Monday, August 28, 2017

Bloom Where You're Planted

If our passage looks a little familiar to you, it may be because we recently looked at it in the broader context of Paul’s sermon at Mars Hills (see blog post here).  Sometimes I have a disquieting feeling like, “How did I end up here at this stage of my life?” Out of all the places in the world, is this where I’m supposed to be? Or maybe you will recognize this feeling – when you go on vacation somewhere and think, “Why don’t we just move here? After all, life is short and we should maximize our enjoyment before it’s too late.”  Let’s take a deeper look at how God’s purposes for us (Position, Place, Preparation) can help us bloom just where He has planted us. 

Acts 17:26
From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Things to think about:
·       Where sounds like a dream destination to you?
o   What does that place have that your hometown doesn’t?
o   What doesn’t it have that your hometown does have?
·      Does this feeling of discontent ever crop up in your mind?
o   How do you address it?
·      We live in the richest country the world has ever known. We have been blessed materially as well as with great freedoms. In the book of Esther, a young Jewish girl Esther had risen from being a nobody to the lofty role of Queen.  There develops a devious plan to kill all of the Jews and her Uncle Mordecai tells her in Esther 4:14, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
o   How does our relative royalty imply an obligation to those who are not in a position to adequately fend for themselves?
o   Ephesians 5:13-14, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

·      As we see in our verse today, God has marked out the times and places for people, including you and me.  He has you uniquely situated to be of service to Him and others.
o   Eph. 6:10 - Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

  •     Opportunity is really a function of place and time
o   How has God used you in your neighborhood, place of work, or other social arenas to be His light in the darkness?
o   Is there anything holding you back from being even more available?
·      As believers, we are all in a state of constant refinement to become “holy as He is holy”.  This is called sanctification.  In Genesis, we read of Joseph being stuck in prison for years after being sold into slavery by his brothers and then unjustly accused by Potiphar’s wife.  It might seem that this was a huge waste of time. But we know that Joseph was a little cocky and had some growing up to do. This was so that he could become the man God would later use to save both Egypt and his family through the great seven-year famine.
o   Can you reflect on a time when you went through a season that wasn’t particularly pleasant but now you can see how His hand was shaping you for a greater work?
§  Psalm 66:10 - For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.
o   Are you going through such a time now?
·      Phil. 1:12-14, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
o   Paul bloomed where God had planted him. Even though it was in a Roman prison, Paul was able to see the hand of God moving in his life to impact people for eternity.
o   2 Corinthians 2:15-16, “ For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”

·      God has sent you to where He has planted you.  Now let your fragrance rise to please your Father and grow His family!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Total Eclipse

Happy Eclipse Day!
Today was fun with America experiencing the eclipse of the sun by the moon.  For a 70-mile wide swath cut across the US, there was a total eclipse. A lot of people I spoke to were excited by the event and made sure to get outside while it was passing through their region. When I went out, there was an eerie darkening (but not darkness) that enveloped the area, kind of like when a big thunderstorm is approaching. As we all know, during a solar eclipse, the moon takes an unusual position relative to the Earth and sun, effectively blocking out the sun’s light. It is amazing that such a small orb, with no natural light of its own, can block out the immense energy and light of the powerful star that makes our mere existence possible.  Without working the metaphor too hard, let’s see how Man can get into a position relative to the Son and block His light from reaching others.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Things to think about:
·       Jesus says that we are to let our light so shine before others that God is glorified
o   What is the source of our light?
§  Our innate goodness?  Good deeds? Something else?
§  2 Corinthians 4:6 - For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
o   Why does the light of our good deeds attract others to God?
§  Did someone shed light in your life through his or her good deeds that made God attractive to you?
§  Why isn’t the power of our words enough to persuade others?
·      As we noted, it is the orbit of the Moon relative to the Sun that creates the darkness.
o   How do the orbits of Man block the light of the Son?
§  Busyness
§  Worry
§  Pride
§  Lust
§  Greed
§  Indifference
§  Blindness
§  Selfishness
§  Laziness
§  Anger
§  Ambition
o   Which of these orbits do you have a natural gravity to drift into? Are there others you can think of?
o   If you have experienced some measure of victory in one of these orbits, what advice would you give a brother operating in darkness?
·      Only you and God may see some of the spiritual eclipses. Man looks on the outside but God sees the heart.
o   Others are maybe obvious to others and we are in the dark (wives and kids are good for helping us in this area!)
o   Let’s ask God to cast light into the darkness and get us back into our right position with Him and the Son
·      Who is on your heart right now that motivates you enough to not block the Son?

Monday, August 14, 2017


God had sent Paul on a missionary journey and one of his stops was in Athens.  He needed to stay there while he was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him.  It is during this time that he gave one of his most famous sermons at a place called Mars Hill.   I’ve highlighted verse 23 because there is a lot we can learn from his style of engaging with people who don’t necessarily see the world as you or I might.

Acts 17:23
 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Things to think about:
·      I love this little excerpt because it says so much about how to reach people.
o   I walked around
§  Paul was in Greece, a very foreign place for a well-bred Jew.  Rather than keep to himself, he went about into the area and explored it.
o   I looked carefully at your stuff
§  He made it a point to be observant of their culture, the things that were of interest to the local people.
o   I especially remember this one thing
§  Paul calls out on item in particular that gave him a point of connection from which he could share the good news.
·      Paul was very intentional in his approach. He got out of his comfort zone and steeped himself in the culture of the folks of Athens.  He wanted to know what they believed, not just tell them what he believed. He even identified a specific, relevant example that provided a door through which he and they could walk.
o   What else do you notice about Paul’s style of engagement?
o   How different of an approach is that compared to today where many just want to scream/tweet louder than the next person?
·      Let’s get level set on what’s going on here and take a step back:
o   While he was mingling with the locals, he spoke with all kinds, not just likeminded people (Jews, God-fearing Greeks, as well as whoever happened to be there). Paul was not an intellectual or religious snob.
o   Just like today, there were hyper-liberals (Epicureans) and hyper-conservatives (Stoics). And just like today, they insulted him by calling him a babbler and peddler of weird ideas.
o   They basically put him on their version of a talk show to interview him on his wacky philosophy.  It is at this point he makes his observation about their altar to an Unknown God.
·      He effortlessly pivots from this Unknown God to the one true God who created everything, gives life to everyone, as well as everything we need.   For in Him we live and move and have our very being.
o    God determined the times and places of all human history so men might seek Him and reach out to Him, though He is not far from each of us.
§  He is still doing this today! You are who you are and where you are by His perfect design so you can know Him.
·      But the real stumper for the men of Athens was the assertion that Jesus was raised from the dead.
o   vv. 30-34 - …but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. 
·      Did you ever think that in 2017 you would wind up where you live? (I didn’t!)  But here we are by God’s perfect plan.
o   If you haven’t already, now is a good time to seek Him and reach out to Him.  In Him we have our very being!
o   If you have already taken the step of faith and turned to the one God has made Judge, then how can you take a lesson from Paul to understand other’s points of view and have rational discussions to shed truth amid darkness?

o   Not everyone will believe but that is between him or her and God.  The important thing is that we partake in His work and help others to believe in The Known God.