Resisting Your Role Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Resisting Your Role
TEXT: Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 5-18/19-19

Facebook_Banner.jpg

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And we’re in week 3 of our series in the book of Acts — which we’re calling Resistance as we’re seeing that for every gospel action there’s a reaction by our enemy. Now our enemy’s reaction is no match for us — not because we’re super awesome but — because of our faith in Jesus — we’ve been empowered with God’s Spirit to accomplish his perfect will — which the enemy cannot keep from being achieved. So things are looking good for those of us whose faith is in Jesus.

But the resistance by the enemy is real, it can be damaging, it’s often discouraging, and — as we’re seeing in this series — it can come from within the church just as easily as from outside the church. And that’s what we’re going to see again today — a problem will arise from within the church.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

So if you have your Bible, let’s turn with me to Acts chapter 6. We’ll be looking at verses 1-7.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

Here are the words found in Acts chapter 6. Beginning in verse 1.

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:1-7 ESV)

SERMON INTRODUCTION

Does anyone remember the show Dirty Jobs? The show was hosted by Mike Rowe who would travel around and perform the most difficult, strange, disgusting, messy type jobs the producers could find for him to do with the people who normally do these dirty jobs. The show exposed us to — and hopefully helped us appreciate — the people who do these necessary but difficult jobs.

Now — it wouldn’t be as popular as Dirty Jobs — but a similar show could be done about the local church. In the church there are all kinds of jobs and roles and things that need to be done. The Bible describes the people of the church in many different ways.

  • We’re called a family with each individual Christian being a family member.

  • We’re called a temple where each person is like a brick of the building.

  • We’re called a body and each person is described as a part of the body — a hand, a foot, an arm, etc…

Now one of the points of these different descriptions of the church is to teach us that not all Christians are the same — we should believe the same things about the Bible, and God, and what Jesus accomplished in his life, death and resurrection, and so on — but though we believe the same things — what each of us has been created by God to be and do is unique.

And one tactic of our enemy — one way he likes to try and cause division in the church — is to get us to not appreciate the unique contribution that each of us brings to the church. The enemy will tempt us to judge one another according to the gifts and talents God has given us and the unique way he’s called us to serve the church — all while ignoring the fact that God has given them a completely different set of gifts and called them to serve the church in a different way.

And what I appreciate about our story for today — is that it shows how the early church resisted this tactic of the enemy. We’ll find the church faced with a problem that could’ve easily caused division — yet the Christians find a solution that creates unity — a solution that resists the temptation to allow this problem to disrupt the work they were were doing for God. We’ll see a problem, their solution, and the results of their decision.


And my hope is that we’ll learn to recognize and appreciate the unique ways God has called each of us to love and serve one another instead of allowing the enemy to cause division among us — even if the division is simply a judgmental attitude of our heart — so that through our love and appreciation of how God has uniquely called each of us — we’ll grow closer together, resist the enemy, and see similar results to what we see in this story.

THE PROBLEM

Let’s go back and discover the problem. Let’s begin in verse 1.

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1 ESV)

Now there’s an obvious and a not so obvious problem here. The obvious problem is that some widows are being neglected in the daily distribution. The church had begun a daily distribution of the goods we saw being collected a few weeks ago. Now this wasn’t a common practice of the day — this was something unique to the Christians because it was — if you remember — something birthed out of a belief that everything is a gift from God and is to be used for his glory and the good of others. So this daily distribution is an incredible picture of the life-changing, priority-shifting, value-influencing power of the gospel.

And throughout the New Testament, we see a priority in the church to take care of widows. Yet something that may surprise you, is that the Bible tells us which widows are the responsibility of the church and which aren’t — the Bible gives some specific qualifications about the widows the church is to care for.

For instance, Paul tells the young pastor — Timothy — “Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. 4 But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God. 5 Now a true widow, a woman who is truly alone in this world, has placed her hope in God. She prays night and day, asking God for his help. 6 But the widow who lives only for pleasure is spiritually dead even while she lives. 7 Give these instructions to the church so that no one will be open to criticism. 8 But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers. 9 A widow who is put on the list for support must be a woman who is at least sixty years old and was faithful to her husband. 10 She must be well respected by everyone because of the good she has done. Has she brought up her children well? Has she been kind to strangers and served other believers humbly? Has she helped those who are in trouble? Has she always been ready to do good? 11 The younger widows should not be on the list, because their physical desires will overpower their devotion to Christ and they will want to remarry. 12 Then they would be guilty of breaking their previous pledge. 13 And if they are on the list, they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t. 14 So I advise these younger widows to marry again, have children, and take care of their own homes. Then the enemy will not be able to say anything against them. 15 For I am afraid that some of them have already gone astray and now follow Satan. 16 If a woman who is a believer has relatives who are widows, she must take care of them and not put the responsibility on the church. Then the church can care for the widows who are truly alone.” (1 Timothy 5:3-16 NLT)

Now Paul’s instructions may be a shock to some of us — they may rub us the wrong way — how dare Paul categorize the widows like this. First, he says that care for a widow should be a priority for her family — her children and grandchildren. Paul makes a very direct statement when he says, “Those who don’t take care of the widows in their family have denied the faith.” And the reason for this is that there are some widows who have no family — and that’s who the church is to care for — the ones who have no one else to help them. And if the church is busy caring for widows who do have family around to help — well it may end up neglecting the widows who have no one to help them — and that’s not good. So Paul makes it clear that the church isn’t supposed to care for all widows.

Second, did you notice that there’s an official list of widows that are the responsibility of the church? We see that in verse 9 — “a widow who is put on the list for support…” — and there’s a set of requirements that must be met for a widow to be on the list. Now Paul’s letter to Timothy comes much later than our story in Acts — as time passes the church becomes more organized than what we see here in Acts. But — for now— the church is still figuring itself out — it’s not very organized — which leads us back to the not so obvious reason as to why some widows were being neglected.


What’s the not so obvious reason? Some think there’s some sort of prejudice happening between the Hebrews and the Hellenists — but I’m not sure that’s the case. Remember Luke’s been emphasizing the unity among the Christians. He’s described them as being of “one heart and soul” — so there’s a unity among them in spite of their ethnic differences — a unity because of their shared faith in Jesus. In fact, their solution will show that the problem isn’t one of prejudice.

So what’s a more likely reason for the problem? How about the explosive growth and size of the church? The church started off big to begin with — it had 2,000 members in Acts chapter 2 — and it’s only grown since. Now we’re talking thousands of people — the last number Luke mentioned was 5,000 men who believed — so this is a big group of people.

And do you know what happens when you’re part of a big church?

  • For starters, it’s more difficult to know everyone — can anyone relate?

  • Cliques can form based on common interests, or where your kids go to school, or where you work, or — for us — which campus you attend.

  • Misunderstandings become more frequent because there are more things being communicated — more voices sharing information that may not be 100% correct.

  • It becomes easier to misinterpret the motives of others, there’s constant change because of growth, you might not have access to things you’re used to — like your favorite spot to sit or that worship service time that worked best for your family or even access to the senior pastor because he’s broadcast via video from a different location.

  • Things get more organized and formalized as a church gets bigger which can be a pain. Like having to make a reservation way ahead of time in order to use our facilities or you pop in to meet with a staff person only to find out they’re already meeting with someone and have another appointment after that and another one after that.

  • Now there are a ton of benefits and blessings when you’re part of a large church, but we have to be careful that we don’t allow the challenges of being part of a large church to cause division among us.

And what I love — in this story from Acts chapter 6 — is how the early church refuses to allow something — that could’ve easily become a point of friction — to divide them. What am I talking about? Widows aren’t being fed, right? And the people have brought the problem to the attention of apostles.

THE SOLUTION

And now we come to their solution. Let’s start in verse 2

“And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:2-6 ESV)

Does their solution surprise you? What about the priorities of the apostles — who are acting as the pastors of the church? They gather the congregation — thousands of people — and essentially say, “You’ve brought to our attention a problem. But here’s the deal. Our priority — our role, our unique calling, what we must do — is devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word — we can’t lose our focus on prayer and preaching.”

Now I want us to pause here — they say more — but for now — I want us to pause and think about what they’ve just said and filter what we think should be the priorities of the leaders of Gateway. What are the elders — the pastors — of Gateway supposed to be devoted to? What should be on my — pastor Josh’s — job description?

  • If I had asked you — before we read this passage — what the job of a pastor is — what would you have said?

  • What would your answer be if we were faced with a problem — like the one here in Acts — where some people in the church are not being cared for?

  • Try and be honest with yourself, if we were having a church meeting and someone brought up that there were a bunch of widows — here at Gateway — who weren’t being taken care of — maybe no one was visiting them in the nursing home — or no one was helping them get groceries or get to their doctor’s appointment — and the issue was brought up before all of us in a church meeting — would our meeting have played out like what we’ve just read here in Acts?

A phenomenon in the church — and I’m talking about the church in our country — here in the US — for the last few decades — a view of what the role of the pastor is — what the pastor’s primary duties are — what a pastor’s job descriptions is — well it’s all gotten muddied up.

What do I mean? I went and looked at some job openings for pastors in our denomination — let me be clear — I wasn’t looking at the job openings to apply to them. I just wanted to see what churches say they’re looking for in a pastor — what’s their job description for a pastor. Here’s what I found:

“A Pastor to lead our congregation to a renewed and revitalized future thru strong leadership, sound Biblical preaching and teaching, and a passion for pastoral care.”

“We are seeking an individual that is committed to being a servant leader beyond reproach and be a partner as we become more and more like an Acts 2 church…”

“We are searching for a dynamic spiritual and administrative church leader to assume the pastoral role…Excellent preaching skills...Excellent written and verbal communication skills...Active listening skills.”

“Maintain and carry forward [our church’s] vision for ministry through a Christ-centered, collaborative team model which will include Biblical preaching and teaching (30%), leadership and discipleship (30%), administration (20%), and pastoral care (20%).”

Last example. “The next pastor of [our] church should be a lover of God and his Word. They will be expected to plan and lead weekly worship services and administer sacraments. We would expect them to visit members and friends of the church, perform weddings, funerals, as well as teach confirmation classes. They should also lead youth programs, bible studies, and elder training. It is very important in our small community that the pastor regularly participate in community activities and events. They are the moderator of the session and should attend a majority of the EPC presbytery meetings.”

OK. Did you notice something missing — and please know that I’m not trying to pick on these churches — because what’s missing is something that any of us could easily overlook. In fact, only 4 job descriptions — of the 20 I looked at — even mention what I hope you noticed was missing.

So what’s missing? Prayer! And I’m so thankful for First Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. I’d never heard of this 171 year old church before I did this research. So why am I thankful for this congregation of 48 people? They were the only church whose first two qualifications for their pastoral position were: 1) Teach and preach the Word and 2) Shows a strong prayer life.

Here in Acts chapter 6 the church leaders were like, “We’ve got two things on our job description that we have to do — prayer and preach the Word.” And — though all of the job descriptions I looked at mentioned preaching — only four mentioned prayer — and three of them were a single bullet point after things like “proficient at powerpoint” — almost like “Oh yeah, make sure you pray.”

Only First EPC of Cedar Grove seems to get this — at least based on the job description for their pastor. So here’s what we’re going to do — because — as I said — this is a smaller church. And when you’re small it’s easy to envy big churches like us. When you’re small it’s easy to think you must not be doing things right — otherwise we’d be big, right? And it can be easy for large churches to be so full of themselves that they refuse to learn from — and celebrate the faithfulness — of smaller churches.

So here’s what we’re going to do. At each of our campuses — out in your lobby — there are some blank cards. I want us to take time before we leave — and write First EPC of Cedar Grove a note of encouragement

  • Thank them for their faithfulness.

  • Thank them for being an example of a church that understands the role of the pastor.

  • Tell them that you love and that God loves them too.

  • Just encourage them because everyone can use some encouragement.

Look at their priorities compared to some of the other job descriptions I read. I mean has prayer — and I hope it hasn’t — but has prayer become something for US churches — that’s an “Oh yeah, pastor, make sure you pray sometime maybe” kind of thing? I hope it hasn’t.

So a couple of reactions to this.

  • The first being, “Yeah, but Jesus preached and prayed and was able to heal people and care for people — he didn’t have to split up these responsibilities.” If anyone thinks they can keep up with Jesus — cause I know I sure can’t — but if you think you can, please see me after the service and I’ll be sure to get you signed up to do — oh — say — everything around here.

  • How about this reaction? “But can’t the pastor pray any time? Does this really need to be part of what he’s paid to do?”

  • Someone else might be thinking, “I wonder how long it would take for Josh to pray for all of the people who come to Gateway — and pray for them with something more than a — ‘God I don’t know what’s going on in their life, but you do’ — kind of prayer?”

  • Or, “I wonder how many people at Gateway have no one who prays for them? Maybe they’re the only believer in their family, maybe they’re married to someone who isn’t a Christian, or they have parents who don’t support their faith? I wonder who’s praying for them?”

How much do we value prayer? Now I won’t talk much about preaching because — as I said — most churches still see this as a priority for the pastor. But what about all of the other things listed in the job descriptions? What about all of the things we were thinking of — when I asked — what’s the job of a pastor? Well here’s where we can learn something from the second part of the apostles’ statement to the congregation.

This second part was for the people of the church. The leaders told them to select seven men — men with a good reputation, who were full of the Holy Spirit, and who were wise — and the apostles would appoint these men to oversee the distribution of the goods — these men would make sure the widows were being taken care of. The apostles resisted the temptation to allow this problem to distract them from their unique role and responsibilities — they want the widows were taken care of — even though they can’t be the ones to care for the widows.

And — get this — the plan pleased the congregation. The widows are going to be taken care of and the church leaders are going to focus on prayer and preaching. The people choose seven men who meet the requirements set forth by the apostles — their names are in verse 5. These men serve the church by making sure an important task is done — the care of widows — so the apostles can focus on other important tasks — prayer and preaching.

And please hear me — both of these tasks are important — both of these roles are needed — what we’re seeing — though — is that one person — or one group — isn’t supposed to do everything. In fact, this decision got more people involved in the ministry of the church. This decision developed more leaders in the church — as we’ll see — in the coming weeks — from the stories of Stephen and Philip — two of the men chosen.

In fact, many see this solution as the beginning of a church role known as deacons — a group in the church who are the chief servants. I’ve heard it said this way. Elders — your pastors — lead the church with words — through prayer and preaching. Whereas deacons lead with their hands — they make sure the practical needs are of the people are taken care of. And in the New Testament we see this role of deacon become more formalized — Paul gives specific qualifications for deacons in First Timothy along with elder qualifications. In the book of Romans we see Paul call a woman — Phoebe — a deacon — as the role expands to include women.

And here at Gateway — we’re looking to develop this role of deacon. Because — just like these early Christians — as a church — we should all serve in the calling that God has for us — using the particular gifts he’s given us — for his glory and the good of our church. We shouldn’t expect a few to do everything — but we need everyone — using the gifts that God has given you — so that we become the church God intends us to be.

This is what Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus when he writes, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT)

Everyone has a role. Everyone has a job. Everyone has a necessary — “we won’t grow to our full potential unless you fulfill your calling” — kind of uniqueness. You’re such an important part of this church. What a purpose God has given you — something only you can do for us — something we need you to do.

That’s what the people in the early church understood. And look at the results of their solution.

THE RESULTS

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7 ESV)

The word of God continues to increase — the gospel continues to spread as the apostles focus on their unique role while others fulfill their calling. The church continues to grow — the number of disciples — the followers of Jesus — multiplied greatly. And part of the growth included priests — Jewish priests — and that’s a big deal. If you remember from last week — there were people who were hesitant to join the Christians — but now — partly because of the congregation’s unity in finding a solution to this problem — in seeing Christians not resist their role or the role of their leaders — these priests join the church. And so do others. More and more people believe.

So what do we want to see God do in and through us?

  • Gateway — I love our story — I love our history — but I hope none of us are satisfied with thinking the best part of our story is in our past.

  • I hope we all long for — desire — are willing to step into — such unity as a church that the gospel will cause a multiplication of people to come to faith in Jesus.

  • That we would all step into our roles — not resist them — but flourish in the unique role God has created for each of us in this church.

  • That we wouldn’t judge one another because of what God has called them to do, but would encourage and be encouraged by one another.

  • That we would serve and be served by each other.

  • That we would be thankful for those who are called to lead with words and those who are called to lead with their hands.

  • For those who help to park cars and for those who lead preschoolers in worship.

  • For those who lead us in singing and those who set up tables and chairs.

  • For those who visit our widows and for those who lead us in prayer and by preaching God’s Word.

  • Gateway, I tell you every week that I love you — I hope you know I mean it. I’m thankful for all of you. For the gifts God has given you. For the unique way he’s made you. For the role he has for you. And for the gift that you are to this church. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for everyone who is part of Gateway Church. Father help us to understand — with great clarity — the role you have called us to in this congregation — to use the gifts you’ve given us for the benefit of those around us. Helps us to encourage one another and to be encouraged by one another. Help us to love and appreciate the uniqueness of everyone who is part of our faith family.

Jesus thank you — that through your death and resurrection — you have torn down the walls of division that we’re so keen on putting up. Thank you for giving us the power to resist judging others — because they’re different — and instead to know that what makes them different is exactly what we need to become the church you want us to be. Help us to rejoice in the fact you love us so much that you bring others into our church who will help us grow even more into your likeness.

Finally, Holy Spirit, thank you for using us — all of us. For giving us gifts and talents. Thank you for those you’ve gifted and called to lead with their hands and for those you’ve gifted and called to lead with their words. Unify us — so others see that you are at work in and among us. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: Desire clarity of your role at Gateway // DON’T FORGET TO WRITE A NOTE TO FIRST EPC CEDAR GROVE!)

May you go fulfilling the role God has created you for — while being thankful for each other and for the gifts God has blessed us with. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.


Songs for the Weekend

As you prepare to worship this weekend, take a look at these songs for the weekend at your campus.

County Road 9

Breaking Through - Jeremy Riddle
Made Alive - Citizens & Saints
Even So Come - Chris Tomlin
Come As You Are - Crowder
Give Us Clean Hands - Shane & Shane

North Main

Only King Forever - Elevation Worship
Even So Come - Chris Tomlin
Good Good Father - Chris Tomlin
Resurrection Power - Chris Tomlin
O Praise the Name (Anastasis ) - Hillsong

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

Engage Wraps Up Another Great School Year

by Sara Hooker, CCO Fellow

Engage College Ministries has had another amazing year with students. Over the course of the 2018/2019 school year, we the opportunity to have many meaningful conversations with students about who God is, what the Bible says, and the Gospel story. We were able to have these interactions with students by hosting Bible studies and Thursday Night Dinners, planning and taking students on retreats and to our annual Jubilee conference, and by taking the time to sit down one on one with students and investing in them by mentoring and discipling them. When we enter into relationships like that with students, we are able to walk through their college years with them, supporting them through the hills and valleys, all the while showing them what the love of Jesus Christ looks like.

During this past year, we to bring nine students with us to the annual, national Jubilee Conference, where we had the honor of bringing Janell to Christ. We offered seven Bible studies to students where we were able to offer studies on 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Ephesians, Daniel, Jonah, the book Gaining by Losing, and so many more. We were able to mentor and disciple Sarah, Zach, Emoni, Sean, Katie, Daniel, Ye Seul, Michael, Brigette, Aaron, and Janell. During CCO events, we had the honor of leading a staff training on how to better reach students with disabilities and a Jubilee Seminar which equipped students to go out and reach students with disabilities themselves. We saw a new all time high of 108 students attend Thursday Night Dinner in one evening. We had the honor of sharing the Gospel with many students...students like Emoni who attended our Fall Retreat with us. We are so thankful and feel so honored to have had the opportunity to love on students the way we did this year and want to acknowledge that we would not have been able to do it without the support of many adult volunteers and helpers from our Gateway Family. Thank you.

Resisting the Fear of Suffering Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Resisting the Fear of Suffering
TEXT: Acts 5:12-42 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 5-11/12-19

Facebook_Banner.jpg

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And we’re in week two of our series in the book of Acts which we’re calling Resistance — as we’re seeing that for every gospel action there’s a reaction by the enemy. Now the enemy’s reaction isn’t an equal reaction — the enemy isn’t some sort of co-equal to God — but we do have an enemy who loves to disrupt God’s people from accomplishing God’s work. And what I want us to remember is that though there is a reaction by the enemy, God’s gospel is infinitely more powerful and — so — the resistance I’m wanting us to focus on — is our resistance to the enemy — our ability to overcome because of God’s Word and Spirit — I want us to focus on — and rejoice in — the victory that is ours because of what Christ has done for us.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

And the resistance we’re going to see today — is our resistance to the fear of suffering. We live in a culture that teaches us to do everything we can to avoid suffering and — if we’re honest — most of us are afraid of suffering. Now if you travel — especially to third world countries — you’ll notice that there isn’t a fear of suffering like we have here in the US. Suffering is something that’s accepted as part of living in this broken world — you might say they see the world more clearly than we do — as we often try to manipulate our lives so the brokenness of this world doesn’t affect us.

  • You see this in how people make up stories about their past — in order to avoid reliving moments that caused them suffering.

  • I know of people who avoid telling anyone about a major health issue they’re facing — partly because they’re afraid of the suffering that may come.

  • History books put a spin on our country’s past because we’re ashamed of the suffering we’ve caused as nation.

We live in an “avoid suffering at all costs” kind of culture — and this has influenced the church — as a powerful fear among Christians — especially western Christians — is the fear of suffering because of our faith. And what we’re going to see today is how to resist the fear of being shamed and dishonored because of our faith in Jesus.

So let’s turn to our passage for today.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

If you have your Bible please turn with me to Acts chapter 5. We’ll be looking at verses 12-42.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT

Here are the words found in Acts chapter 5. Beginning in verse 12

“Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. 17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 "We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside." 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:12-42 ESV)

THE NAME

When I say the name Jesus — what comes to your mind? What do you feel when you hear his name — what does the name Jesus mean to you?

Is it a source of joy? Of purpose? Does it stir in you power and passion? Is it a name that helps you to resist your greatest fears?

This past Easter — as I’m sure you’ve heard — extremists in Sri Lanka set off bombs in churches and hotels across the island nation. Having been to the country — I have a few contacts there who were keeping me up to date throughout the day. Here’s one email that was sent to me.

“Dear friends, As we started our Resurrection Sunday service, we got information that some Churches have been attacked by terrorists...As we started to pray for the safety of Churches, the police showed up and said that we should stop the service immediately and everyone should return to their homes. However, when I requested permission to continue the service, due to the remote location of our Church, they let us continue. The police stood guard until we concluded our service.

[He then gives details of what happened in a church that was attacked.]

A young man with a bag entered and sat down right in the middle of the Church. Albeit the fans, he was sweating a lot. Ushers approached him and spoke to him and he said that he wanted to meet the pastor. The pastor was in Norway so he was approached by the assistant pastor. He asked the assistant pastor when would the Church fill with people. At this, the assistant pastor became suspicious and led the young man to the entrance of the Church. [That’s] when the man detonated the bomb he was wearing under his shirt. Twenty-seven believers died on the spot [the official total is now 28 with many more injured...the email goes on to say..]. Most of the victims are Sunday school children who were coming into the Church hall from their Sunday school classrooms...Today is supposed to be a glad day for us but it has turned into a very sad day. Please pray for our country and for Christians of this land.”

So beyond the horrific details — a part the email that floors me is the part where the police tell them to go home — and yet — the pastor asks if they can continue to worship. What do you think the name Jesus means to that pastor and congregation — where they’re willing to stay and worship while knowing other churches are being attacked, that other Christians are being murdered, that bombs are going off? Where they’re able to resist the fear of suffering — even the fear of being killed — for the name of Jesus — what do you think his name means to them?

So what I want us to do — is look at three groups in our story. We’re not going to have time to go back and look every verse, but there are three groups I want us to look at — and as we do — I want us to ask ourselves which group am I part of?

RESPECT BUT NOT JOIN

The first group we find back in verse 12. “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,” (Acts 5:12-14 ESV)

So this first group respected the Christians, but they didn’t join them. They appreciate what the Christians are doing — obviously, the community’s in a better place with the apostles healing people of diseases — but for this group — the name of Jesus is something they respect, but it isn’t a name worth believing in — Jesus isn’t someone worth following — he definitely isn’t someone they’re willing to suffer for.

And maybe this is you. Maybe you come to Gateway regularly, maybe you’re in a Life Group, maybe you serve — there are all sorts of things you can do because you respect Jesus — but — like the folks in this group — you wouldn’t dare say you believe all of this Christian stuff in a “I’m willing to suffer and die for Jesus” kind of way.

  • Maybe you like the social benefits of being part of Gateway — the potential clients for your business — or potential dates if you’re single.

  • Maybe you like the music or the kids and youth programs we have.

  • Maybe you even like the preaching because that “pastor Josh guy never makes you uncomfortable in his sermons, right?”

But — when you get right down to it — you know there’s no way you’d ever suffer for Jesus.

  • It’s not a question you wrestle with — you don’t wonder “Would I be willing to suffer” — you know the answer — and your answer is “no way.”

  • You’re not going to allow your reputation to suffer or your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend to suffer.

  • There’s no way Jesus is going to get between you and that promotion at work or your plans for the future.

  • You like Jesus — you respect him — maybe you’ve been baptized — but you know — you’re only willing to follow Jesus so far.

Now let me say that none of us — until we’re faced with suffering — really know how we’ll respond. But for the Christian, though you may wrestle with “Man I hope I’d honor Jesus if I ever face suffering” — that’s way different than thinking, “If following Jesus ever causes me to suffer...well then I’m out.” So though you may be someone who doesn’t know how you’d do in the midst of suffering, that’s not the same thing as being someone who knows that Jesus isn’t worth suffering for.

Yet here are some things we find in the Bible.

Peter writes, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…(don’t fear the people who make you suffer because of your faith in Jesus...) 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14, 17 ESV)

Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

The whole idea of tribulation is experiencing difficulties and trials — there’s an expectation of suffering.

Or as Paul said, “Indeed, all (notice who’s included here — not some — but all...) who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...” (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV)

Peter, Paul, and Jesus tell us that — to follow Jesus — is to be someone who knows that trouble is coming your way. It’s to be someone who looks at suffering without an incapacitating fear — but looks through suffering to the One who suffered on a cross for you.

If you want to resist the fear that so many experience due to suffering — Jesus must receive more than your respect.

Now to the second group. Let’s begin in verse 27.

JEALOUS AND ARE HOSTILE

“But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison…(And in verse 27 we read…) And when they had brought them (so the soldiers went and got the apostles — after their escape that we read about earlier — and...), they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us."...(And we’ll skip to verse 33 where — after Peter and the apostles respond to the council — we read…) When they (the council) heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.” (Acts 5:17-18, 27-28, 33 ESV)

So instead of respecting Jesus — like the first group — here we find a group that’s jealous and hostile towards everything happening because of the name of Jesus. The Sadducees are jealous of the apostles. They’re irritated with the success of the church. So they throw the apostles in prison and — specifically — they had them put in a public prison. The point is they want everyone in town to know that the apostle have been put in jail — “You want to follow Jesus — you want to tell others about him — well you better pay attention to what’s happening to the apostles — cause it’ll happen to you too.”

Now today there are many people who are hostile towards Jesus and those who follow him. But as I was reading this story, I asked myself, “How does the Christian church — and we’ll just focus on our country — the US — how does the church in the US irritate people today?” And here’s what I thought. “If only it was because of our great ministry success.”

Meaning, often today what irritates unbelievers about us Christians isn’t the amazing ministry we’re doing. What irritates them are the things we do that are unloving. What irritates them are the words we speak that are unkind, the actions we do that do not demonstrate Jesus’ love for them.

Now — as this story in Acts shows us — people will be irritated with us regardless of what we do — but similar to the quote from Peter earlier — if we’re going to irritate people — let’s do so with our great ministry success.

  • Let’s irritate them with relentless love and kindness.

  • Let’s irritate them by being the first to show up and serve those in our community who need help.

  • Let’s irritate them by being gracious in the way we share the truths of our faith.

  • Let’s irritate them in a way where they’re willing to consider what we believe because they experience us practicing what we preach.

And maybe you’re here today and this is the group you find yourself in. First, thank you for being here. It’s rare — these days — for someone to sharply disagree with others and yet — with civility — show up on their turf and listen to their view. And — second — let me apologize that so often the reason why Christians have irritated you isn’t because of all of the things I just described. What’s irritated you — what’s rightly angered you — are the unkind, unloving, and ungracious things you’ve heard and experienced from Christians. And — for that — I’m sorry — we’re sorry. My hope and prayer is that Gateway will be a church where you’re irritated by our love, kindness, and graciousness. That you’ll give the truths we believe a fair hearing because you’ve been irritatingly loved by us.

Now to the final group. Let’s begin in verse 19.

BELIEVE AND OBEY

“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach…(And let’s skip to verse 25…) And someone came and told them (the council members...), "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:19-21a, 25-29 ESV)

The final group are those who believe and obey even when their belief and obedience might lead to suffering. We’ll look at how they resist the fear of suffering in a moment, but for now I want you to see that this group — made up of true believers — simply believe and obey God’s commands no matter where it may lead them.

While being miraculously rescued — the angel tells them to go right back to doing what landed them in jail in the first place. Now — if we’re honest — that sounds pretty ridiculous — and I’m not talking about the angel rescuing them part. I’m talking about the fact that they’re told to go and repeat what landed them in prison. And this would be something impossible to do if they feared suffering. I mean — who — in being set free from prison — wants to go back and repeat what landed them in prison so they’ll most likely end up back in prison or worse? Yet the apostles believe and obey.

They go right back to the Temple and begin to teach. And their obedience led to more people hearing the words of Life — the gospel — the Good News of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection.

And I know how tempting it can be to dismiss their obedience. We can romanticize Peter’s stand when he says, “We must obey God; not man” because we know the end of the story — we know they’ll survive this situation — but don’t forget — they have no idea how this is going to end.

And — speaking of endings — do you know how things end for the apostles? Most people don’t realize that all of them suffer in significant ways for Jesus. In fact, all but one of the apostles are killed because of their faith in Jesus.

Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome. Andrew was executed by crucifixion in Greece. Thomas was killed by the spears of four soldiers. Philip had a powerful ministry in Carthage and Asia Minor. The wife of the proconsul believed in Jesus because of Philip’s ministry and — in retaliation — the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly executed. Many say that Matthew was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. Bartholomew had widespread missionary travels, and there are various accounts of how and where he was martyred. James son of Alpheus ministered in Syria and the Jewish historian, Josephus, says he was stoned and then clubbed to death. Simon the Zealot ministered in Persia and was killed for refusing to sacrifice to the sun god. Matthias was killed by burning in Syria. The only apostle to die naturally was John. ( Ken Curtis, “Whatever Happened to the Twelve Apostles,” Christianity.com, https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/whatever-happened-to-the-twelve-apostles-11629558.html.)

So how did they resist the fear of suffering for Jesus? They were able to resist because their faith was in the One who suffered for them. They remembered — not only abandoning Jesus while he hung on a cross — but they remembered seeing the scars in his hands and feet after his resurrection. They resisted the fear of suffering because Jesus — their Savior, Deliverer, Treasure, and King — had suffered for them.

So how do we resist this fear? We find our answer beginning in verse 30 — in Peter’s response to the council.

THE POWER TO RESIST THE FEAR OF SUFFERING

“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:30-42 ESV)

Their power to resist the fear of suffering — is the same power offered to us — the gospel. The message that gives new life — the message that saves — the message that converts — is the message that empowers us to resist our fear of suffering. The gospel not only saves us, but it empowers us to stare suffering in the face without an incapacitating fear because — as I’ve said many times already — when you look at suffering — you look straight through it to your Savior who gave a whole new meaning to suffering.

Without Christ’s suffering on the cross, our suffering would have no meaning. But when we look to Christ — though we may not know all of the reasons for our suffering — we know what it can’t mean. Our suffering cannot mean that God doesn’t love us. Or that he doesn't care. Or that he’s unaware or not powerful enough to stop suffering. God’s proven to us — through his Son’s suffering — that he does love and care for us and is powerful enough to use the most horrific suffering our world could ever do to someone — for his glory and the good of his people. God used the most horrific suffering — Jesus’ crucifixion — for your good — if you believe.

And when you understand — when this truth sinks from your head down into your heart — do you know what it produces? It gives you joy. The council members were filled with jealousy because of all that God was doing. Yet the apostles — because of the very same things — are filled with joy. And even after being beaten, they were able to rejoice because they suffered for Jesus. They considered it an honor to be dishonored for Jesus. That’s what Jesus meant to them. That’s what his name was worth to them. What does the name Jesus mean to you?

CONCLUSION

When you believe in Jesus you’re called to a life of obedience — not in order to earn God’s love — you’re called to obedience because you are loved by God. And when you begin to understand the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for you, you’ll face suffering with great joy because — through the fear — you see the One who suffered for your sake. The One who died — so that — through faith in him — you might live. You see that the One working out all things for your good — is Jesus. And he gives you the power needed to resist the fear of suffering for his name.

Do you want to not fear suffering? Look to Jesus. Do you want to know that there’s a purpose to life even in this broken and disappointing world? Turn to Jesus. Do you want confidence in knowing that all things — the good, the bad, the ugly — that all things in your life are working together for your eternal good? Turn to Jesus.

Trust him — believe in him — and in his powerful name. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to suffer and die for our sake. Help us — as we face suffering — to have eyes to see through our suffering to the One who suffered for us. Help us to look to Jesus — who gave his life — so that we might live knowing that you love us, have a plan for us, and are working out all things for our eternal good.

Father, Son, and Spirit, your love drives away all fear — including our fear of suffering. Through our faith in Jesus, you give us — not a spirit of fear — but a Spirit of power and love and self-control. Help us to rejoice even in the midst of suffering — because even in suffering we have reason upon reason upon reason to rejoice because of all that you have and are doing for us.

Finally, Holy Spirit, help us to irritatingly love all people. Help us to love one another and those who who hate us. Help us to be known for our love so that others might know of your love. It’s in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.

BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: suffering right now; realize you respect Jesus, but now want to believe in him)

May you go looking to Jesus — the One who suffered and died for you. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.


Songs for the Weekend

We have been given the great gift of singing to express our thanks to God and proclaim how amazing He is. As you sing this week, check out these songs for the weekend at Gateway and let your lips overflow with praises to our great God.

County Road 9

Do What You Want To - Vertical Worship
Only King Forever - Elevation Worship
Not For A Moment - Meredith Andrews
Lord I Need You - Matt Maher
What a Beautiful Name - Hillsong

North Main

This is Amazing Grace - Phil Wickham
The Greatness of Our God - Vertical Worship
What a Beautiful Name - Hillsong
Great Are You Lord - Vertical Worship
10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

Volunteer Spotlight: Craig Swope

There are many ways to serve at Gateway Church. One way to serve is through ushering. You get to be the smiling face that welcomes people in as they prepare to worship God with us. One of our ushers is Craig Swope. See what he has to say about serving as an usher here at Gateway.

IMG_8818.jpg

How long have you attended Gateway?...been a volunteer in Gateway’s usher ministry?

We have been attending Gateway since it started, dating back to the early 1990's during the Norcrest days. It seems like I have been ushering throughout Gateways start-up and before.

In what capacity do you volunteer?

I have volunteered in numerous positions over the years. Besides ushering, I currently am a counter. Along with my wife, Elaine, we have sub Sunday school taught for the younger classes, helped with VBS, helped serve communion, lead a middle school bible study group, and back in our earlier years served on the nursery committee and in the nursery.

Why did you initially volunteer to serve as an usher?

I initially felt led to usher because I enjoy welcoming and seeing our visitors as well as our regular attendees. I started counting as a continuation of my early banking career.

What do you enjoy most about serving?

The feeling of doing God's work by welcoming his followers.

Do you have a favorite ministry memory?

I can't think of a special ushering moment while I served, but I remember when we first attended Norcrest that the greeters/ ushers who we first met made us feel very welcomed and I want to hopefully pass along that same experience to others.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not serving at Gateway?

While ushering, I enjoy being able to listen to the praise and worship music. I have also enjoyed being able to interact with many of the youth ( MS and HS) some of which I have currently coach or have coached over the years.

What would you say to someone who has been feeling a tug to serve, but who hasn’t taken the plunge yet?

To someone who has been feeling the tug to serve, I would say to pray it up as to what area the spirit is leading you to serve in and just "jump in" even if it is just helping on an unofficial capacity to see what the serving position is about. I have no special credentials to serve, but God gives each of us special gifts and talents that he will help us use for His good.

Resisting (un)faithfulness Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Resisting (un)faithfulness
TEXT: Acts 4:32-5:11 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 5/4-5/19

Facebook_Banner.jpg

WELCOME

It’s great to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And today we’re beginning a new series that we’re calling Resistance as we jump back into the book of Acts. Now some of you weren’t with us last year, so let me quickly catch all of us up with what’s happened in the book thus far — but you may find it helpful to go and check out the sermons from last year on our website or app — the series you want to look for is titled Ordinary.

The book of Acts begins with an introduction where we learn that Luke — a doctor — has been hired to do an investigation on the life of Jesus and the early church. And Acts is part two of his investigation. So Luke was hired to do research, to verify facts, to make sure the stories circulating about Jesus and the church were reliable — and we have his findings in the gospel of Luke — part one of his investigation — and the book of Acts — part two.

And right away Luke records the ascension of Jesus. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Jesus was crucified on a cross, but death could not keep him in the grave. And for forty days he appeared preparing his disciples for the mission he was about to give them. And on the day of his ascension — the day he went up to Heaven — Jesus, “ordered them (his followers) not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4b-5 ESV)

And then he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:8-9 ESV)

So Jesus promised his disciples that they’d be given the power needed to accomplish their mission of taking the news about him to the whole world — they would be empowered witnesses.

Next is a story where the disciples find a replacement for Judas. And what we learned is that Jesus loves to use a nobody for his glory.

Then we find the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise when — in Acts chapter two — the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples. And as Peter preaches his first sermon a crowd of people — from many different nations — respond to his message. And a new community is formed — united together by a common faith in Jesus.

And we see these ordinary followers take advantage of ordinary opportunities to tell others about Jesus. They help others to see what their greatest need is — that they need a Savior — that they need to be rescued — and that Jesus is the only One who saves.

And last year we ended our series by seeing the early Christians pray for boldness in the face of persecution. The religious leaders had arrested some of the Christians for telling others about Jesus and they threatened them — “If you keep it up — you’ll suffer even greater harm.” And in the midst of these threats all of the Christians — not just the apostles — but all of them prayed for boldness and that they would remain faithful to Jesus even if it meant suffering on their part.

And now — we’re all caught up — so let’s turn to our passage for today.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

If you have your Bible please turn with me to Acts chapter 5. We’ll begin in verse 1 and we’ll also look at some verses found at the end of chapter 4.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

“For every gospel action, there is an opposite and devious demonic reaction.” That’s a quote from a book the elders are reading titled Old Paths, New Power by Daniel Henderson. If you want to grow with us, that’s the book we’re discussing for the next few months — Old Paths, New Power.

But the opening sentence of the first chapter made me stop. “For every gospel action, there is an opposite and devious demonic reaction.” (David Henderson Old Paths New Power, 33.) And that’s what we’re going to see over the next few weeks as we study the book of Acts. But I don’t want us to focus so much on the reaction of the enemy as I want us to focus on the power we have to resist — by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word — our enemy.

Now the ways in which our enemy tries to weaken our resistance will surprise, shock, and — I hope — horrify us as often the attacks come from within the church — which is what we’ll see in our story. Up until this point in Acts, attacks have come from outside the church — but now — they come from within — and our enemy knows how to cause division among us.

What’s one of his favorite tactics? Our money. Our possessions. Our stuff. There are few things that have the power to control us like money. We live in a culture of independence. “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours I’m probably jealous of.” And “my stuff is mine because I’ve earned it — and if you don’t have it — and want it — well then you need to work harder.” That’s how many think.

“But Josh, what about the people who give to others in need?” Have you ever noticed how many Americans view generosity as something you do only when you have the time or money to share? We live in a “be generous when it’s convenient” culture — and the enemy loves to use this thinking against God’s people because it entices us to be unfaithful with what God has entrusted to us.

Now let me say that I appreciate hard work. I want you to know that the staff of Gateway works hard — working hard isn’t the problem. The problem is that often we view our hard work as an excuse to not be generous.

But there’s an opportunity — here — for those of us who follow Jesus. Because the Christian faith teaches us to view our money and possessions and stuff differently than the way of our culture. For our faith teaches us that everything we have is a gift from God — even the things we’ve worked for. So there’s an opportunity for us to live in a way that shows how our view of money and possessions has been shaped by our faith which teaches us that everything in life is a gift from God — our salvation is a gift — our family is a gift — our education and employment and church are gifts — everything is a gift from God — and the opportunity before us is to show others how to resist unfaithfulness and — instead — demonstrate faithfulness — where we view things not as stuff we’ve earned — but where we view all things as gifts from God — things we haven’t earned, but are ours to enjoy and steward for God’s glory.

But a danger — especially for the Christian — is how easy it is to live with a “what’s mine is mine” mindset and then come to church and be conflicted as you hear stuff about “loving your neighbor” and “being generous” and “living solely for the glory of God” — all of these characteristics of faithfulness that are expected of those who follow Jesus. And maybe you feel stuck because you’re caught up in this “what’s mine is mine mindset” and your response — to what you know is expected of you as a Christian — is to fake it — that’s one way our enemy attacks us. He convinces us that we can nod our heads in agreement with these truths of Scripture and yet live agreeing with the culture around us. The division from within comes when we say we believe everything is a gift from God without living as if everything is a gift — but is something we’ve earned — this is what happens when we fail to resist unfaithfulness.

But the hope of the gospel is that we can resist unfaithfulness. For God has given us everything we need to be faithful — not because we’re super awesome — but because through faith in Christ we’ve been given the Holy Spirit who lives in us and desires — even more than we do ourselves — for us to be faithful. So as a Christian, we must have a different mindset about money, possessions, and stuff — our enemy doesn’t want us to change our minds — he finds joy in our unfaithfulness — he knows that if we change the way we think about money and possessions and stuff — that their power will lose its grip on our hearts, which will free us to live as God intends us to — as faithful people who show the world how generous our God is.

And that’s what we see in our story from Acts. We see some in the church who understand that everything is a gift from God. And yet there’s an immediate reaction by the enemy because — for others in the church — let me say that again — these weren’t outsiders — these were people on the inside — and yet the enemy uses them in an attempt to cause division. And the warning for all of us is this: Things haven’t changed in 2,000 years — using our money, possessions, and stuff — to cause division within the church — is still a favorite tactic of our enemy.

THE GOSPEL

Now — before we go on to how we’re supposed to live — let me remind you of the gospel — I’ve been saying that word but I want us all to understand what it means — because some of us will be tempted to try and resist unfaithfulness without resting in — without believing in — without our resistance being fueled by — the gospel.

In the beginning God created everything — and he declared his creation to be very good. The reason why we long for utopia — a place without sickness and death — a place without war and conflict — a place without abuse and neglect — is because we can all trace back our lineage to two people who experienced such a place here on earth. And God gave Adam and Eve purpose — they had an identity — they were valuable — they had a beautiful relationship with God and each other.

Yet they doubted God’s goodness and his promise to them. They listened to the enemy who told them they could still experience the favor of God while ignoring his commands. Essentially God had told them, “In knowing and experiencing my love for you — respond to my love by enjoying the gift of my creation and showing me that you trust and love me by obeying one simple command: Don’t eat from this tree.”

And the enemy deceived them into believing that — if God really loved them — he wouldn’t hold anything back from them — a lie many people today believe as well. And they doubted God’s love — “maybe he doesn’t know what’s best for us” — they doubted God’s word — they failed to resist unfaithfulness — and they ate from the tree. And as their eyes were opened — as they understood what they had done in disobeying God’s command — that they had brought sin into the world — their sense of purpose and identity were broken and shattered. They hid themselves when God came seeking them out and — even while knowing what they had done — God promised that one day he would restore all that had been broken by their sin and unfaithfulness.

And throughout the Bible, we read the story of God pursuing a people who are broken, and hopeless, and purposeless, and greedy, and unfaithful, and living for temporary pleasures all while he offers them an eternal purpose that they can’t even begin to fathom or dream about. God pursues us because he loves us — he pursues us when we don’t love him but hate him — he is relentless in his loving pursuit of his children for whom he has a great plan.

And the culmination of his love is seen in the Father sending his Son, Jesus, to come and defeat our enemy. Jesus came to crush the Serpent once and for all — to defeat our enemy — to set us free from our slavery to the father of lies and his deceptions we’ve believed. Jesus came so that we could be given the power to resist unfaithfulness.

And the one whom the Son sets free from the power of the enemy is free indeed.

  • No longer — having been set free by Jesus — do we have to believe the lies of the enemy.

  • No longer do we have to fear what will happen if we don’t submit to the thoughts and ways of the culture around us.

  • No longer must we give into the lure of unfaithfulness.

  • We’re free to follow the One who demonstrated his love for us in dying for us — we’re free to be faithful.

  • Yet our enemy is still on the attack. The victory is secure — our enemy is defeated — but he’s still taking shots at us — and he’s trying to take us down with him. And that’s why we find two ways a person might respond to the gospel.

The first response is a resistance to faithfulness. What does it mean to be unfaithful? Let’s begin in Acts chapter 5 — beginning in verse 1.

THE DANGER OF UNFAITHFULNESS

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God." 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." 9 But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” (Acts 5:1-11 ESV)

What an intense and shocking story. But it’s here that we see what our enemy hopes to accomplish by using God’s gifts — of money and possessions — against us. Ananias and Sapphira are part of the church. In fact, the first use of the word church in the book of Acts is found here in verse 11 — a story about money and possessions — a story about responding to the gospel with faithfulness or unfaithfulness — this is the first time we come across the word church. And I think one of the reasons for this is because Luke is trying to show us that not everyone who’s part of the church is really part of the church.

Since its beginning, there have always been people who gather with the church, but aren’t really part of the church. And one of the most revealing places this shows up — a part of life that’s hard to describe just how revealing it is as to your response to the life changing — purpose giving — power of the gospel — is your view of your money and possessions — that’s what we find with Ananias and Sapphira.

And let me say — because this may be your first time at Gateway and you’re like, “Here we go. Preacher man talking about money. Just what I expected.” This story in Acts is just the next story. Come back next week and the story is about suffering — so we’ll talk about suffering. The week after that is about our roles in the church. We just keep going right through books of the Bible and the topics that come up are the topics we address — and today’s topic is money and possessions.

Now in a moment, we’ll see how the faithful — those who resist unfaithfulness — respond to the gospel. They have unity with one another, they care for each other, they trust the church leadership — but each of these faithful responses have an opposite — enemy influenced — reaction by the unfaithful. Instead of striving for unity, the unfaithful stir up disunity. Instead of being generous — the unfaithful fake stewardship. Think about it — giving is almost always a secret activity, right? So the unfaithful think — “No one knows if I’m really being generous or not — faithful or not” — so they bring something to the apostles’ feet, but they do so under false pretenses.

And what’s the result? How does God respond to the unfaithfulness of Ananias and Sapphira? It’s shocking isn’t it? They die. God judges them and — the consequence for their unfaithfulness — is death. So get this — even though they’re rubbing shoulders with people who’ve found life and hope and purpose — they’ve experienced none of it.

And I wonder why their deaths shock us — I know the story shocks me — and I can’t help but wonder if — what’s shocking — is how this story reveals what God really thinks of fakers. Over the past few months we’ve heard about a college admissions scandal here in the US — some wealthy families bribed their children’s way into college. And what was our reaction? “Cheaters!,” right? “They deserve the consequences of their choices.” They were deceiving people into believing something about their child that wasn’t true. They were pretending to faithfully follow the admissions process, but were found to be faking it. What they thought was a secret became known to the public.

Similarly, a reaction of the enemy — when it comes to the unity, generosity, care for one another, stewardship and all of the ways the gospel changes a person — a reaction of the enemy is to convince us that we can still experience God’s grace while being unfaithful with our money — while faking it.

And let me say something to be very clear. I am not out to try and persuade anyone to give money to Gateway Church — this sermon isn’t some sort of set up for that. Ananias and Sapphira’s sin wasn’t their lack of giving to the church; their sin was thinking that — because they could deceive others into thinking they were being faithful — they could deceive God too. They thought they could fool God into thinking they were being faithful — like they could fool others — but God will not be made a fool.

And my concern — and know that I say this because I love you — my concern is that there are people among us who have mastered the art of faking faithfulness — it’s easy to do in a large church like Gateway.

  • Someone may ask you where you were last weekend if they didn’t see you at your usual worship service.

  • Occasionally someone might ask about you about your life group or where you serve.

  • But you know something that no one dares ask about? Your giving — we keep that in the dark, don’t we?

  • And things that are kept in the dark are dangerous because none of us are beyond giving into the temptation of being unfaithful with our money. And that’s because we neither appreciate God’s grace nor fear him like we should.

I mean did you see what happened in the church because of this? Because of the unfaithfulness of Ananias and Sapphira — great fear came upon the church. And next week we’ll see that the word is going to spread — much like in the Old Testament — that you don’t want to mess around with the God of the Christians — there’s no fooling around with him. And the craziest thing happens — more people believe.

Ananias and Sapphira show us one way to respond to the gospel. But there is another response — the response of resisting unfaithfulness — not being a faker — being faithful. Let’s look back in verse 32 of chapter 4.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR FAITHFULNESS

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.” (Acts 4:32-37 ESV)

Here we see the response of the faithful. Now did you notice that this is a response to the apostles’ testimony about the resurrection of Jesus? That’s another way of saying the apostles’ were proclaiming the gospel. And this response includes unity — they were of one heart and soul — and they viewed their possessions not as their own — but as gifts to be used for the good of others.

And look at the results of their faithful response to the gospel — and I hope your heart longs for what we see here in this beautiful picture of what the church was like and what it can be today.

  • There were no needs among them — they took care of one another.

  • There was a sacred trust between the congregation and the leadership — they laid the money at the feet of the apostles — trusting them to be faithful stewards of how the money was used.

  • There was an encouragement among the people — individuals in the church were given new names — kind of like nicknames — one man being such an encourager that “encouragement” was what people called him. If we were to give you a church nickname, what would it be?

And what I love most — and long for most — is that great grace was upon them all.

I love the word grace and what the word represents.

  • Grace means the unearned, favor and blessing of God.

  • Pastor Ben’s last series was all about grace — the last best word.

  • Grace is what makes the Christian faith unique — that God favors us — and blesses us — even though we don’t deserve it and haven’t earned it.

  • Grace goes against the grain of our “you’ve got to earn it” culture because you can’t earn grace — it’s a gift.

  • And the reason why grace makes the Christian faith unique is that all other religions — and even for non-religious people a key part of your view of life is this: Who you are must be earned. You must attain your purpose. You must determine your identity. You must make a name for yourself. You dictate your value.

But not so says the Christian faith. The Christian faith’s response to all of that is...grace! Grace says that who you are — your purpose, and identity, even your name — are all gifts given to you.

And here — in this story of the early church — in responding to the gospel in faith — one of the results is that this early group of believers experienced great grace. And all I can think is “if grace is everything the Bible says that it is — then how awesome must great grace be?” For as amazing as grace is — we have the opportunity — as a church — to experience great grace — but only if we respond to the gospel in faith.

  • How would you like for our marriages to experience great grace?

  • Or the hundreds of children — who are part of our church — to experience great grace.

  • Can you imagine what it would be like for us to experience great grace as we sing together and pray together — as we hear God’s Word preached together.

  • Great grace in our life groups.

  • Great grace as we serve one another.

  • Great grace as we go and proclaim the gospel.

  • Can you imagine us experiencing God’s great grace?

CHRIST CONNECTION / SERMON CONCLUSION

So how do we resist against unfaithfulness and be a faithful people? By believing the gospel. Resistance against unfaithfulness begins with a true understanding of the gospel because the gospel stirs in us both an awe of God’s grace and a holy fear of his wrath and judgment. We’ve seen — in our story — some who understood the gospel and responded in faithfulness and experienced more of God’s grace — while others responded with unfaithfulness and experienced God’s judgment.

This story is a reminder that there are two kinds of people among us — the faithful and the unfaithful — and it’s impossible to distinguish between the two. On the outside, Ananias and Sapphira looked just like Barnabas — but God wasn’t deceived — and he’s not deceived today. You may fool us, but you’re not fooling God — may this warning lead you to repentance.

We’ve learned that you can experience the blessings of grace while not personally being changed by the gospel. Ananias and Sapphira experienced blessings of grace — they witnessed miracles, they heard the preaching of the apostles, they experienced the mercy of God as they were loved and cared for by his people — and instead of responding to the gospel in faith — they thought they could keep those blessings while remaining unfaithful. Their death is a foretaste of the judgment that — all who reject the gospel — will receive.

We’ve seen that God’s grace leads to faithfulness. Experiencing God’s grace doesn’t lead to a lazy attitude towards his commands — no — grace leads us to having a desire to please the One who has given all things — including himself — to us.

Finally, this story warns us that God takes sin seriously. This story shocks us. But my prayer is that what shocks us isn’t the question, “Why did Ananias and Sapphira die?” — but that this story would shock us into asking, “Why am I still alive?” The answer is grace. God is being gracious and patient with you because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NET) May we all repent of our unfaithfulness and — because of God’s grace — go forward walking in faithfulness. Let’s pray.

PRAYER OF APPLICATION

Heavenly Father, thank you for being faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to you. Thank you for loving us, calling us, saving us, protecting us, and giving us new names through our faith in Jesus. Help us all to resist the tactics of our enemy — the father of lies — and instead walk in the power of your Spirit according to the truth of your Word.

God you know how powerful our money and possessions can be. Help us to see them as the gifts from you that they are — so our identity and comfort are not found in them — but in you — the giver of every good gift. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: Want to resist unfaithfulness; need God’s grace)

May you go — responding to the gospel with faithfulness — with God’s great grace upon you. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.



Art and Retirement

Art and Retirement

If you were unable to attend the reception for Ben's retirement, or you were there and didn't get a good look, we presented Ben with a present on behalf of the church staff, elders, and body. Several in attendance asked me about the painting, and so I wanted to take a few minutes to address it in more detail. 

Encounters with the Master: THE POWER OF THE RIVER JORDAN IN A COW TROUGH

The amazing thing about water is that it can be so life-giving. Without it, we can expect great thirst. With too much rainfall we can be swept away in the current. I know what it is like to thirst in the desert. I have watched creeks turn to rivers in the jungle as well as witnessing lethargic soldiers restored to health after receiving precious fluids replenished in their dehydrated bodies.

This last week, I was reminded of my childhood and how water was a big part of daily life as I enjoyed my summers in Indiana. We played outside all day going from one activity to another. We played baseball, rode our dirt bikes and took adventures in the woods only stopping for two reasons: to cool off in the creek behind the house and to drink from the garden hose in the yard.

So why do I tell you all of this? Today, we are once again talking about water, but this time it is clean and being used for baptism as Jordan continues in his obedience and next steps as a true disciple of Jesus. (To learn more about Jordan, check out these past Gate articles: Jordan’s Story and Jordan’s Story, Ctd.)

Now, before I continue, you need to know something about me. God gave me a very unique brain. I think outside the box and love to reflect on the funny way things become connected. The first obvious connection I pondered as I prepared to dunk him under the water was the irony of his name. As far as I know, this young man's mother is not a Christ follower, but she named her son Jordan. The name that was given to a river mentioned over and over in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. This river was a source of life for God’s people from Abraham the father of our faith to Christ who used its restoring waters to be baptized by John before starting His earthly ministry. The Jordan River has played a significant role in numerous events in biblical history. In fact, things of great importance still take place in its depths and its location holds a great place in times to come.

As I stood staring at out baptismal Saturday night, I laughed because the only thought that came to mind was that I was going to baptize someone named Jordan in water with the same power of the river of the same name. The only difference is that this water is in a cow trough.

Being a part of Jordan's story has been amazing! Watching him grow as a child of God and being a witness to him striving to be a better man, in general, has been humbling. After the baptism, it occurred to me that this was just the beginning of a long glorious road to our final completion when we stand before the throne of our Savior and king waiting to hear ‘well done good and faithful servant’.

I'm not sure where you are in your faith journey. Maybe you are like Jordan in my first post where you're looking for answers to so many questions. You have tried to fill that nagging void in your life with so many things with no success. You may be struggling to feel whole and you can't put your finger on what's missing. Let me be bold and just suggest it might be Jesus. Believe it or not, I tried to do life on my own for many years. It wasn't until I surrendered and gave my life to Christ that I finally start to feel complete. Don't get me wrong, it is a process and you are going to have your ups and downs but you will no longer be alone. Put your faith in Jesus and He will guide you.

If you have questions or you want to talk about what your next steps should be, please send me an email or call the church. I would be glad to help you. Until next time.


Songs for the Weekend

As you prepare your hearts to worship together this weekend, listen to the songs for the weekend at Gateway Church.

North Main

The Lion and the Lamb - Bethel Music
Lord I Need You - Kristian Stanfill
Lamb of God - Meredith Andrews
My Heart Is Yours - Passion
All the Poor and Powerless - UMobile

County Road 9

You Brought Me Back to Life - Citizens & Saints
One Thing Remains - Kristian Stanfill
Great is Thy Faithfulness - Austin Stone
10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman
Great Are You Lord - Vertical Worship

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

Songs for the Weekend

Pick one time this week. Mark it on your calendar. And spend 15 minutes listening to or singing praises to God! Don’t know what songs to listen to? Check out these songs for the weekend at Gateway.

CR9

Rejoice - Sovereign Grace
I’m Going Free - Vertical Worship
Here is Love - Matt Redman
What a Beautiful Name - Hillsong
Amazing Grace - Citizens & Saints

N Main

How Great You Are - Sovereign Grace
God With Us - Mercy Me
Jesus Paid It All - Kristian Stanfill
One Thing Remains - Kristian Stanfill
With Everything - Joel Houston

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

Why Do I Serve in Kidway During the Summer?

by Kevin and Jenny Snyder

snyders.jpg

Well, Kevin and I started volunteering during the summer months for selfish reasons. I wanted to introduce our 2 year olds (at the time) to Sunday School a little early to make the transition seamless in the fall with a stranger. They loved Sunday School, and Kevin and I really loved our time with all the little kids. 2&3 year olds have the best stories to share! From finding a dead raccoon, to their dad tasing a bad guy, to all the gross things their mom cooks for dinner. It brought us a lot of laughter. We slowly moved on to the 4&5 year old class. Then, when the church added on, we started helping with Kidway in the summer.

There are teachers that dedicate most of their year to teaching Sunday School. Kevin and I have always felt the least we can do is to help give them the summer off.

Kidway is a very neat experience. We get to see so many people sharing their passion and talents with the kids, whether it is Justin Stiles busting a move to This Little Light of Mine or Lisa Towell sharing Jesus with the little kids, it is always a fun experience. Also, Becca Green has made it so easy to volunteer. On Sunday, I just have to go to my little spot, find a cart with pencils, glue and Bibles, and all the craft and activity stuff is already sorted and ready. I just have to grab the amount I need and go. It’s so easy! You could practically not prepare at all and just show up…although I wouldn’t recommend that. If you mess up a Bible story, the kids will correct you. They are little fact checkers.

At the end of each summer, Kevin and I have so many fun memories. We are always amazed at how much the kids learn and grow. Of course, it helps a little when we bribe the children with candy to memorize their Bible Verses…and it works every time.

So, this will be the 8th summer we will volunteer, and I have to say, we have had the best time watching all of these kids grow in Christ, in maturity and in size. It’s like having front row seats to the best show in town…this is our future…and we have been lucky enough to help have a small positive influence on so many of them.

Converge Recap

Our first year at the Converge conference was AMAZING! On the first weekend of April, we took a group of 8th - 12th graders to Lima, OH for a youth conference that focuses on unifying area ministries and churches under the banner, "One Body, One Mission, One God." If you have a student who will be in 8th grade or older next spring, make plans now for them to come with us! On Saturday, our students were sent in to downtown Lima where the conference gave out 60,000 lbs of food to needy families while sharing the Gospel and praying for people’s needs. It was so encouraging to see our kids take a step of faith in being bold in that way. Our own church group handed out over 2,000 pounds ourselves! (Thanks, Justin Arthur, for figuring the math out on that one!!) The worship was fantastic and the teachers were challenging. We are grateful to all of those who supported us and helped make the weekend possible.