Sunday, October 26, 2014

Our Time is in His hand Acts 12

Our Times are in His Hands
Acts 12:1-19
Introduction:  I told you before the story of my nephew who died of leukemia at the age of 6.  Even back then we were given much hope when he was diagnosed.  The kind of leukemia he had had a 90% cure rate.  Even so, six weeks later he had died. Nine out of ten lived, he was one who did not. Does life at times seem random? Two children with the same disease, one lives, the other is taken at a young age. An IED explodes on a roadside in Afganistan, one soldier is killed instantly, another escapes, unscathed.  There is a car accident, one teenager is killed, another has only a few scratches.  Two healthcare workers giving their time and expertise to help Ebola sufferers in west Africa, seemingly taking the same precautions, yet one contracts the disease, while the other remains healthy.  We’ve heard the stories of missionaries, some who serve 40 or 50 years without incident, others, like Jim Eliot and Nate Saint and their team, martyred seemingly before they get started. All by chance?  Here in Acts 12 we see a similar study in contrast: One leader is put to death, another is miraculously delivered from prison.  Why? And how does God’s sovereign plan relate to His call to His people to pray? We don’t have a lot of details concerning the general persecution that is happening in Acts 12, or the death of James, the emphasis is on the deliverance of Peter and the continued growth of the church as the Lord works out His will in and through the believers.

The Big Idea: God alone numbers our days, and the safest place always is to be at the center of His will.

I. “In the world you will have tribulation…” (1-5). When Jesus made that statement in John 16:33 He was talking to His disciples, his chosen and beloved followers.  The principle applies to every subsequent follower of Jesus: at some level, in some way, we are going to experience suffering in this life. The scene here shows the initiation of yet another period of intense persecution against the believers. This time the apostles are again at the center, specifically two who were part of Jesus’ inner circle. We read in Acts 12:1-5,

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.  2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword,  3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.  4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.  5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
            “About that time…” gives a temporal setting, shifting our attention back to the end of chapter 11 and the offering that was sent by the believers in Antioch to help the church in Jerusalem with famine relief (see also 12:25).  The persecution in Jerusalem makes the willingness of Paul and Barnabas to come to the city with aid all the more impressive, they were risking their own safety it seems to help brothers and sisters in need.  It also tells us that one kind of tribulation, the natural disaster of a famine and drought, is followed by another kind of tribulation, persecution of the Christ followers. 
            Herod is the instigator of this persecution (at a human level at least!). This is one family with a family tree marked by resistance to God! This Herod is the grandson of Herod the Great, who had the innocents slaughtered in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.  He is the nephew of Herod Antipas, who was king at the time of Jesus’ public ministry, and the Father of Herod Agrippa II before whom Paul would appear later in Acts. I don’t know if its “nature” or “nurture”, but the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with these guys! Hungry for power, disregard for human life, rejection of the sovereign rule of God, failure to recognize the presence of God in Christ, characterized each of them.

            The extent of the persecution isn’t too clear; it was against “some who belonged to the church.” Then we are told bluntly, “He put James the brother of John to death with the sword.” James, one of the three that formed the “inner circle,” closest to Jesus during His earthly ministry.  They were there at the transfiguration, they were there in the garden when Jesus is praying passionately on the eve of his arrest and execution.  Simply stated, no details, only that it was with the sword.  This is not just a story, it’s history.  We’ve seen lately in the news images of ISIS terrorists with swords ready to execute those they deem infidels. This is the kind of barbarism the church was experiencing at this moment as well.  In the story of Acts we see the truth that God’s people will not escape pain and suffering in this life. In fact choosing to follow Jesus may make you a target for the enemy! But we are also assured that Jesus is in control, and that He is building His church. Nothing we face, no obstacle the enemy can put before us, will impede what God is doing. As Jesus said elsewhere, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33b).

            V.5b offers hope in the midst of crisis, Peter was arrested, “…but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church…” In the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts the author, Luke the beloved physician, wants his readers to know the importance and the power of prayer. In Luke we see Jesus teaching his disciples, by word and by example, that prayer is necessary, and a privilege and a resource given us by the Father. So Jesus is found praying before every major step of his public ministry. The lesson is clear: if it was important for Jesus to pray while He was in the world, how much more important is it for us!  In Acts the church follows His example. They learned from the Master the importance of prayer. Have we forgotten that lesson? Do we value prayer for what it is, coming into the presence of the Father in the name of the Son and empowered by the Spirit, opening our hearts to the God who is, the God who loves us, the God who invites us to call Him Abba, “Daddy”?  We can pray in faith in any situation, because God is in control, He alone numbers our days, and the safest place always is to be at the center of His will.

II. God is able to rescue us in our time of deepest need (6-11). God didn’t rescue James, but he did deliver Peter. Why? The point is made that the church was “…praying earnestly to God…” for him. Does this imply that prayer was not made for James? It doesn’t say, it is possible that he had been arrested and executed before it was known to the church. It is also possible that prayer had been offered for James as well, and the answer was not what the believers had hoped and asked, we just don’t know with certainty.  For most of the Old Testament book of Job, Job is crying out to God in his pain and misery, with no idea as to why he was passing through such tribulation. At several points and in several ways he says “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer…” (cf. Job 30:20).  When my nephew was diagnosed with leukemia I remember praying fervently, pleading with God for his healing.  Sometimes God’s purpose is not known to us. After James’ death, perhaps Peter wondered what was coming. The story of Peter’s deliverance is reported simply in 12:6-11,
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.  7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands.  8 And the angel said to him, "Dress yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."  9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.  10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.  11 When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."
A couple of take aways here:

First, The Lord knows where we are even in our darkest moments (6-7). Notice the timing of the miracle, “When Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night…” God is never in a hurry, but his timing is always perfect. The hour was approaching when Peter would face the executioner’s sword as James had, that very night, but this time it would be different, this time God intervened.  Eventually, tradition tells us, Peter too would be martyred, crucified upside down. Though James is the only apostle killed in the New Testament, history tells us that all of the apostles, except John who spent his later years in exile, were martyred for their faith. We don’t always know why one is delivered and another is not, but we do know that God had an important part for Peter to play in the counsel in Jerusalem in Acts 15.  His testimony about his role in God’s program expanding to include the gentiles was important at that strategic moment.  He promises to be with us always, even in  the darkest valley, or the darkest prison, or the lonely hospital bed, the moments we would be tempted to despair, He is there.

Secondly, no obstacle we face is too difficult for Him (8-11). This was a desperate situation from a human perspective. James had just been killed, so the threat was real. Chained between two soldiers, two more guarding the door. No hope of escape. Had the end come, was his time at hand? It may have looked that way to Peter and to the church. Peter had been miraculously delivered from prison before, but could he expect such a miracle again (cf. Acts 5:19,20)? Such a miracle had not come for James after all!

Remember the story of Daniel’s friends and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:17,18)? They refused to bow to the image erected by Nebuchadnezzar,

…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

  Our God is able to deliver us. But even if he doesn’t we’ll stay faithful! Ultimately we know God will deliver us. We know that at least if we have an eternal perspective. We don’t live for this life only.  In fact Paul would later write “...If we have hope in this life only we are of all men most to be pitied!” (I Cor 15:19). Whatever trial or tribulation you face, our God is able to deliver. There is no crisis too difficult, no sickness too severe, no tribulation so intense that our God is stymied by it. He is able. And in His way and His time, He will deliver His people. When it serves His purpose and brings Him glory in this life, or ultimately in the resurrection and the New Heaven and the New Earth, we will be delivered.  Jesus is Lord, and He is sovereign, and He alone numbers our days. The safest place always is to be at the center of His will.

III. God is bigger than we know: He is able to do more than we ask or think (11-17).  This part of the story is almost laughable in how it is told, I think Luke must have smiled as he wrote it.  Can you almost picture the scene? 
11 When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."  12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.  13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer.  14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.  15 They said to her, "You are out of your mind." But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, "It is his angel!"  16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.  17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, "Tell these things to James and to the brothers." Then he departed and went to another place.
Peter goes to the house of Mary the mother of John, expecting to find believers gathered there (v.12). They are praying fervently, based on v.5, for the release of Peter. Rhoda recognizes Peter’s voice, but rather than letting him in, she is so excited that she leaves him locked out and runs back into the meeting to report who is outside! First they think she is crazy, then they think it must be an angel, when they finally look, they are “amazed.” It was impossible, inexplicable, yet there he stood!  Notice something about prayer: they were gathered, they were praying, and then they were shocked by God’s answer! Some theology would say that if we don’t get what we are asking for from God, we mustn’t have enough faith. We don’t need great faith to pray, we have a great God who wants us to come, with our mustard seeds of faith mixed with doubt and struggle, crying out to Him, Abba, Daddy, we need you, we are desperate for you! God is in control, He alone numbers our days, and the safest place always is to be at the center of His will.

IV.  Not everyone gets it: Some will be hardened by the revelation Of God (18-19). We see that hardening here with Herod…
18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter.  19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
Morning came, and the guards were shocked, what had happened? How could the prisoner be gone?  There was a “disturbance” among the guards, probably one accusing the other, both shock at the seemingly impossible disappearance of Peter, and fear over what this meant to them. They were in trouble and they knew it!
The reaction of Herod illustrates the hardness of his unbelieving heart. Rather than considering all the options of what had happened, including the supernatural, he has the guards put to death, they must be lying, anything else was unthinkable! He could not, he would not believe anything else.

P.S. The final scene in this chapter, 20-24, is a study in contrast.
20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king's chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king's country for food. [Remember, there was a famine] 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.  22 And the people were shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!"  23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last…

If the best place to be is at the center of God’s will, walking by faith, trusting in His presence, this scene shows the worst place to be: in rebellion against God, in this case committing idolatry by accepting the praise of men, putting yourself in the place of God. Though Herod embodied this kind of rebellion at a profound level, it is really a graphic illustration of all sin. We choose our word or our reason or our way instead of God’s revealed truth, that is sin at its core. Though we don’t always see such immediate and decisive judgment of sinners in this life, we can be assured that everyone one day will give an account before God, and He will judge the world in righteousness.
What is God saying to me in this passage? Jesus is Lord. Nothing and no one can touch us without His permission. He alone numbers our days, and the safest place always is to be at the center of His will.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Have you ever been in the midst of a dark valley, a time of despair or pain or hopelessness, even like Job crying out, “Where are you Lord? Why don’t you answer my prayers?” I’ve been there. Remember Joseph, hated and sold into slavery by his brothers, despite his faithful service falsely accused of sexual assault by the wife of Potiphar and cast into prison, forgotten for a time, but exactly where God wanted him. At the center of his will. And ultimately he was used to save those who had hated and betrayed him.  God was working in Joseph’s life and He is working in yours if you know Him. You will have tribulation in the world, but listen, this is a promise, Jesus has overcome the world, he is, and he will be with you and bring you through whatever valley you experience.  Talk to Him, be honest with Him, trust Him, and believe that His answer is going to be better than you could possibly imagine.  Think about that, AMEN.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Church Planting Churches - Acts 11:19-30

The Church Planting Churches (or, "God's 3-G Network!")
Acts 11:19-30
Introduction: The world has been changed by technology in many ways, one is the instant communication we have. Once a week we "Skype" with our daughter's family down in NJ, and it's been fascinating to us to see our granddaughter interacting with us over the computer screen – it’s all perfectly natural to her, I held my hand up by the camera and said "give me five" and she smacked the computer screen!  I subtitled the message today "God's 3-G Network" but I am not talking about modern technology or smart phones, but rather I'm referring to God's sovereign hand guiding and growing and graciously knitting together a worldwide network of churches that together are His church.
       Lately we have had some opportunities for the body reaching inward, as we seek to encourage one another, and bear each other’s burdens. We are a family, and when we act like it our witness to the world is also enhanced. Remember Jesus’ words, “By this men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  The unity of the body also enhances our ability to carry out our mission in the world.  Acts has shown us the biblical model of disciples making disciples. God doesn’t send angels or speak directly in a voice from heaven to most people, rather He speaks through His followers, people like us, to reach those who need to hear, and to build up those who are in the faith. Disciples making disciples. This passage reminds us that healthy disciple making must occur in relationship to the church as diverse gifts work together in a unified body to build each other up and to carry out our mission to reach the lost. We also see here that the multiplication of healthy churches will be the eventual result. 
The Big Idea: God will use the diverse gifts of his people to build healthy, growing, reproducing churches.
I. The Guided Expansion of the Church: Jesus is building His church even through times of persecution and hardship (19-21). I almost titled this point “the Spontaneous Expansion of the Church,” since that is what it might look like at one level. After all, it was birthed out of persecution, the scattering that happened after Stephen was killed and persecution intensified against the believers in Jerusalem and Judea. However behind the scenes, we see the hand of the Lord providentially guiding the circumstances, working through His Spirit empowered followers, to build His church.  That’s really the big idea in Acts, it’s not just, “Well, look at that, it all worked out in the end!”  Rather, it is “Well, look at that, nothing could stop what Jesus is doing, He works it all out in the end!” So I want to emphasize what God is doing, rather than “The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church,” we see “The Guided expansion of the church,” that’s the first “G” in God’s 3G network.
·        Persecution, Providence, and the Plan of God: Luke reminds us that God worked through a painful situation to accomplish His good purpose…
Remember back in Acts 8:1,4 in the aftermath of the stoning of Stephen we read,
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles...  4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word...”
Even though the opposition to the church had taken a violent and deadly turn, God was not finished, Jesus was still working.  Here at the end of chapter 11, Luke, the master historian and story teller shows us the connection between that event and the next stage in the outward expansion of the church.
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen [see Acts 8:1,4] traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.  20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 
It’s a dramatic flashback in the story, reminding us of the persecution that followed the brutal killing of Stephen and resulted in the “scattering” of the believers in Jerusalem. They weren’t merely dispersed, they were scattered like seeds, preaching the word of Christ as they went.  Even this part of the mission began with an emphasis on the Jews, but the story now takes a momentous turn: some preached the Gospel “to the Greeks also” in Antioch.  Acts has been preparing us for this transition.  The movement outward has been gaining momentum. First the Samaritans and a lone Ethiopian eunuch come to saving faith (Acts 8). Then the persecutor Saul is converted and we are told that he would bring the Gospel, as a chosen instrument of Christ, to the nations (9:1-6, 15,16). Then Peter returns to the story and He receives the vision of a sheet descending from heaven, and the message that there is a deeper significance to that vision, and goes to the home of a gentile to preach Christ. As he is speaking they believe and the Spirit falls, making clear to all the Jews present the connection with the day of Pentecost. Now Luke takes us back to those who were scattered, and shows how they began reaching out to the Greeks as well as to the Jews. All by chance? The Lord is guiding His people as He builds His church. 
·          The Lord’s Hand in the Mission (v.21)  21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 
Notice that it wasn’t cleverly designed church growth strategies, it wasn’t a well planned gospel presentation, it was the “hand of the Lord,” the presence and power of Christ, that brought the growth.  A great number believed and turned to the Lord.  That truth hasn’t changed. The same Jesus is alive, building His church. The same Spirit that filled and empowered the believers in the New Testament is with us and in us today.  Will we yield to Him, available, willing to have a part in His program? You see, nothing has really changed, God will still use the diverse gifts of his people to build healthy, growing, reproducing churches.

II. The Growth of a Missions Minded Church: The church will discern what God is doing and rejoice, and send the workers he has raised up (22-26).
·        An Encouraging development in leadership: Barnabas is sent (22-24)
22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,  24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
If we’ve been reading Acts carefully we probably aren’t too surprised that the Jerusalem church sends Barnabas to Antioch.  He’s appeared in the story a couple of times before this, and even his name (Barnabas = “Son of Encouragement”) reminds us that he is an encourager. He was there in Jerusalem selling land and giving radically and generously to meet the needs of the believers.  He showed up when the Jerusalem church leaders were skeptical of Saul’s conversion and they were afraid to accept him.  And now here he is sent to bring encouragement and stability to a new and growing church.  Since he was from Cyprus he immediately had a connection with the other leaders who were from Cyprus and Cyrene. God has a way of preparing specific people to fill specific needs in his Mission.  And that includes you!  You have been uniquely prepared by God to fill a gap that only you can fill. God is the potter, He has shaped you into the person you are. Your “SHAPE,” as Rick Warren calls it: your spiritual gifts, heart’s desire, abilities, personality, and experiences have all been given and guided by Him to prepare you for the work he wants you to do!
            Barnabas “saw the grace of God and was glad…” How do you see grace? You can see the evidence of it, lives changed, hearts transformed, the handprint of God’s mercy and grace overflowing all around him… And he encouraged them, exhorting them to stay faithful to the Lord, to be intentional in their walk as his disciples.  It was his nature, he was “a good man,” and he was filled with the Spirit, and He believed God…. And God blessed, the church was growing. It seems that new believers were coming into the body, and that believers were using their gifts and growing in the faith.  As Barnabas saw the evidence of God’s grace in those believers, it seems that he remembered a powerful illustration of grace, an example of God’s unmerited favor, the persecutor who was transformed into a preacher of the gospel of Christ.
·        An Expansion of the Team bears fruit: Saul joins the team (25-26)
25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Barnabas saw the work growing and he remembered someone who’s gifts and talent and calling seemed an excellent fit. And so he went and got Saul, the very one who was at the heart of the persecution that scattered the believers from Jerusalem in the first place, no doubt including some who were now a part of this new church in Antioch!  Maybe he saw gifts and abilities, aspects of Saul’s divinely given “S.H.A.P.E.,” that he could envision filling needs in the church in Antioch.  God was not only giving this new church an expert Bible teacher, but he was giving them a living, breathing, example of God’s amazing grace, an illustration of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in a human life!
            Notice that Luke mentions that here, in this church, the disciples were first called “Christians.” The “Christ-people” were probably identified by those around them in a mocking way, “Oh, he’s one of those!” After you came to faith in Christ, were you surrounded by those who accepted and affirmed your new faith in a positive way, or did they mock you? My brothers called me “preacher-boy” but I didn’t mind! I think those who were called “Christians” were not ashamed to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ, their Savior and Master.  Are we peculiar people? I hope so! God will use the diverse gifts of his people to build healthy, growing, reproducing churches.

III.  The Generosity of a Church Engaged in Mission: A healthy, missions minded church will see needs as God sees them, and be moved to compassion (27-30).
·        Believers too can pass through times of hardship (27,28).
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.  28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 
Any of us can come into a situation where unexpectedly we have need or hardship. Sometimes it will be situations that we face individually, sometimes the broader economy, but it can happen. It does happen. We need to care for one another, help one another. In some cases that may involve counselling with the intent of helping people see how they can live within their means, make better choices. In some cases it will mean giving financially to help in emergencies. That is one of the functions of our deacons and deaconesses as they help in the shepherding ministry of the church.  We take a “deacon’s fund” offering once a month, on communion Sunday, not just because that’s what we’ve always done, but to have some funds on hand so that the church can respond to emergency needs, first in the body, and also in the community. We don’t normally know when they will come, only that they will come. So we have a deacons’ fund available to respond. In this passage in Acts the Lord let the church in Antioch know, through Agabus, that there would be a famine in the land, so they determined to give, “…everyone according to his ability…” Agabus will appear again later in the story, warning Paul that He was going to be arrested when he went to Jerusalem.
·          Believers will respond generously to brothers in need (29, 30).
29 So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.  30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
I think that generosity is another evidence of the grace of God, something we can see, something we should be thankful for.
What is God saying to me in this passage? God will use the diverse gifts of his people to build healthy, growing, reproducing churches.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Let’s start with the last point, the radical sharing that was part of the early church. Everyone gave “…according to this ability…”  Sometimes its just the opposite, the proportionately most generous are those who have the least, like the widow who had two mites, and gave it all. I remember the story of the guy who went to his pastor and said when his salary was small he didn't have any problem giving 10% or more to the Lord’s work, but now, it just seemed too much since his salary was so large. The pastor prayed, “Lord, please help this brother to give in proportion to his income, or, bring his income down to the level of his giving!”  I don’t know about individual giving in this church, only that with our tithes and offerings we are able to meet our needs and give to missions, so praise the Lord! But it’s good to be reminded that we are stewards: we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out. It is not only the 10% or so we might give, but 100% of what we have has been entrusted to us by God. We are required to be good stewards. Are we willing to see the needs around us, and be open to what God would have us to do?
            Stewardship extends to another area as well, that is the gifts and talents God has given us. All that we have is because of  Him, our SHAPE, as as I mentioned earlier, our Spiritual gifts, Heart’s desire, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences, are all a part of how God, the Master potter, has formed us. Are we willing to dedicate ourselves to discovering and fulfilling our part in God’s mission?

            Do you recognize God’s sovereign hand providentially guiding circumstances in your life? Have you come to grips with the fact that by grace your story is part of His story?  Even as the story of Jesus was unfolding, even that last week as He went the Cross, He had you in mind. He died for you. In fact, according to the Bible, He knew you from before the foundation of the world! The Lord’s table invites us to remember that, and to love Him more for what He has done.  Think about that, AMEN.