We leave Acts after today. We see the command found in Acts 1:8 being fulfilled as Paul is in Rome preaching the gospel. The last verses of this book state the following; 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30&31 [NIV]).
Some theologians argue that the book of Acts is still being written. That we still have a task and duty to discharge. Did you know there are still 6,500 people groups in the world that do not have enough Christians in them to be able to form a church planting movement? Did you know there are approximately 3,200 people groups that are unengaged? That means no one has gone to them with the good news of Jesus.
Revelation 7:9 the Apostle John describes the scene around God’s throne in heaven. That there are people there from every tribe, tongue and people group. Right now there are 6,500 people groups that would not be a part of that picture that John writes about in his book.
What can you do today to help reach one of these groups? Can you pray? Can you give? Can you go?
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. d(Acts 13:1-3 [ESV])
Again this morning we have a passage of the Bible that notes the change of human history. This time it’s the sending off of the first missionaries Saul (later to be named Paul) & Barnabas. The church in Antioch was the first sending church on purpose. Obviously earlier we see the church in Jerusalem sending out many, but that was because of persecution that happened. This was the first time missionaries were sent out on purpose. And it was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He set Saul and Barnabas aside for this important history changing work.
Where are you involved in this important work of the Church and consequently the Holy Spirit? Can you point to one place outside of your immediate context where you are being used by the Holy Spirit to reach people with the Gospel?
There are presently 3,200 people groups in the world where there is no Gospel witness. Some of these groups number in the thousands and some in the millions. They have never heard the name of Jesus and there is no church they could go to and hear about Jesus. In my city alone there must be a dozen.
Begin today searching where you can join others in reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What amazing passages we are reading this morning! Lots to discuss, but for the sake of brevity my thoughts center on the last part of Acts 8. Keeping in mind the “little” things that make HUGE advances in God’s Kingdom.
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40 [ESV’)
Philip is given an assignment. He starts out not knowing what the Holy Spirit has in store for him, but he “happens” across an Ethiopian Eunuch. This man was the treasurer of Queen Candace’s treasury. A very influential person in Ethiopia. A “chance” encounter that Philip has with this person. Sort of like Ruth’s encounter with Boaz. A chance encounter that will change the course of human history… You see the modern day church in Ethiopia can be traced back to this singular event. The Coptic’s in Ethiopia look at this as the beginning of their church.
As we start out this day, let’s not overlook the smallest task God has for us, or to look at anything as mere happenstance. That very tiny act may be what changes the course of human history. That’s the way God’s Kingdom works.
Do you believe in coincidences? Many times in our lives what look like chance encounters end up being life-changing events. There’s an interesting movie entitled, “Sliding Doors”. It has to do with two alternative outcomes depending on whether a woman gets on a train or has to wait for the next one. This simple choice — and the movie plays out both options — shows what happens by just that one tiny choice.
Ruth 2 has an interesting “throw away” line, “3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.” The author of this short book treats this chance encounter as a coincidence. Yet, it starts of a chain of events that results in the unbroken lineage in the ancestry of Jesus. What seemed like a chance decision or happenstance ended up being one of the most important events in human history.
Have you had something like this happen in your life? I can see in mine events that seemed unrelated being life-changing and subsequently life changing for millions of people. Not because of my choices, but because of what God has done in the circumstances of my life. Look back over the history of your life. Can you find at least one of these sliding door moments that has changed your path or those of others that has made an eternal difference in God’s kingdom?
We find the story of Gideon in our passage in Judges this morning. Many if not all of us have read this many times. There is one small bit of the story I have overlooked before:
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 9 During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” (Judges 7:8b-14 [NIV])
So the whole story as we know is a one of a test of faith for Gideon. God sees Gideon as a might warrior even though he was hiding in a grain bin. God whittles his men down past the bare minimum. No way would I have gone into battle with only 300 men. Then God gives Gideon something to hang on to. After he has obeyed God — probably thinking he’s going to die — he is given a reassurance that he will be victorious. It’s obvious he’s afraid — thus Purah going with him and then he hears good news. A prediction of victory from the enemy’s lips. What more could he ask for.
That happened to Moses too. It wasn’t till he started back to Egypt from the wilderness did God tell him the people that would have killed him for going back were gone.
How often does God do that for us? But it takes our obedience first before he reassures. Are you reading to do the next thing God wants you to do? If so don’t wait for the assurances, they will come after your first steps in His direction.
I have always been impressed by the story of Caleb. A true story at that. Caleb and Joshua were the two spies who gave a positive report to the people of Israel about entering the Promised Land. Joshua 14 is a recounting of what Caleb now wanted 40 years later as Israel went into the land.
6 Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. 8 But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. 9 And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”
13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. 14 Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel. 15 Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war (Joshua 14:6-15 [ESV]).
Caleb was 80 years old and as positive as ever. Probably not one person reading this blog post today is 80 years old (if so leave a comment). Caleb chose some of the most difficult region of Canaan to settle. He had to fight against some might people and well fortified cities to conquer his portion. He was as positive as ever and at 80 years old he was not ready to retire.
Do you have retirement plans? Are they collecting seashells along the beach? God may have something much more important and significant for you and it may include some of the biggest challenges you have ever faced. But it may be just what is needed to move God’s Kingdom forward. Caleb’s story is one of optimism and courage. Let that be your retirement legacy as well.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to worry about provision. Do I have enough funds in my checking account? Will we be able to pay for this or for that? This morning I want you to read through the passage below and think about every worry you have. Then give them back to Jesus. Remember he takes care of the smallest things in our lives.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:4-7[ESV]).
Make a list of your worries and concerns today and then turn them over to the Lord.