deal with sin and confess it.
It is through the cleansing blood of Jesus that God daily offers me the assurance that I never need to fear the Day of Judgment. Because of Jesus, God forgives me, heals me and gives me hope that is eternal. It is the name of Jesus that brings the presence of God and the blessing of protection in my heart and home – driving out all fear.
That is what I need – the Lord giving hope, comfort and encouragement – even before giving commands of action. For the Lord always equips us to obey and takes away the crippling fear and discouragement as we start each day.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed; take all the fighting men with you, and go up now to Ai. See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai with his people, his city, and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king; only its spoil and its livestock you may take as booty for yourselves. Set an ambush against the city, behind it.” – Joshua 8:1-2
Do Not Fear to Hope – a video reflection