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Tag: prayer

Peace, Prayer, and the Sovereignty of God

We’ve been working our way through the book of Acts for the last several months and this morning, we find ourselves in Acts chapter 12. Now I know that the book of Acts is an action-packed account of the early church – with one exciting story after another –  and it seems like all of these events are happening in a matter of weeks or months. But in reality, by the time we get to Acts chapter 12, we’re actually about 12-14 YEARS after Christ’s death and resurrection. More than a decade has passed since the Holy Spirit’s first arrival on the day of Pentecost!

So a lot has happened since that time – and a lot has changed! 

You know for yourself how much the world can change in a decade! Just think about your own life – how much has change for you in the last 3 years – let alone the last 12-14 years!? You’re different, your family is different, the world different! A lot of stuff changes over a decade!

And so those same kind of changes had happened in the world between Acts chapter 1 and Acts chapter 12.

Kings & governors have come and gone – and there are new authorities in places of power. The church, which once enjoyed the goodwill of all the people (according to Acts chapter 2) – is no longer looked upon quite so favourably – as we are going to see today.

But despite all these changes, the purpose and the work of God remains the same. In fact, while the world’s authorities & rulers change on a frequent basis – the ultimate and sovereign authority of God never changes. God’s Word & God’s will will prevail! You can count on it. And that’s one of the key lessons that we’re going to see in our passage today.

Acts chapter 12 – starting at verse 1 – begins like this:

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Faith in the Name of Jesus

This morning we continue our look at the book of Acts – specifically today we are in Acts chapter 3. And if you haven’t been with us for the last two chapters, there are basically three key things that have happened in the story so far:

  1. After his resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven and commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses throughout the world.
  2. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell his disciples and every believer – just as he had promised earlier – empowering them to boldly share about Christ where ever they went.
  3. As the disciples shared the message of Christ, more & more people accepted their message, trusted in Jesus, and the early church began to take shape.

In fact, when we last left off, the church had just exploded in growth as 3000 people were added to the church as the result of Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost. Acts chapter 2 describes it like this:

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.

Acts 2:41-44

Now when we went through this passage in chapter 2 a couple weeks ago, we talked mostly about how the believers were devoted to God and devoted to each other. But we didn’t really spend much time on verse 43, which says “A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” But this, too, is an important verse.

This verse points out how God affirmed the Apostles’ message & authority by enabling them to perform miraculous signs and wonders – very much like the signs and wonders that Jesus performed during his ministry on earth or even like the prophets of old – such as Moses, Elisha and Elijah.

These signs and wonders not only gave credibility to their message – but it also provided for them many opportunities to share their message with the people who witnessed these amazing miracles!

And that’s what we’re going to see today. Today, chapter 3 gives us a specific example of the signs and wonders that Peter & John were performing and how they used that as an opportunity to preach about Christ.

So we are going to start in Acts chapter 3, verse 1.

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Acts 3:1-3

And we’ll pause here for a minute. So far, this is a pretty normal day for everyone involved.

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The Priority of Prayer

Well, last Sunday we began working through a new book of the Bible – the book of Acts – and we noted that it was written as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of everything Jesus began to do and teach during his time on earth.

This book is traditionally titled “The Acts of the Apostles”. However, as we pointed out last week, it really would be more accurate to call it “The Continued Acts of Jesus” – since it is He who continues to be the central character throughout the book!

The book opens with a brief summary of the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven. During this time, Jesus appeared to his disciples on numerous occasions and he proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive! And of course in those visits, as He had done throughout the previous three years, Jesus talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

And one of the key things that Jesus talked to them about concerning the Kingdom of God, was their role in the Kingdom. Specifically, how they were to be his witnesses – telling people about Him everywhere they went.

Now of course, this would be quite a daunting task for such a ragtag group of fisherman! They weren’t trained professional speakers. They certainly weren’t powerful or influential in society… They were really just a bunch of nobodies… Who were they to boldly tell the world all about the Messiah of Isreal and what He had done?

Besides, had Jesus forgotten that just a few weeks earlier, his disciples had all abandoned him and fled when he had been arrested and put on trial? Why, even their fearless leader, Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus!

And yet now, Jesus expects them to go out into the whole world and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has been raised from the dead? And to boldly do that in the same city where Jesus had just been put to death 40 days earlier!

How could Jesus ever expect the disciples to carry out such a task? In their own limited strength, they would surely fail!

Well, Jesus never intended them to accomplish this in their own limited strength. God was going to strengthen and equip and them in an incredible way – He was going to send His Holy Spirit to dwell within them – empowering them to be His witnesses where ever they went. For the rest of their lives, they would have the power of God enabling them to do anything that God wanted them to do!

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David Talks To Himself

Last week we saw David at quite possibly one of his finest moments! King Saul was once again on the hunt for David, but one night, David snuck into his camp, and stole the spear and water jug that were by Saul’s head as he slept! And even as David stood above his sleeping nemesis, David refused to harm Saul – and instead chose to leave the fate of Saul in the hands of God.

As we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, there have only a handful of times like this where David has displayed such boldness, such unwavering faith in God, such resolve to do what is right no matter the consequence…. 

It truly was an incredible mountain-top experience for David!

But of course, you know what Satan likes to do after those mountaintop experiences. After moments of great triumph and clearly seeing God at work, Satan loves to immediately come in a fill us with doubt and discouragement.

Take Elijah for example. Remember what happened after his mountaintop experience? Let me refresh your memory.

In the book of 1 Kings, we read about the time Elijah had the incredible experience of proving to Israel that the Lord alone was God – and that the false god Baal and all of his prophets were just a bunch a fakes! In fact, the Lord proved Himself by sending down fire from heaven – burning up Elijah’s offering in front of all the people. What an incredible experience! Elijah had faithfully stood on Mount Carmel as the lone representative of God as he faced off against 450 of the prophets of Baal – and God came through for him BIG time! That was certainly an incredible mountain top experience. But what happen to Elijah right after that? Do you remember?

Just a few verses after that story we read this:

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

1 Kings 19:3-4

Man! What happened to Elijah? Where’s the boldness we saw just verses before? Where’s the unwavering faith? Talk about doubt and discouragement! But that’s exactly what Satan loves to do after those mountaintop experiences.

You’ve probably experienced that yourself, and that’s exactly what we see in today’s story with David.

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Passing the Baton

This morning we’ll be looking at 1 Samuel chapter 12 – which is often labeled in our Bibles as Samuel’s Farewell Address. Samuel had led the people of Israel for most of His life now – not as their king, but as judge, prophet, and priest. And on this day, Samuel would pass the baton of leadership to their newly chosen King, King Saul.

And I know we’ve been making this transition for a while now – we started back in chapter 8 when all the people of Israel asked God to give them a king to lead them. Even though God was their king and He had led them faithfully for several centuries – now the people wanted a human king to lead them. And so God decided to give them what they asked for. He had Samuel privately anoint Saul as their king in chapter 10. Then, to make the public announcement some time after that, Samuel gathered together all the people of Israel and through the process of casting sacred lots to reveal God’s will, Saul was chosen and proclaimed as King.

And while most of the people were eager to embrace Saul as their king, some of the people were a little more hesitant. In fact, some were openly opposed – they didn’t feel like Saul had what it took to be king. But all that changed in chapter 11 as Saul led the Israelites into battle against King Nahash of the Ammonites. God gave Saul a tremendous victory and all the people finally affirmed that Saul was indeed God’s good choice to be their King.

And so now, with all of Israel firmly in support of their new King Saul, Samuel prepares to complete the transition and pass the baton of leadership to the next generation.

Then Samuel addressed all Israel: “I have done as you asked and given you a king. 2 Your king is now your leader. I stand here before you—an old, gray-haired man—and my sons serve you. I have served as your leader from the time I was a boy to this very day. 3 Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong.” 1 Samuel 12:1-3

As this chapter begins, Samuel, the judge of Israel, holds court one last time. And in essence, he puts himself on trial. Actually, as you read through the chapter, there are three parties that will be examined for guilt – but he begins with himself. He invites the Israelites to testify against him – to point out any way that he has wronged them. And if he has done wrong, then he vows to make it right.

And this is something that we just don’t see in most of our leaders today. How many leaders can you think of that would willingly subject themselves to the accusations of an entire nation? How many would choose to go on trial and answer for any wrongs that they may have committed during their time in leadership? If you follow the news, it seems most leaders invest a great deal of time avoiding such things!

But not Samuel. He invites scrutiny and accountability. He welcomes public examination of his life and ministry. What kind of man does that?

Well, I’ll you what kind of man does that – a man of integrity! A man who keeps short accounts. A man who – when he does something wrong – he quickly admits it and makes it right before things go any further.

I don’t think Samuel was perfect or sinless. In fact, I’m sure of it! I’m sure he made his fair share of mistakes in life. He sinned just like everyone else. After all, the Bible tells us clearly that all of us have sinned – I’m sure Samuel was no exception! But what allowed Samuel stand before the nation with complete integrity is that He when he sinned, he immediately dealt with it. He didn’t hide it. He didn’t deny it. He didn’t justify it. But rather he confessed, he repented, and he made things right.

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