Audio Available from June 2 - Acts 12:1-24 "Renewed Opposition; yet the Word of God Spreads and Flourishes"
Following a season of peace (see 9:31), the church comes under fire once again - this time from King Herod. The story of chapter 12 is a drama filled with mystery, intrigue, irony and humor. The loss of James at the hand of Herod is tragic. The rescue of Peter has many elements of humor but stands as a testimony yet again to the the reality that all of this is the work of God from beginning to end. He is saved only by the grace and supernatural power of God. From this story we receive a call to prayer and a call to worship. The appropriate 'kingdom' response to opposition is earnest prayer! Sometimes those prayers are mysteriously unanswered (James' death) while in other cases God sends along an answer that we are not even ready to receive (Peter's deliverance). We are called to pray expectantly without presumption. The call to worship is evident as we pay attention to the unstoppable work of global redemption that God is continuing to accomplish even in the face of opposition from powerful human kings! We can take verse 24 and put it into the present tense: The Word of God is continuing to spread and flourish! Glory to God!
Audio Available from May 26, 2013 - Acts 11:19-30 "The Kingdom of God Spreads, Takes Root and Matures among the Gentiles"
Today's passage tells the story of the Good News of Jesus taking root among Gentiles. It is a drama with 3 scenes. Act 1 is about the Good News spreading widely among the Gentiles in Antioch - 'many believe and turn to the Lord. In Act 2 we see the believers being encouraged and taught by Barnabas and Saul for a whole year. Act 3 shows that the believers are learning about the heart of God as they rise up and respond to the needs of the believers in Jerusalem by taking up a gift and sending it along with Barnabas and Saul. We stand in awe of this story as we realize that the global work of Redemption that God first promised to Abraham is being fulfilled in this story - and we too are still a part of God's plan to offer the gift of New Life to people from every tribe, language and nation!
The story of Peter & Cornelius is the single longest story in the whole narrative of Acts. We discern therefore that Luke considers this to be a highly significant event. In fact we see in this story that a foundation is being built to allow the Good News of Jesus to be released from the Old Testament ceremonial laws and from circumcision, the sign of the old covenant, so that the Gentiles may freely become followers of Jesus without adopting all of the practices of the Jewish faith. This is monumental and indeed very difficult for these early Jewish followers of Jesus to accept! God speaks unmistakably clearly in a vision to Peter and prepares his heart to respond positively to the invitation to go to Cornelius' house where he shares the Good News of Jesus. God also speaks in a vision to the Roman soldier, Cornelius, in an equally unmistakable fashion so that his heart is prepared to hear and respond to the Good News! We who are Gentiles from all over the world respond with celebration as we observe this incident and realize that this was the first significant step in the expansion of the kingdom of God to 'all the nations of the world', including our own! It has always been a part of God's plan that people from all nations would ultimately be gathered around Him in worship. The incident in Acts 10 is truly a turning point in history in this regard!
In this remarkable account of the healing of Aeneas (a paralyzed man) and Dorcas (a woman who is dead for several hours before Peter shows up!), we find Peter imitating Jesus in a striking way. In both instances of healing, he uses almost exactly the same words as Jesus uses in Mark 2 and Mark 5 respectively where we find very similar miracles recorded. As we observe the response to these miracles of healing in Acts 9 we realize that many people turn to follow Jesus and so we discern that these people are turning to follow Jesus as a result of Peter's imitation of Jesus. This, in fact, is how the kingdom of God has spread throughout the world over the last 2000+ years! People thinking and acting like Jesus draws people around to turn and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We further discover a beautiful 'story within a story' in this text! Dorcas (Tabitha) is also one who imitates Jesus but on a much less dramatic scale. Her ministry to widows was also 'Jesus-like' and resulted in many widows finding Jesus. The response from our hearts is twofold - first we ought to celebrate the expansion of the kingdom of God by this means - still today people all over the world are being drawn to faith as we imitate Jesus in our words, attitudes and actions. Secondly, we should take this as a challenge into our lives to be sure that in increasing measure our lives do reflect the life and values of Jesus. How does this happen? Not by trying harder through our own strength, but by increasingly loving Him more, spending time with Him and His Word and His people. May we become people who increasingly become like Jesus and may this result in many people around us also turning and finding true life in Jesus!
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 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 February 24 2013 from Acts 4:23 – 5:11 “Seized (i.e. Held) by the One Sovereign Triune Lord”
This week, we consider the power of the grace (4:33) of the “One Sovereign Triune Lord” (4:23) that led the “whole church and all who heard” what Jesus did and does as the resurrected Lord (4:30) to be “seized with great fear” (5:5, 11). As we consider this section in Acts about the continuing work of Jesus, we will consider two questions and four warnings:
Question One: What did they understand about this Triune Sovereign Lord?
Question Two: How did this understanding of God shape their prayers?
The Four Warnings: What might happen when one prays as they do?
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Audio for Feb. 10 2013 on Acts 2 now available: "What in the World is Jesus Doing and Teaching through Pentecost"
As we look at the events of Acts 2 from the focus of Acts 1:1 (i.e. “What Jesus [continues to] do and teach),” it is clear that Jesus is doing and teaching exactly what the Father promised and Jesus taught (i.e. “But wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” – Acts 1:4-5). While the world community present were initially “bewildered” (2:6), “utterly amazed” (2:7), “amazed and perplexed” (2:12) and asked, “What does this mean?” (2:13) and while others “made fun of them” (2:13), Jesus work and teaching through Pentecost is clear including empowering his servants to speak of him with Spirit-given understanding of the Scriptures fulfilled in him and moving hearts to repentance, acceptance of him, and participation in the new community formed by him.