Audio now available for April 28th - Acts 9:19-31 "Saul: Growing in Faith through Preaching, Opposition, and Encouragement"
In our text today we are privileged to walk alongside Saul as he takes his first 'baby steps' as a follower of Jesus. Of course, these are no ordinary baby steps of faith (he immediately is in the synagogue preaching that Jesus is the Son of God!). And so we notice that the transforming power of Jesus can change people at any level of society - Peter and John were fishermen; Saul is highly educated in the Jewish law, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. The love of Jesus transforms people from all backgrounds! According to our text Saul's early growth in faith is from 3 primary dynamics - Preaching (learning by doing), Opposition (learning under pressure), and Encouragement (learning from others). We pay special attention to the 3rd of these dynamics as we meet a man called Barnabas (which means 'the son of encouragement'). He takes a risk by coming alongside Saul when everyone else is afraid of him and brings him to the apostles and to the community. These kind of relationships are fundamental to healthy church life! We want to be a church that specializes in these kind of encouragement (discipleship) relationships! Plan to attend our Discipleship Forum May 31st 6:30pm to explore Scripture together as we talk about how to promote these relationships at ICB!
Audio Available from April 21 - Acts 9:1-19 "Saul's Deep Transformation; Ananias' Courageous Obedience"
In the expanding movement of the kingdom of God on earth, we come to a story of deep significance. This is the story of Saul's radical transformation. One of the most vehement opponents of the early followers of Jesus, he meets the Risen Jesus himself in most dramatic fashion. The extent of the change in his life may be seen by comparing 9:1 where he is 'breathing our murderous threats against the Lord's disciples' with 9:20 where we read that 'he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God'. Meeting Jesus caused a 180 degree turn in his life direction! As we follow the rest of the NT story of course we realize that this Saul becomes the Apostle Paul who will play a key role in taking the Good News of Jesus to the Gentiles, helping the news spread as far as Rome by the end of Acts, plus he will be the one who writes many of the letters that comprise our New Testament. In the process of observing this story we may have confidence to know a couple of certainties - first that Jesus really is alive and He longs for people to come to know Him. Saul discovered this and was transformed. Secondly, we learn that God is still entrusting the kingdom of God on earth to ordinary but faithful people. We learn this by looking at the other main character in our story - 'a disciple named Ananias'. He hears the word of the Lord in his life and obeys. In the process of obedience he meets Saul and is involved in the poignant moment of transformation in Saul's life. We are invited to respond to these certainties by 'seeing ourselves that Jesus really is alive and receiving the gift of life He came to offer' and by being one of those faithful people like Ananias who 'heard and did' what the Lord asked of him.
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Audio now available for April 14, 2013 - Acts 8:26-40 "Philip: Hearing, Doing, and Observing God's Amazing Grace in Action"
This is a story of grace from beginning to end! Philip, by means of hearing the voice of God and doing what He says is given the gracious gift of participating in a life-changing event in the life of his new friend - the important official from Ethiopia. This official has 2 strikes against him - he is a foreigner and a eunuch. In both instances he is seen to be an outsider according to the ceremonial Jewish law. He, however, is transformed by the love of Jesus as he listens to Philip explain the story of Jesus beginning from Isaiah 53 where he had been reading. We see God's grace in multiple ways through this story. First we see God specifically pursuing the Ethiopian by taking Philip away from the very successful ministry in Samaria (Acts 8:1-25) and sending him to meet with this man. Then we imagine them reading through the prophet Isaiah and coming to Isaiah 56:3-7 where there are very specific words of promise and hope given to those who are eunuchs. Finally we observe that in the supernatural disappearance of Philip following the baptism an opportunity is given to this Ethiopian to observe firsthand that the Jesus through whom he as just been transformed is indeed the One who has ALL authority over heaven and earth. The other response we draw from this story is the challenge to follow the example of Philip in truly listening for the voice of God in our lives and doing what He tells us!
Audio Now Available for April 7th, 2013 - Acts 8:1-25 "Scattering, Sowing, Reaping: the Kingdom Bursts out of Jerusalem"
We pay attention today to the historically significant event that is the first geographic expansion of the Christian church from the Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. This is the beginning of a Journey of which we are still a part as the Good News of Jesus spreads around the world. In this story we are introduced to 3 characters each of whom has a different heart attitude toward God: Saul - his heart is directly opposed to the idea the Jesus is the Messiah - Savior (this will be radically changed in Acts 9!); Philip - we know from ch. 6 that he is known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and we see much evidence of it in our story; Simon the sorcerer - he believes and is baptized but still needs to be challenged about the condition of his heart! From this story we take the challenge to evaluate our own heart to be sure that it is pure before God! We also celebrate the reality of the message of Jesus beginning its outward journey to reach all languages, peoples and nations!
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Audio now available for EASTER SUNDAY, March 31 from Luke 24 "Learning from the Two with Burning Hearts!"
As we celebrate this foundational event of Christian faith today, we meet and journey with the two who meet the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. We pay attention to how the story unfolds and learn that by the end of their walk with Jesus there could be no doubt in their minds that this truly was the Risen Jesus they had been talking with! Through our observation of the details of this story we learn that we too can Know for Sure, Celebrate with Joy and Amazement, and Live with Purpose in light of the real, historical event of the resurrection of Jesus. He is Risen Indeed!
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