Saul Ravages the Church

August 12, 2011

 

If I were on God’s Marketing Team, I would have included these awesome aspects of the early church in the Book of Acts:

  • Prayer meetings that are so powerful they are interrupted by earthquakes.
  • Supernatural healings.
  • Preaching that turns the hearts of thousands.
  • Togetherness beyond words.

What I would NOT have included is:

  • Persecution of the church.

But as we are honest with ourselves in our read about the early church in the Book of Acts, we see not only the things we would love to see in greater measure today, but also a very violent opposition to followers of Jesus.  On further investigation, we recognize that this opposition becomes a persistent theme throughout the entire New Testament account of the lives of followers of Jesus in the first century church.

But persecution of the church is not just limited to the first century.  It turns out that there may have been more Christians killed EACH YEAR in the past 100 years than in the entire first 100 years of the church.

As we continue to read the Book of Acts, we are astonished to learn that:

  • Persecution was not a surprise for the early church.
  • Persecution was not a setback for the early church.
  • Persecution was a key component in the testimony of the man Saul, who later went on to become one of the greatest evangelists and church starters the world has ever seen.

While we don’t always understand how things work in the moment of such difficulty, we clearly see that the God we serve has the ability to turn even dire circumstances into opportunities for the story of Jesus and His love to move forward effectively.

If you would care to look ahead, feel free to review Acts 8:1-3, which will be the centerpiece for our discussion.

Come and join us on Sunday at 5 PM as we CONNECT in shared space at 5413 Blue Ridge Cutoff, as we share a Sermon called “Saul Ravages the Church”.

Advertisements

God Converts an Act of Terror into a Triumph of Love

August 3, 2011

 

As we have been studying the Book of Acts, we have encountered prayer, preaching, and supernatural healings.  We have also taken note of ongoing persecution of the early church.

In this week’s reading, we will witness the account of the first murder of a Christ follower.  Although Stephen’s position was a food server, and not a preacher or evangelist, he was the first Christian martyr in history.

While some might have expected the violent oppression to quench the fire of the young church, Stephen’s reactions actually turned an act of terror into a triumph, and have served as a model for Christians facing persecution worldwide down through the ages. 

(By the way, an estimated 70 million Christians have paid for their faith with their lives–a staggering 2/3 of these in the last century!)

Here are some of the questions we will answer this Sunday:

o How does persecution of the church fit into God’s plan?
o How does God prepare the church for persecution?
o How does Stephen demonstrate he has been freed from fear of death in this passage?
o How does God put Love on display through the gruesome details of the murder of Stephen?

If you would care to look ahead, feel free to review Acts 7:54-60, which will be the centerpiece for our discussion.

Come and join us on Sunday at 5 PM as we CONNECT in shared space at 5413 Blue Ridge Cutoff, as we share a Sermon called “God Converts an Act of Terror into a Triumph of Love”.