Some of the strangest people in college are pole vaulters. (If you were or are one in college, then you just took that as a compliment.) Why do I say that pole vaulters are strange? Who in their right mind does something like this?
The Best of Pole Vaulting
Maybe pole vaulters are crazy but they’ve figured something out. Anytime I’ve spoken to pole vaulters, they celebrate their last success. They know exactly what height they cleared last and what height they’d love to clear next. Pole vaulting is something that you have to want to do and then study, examine, and pursue it with a passion.
In life and church, we should be able to define our clear wins and know what we’d love to do accomplish next.
What can you do to be more like pole vaulters?
When was the last time you went to church and were stunned? Your mouth dropped and you looked around to see if others were as astonished as you?
And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” (Mark 2:12)
Here’s a crippled guy that was brought in by his friends (brought in, as in lowered from a roof). And Jesus loves the faith of these guys and heals the man.
Put yourself in the place of those outside the house that were not able to get in. They see these guys carrying their friend and they can’t get into the house. Nobody is letting him in. People don’t make a way for the hurting to get inside the house (interesting). So they climb up onto the roof. Certainly everybody outside is already amazed by the commitment and devotion of these four guys carrying their friend. The crowd is certainly with them, hoping this guy gets into the house. They are probably wondering what’s going to happen when he actually does get in. Soon, his friends lower the guy out of the sight of the crowd into the house where Jesus is. Several minutes pass, nothing. And then suddenly, from inside, the crippled man walks out of the house. The crowd erupts in amazement. They are astonished. One translation says “they rubbed their eyes.” I love it.
So, when was the last time you had to rub your eyes at church? No, not to stay awake. But because what you saw was absolutely amazing?
Is there a recipe for being amazed? I don’t know, but what we see in this story is faith, the presence of Jesus, and determination. Which part of the story are you? Do you relate more to the crowd standing outside, curious about what’s going on inside the walls? Are you part of the inside crowd that sometimes forgets there are hurting people outside that can’t get in? Are you the guy on the gurney? Or the friends who didn’t let anything stop them from helping their friend?
With our 180JV (5th-8th graders) up at Washington family ranch past antelope. The camp’s theme is Hearing the Holy Spirit. I’m sharing this morning on my story of listening and obeying the voice of God.
As I watched these teenagers and almost teenagers worship last night I was struck by the present potential of this group to be powerfully used by God, not 5 years from now, but right now. Every Christ Follower has huge potential to be change agents in our culture based solely on the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within us and His voice can activate the miraculous happening any one of us at any time.
So imagine a group of young people who truly hear the voice of God, right now, and act on it. What might God tell them to do? Think about it. We way too often look at our children as just that, children. But God doesn’t see an inexperienced child. He sees a willing vessel to do what He says with more abandon and more obedience than most of us adults can muster the courage to do.
Oh God, do what you want through the “children” of Westside Church.
Three very powerful political leaders walk out of a trial against the Apostle Paul. In Acts 26:31 it says, “As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”
What I found interesting is that we have the conversation of these three leaders after they leave. How did the author of Acts (Luke) know what these people discussed? Either he was there, someone else was there or one of the three told him later. Either way, there were Christians connected to these powerful leaders.
Recently, I was invited to attend Rotary, a club made of business people and many influential men and women of our community. As I enjoyed the lunch with a member of our church, I was struck by how many Westsiders were there. I was so ecstatic that people in our church have relationship with people in our community. And it is not some manipulative kind of relationship. They are authentic friends and colleagues.
Not everyone is to have relationship with influential people in our city. But the lesson for me is that in whatever relationships I do have, I may be the only Christian in their lives.
And for those who are reading this post and have relationship with influential people, keep being who you are. Don’t hide your faith, but also don’t push it down someone’s throat. Jesus said, “let your light so shine among men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify God in heaven.” Great life verse.
Scripture: Acts 24:25
As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.”
Christians shouldn’t be afraid of reason. We shouldn’t shy away from having discussions about what we believe. Paul talked to Felix about three things: righteousness, self-control, and the coming day of judgment.
Righteousness – How we become right before God
Self-control – how we live our personal lives
Judgment day – standing before God one day to give an account on how we lived
So, Paul shows Felix how we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (righteousness). But that grace doesn’t give us license to sin and live however we desire (self-control). And one day we must give an account of how we lived here on this earth (judgment day).
Its a very interesting progression of thought that Paul discusses with Felix. So much so, that Felix holds Paul for two years to discuss more with him.
How often do people in my life want to continue discussing the truths about Christ and the deep things in this life? Not very often. I wonder if we have made the Christian principles too tame and boring? Have we taken the mystery and thunder out of our theology? Why is it not as engaging as what we see here in Acts 24?
Jim Stephens, one of Westside’s pastors, and I had an amazing conversation last week about Jesus, and how important he is in our faith walk. We discussed how some, in post-modern Christianity, start questioning the reliability of the Bible and eventually you run into the person of Jesus Christ. You have to decide who he is. He is not someone you can ignore.
Paul, the apostle, was a persecutor of Christians. He denied the reality of Jesus being who he said he was, the son of God. Then he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and everything changed. Acts 22:8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.”
He would later write, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” Romans 3:22
Have you had a Damascus road encounter with Jesus? Have you been convinced, as Paul was, that the only way to be right before God is by putting your faith in Jesus? Jesus is the most central figure in all of history and you must decide, one way or the other, whether you believe in him or not. If you choose to ignore him in this life, you most likely will encounter him in the next.
In Acts 21:14 it says, “When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
Why didn’t Paul heed the warning of his friends to not go to Jerusalem? It was clear and repeated to him on his journey: if you go to Jerusalem, you will be tied up and will suffer. He consistently ignored their concern and kept walking towards his fate.
Here’s the deal, not one person ever told him that God didn’t want him to go to Jerusalem. People talked to him about what would happen if he went, not that God had a different plan. Paul would rather suffer doing God’s will, then not suffer outside of it.
Careful how you run away from suffering: it might be the opposite direction of God’s plan for you. Embrace God’s will. It may mean you suffer. Trust Him anyway. Don’t let your pursuit of happiness cloud your judgment. Sometimes suffering is part of our path.
Jesus, I don’t want to suffer. I don’t like being sick or in pain. I don’t like feeling anxious or oppressed. Yet, if it comes to me to suffer, give me the strength to run to Your plan and not create my own. Help me to rest in quiet confidence and know that you will see me through. Show me your purpose in my suffering.
The story in Acts 17 gives us a clue as to why Christians were hated by some.
Vs 5: Envy – Paul was successful, had a following, and some were envious of his success
Vs. 7: the Christians weren’t falling in line with everyone else in their devotion to Caesar. They followed some new guy and weren’t part of the club everyone had to be a part of.
Vs. 11: were not fair-minded. They simply didn’t treat Christians fairly. I imagine they were less receptive to Paul’s new message than they would have been to some other new doctrine.
What has been your experience today? Are people envious of your church? Do they get upset because you live by a different standard? Do they seem more open to other viewpoints and closed to yours, just because it’s Christian?
I know I have experienced every one of these oppositions. So what do you do when they come? We can’t leave town like Paul did, unless you are a traveling evangelist. We see that Jason, a guy that lived in Thessalonica, stayed there and went through greater persecution. Just be reminded that we face persecution and the scriptures (James 1:2-4) encourage us to “consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.“
What is it about Christianity / Christians that can cause animosity? I read in Acts 17: “But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds.”
This group of people were following Paul from city to city trying to create problems for him. So, why did they do it to Paul and are there similar or different reasons people do it today?
What remains? As we have seen, in a moment, governments can topple and regimes can be replaced. That’s the context for what happens in Acts 12. Herod had killed James and was taking on this new movement called Christianity. In one moment, as people are comparing Herod with a god, the true God strikes him down. No more Herod; his regime gone. Very next verse (vs 24): but the word of God grew and multiplied.
Have you ever wondered how God’s word has outlived every major culture and ideology? The Greeks, the Romans, it even survived through Christianity’s darkest days during the Crusades. It will outlive the great democracy of the United States and the growing sects within Islam. It’s even bigger than Christianity itself.
I’ve never worried about His word becoming obsolete. It hasn’t yet and it certainly won’t in my lifetime or my children or their children.
How does that change your confidence in Christianity? Does it change your priorities of what ideology you spread? What I mean, is I sometimes find myself fighting for my American ideology over my Christian ideology. There are differences. As Americans we must have discernment, in a country that has been inculturated with Christian values, in what is American and what is Christian.
For instance, America has a strong value of government by the people, for the people. I am grateful to have grown up within that context. But it is not a biblical value (if you find it, please challenge me on it). It’s not anti-bible either and is probably a really good idea. But as American Christians we must be careful to keep the word of God above the idealogies of our government. As our Christian brothers in the middle east are discovering, real stability will be found on biblical principles, not on any political ideology, and certainly not in any political leader.
God’s word will remain.