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Searching for Hope. (Romans 15:1-13) FOLLOW THE STAR

Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote: “To live without hope is to cease to live.” As human beings we need hope, and yet so often what we end up placing our hope in disappoints us and lets us down. In a world filled with politicians, products, and people that don’t live up to the promises they make to us. In a time where the hope of perpetual progress seems to have been dashed; where can we find the hope we need? In Romans 15:1-13 Paul shows us how the hope we’ve been searching for is ultimately found in Christ. In him we can find a hope that will never fail, never disappoint, a can transform our lives and overflow out of us to bring transformation to the world around us.

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Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (Acts 20:17-38)

As Paul says a tearful goodbye to the elders of the church in Ephesus we see two things about his ministry and calling. First, we see that wherever God placed Paul for however long He placed him there Paul was fully present and invested. His life, lived out daily, gave testimony to the message he proclaimed. The second thing we see is that Paul didn’t hesitate to go when God had a new assignment for him, even when that assignment was likely to lead to his suffering and even his death. For most of us it’s easy to become slaves of either the future or slaves to our comfort. We’re either too busy thinking about what God might have for us later that we don’t invest where He has placed us now or we get so comfortable with where we are now that we aren’t obedient to Him when He calls us someplace new. We need to be a people who are fully invested in the mission of God wherever He has placed us now and fully ready to obey the call of God wherever it may take us in the future.

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Jesus + Nothing (Acts 15 with reference to Acts 13:17-43) (K)

It’s one thing to confess that salvation comes through Christ alone, but it’s another to truly believe it and live it out. With Gentiles now being included into what had previously been a Jewish-only church the idea that Jesus alone saves began to be put to the test. What about circumcision? What about the Jewish dietary laws? Doesn’t being a Christian also require one to follow the law of Moses? Even today it can be a struggle for us to believe that Jesus alone is enough to save. Can you be saved and not baptized? Doesn’t being a Christian also require giving to the church? Serving in the Church? Reading your Bible? While all of those are good things, maybe even obvious fruit of someone who has truly been saved, what the council of Jerusalem proclaimed and what God makes clear in scripture, is that salvation = Jesus + nothing.

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Saul: Persecutor to Proselytizer (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-31)

If you were a member of the early Christian community the last person in the world you would have expected to become a key individual in God’s plan to grow and expand His church would have been Saul of Tarsus. In Acts 8:3 Luke describes Saul as “ravaging the church” going from house to house dragging off men and women who were Christians and sending them to prison, yet by the time we come to Acts 9:20 that same Saul is “proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues saying, “He is the Son of God.” The story of Saul is a reminder that God works in unexpected ways through unexpected people and is proof that no matter their past, no one is beyond the transforming power of God’s grace.

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A Multiplying Mission Requires Multiplying Leaders (Acts 6)

As the church grew, it’s systems and structures needed to grow as well to make sure that the mission of the church could continue to move forward. This meant the identification and installation of new leaders. These leaders were chosen first and foremost based on their character and faith, but also based on the changing needs and nature of the growing community. If we are going to be a multiplying church we also need to be a church that multiplies leaders.

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Powered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-47) (K)

When Christ gave the mission of being His witnesses to the world it was accompanied by a promise: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” In chapter 2 of Acts we see the promise of Jesus fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. It was on that day that the church was born. Without the person of the Holy Spirit there is no power in the church, we have no ability to accomplish the mission God has tasked us with, but with the power of the Holy Spirit a fisherman who fled Jesus at His hour of need can preach boldly and see thousands repent and come to Christ, language barriers can be stripped away so that the gospel can be understood, a community of radical connection and generosity can be formed amongst people who may share nothing else in common, and God can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

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The Justice Filter

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to focus on the things that happen to us that seem unfair? Unjust? Many people get trapped in a prison of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness because they can’t let go of injustice. Instead of focusing on slights and injustices God calls us to focus on what is just. This means both focusing on the fact that God is just and we can trust Him to do what is just on our behalf (Romans 12:19, Psalm 37:28), and it means focusing on how we can be part of seeing the justice of God done in a world, filled with injustice. (Isaiah 1:17, Micah 6:8, Jeremiah 22:3)

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The Honour Filter

Have you ever noticed how quick we are to criticize and tear down and how slow many of us are to encourage and honour others? God wants His people to be people who are focused on looking for the things in others, that are commendable and worthy of honour. He wants us to be the type of people who encourage others and build up one another. Here’s a short list of some of the people and things we are called to honor: Parents (Deut. 5:16), other Christians (Romans 12:10), marriage (Hebrews 13:4), elders in the church (1 Timothy 5:17), rulers (1 Peter 2:17). What would it look like if we trained ourselves to be on the look out for opportunities to honour and commend rather than to criticize and find fault?

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The Truth Filter

We live in a world where it can feel impossible to determine what is true. As Christians, we determine truth by starting with Scripture. Jesus reminds us in John 17:17 that, God’s word is true and in John 16:13, we’re reminded that every Christian has the Holy Spirit living in them who is also referred to as the Spirit of Truth. In contrast to that, we face an enemy in Satan, who is a liar (John 8:44) and he uses lies to attack us. If we are to not only survive but thrive as followers of Jesus, we need to commit ourselves to being people who filter every word and thought through the truth of God’s word.

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Prone to Wander (Exodus 32)

Even as Moses is up on Sinai receiving instructions for how the people are to worship God, Israel begins the construction of and worship of an idol. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 106. They exchanged their Glory, for an image of a bull, which eats grass.. They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Just like Israel in moments of uncertainty our faith can get wobbly and we can so easily fall back into worshipping the old gods we thought we had left behind.