Prayer seems often to have become a sort of paralyzing extra step in Christian living, as if before doing anything (even anything godly) now we must take additional time to “pray about it.” But I read nothing of this in the life and ministry of Jesus nor how He taught and sent out His disciples. Rather, I see this vibrant life of prayer by which a human heart (including Jesus) is in union with the heart of the Father, thereby knowing more accurately the will of the Father, and by which the power of God is unleashed to be active in the world. This is convicting considering we sometimes judge the time we must take out to pray about a certain action as a sign of piety.

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When we pray for…

When we pray for the sick we are not asking God to change His mind and do something God doesn’t really want to do. On the contrary, what we are doing is opening channels through which God can do what God always wants to do – make us whole persons.

In one of his sermons, Donald Strobe writes a view of prayer and an alternative. I like it.

Acts, week 8

Weekly Readings: Acts 25-28

Small Group Questions

  1. Have you ever been bold enough to risk ridicule and rejection to share Christ with someone or has someone ever been that bold to share Christ with you?
  2. In Acts 25:23, King Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, arrive for Paul to offer a defense. Look at how they come in and consider Paul, a prisoner in chains. How does this image compare to the picture of Peter and Herod Agrippa in Acts 12?
  3. What does this teach us about the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God?
  4. In Acts 27:33 and following, what seems significant about the meal they shared on the ship?
  5. Acts 28:11-15 tells us that Paul and other disciples (at least Luke, the author) arrived with the gospel at Rome aboard an Alexandrian ship with carvings of the twin gods Castor and Pollux as its figurehead! Have you ever seen God use ungodly means for His purposes?
  6. The book of Acts ends with a profound image: the gospel going forth “unhindered.” How have you seen this idea conveyed from the beginning through the whole story of Acts?

Sermon: “The Church Reaches the World”

Texts: Acts 28:11-16, 30-31 (CEB)

11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with carvings of the twin gods Castor and Pollux as its figurehead. 12 We landed in Syracuse where we stayed three days. 13 From there we sailed to Rhegium. After one day a south wind came up, and we arrived on the second day in Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and sisters who urged us to stay with them for a week. In this way we came to Rome. 15 When the brothers and sisters there heard about us, they came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and was encouraged. 16 When we entered Rome, Paul was permitted to live by himself, with a soldier guarding him.

30 Paul lived in his own rented quarters for two full years and welcomed everyone who came to see him. 31 Unhindered and with complete confidence, he continued to preach God’s kingdom and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ.

SERMON NOTES:

Have you ever stood watch for the approach of someone you’re waiting for? I think in some ways children are better at excited anticipation, perhaps because we train them mostly during holidays. Someone, a relative or friend of the family, a special guest from far away sends you communication – a phone call or email – that they’re coming to visit. You’ve heard the news, you’ve cleaned the house, made accommodations and prepared for the exciting arrival. All that’s left to do is wait. I’ve seen my two and a half year old so excited about the arrival of house guests he didn’t even know that he would dance around the living room, pausing at certain intervals to run to the glass windows surrounding our front door to look at the driveway hoping to see a vehicle pulling up. The awaited guest arrives and in a celebratory rush of energy there are those in the house who can’t wait for them to get down the sidewalk and onto the front porch, so you rush out to meet them! High pitched greetings are exchanged, hugs are given, and you help them with their luggage as a feeling of gratitude surges through you that finally this beloved guest is at your home at last.

It was three years before his arrival that Paul had sent his letter to the Christians in Rome to tell of his projected visit. When he finally gets there three years later, Acts 28 tells us “brothers and sisters” came to meet him along the Appian Way. Some walked all the way to wait at the Three Taverns about thirty-three miles from Rome. Others walked ten miles farther to meet Paul at the Forum of Appius.

Paul had begun his letter to the Romans this way…

Rom 1:1-4
“From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news. God promised this good news about his Son ahead of time through his prophets in the holy scriptures. His Son was descended from David. He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Why were the Roman Christians so excited to finally meet Paul? Because he had beautiful feet!

Let’s do an exercise. You visual learners (I’m a visual learner), you visual learners look down at your feet. Ok, you kinetic learners, you who learn best by doing something, stand up and look down at your feet. Now, for you auditory learners we’re going to talk. Look at someone around you and say, “I should have…” (wait for echo) “…beautiful feet.” Repeat. “I should have…” “…beautiful feet.” Ok, you kinetic learners can have a seat. I’m sorry I don’t have a prayer bracelet for you to braid for the remainder of the sermon.

Biblical scholars agree that in Romans 1:1-4 when Paul talks about good news that God has promised in the prophets, he is pointing to Isaiah 52:7. Let’s look at what it says…

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of a messenger
who proclaims peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God rules!”

“Beautiful feet…” Bringing what good news? GOD REIGNS! King Jesus  echoes of Eden have come and it only gets better

Paul’s letter, the book of Romans, is the reason “brothers” came out to meet him on the road. They knew he had beautiful feet!

Think about the context of Paul’s letter. It’s written to the Romans. Who in Rome is called Lord, King, and Savior? Caesar! The Emperor. But Paul brings good news that peace and salvation of an ultimate kind have come, because in Jesus Christ, God rules!

And what is this “salvation” according to Isaiah 52:7? Deliverance from captivity and exile. Full freedom and eternal peace and wholeness have come, because the God of Zion, the God of Israel reigns. God has returned and is returning to Jerusalem. And this just happens to be the same chapter of Isaiah where we find the famous passage about God’s “suffering Servant.” So this Messiah will suffer and bear an unimaginable burden of sin and shame…but as Paul proclaims and we still proclaim today, He is risen. He is risen indeed! And thus we know, God rules.

Ephesians 6:15, where Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God, he says we are to have our “feet fitted with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”

You are a messenger of the gospel. God reigns. Every day everywhere we go we should have beautiful feet, feet that are prepared to offer the gospel of peace, because we are living witnesses that Jesus is Lord, the King has come, and He rules. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is (silence)? That’s right, freedom.

On this Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who died for the cause of freedom. And there is One whom we memorialize, because He died so that the whole world could be free. But unlike all the others, while we memorialize His death we celebrate that He is as alive as ever. For freedom He died, and for freedom He rose! And we get to be His ambassadors to a world of death, suffering, tragedy, shame, brokenness and pain. We get to bear His light in darkness. We get to sing in a world of sadness.

Rome = the world

The last verse in the whole book of Acts could be considered the image of the whole book. It’s the graphic conclusion of the ending of a book that is not the end of the story. It leaves the story victoriously open and gives all of us a job to do: The gospel going forth “unhindered.”

Acts 28:31
“Paul continued to preach the Kingdom of God and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete confidence unhindered.”