Monday, July 26, 2010

Sermon for 7-25: What to do when you don't know what to do

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk[b] from the city. 13When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
15In those days Peter stood up among the believers[c] (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17he was one of our number and shared in this ministry."
18(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20"For," said Peter, "it is written in the book of Psalms, " 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,'[d] and, " 'May another take his place of leadership.'[e] 21Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."
23So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." 26Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

By the time we get to the second part of the first chapter of Acts, we see the disciples in a holding pattern. Jesus has just ascended to heaven and has told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Then he says they will go out into places near and far and be witnesses of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done with the whole world.

They were told, I repeat, the Holy Spirit WILL come upon you.

Until that happened, until the Holy Spirit came upon them what should they do? What are they supposed to do?

Ever been in a situation like that? When you are kind of in between things? Have you ever been in that kind of situation where one opportunity has passed, and another door has not quite been open to you yet?

Or maybe you are not eagerly hoping for something specific in the future. Perhaps you are just living, and you have retired, and you don’t know what is coming next. You feel like your life is behind you, and you are not sure how to get out of the stuck place that you are at in your life.
I know I have felt like this at times. I wanted to be married. I at least wanted some sort of relationship heading in that direction. I would date a little bit. I would talk to some gals. Then there would be times where I would not find someone I wanted to date at all. Even when the odds were on my side as far as single women went, a phrase that women use about the higher proportion of men to women in Alaska came to mind. The odds were good, but the goods were odd.

Also, I felt led to be a leader of a church while I was serving as an Associate Pastor in Colorado Springs for a couple of years before God opened the door to come here to Fowler. It took time for God to open the right door to where he was calling me to go.

The disciples are in this place between where Jesus has ascended to heaven, and where the Holy Spirit comes to indwell believers on the day of Pentecost and thereafter. As they wait they teach us how live in those waiting, hoping, trying to figure out what is next times. They teach us what to do when we don’t quite know what to do.

There are a few helpful hints to notice as we go. You should see them on your outline as we go along. You can fill that out, or just listen as we go.
Those points are these.
Point 1: They gathered together
Point 2: They prayed together
Point 3: They let the word of God speak to them
Point 4: They obeyed what God said

Let us look at each of these points individually.

Point 1: They gathered together

Perhaps no spiritual practice is so overlooked and disparaged as the importance of believers gathering together. Of course, I know I am preaching to the choir right now, because each of you is here this morning. You have gathered together. But even when we are together, we may take this blessing for granted.
We need each other. We need each other for our own well being, but we also need each other to live out our faith in Jesus Christ in a meaningful and powerful manner.
There are several reasons why gathering together is important, especially in those times when we are seeking and searching for the answer to that “what to do question”
· We find wise council from and with others (Proverbs 15:22)
· We find people with different gifts and perspectives to offer (Rom 12)
· We find accountability (Matt. 18: 15-17)
· We find greater power in prayer (Matt. 18: 19-20)

So often our world drives us so hard toward independence. Scripture leads us toward interdependence on one another. We are made to need one another. We are made to lean on one another.

If you feel stuck in wondering what to do, come here. Share your heart with the people here. Allow their listening words and kind actions to lift you up, to offer you hope. Let us pray with you. Cry with you. Sing with you. Hope with you.

Point 2: They prayed together

If you notice nothing else in the book of Acts, I want you to notice how the early church prayed. How the apostles prayed. How when they were joyful, they thanked God in prayer together. How when they were scared, they gathered together in prayer to pray through their fear. You need to notice that when they early church faced a big decision, they bathed it in prayer. And, when they were suffering, they brought their confusion and heartache to the Lord in prayer. We tend to think we need to go to prayer when everything is out of our hands, and we have no control. Instead, we need to be in the habit of taking everything to God in prayer. Nothing is to trivial. Nothing that is important to you is unimportant to your heavenly father.

I want you to notice that the Scripture said they prayed TOGETHER. This is hard for some of us. We go to the Sermon on the Mount and we read that we need to go to our closet to pray. And we understand that means to pray in private.

When we are told to go to our closet to pray, we are told not to make prayer a show. Not to do prayer as a performance art so that other folks are impressed.

Scripture calls us both to pray in our closet, and to gather together for prayer.

We need to pray for each other. We also need to pray with one another.

Scripture says that there is power when we gather together in prayer. Scripture promises the presence of Christ in our midst when we gather together to pray.

Prayer is especially important when we are seeking to figure out what to do when we do not know what to do. We need to gather friends around us to pray for us. We need to enlist our church to pray with us and for us in times of stress, in times of grave concern, but also in those times when we need to have God lead us in what we should do with our next day, our next week, and the rest of our lives.

It would be so exciting even if after this service you found two other people to gather together with you and pray for you once a week. Pray for each other. Support each other. We are not only called to gather together, we are called to pray together.

Point 3: They let the word of God speak to them

The Bible is an amazing book. It is God’s word. It is without flaw. You would do well to know it. You would do well to study it. It would even be better if you understood what you studied. The Bible is written, though, so that you will let it speak to your life and situations you live in.
The story goes that there was a nobleman that was taken prisoner. He asked for a Bible as his only possession. He read it and he read it. This impressed people who checked in on him and watched him. Then he died, and then went into his dungeon cell. And they looked around and there were notes on the wall. Tallies on how many names were in the Bible. All sorts of other trivia. Really meaningless trivia about the Bible. It became apparent to his jailers that he learned the facts about the Bible, but he had little interest in what it meant or how it could make its way into his heart.

My friends, I want you to read the Bible. I want you to be faithful in doing it. But I don’t just want you to know facts and figures about the history of Scripture. I want you to allow the truths of Scripture, the stories in the word of God, the proverbs and the prayers, I want you to let all of that speak into your life. I want you to not just know the Bible, I want you to let the Bible guide and direct your life. I pray that the Bible will guide and direct your decisions.

I pray that as you read Scripture you will be challenged about how you raise your kids, treat your spouse, how you speak to your neighbor, and how you talk about people around your friends. I pray that the Word of God will speak into how you live and relate in relationship with others.

I pray you will allow the Word of God to speak to how you make your decisions, how you spend your time, and how you spend your money. I pray you would allow the Word of God to influence what you listen to, what you watch, how you drive your car, what you speak about, and what you think about.

The early church allowed the Word of God to speak to their specific situation. They found Scriptures after they prayed that spoke to a specific situation. In their case, it was what to do with their small little community after one person had betrayed their cause and killed himself. They found Scriptures about the Messiah which seemed to say that they needed to appoint another apostle, so that is what they went about doing. They sought God through his Word, and they allowed Scripture to speak to their lives where they were at.

Point 4: They obeyed what God said

We can pray and pray and pray and pray for God’s guidance.

We can study God’s Word for hours on end asking him to speak to us.

We can gather with other believers every time the church is open.

We can do all these things. However, if we are not willing and ready to obey God and his leading, we will end up feeling stuck, lost, alone, and awash in a sense of depression and hopelessness.
God speaks to us so that we can obey what he asks us to do.

The disciples felt like God was leading them to put someone in Judas’ position after his death. They found suitable candidates. They cast lots. They installed the person as apostle that they felt led toward.

God may lead us to do things that are uncomfortable. He may simply ask us to be still and know that he is God. God may not want to change our actions as much as our attitude. We need to obey.

If God says we need to forgive someone, we better do it.

If we feel led to have a more positive attitude and a more thankful heart after we pray, we better obey that leading.

If God speaks to you, you better obey. You better not harden your heart.

The disciples gathered together. They prayed together. They sought God in his Word. They obeyed what they had been led by God to do. They did this, and they conquered an empire with the power of their faith without ever lifting a sword.

What will you let God do in your heart, in your church, in your life. There is no limit in what God can do through us if we have the heart that they had back then. May the Lord find us faithful.

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