Sunday, October 30, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Snapshots of the Early Church"

“Snapshots of the Early Church”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
October 30, 2011
Acts 4:32-5:42

We’re calling our study of Acts, “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania,” the amazing spread of the gospel from the moment when Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

That’s exactly what is happening as the promised Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and empowered the apostles to preach the good news about Jesus and His resurrection.

More than 5,000 people have already been saved and baptized and added to this new community called “the church” – even though there is rising opposition from the Jewish religious leaders.

When we left off last time, the church was having a prayer meeting where they called upon their Sovereign Lord to consider the threats of the religious leadership and to enable the church to speak God’s word with great boldness and to stretch out His hand and heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.

And that’s exactly what God did.

He answered their prayer, first with an earthquake, and then with renewed boldness in gospel witness.

... The next few sections of Acts are what I call “Snapshots of the Early Church.”  That is, they are vignettes, little stories that tell us a little bit of what the early days of the early church were like.

Can you imagine living in those days, being a part of the early church as it just gets off the ground?

What was it like?

Well, Luke can’t tell us everything.

But he carefully chooses some of the early events of the life of the early church to give us a feel for it and help us to understand the big story.

This morning, I’ve got five couplets, five pairs of words to describe these snapshots of the early church.  I think that we’ll see that all of them apply in some way to us today.

Here’s the first snapshot:


What was the it like in those early days of the early church.

Two words: unity and generosity.  Acts chapter 4, verse 32.

“All the believers were one in heart and mind [unity]. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had [generosity]. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.”

Notice again, how the apostles are witnessing.  The word translated “testify” in verse 33 is the verb of the Greek word for “witness.”  They are eyetwitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that’s their message.

Jesus is alive!
Jesus is alive!
Jesus is alive!

That’s what they keep saying over and over again.

And it changes everything. That brings them together so that they are “one in heart and mind.”  What a great thing to enjoy!

We had another good church family meeting last Sunday. You know in some churches, that’s a meeting that you take a side-arm to, but we enjoy a lot of gospel-like-mindedness. Unity. And it’s a God-thing!

Not just unity, but generosity.  “No one claimed that any of his possession wa his own, but hey shared everything they had.”

Now, it doesn’t mean that they completely gave up private property and private ownership. We’ll see that clearly in just a few seconds.

But these followers of Jesus had begun to realize that they were stewards, not of their own money, but of God’s and that God wanted them to share.

They became generous. And that had an amazing effect. V.34

“There were no needy persons among them [wow!]. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

Notice that people still owned lands and houses, etc. They still had private property, but they saw needs and they generously made gifts to meet those needs.

And if you were in that early church, you were going to be taken care of or taking care of others.  Generosity.

And there was one who was especially encouraging as he did. A guy named, “Joe.”  V.36

“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.”

Wouldn’t you like to have a nickname like that?

We all know a few people like that, the Barnabas’s in our lives.

Oh, to be known as a Son of Encouragement!

Barnabas was not just an encourager with words, but he was an encourager with his possession.  He was generous.

Our church is also marked by unity and generosity.

I love how many shoeboxes have been taken and are being filled with love to be sent to needy children around the world.

You remember last year was my mother-in-laws last year to send shoeboxes. She normally sent about 60 all by herself.  Well, there is a group in the church that Heather’s sister goes to that has taken it upon themselves to make sure that Linda’s 60 boxes get sent again this year now that she’s graduated to Heaven.

Unity and Generosity.

But also #2. DISCIPLINE & FEAR.

Those sound like scarey words, but they aren’t really. They are good things.

Not everything was good in the early church all the time. A true picture of the early church will keep in mind that these followers of Christ were still sinners.

And there were even fakes among them.

In chapter 4, we met Barnabas, Son of Encouragement. In chapter 5, we meet Ananias and Sapphira, who were the exact opposite of Barnabas.  V.1

“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property [Just like Barnabas!]. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.”

Our word for this is FRAUD.

Do you understand the financial situation?

They sell a field. They keep back some of the money, but they bring it and put it at the apostle’s feet as if it were the whole amount.

They are lying.

But they don’t get away with it. V.3

“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? [Yes it did. Private owenership.] And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? [Yes it was.] What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’”

“When Ananias heard this [bam, thunk], he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.”  Get him out of here.

Discipline and Fear. There is more. V.7

“About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. [Her husband has been buried, and she doesn’t know it yet!] Peter [giving her a chance] asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’ ‘Yes,’ she [lied], ‘that is the price.’ Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment [boom] she fell down at his feet and died.Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

What is going on here?

God is purifying His church.

There is a message going out from the beginning that you can’t bamboozle the Lord.

Sin will be dealt with.

Just like, in the Old Testament, Nadab and Abihu or Achan at Jericho.

It isn’t teaching that every time someone lied they died.  That would probably change some behavior, huh?

But it did put the fear of God in them.

And the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

God desires a pure church.  A church that is not faking it.

A church that is real.

A church that is what it says that it is.

Not perfect. But not fake, either.

Is there some aspect of your life where you are faking it right now?

And holding something back that you say that you are giving?

God is not fooled. He knows.

And we must know that the wages of sin is death.

Jesus didn’t die for no reason. He died because sin deserves it.

And He took that on for you and me.

Sometimes, we act as if sin was no big deal.

But the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Third snapshot.

#3. POWER & FAVOR.  V.12

“The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.”

Power and Favor.

These are answers to the prayers of the church back in chapter 4.

Imagine what that must have been like!

It wasn’t like that fakery you see on religious television.

This was the real deal, and it didn’t have anything to do with “Send us your check to keep us on the air!”

It appears that God was even using Peter’s shadow at the moment for healing.

And all of that power was testifying to the power of the resurrection and the power of Jesus’ name. V.14 again.

“More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”

The church at this moment was experiencing the favor of the Lord and the favor of the people.

Some people will tell you that the church is always going to be despised.

And that’s true. There will always be people who despise the church.

But there will also be people who approve of the church. And they won’t necessarily even be believers.

I’m glad that our church enjoys favor with others in our community. I’m sure that bad things have been said about us at times.

But in general, I think that our community is glad that we’re here.

I love that we offer things that the community can enjoy like that playground out there and like the free concert on Saturday.  Even if they have not yet accepted our message–even if our message is offensive, they might be able to appreciate our ministry to people.

V.13, “highly regarded by the people.”

But there were some people who were not at all happy that the early church was experiencing power and favor!

I thought about calling this next section, “Jealousy and Fury” because that’s what it’s about.

But we’ll call it this: #4. OPPOSITION & FAITHFULNESS. V.17

“Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.”

We’re going to see the inside of a number of jails in the book of Acts.

And that is normal for Christians throughout history.

Jail is not unusual. And we should remember that.

The apostles, then Paul, later Christians in the Coliseum, Athanasius, folks like Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

And many more non-famous Christians throughout history.

Christians often see the inside of a jail-cell.  Jesus did.

And if you and I are going to claim Jesus as Lord then we should be ready to follow Him. 

But!  V.19!  “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’”

Isn’t that interesting?

An angel appears. He lets them out. And he tells them to keep on preaching.

Very interesting phrase, “tell the people the full message of this new life.”

That’s the gospel!

And I think this phrases emphasizes the resurrection and the new spiritual life that we get when we believe in Jesus.

“Tell the people the full message of this new life.”

And they did. I mean, wouldn’t you?  If an angel broke you out of jail and told you that the reason was that you needed to get to preaching?! V.21

“At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin–the full assembly of the elders of Israel–and sent to the jail for the apostles.”

Uh oh.

I love the humor in the book of Acts. Especially about apostolic jailbreaks.

As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”  V.22

“But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, ‘We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ [It’s like something out of Hogan’s Heroes!] On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.’

Uh oh. I don’t think that we can control this message.

This is getting away from us.  Panic!

“At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. [Favor!] Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. [Opposition. Hey!] ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.’

Well, yeah.

“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!”


In the face of opposition, faithfulness and obedience.

“The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. [You are guilty of this man’s blood!] God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. [That’s the gospel!] We are witnesses of these things [there it is again!], and so is the Holy Spirit [the ultimate witness], whom God has given to those who obey him.’

Faithfulness in the face of opposition.

Now, it’s been kind of funny up till now, because things are clearly out of their control.

But all of a sudden it’s not funny at all. It’s deathly serious. V.33

“When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. [Think before you act.] 

Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.

Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’”

That’s good advice.

And it’s exactly what happened, isn’t it?

Here we are reading about it 2000 years later.

We don’t even know who Theudas and Judas are, but we know about Jesus and His apostles.

Try to stop Jesus and His church, and you will only find yourselves fighting against God.


“His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

Faithfulness in the face of opposition.

More than that.


I remember when verses 40-42 finally sunk in to my thick skull.

They had them flogged. That was probably the 40 lashes minus one.

39 lashes with a “three stranded strap of calf hide” (Bock 252).

On the back and the chest.  Some people have died from that flogging due to loss of blood.

And how did the apostles react?

V.41 “rejoicing that they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

Are you willing to go through that for Jesus?

Is Jesus worth a flogging to you?

Because these people understood that He was worth so much that it is worth rejoicing over to suffer for His name!

The Sanhedrin hoped that the flogging would stop them.

And it did no such thing.  V.42

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

I know that gospelizing is not a word, but it should be.

The Greek word here for “preaching the good news” basically means that–gospelizing.  Good-news-preaching (one word).

Jesus is alive!
Jesus is alive!
Jesus is alive!
Jesus saves!
Jesus saves!
Jesus saves!

Believe in Jesus!
Turn to Him!
Trust Him!

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

With their backs torn open by the whips of the Sanhedrin!

How is that for snapshot of the early church?

Unity and Generosity.
Discipline and Fear.
Power and Favor.
Opposition and Faithfulness.
Rejoicing and Gospelizing even with their backs ripped open, suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus.

Here’s the one application question that I want to close with.

There could be many from those snapshots, and I hope that we’ve all seen some things that we want to talk to the Lord about from this passage.

But this is the question I want to linger in our minds as we leave and go about our weeks:

What is stopping you?


“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

What is stopping you from gospelizing?

What is stopping you from teaching others about Jesus?
What is stopping you from inviting someone to this Saturday’s concert?
What is stopping you from giving your testimony to someone or handing them a gospel tract or book?

I don’t mean what is stopping you from being a jerk about Jesus.

We don’t need Jerks for Jesus.

But what is stopping you from genuinely gospelizing?

I’ll bet its not a flogging.

Jesus is so glorious, so wonderful, so worthy that we can rejoice that when we are counted worthy of suffering disgrace from His name.

What is stopping you?

Let’s go out from here today bent on following the advice of that jailbreaking angel, who said, “tell the people the full message of this new life.”

Messages So Far In this Series:

You Will Be My Witnesses
Before Pentecost

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fish Stickers

Matt Frey on Decal Deception.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Look Again"

“Look Again”
October 23, 2011
Celebration Sunday
Matthew 9:35-38

We will return to the book of Acts next Sunday, but I wanted to do something special and different for this Celebration Sunday. Something that ties with our past and points to our future as a church. So, we turn to Matthew 9.

Before we launch into Matthew 9:35-38, I want to take a few seconds to say thank you.

This is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I always think of that as Church Family Appreciation Month for us Mitchells.  We appreciate you.  Thank you, Church Family for all that you mean to us.  All that you’ve done for us and all that you mean to us. We love you.

Thank you for this little blurb that was in the Progress last week.  It had this picture of a bald and goateed man and it said, “Pastor Matt, Thank you for helping us to dig treasures from the scriptures for over 13 years. Lanse Evangelical Free Church.”

I thought, “Vroom, Vroom!” I love how you said that, drawing words out of our song “Nuggets of Gold” and Family Bible Week this year. And that’s exactly what I want to do as your pastor–help you to dig treasures from the scriptures!

And thank you for sending us to the Pastors and Wives Retreat last weekend. We had  a very good time. After this year of writing in all of my spare time, I needed a weekend just to crash, and I did crash. It was a good weekend for crashing!

But also for inspiration. In a few minutes, I’m going to share with you some of what our speaker said to us that really impacted me. There was a good time of worship, I learned a few new songs that I’d like to have us sing here someday, and felt the Lord’s presence with good fellowship with the other pastors and their wives.

So, thank you for sending us.

And thank you for praying for us. I passed a major major milestone on my doctoral work this weekend. I turned in the last half of my project for my advisor to approve.

That’s huge! There are still hours of details left to cover, but they are just that–details. So, the project is finally winding down.

My goal is to turn it all in by December 1st, two weeks ahead of the deadline. If I do that, then I’ll defend it before my committee in the Spring and graduate in May of 2012.

Thank you for praying me through this process. I know that it’s a result of your prayers.

A couple more thank yous. I want to thank our elder board. Your elders right now are George Leathers, Blair Murray, Keith Folmar, Bob Gisewhite and myself. We have a smaller board this year than previous years, which means more work for each one. And they have done the work. The elders do not have a high profile. A lot of their work is behind the scenes and involves decision-making and policy making and involves lots of people and their concerns.  It’s not always an easy job, but these guys have been doing it with wisdom and love.

If you stick around for the church family meeting, you’ll see a few of the things they’ve been working on.

I also want to thank and praise the Facilities Team. Those guys also work behind the scenes doing what is often a thankless task. At the meeting, we’ll also hear from them and see some of what they’ve been working on. It’s just a fraction of the projects they’re involved with.  Their job is difficult because it only gets noticed if something breaks or if we have to raise the money to pay for it.  But we know that a building like this one doesn’t take care of itself. These guys do that. And as their pastor, I’m very thankful.

And I can’t thank every single ministry today, but I am also thankful for the deaconnesses who work behind the scenes showing compassion to others–the reason those envelopes are in your bulletins is because they have been helping people. 

And I’m thankful for the hospitality team, without which we would not eat like royalty like we do at this church. Yesterday, the Game Day, today at the meal and meeting, and all the rest of the time. Thank you, ladies.

And one more person I want to thank before we actually do get into Matthew, and that is Stacey Fisch. This was Stacey’s last week to sit in the command chair in the office. Next week, Holly will be doing it, with Stacey looking over her shoulder.

Stacey has done a fantastic job in our office. She’s been like the little quiet engine purring under the hood that makes the whole thing run. She has truly been behind the scenes, but for two and half years, she’s held everything together. Especially this year while I’ve been preoccupied with my doctoral work. Stacey will be missed.  Thank you, Stacey!  We’ll be praying for the Fisch’s as they take off on their new adventure.

Now, Matthew 9. Don’t worry it’s not long. I don’t have a lot to say this morning. It’s short but good. Verses 35-38. 

It’s Fall, and hunting season is in full swing. Some of you have been in the woods all month with your bow. Some of the youth went out on mentored hunts this weekend. Some of you took out a muzzleloader.

Have you ever had that experience of thinking you saw a deer and then it wasn’t there?

I’ll bet most of us have.

Last year, during rifle season, I didn’t see anything.

At least, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

After a few hours of just sitting there, I start to get fidgety.

All right, a few minutes of just sitting there, I start to get fidgety.

And then everything that moves begins to look like a buck.
Lucas Kristofits was sitting with me last year.

And he’d see me raise my gun and look through the scope off into the woods.

And he’d say, “Do you see something?  What is it?”

And I’d say, “Nothing.”

But I had to look again.

Because some time there will be something there.

Two years ago, there was. I saw some movement, and I didn’t think anything of it.

And but I had to look again.  “Look again.”

And when I looked more closely, there it was.

I saw something that had always been there, but now I saw it. I looked again.

This last weekend at the Pastors and Wive’s Retreat for our Allegheny District, the speaker, Fritz Dale of ReachNational at the home office, challenged us to look again at our community.

He spoke from Ezekiel 37 where the LORD tells Ezekiel to look again at a bleak situation and see it again with the Lord’s eyes.

The Lord often sees things differently than we do, doesn’t he?

The Lord often sees things differently than we do.

And we need to look again and get his perspective.

I think this passage tells us about our Lord’s perspective and encourages us to look again for ourselves.

Three things I think Jesus saw that we need to see this Celebration Sunday.


In verse 35, we get a bullet-point description of Jesus’ work in the early years of His traveling ministry. Three main actions: teaching (in synagogues), preaching (the gospel of the Kingdom), and healing (all kinds of diseases and sicknesses).

It was a very busy period for Jesus, and He was on a mission.

But in the rush of ministry, our Lord did not fail to notice the people.

Everywhere He went, Jesus saw people.  Big people, small people, clean people, dirty people, rich people, poor people, hungry people, sick people.  People, people, people.

And v.36 says, that when He saw the crowds, He had “compassion on them...”

The Greek word for “compassion” here literally means to have your guts wrenched in pity and sympathy.  Uggh.  He felt it right here.

When Jesus looked out and saw the people, he just grieved in His spirit with a gut-wrenching feeling.

Uggh.  It hurt Him to see people like this.

The people were (v.36) “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

What do you think a sheep is like that doesn’t have a shepherd?  I’ll tell you in one word: LOST.

Sheep are dumb animals. I’ve said this many times and it makes me laugh every time. Sheep are so dumb they can get lost by walking into an open garage and then not being able to figure out how to get out.

If sheep don’t have a shepherd, they don’t have a leader, don’t have a provider, don’t have a care-taker, they are done-in, they are a lost cause, they are helpless.

And Jesus, when He looked out upon the crowds, saw shepherdless sheep.

They were harassed and helpless.  They had forces at work against them which were way too powerful for them to stand against.  They were in danger and turmoil.

They were lost.

And our Lord felt compassion for them.  Jesus loved shepherdless sheep. Jesus loved lost people.

And the question that God is asking us as a church today is this:

Do we see the people?  Look again.

Do our hearts break when we see and interact with lost people?

Or are we too complacent and self-satisfied and self-centered?

Do we love the lost?

Or are we rather repulsed by them?

I firmly believe that our biggest problem in evangelism is not that we don’t know what to say. I think that many of us here know what the gospel is.

I believe that our biggest problem in evangelism is a lack of love.

Our hearts are not moved by the plight of those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Shepherd.

Bill Hamel, the President of the EFCA regularly challenges our churches that we need to love the LAST, the LEAST, and the LOST.

And if we don’t, we aren’t acting like Jesus.

Because He did it for us!

Jesus looked at our helplessness before sin.  He looked at our harassment by Satan.  And He took pity upon us.

Jesus loved us, even though there was nothing in us to commend us to Him.  We were His enemies!

And yet, He pulled us to Himself with covenant love.

If you are a Christian, it is because Jesus saw how harrased and helpless you were without him and loved you!

And we should do the same.

When I say the word MUSLIM, what happens in your heart?

Do you feel anger?  Do you feel revulsion?  Do you feel fear?

Or are you moved with compassion?

Not because Muslims are innately lovable, but because Jesus chose to love them, you and I should have our guts wrenched with an ache for their salvation.

I’ve heard supposed Christians call them, “Towel heads,” and hope they get out of our country. Yuck.

There are over 1.1 billion Muslims in the world. 80% of whom have never heard the gospel–ever!  Of the 350,000 Christian missionaries in the world, only around 5,000 of them work in Muslim countries!

Do you see the people?

When I say the words POOR PEOPLE, what happens in your heart?

Do you squirm?  Do you feel revulsion?  An aversion to talking about poverty?

Over a billion people in this world live on less than one US dollar per day. Every day, 25,000 people (most of them children) die from the results of dirty drinking water.  There are 47 million refugees in this world. And 85% of the world’s poorest countries lie within the 10/40 window: the least evangelized part of the world.

In other words, if you are poor, you are harassed, helpless, and have a much smaller chance of hearing the gospel.

And do we care?  Do we see the people?

Your neighbor down the street with the loud dogs, the beer cans in his yard, the raucous parties on Saturday night, the four-wheelers peeling over your newly planted grass?  You see him coming your way...what do you do?  Turn away?  Walk down the other side of the street?

What do you feel?

Do you fear for His soul?

Look again. Do you the see the people?

Or do we care too much for our comfort, our convenience, and our security?

Look again.

This is what our speaker did that really grabbed me.

He went to the door and looked out.

What do you see?

When you go to Sheetz, and there are bunch of people in the line.

What do you see?

When you look out here and see community people on our playground.

What do you see?

Do you see single moms that are struggling to make it?
Do you see people trapped in addictive behaviors?
Do you see sheep that don’t have a shepherd?

In my job, I talk to a lot of people. And sometimes, it’s easy to get compassion fatigue and stop caring.

I talked to too sets of outsiders this week about their problems, and when I was sitting with them, I thought about how harassed and helpless they were, like sheep without a shepherd.

They don’t have Jesus!

Look again.

It should fill us with compassion.

What do you see?

What do we see as we as we look out on our community?

Do we just see our school, our post offices, our truck stop, our families, our things.

Or do we see shepherdless sheep who are harrassed and helpless without Jesus?

Look again.

That’s why we do things like Game Day and the Durochers and the Ladies Christmas Tea and the Wild Game Dinner.

We don’t need more events in our lives. They are not just to entertain us. We are trying to see people and reach them.

This church has a great history of reaching out. Of seeing people as they really are and reaching towards them with the gospel.

Who are you inviting to the Durocher Family concert?  Have you put a poster yet? I haven’t seen many of these poster yet around our community. The concert is only two weeks from yesterday.

Do you know somebody who likes music that needs the Lord.

Don’t concentrate on inviting your Christian friends.

Concentrate on inviting the harassed and helpless and shepherdless sheep.

Look again.

In verse 37, Jesus turns to His disciples and says that He can see something else that they probably can’t.  V.37

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

Jesus, looking at these Shepherdless Sheep, sees something more that we often don’t see–potential!


He looked at those people [sinners–everyone of them], and He saw some potential followers.  He saw a church that He was going to build using lost people. He saw a harvest of souls won to the gospel of the kingdom–won to the King.

Look again.

Do you see the potential?

Everywhere you go, among all the people you see, are the elect of God, sprinkled throughout humanity.

Do you see potential Christians everywhere you go?

Some of us see the lost, and feel their lostness, but we don’t feel hope for them.  We see their harassment, and we see their helplessness on their own. We see their Shepherdlessness.  But we miss their potential to be Shepherded.

That’s a big part of my problem. I see the lostness. I feel it in my gut.  But often I have a hard time seeing what God might do with them if I am bold enough to allow Him to use me.

But Jesus sees redeemable humanity among the lostness.

He did in me!  He saw beyond my sin and my guilt and my shame.

And He went after me.  He saw the potential harvest in me.  Not that I had anything to offer Him.  I didn’t qualify for even one of His gifts to me.  But He knew what He was going to do with me.  And I’ll be forever grateful.

Look again.
That co-worker who bugs the living day-lights out of you could soon be your brother in Christ!

Your landlord who just about steals your hard-earned money, might soon be your sister!

Your hard-hearted father who has never had anything good to say about you or to you, may soon become a fellow Christian!

Because the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!

Ask the Apostle Paul!  God is in the business of changing murderers into saints.

You and I need to ask God that we begin to see every lost person we come into contact with as a potential Christian.  Look again!

They won’t all turn to Christ. In fact, a depressing number of them will take the broad road that leads to destruction.

But we have no idea who will. And Jesus wants Shepherdless Sheep to have a Good Shepherd!

Look again.

Do you see the people?
Do you see their potential?
Do you see how we need to pray?


V.38. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Look again and pray.

If you see the lostness of people and your heart is broken.
If you see how many people God desires to save through His gospel.

Then pray. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the harvest field to bring those Shepherdless Sheep to the Good Shepherd.

Do we pray for more workers?

There are 6.7 billion people on the planet today. Most of them do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

The current missionary force that we have will not reach the world.  We need to ask God to send more of us into the world to reach the world for Jesus Christ.

I’m so glad that we have Tobi here today. She is answer to prayers.

She has heard the call of the Lord of the Harvest and is going out into the field.

We have a group of people planning to go to Serbia next Summer.

That is an answer to many prayers.

And we need to pray MORE.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

It will only happen through prayer.

Why is that?

Why does Jesus want us to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out more workers?

Doesn’t the Harvest-Lord know that there is a worker-shortage?

Of course He does!

At least 2 reasons why He wants us to ask.

#1.  Because when we ask, we get involved.  When we are praying, there is a much greater chance that we will care about what God does with these situations.  It pulls us in.  In fact, we are often the answer to our own prayers.

What happens in the very next verse? Chapter 10?  Those who were praying are sent on a mission.

When we begin to pray for the person down the street who needs the Lord so desperately, often He sends us to go get them.

#2.  Because God gets the most glory that way. Instead of OUR amassing a missionary army, we acknowledge our need and our dependance upon God to do it. And when He raises the army through our prayers–He gets the most glory.

Notice in v.38 that it is GOD’s harvest field? And that He is LORD of the Harvest?

The Lord of the Harvest is most glorified when He is most needed. And prayer is the most humbling and needful act that the church can participate in.

So we should pray for more workers.


I love how this church is a praying church.

Here’s something I want you to pray about for our church.

Pray for the nominating process.

It’s that time of year when we pray in our new leaders for the next year.

The nominating committee will be talking with various members about how you might serve the church in its mission of bringing people into a love relationship with the good shepherd.

Pray for that!  If the nominating committee asks you to consider taking an office, please pray seriously about that and ask the Lord if He is leading you into a particular place of service.

Don’t just ask if you want to do it or think about if you could or do it to please me or some other person in the church.

Ask the Lord of the Harvest if you are to take up a certain post as a worker in the harvest field.  And then do whatever you feel He is saying.

I’ve been praying for 3 more elders to join our elder board in the coming year.

And I don’t understand exactly how the Lord will answer that. I had thought that perhaps Tom Fisch and Rob Barkman would be new elders in 2012.

But the Lord has moved them to a different part of the harvest field.

And that’s okay. He’s the Lord of the harvest.

But I’m still asking Him!

Because he says to.

Look again.

Do you see how you need to pray?

Is there some person in your life that drives you nuts, that you’d love to complain about on your Facebook page.

That you need to pray for?

Is it a Democrat?

Is it a Republican?

Is it poor person?

Is it a rich person?

Is it Muslim?

Is it person far away in ________?

Or is a person that you live with or see at school or in the neighboorhood or at work?

Look again.

See them as Jesus sees them. “Harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”

And see them as Jesus see that they could be.

And then ask the Lord what to do. And do what He says.

Look again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No Ordinary People

In preparing for tomorrow's message, I was drawn to this quote from Lewis (but couldn't fit it into the message as it came together.)

Very sobering and joyful at the same time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Isaac's Alpacas

The fearsome foursome got to go to an Alpaca farm today on a field trip (or barn trip, really). These are pictures that Isaac snapped with his very own camera! I like the last one. It looks like he's smiling at Isaac.

Two of the alpacas had babies in the last week. Fun!

My best joke about the trip was that "Mommy said, "I'll-pack-a lunch for you to take to the Alpacas.'" They just rolled their eyes.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Biggest Milestone So Far

Rejoice with me!

I just turned in chapters 4 (Ministry Model) and 5 (Conclusion), as well as, Appendix A (Resisting Gossip manuscript) and Appendix B (Critical Readers Instructions) and Appendix C (Resisting Gossip Questionnaire) to my doctoral advisor to read and comment upon.

That means that everything left is "details."  (Lots of details, but details nonetheless!)

This is a huge milestone and is a result of your prayers. Thank you so much for praying me through this process.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

First Major Revision

Resisting Gossip has gone through it's first major revision!  Thank you to all of my critical readers for your pages and pages of helpful interaction with my work. The book is much stronger for all of your effort.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm sick. Pray for my malady this week. It is . . .


I recognize the symptoms. I had it in 1991, 1995, 1996, and 1998.  (Note, I wasn't a senior all of those years, but it attacks non-seniors, too).

This week, I'm working on chapter 4 of my project: the ministry model and its evaluation.  I feel like I should be done already, but I'm not. I have to push through. But it's easy to get distracted and lose focus and concentrate on just about anything else.  (Even writing a blog post about senioritis).

Please pray that I make major strides on this--even, if the Lord wills, getting chapter four done.  I need it to be done. But the only way over this is through it.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "No Other Name"

“No Other Name”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
October 9, 2011
Acts 3&4

We return this morning to our ongoing series on the book of Acts that we’ve entitled from Jerusalem to Pennsylvania highlighting how the witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus spread the word from their hometown in such a way that it made it all the way around the world, even to us.

Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And that’s exactly what happened, praise the Lord!

And it happened through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Last time we were in the book of Acts we read chapter 2 together and studied the day of Pentecost when the promised Holy Spirit came in power and the church was born.

What an exciting day that was!

Today’s story takes place after that event, but we’re not sure how long after.

Exciting things are still happening to and through the fledgling church.

And the apostle Peter will be at the center of the action again.

But something new will also crop up for the first time: opposition to the apostles and to their message.

We’ll see that, especially as we get into chapter 4.

You’ve probably noticed a theme that is running through our worship service today, especially in the song we’ve selected.

What is it?

The name.

The name of Jesus.

Today’s story includes Acts 4:12 which says, “There is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

No other name.

So today, in this message we want to think about the name of Jesus Christ.

A name is more than a word. It’s even more than a descriptive word. It stands for the person, their identity and in a powerful name, their authority.

So, we want to meditate together on no other name than Jesus.
Today’s story begins one day at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Chapter 3, verse 1.

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon.”

The song we teach our children says, “Peter and John went to pray.”

I almost titled this message “Peter and John went to pray,” but I have a hard enough  time talking about this text without singing the song, so I didn’t use that as the title.

Peter and John are both apostles. They’re quite a team. They were together that morning when they discovered the empty tomb.

They’re together again some day soon after Pentecost going up to the temple at a time when many other Jews went up to pray, the ninth hour, 3 o’clock. What happened then?

“They met a lame man on the way.”  Right?  V.2

“Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.”

He asked everyone for money.  That was his job.

He had been born unable to walk. Can you imagine?

Everyone knew this guy. We’re going to find out that he was over forty years old. He was like ten years older than Jesus.

And he had been disabled that entire time.  Notice what Peter does.  V.4

“Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.”

When you get their attention, when they talk to you, they are planning to give. That’s how it generally works.

But this time is really different.  V.6

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”

Nu’ uh! Wahoo!


Can you imagine?

“I don’t have any money, but I do have the name of Jesus and am his authorized representative. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

And this was no psychosomatic healing.

This was congenital defect undone in a second.

And he didn’t just hobble around now.

He walked, and jumped and praised God!

We love to sing this one at home because you get to get all excited when you sing it.

It’s a great one for having boys.

“He went walking and leaping and praising God!”
“He went walking and leaping and praising God!”

And we leap around the room.

That’s what this guy did!

And they are the most public place in all of Jerusalem.

And there are people watching.  V.9

“When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. [Wouldn’t you?!] While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade.”

I love it that this beggar guy won’t let go of Peter and John.

We are never told his name, but he played a very important role.

He was a picture of salvation.

He was healed by the name of Jesus.

And what is salvation besides a complete healing by Jesus?

The crowd gathers. They are astonished. They are filled with wonder and amazement.

What is going on?!

Peter is going to make sense of this event. V.12

“When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”

It is not us!

This is God.  The same God that you have always been taught about. V.13

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus [No other name!]. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”

There’s that word again. “Witnesses.”

We saw it with our own eyes, and we are give testimony to the fact.


Peter is witnessing.

And he is explaining the name of Jesus.

What does the name of Jesus signify?

At least this:

The servant of God. V.13

I think that brings up all of the Servant Songs from Isaiah.

Two of the Kids for Christ classes are memorizing Isaiah 53 right now about the Servant of the Lord.

It’s Jesus.

He is v.14, “The Holy and Righteous One.”

That’s what his name means.  “The Holy and Righteous One.”

No badness in Him. No darkness in Him. No unholiness, no wickedness.  Just Holy and Righteous.

And, Peter says, you killed him.  V.15

“You killed the Author of Life.”  King James, “Prince of Life.”

That’s who Jesus is.

That is what is signifed by His name.

But He is so full of life that He could not stay dead. V.15

“But God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”  V.16

“By faith in the name of Jesus [no other name!], this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.”

It’s not us. It’s Jesus!

Where is this all going? V.17

“‘Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer [like Isaiah 53!]. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.' ‘Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.’”


That’s what this is all leading to.  Repent and turn to God. 

Because this is all a fulfillment of prophecy.  Jesus is the prophet like Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 18. If you ignore Him, you will pay the consequences. You will be cut off.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant!  He is the blessing promised to and through the offspring!

That’s who this Jesus is.  He is the suffering servant of the Lord.

He is all the Old Testament predicted.

Turn from your sins and trust in Him.

And be saved.


“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”

Oh, doesn’t that sound good?

Don’t we all want that?  That our sins may be wiped out.

A little cleanser and then rub, rub, rub, and then it’s gone!

That is what we long for.

And not just forgivness.  V.19 again, “so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Oh that sounds even better. Wiped out sins and times of refreshing.

Spiritual refreshment.

And more, v.20, “and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus.”

That’s send Him back! V.21

“He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”

Being saved by the name of Jesus means not just forgiveness and refreshment but being included in the restoration of all things.

Salvation is cosmic.  It will include, eventually, the whole universe being restored to what it always should have been.

But you only get to be included if you repent and trust in Jesus as your Savior.

You must believe in the name.

“To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  John 1:12

Are you a child of God?

Have you been saved by the name of Jesus?

Do you want to be at the restoration of everything?
Do you want to enjoy the times of refreshing?
Do you want your sins to be wiped out?

The name of Jesus, the one who was crucified but was made alive, does that for sinners who turn from their sin and trust in Him.

That was Peter’s message to the crowd at the temple.

John is standing right there with him backing him up.

And there is the beggar guy, the former crippled who is holding on to them and not letting them go while he dances around.

And that’s how they were when the police found them.  Chapter 4.

Here’s where the trouble begins.  V.1

“The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.”

“Hands up. You’re under arrest!

You’ve been proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

You’re going to jail, buddy. You can talk to the court tomorrow. You’re under arrest.”

You can arrest the apostles, but you can’t arrest the gospel (Stott, 96)! V.4

“But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.”

That’s up from 3,000 that we saw last time.  Approximately 2,000 men believed the gospel through this preaching of Peter’s!

The gospel is unshackled and unstoppable!

But Peter and John are in prison.

And, I think that beggar guy is with them.

My guess is that even though they were in prison, they were still dancing.  V.5

“The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family.”

There are some familiar names.  Two of those were present just a couple of months earlier at Jesus’ trial.

How much do you expect Peter and John to get a fair trial?  V.7

“They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’”

Because WE sure didn’t authorize this!

What power, what authority, what NAME did you do this in?  V.8

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple [and who could be against that?] and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He [Jesus] is ‘'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' [Psalm 118] Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’”

Saved by the name of Jesus and no other name.

Now, we need to see how inclusive and exclusive this claim is.

For how exclusive.

There is no other name.  Not Buddha, not Muhammed, not Krishna, not Allah. Not Mary. Not Pastor Matt or Billy Graham.

No other name than Jesus.

If you try to get saved by some other name, some other identity, some other entity, some other institution, some other god, some other idol, some other philosophy, some other religion, some other name, then you will be lost.

“For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

That’s exclusive.  It just is.

But it’s also inclusive.

Because ANYONE who comes to God for their sins wiped clean through this name and no other name “must be saved!”

And will be saved.

Whosoever believes in God’s Son will be saved.

You don’t have to be rich, or white, or talented, or smart, or strong or religious or American or Western or go to this church or that church.

You just have go through Jesus.

“Salvation is found in no one else.”

But it is found in Jesus!

That was Peter’s message, not just to the crowd, but also the court.

Saved by the name of Jesus.

And the court couldn’t really argue with him. They were just about speechless. V.13

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [Catch that. These guys didn’t go to our seminary, but they sure can preach. Oh, they had been with Jesus. That’s the only seminary that really counts!]”
“But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.”

What are they going do?

Everyone in Jerusalem knows what has happened. How are we going to stop this?

They try to put pressure on them.  V.15

“So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.  ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.’ [This name is the problem. Can we stop that?] Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”


Peter and John have been told to cut it out.

What would you have said?

Peter says, “Yeah, right.”  V.19

But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ [Is that how you and I are? Can we say that? “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.]”

What do you do with guys like that?  Apparently, you let them go.

“After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.”

This is the first persecution that the early church has experienced.

They have had their run ins with the authorities.

What is the next step?  A prayer meeting, of course!

“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. [You’re the Creator.] You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: [In Psalm 2] ‘'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' [Yep, that happened.] Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. [But they couldn’t do anything on their own.] They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. [The Cross is God’s plan.] Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders [how?] through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

We’re going to stop there this week. We’ll pick up in verse 32 next time.

But we’ve got to see how and what these believers prayed.

They prayed to a Sovereign God who they knew was greater than any human authority and who cannot be thwarted in His sovereign plans.  He even uses the sinful acts of sinful men to accomplish His purposes.

That’s whom they are praying to.

And what do they ask this Sovereign God for?

They ask for miracles and signs to be done through the name of Jesus.

And they ask for BOLDNESS to speak the name of Jesus.

When was the last time that you and I prayed for holy boldness?

We have several outreaches that are being planned for the next weeks and months.

Who have you invited?

Who have I invited?

Does that take boldness?

Who are you praying for to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

Have you talked to them?

Speaking the name of Jesus.


We must speak it.

We must be bold.

And that will take prayer.

Our leaders for the Wednesday night prayer meeting have been reading a book called “And the Place was Shaken” taken from this passage.

God said, “Yes!” in a very earthshaking way.

Yes! I’ll give you boldness.

Pray for it.

Pray for holy boldness.

And (v.31) “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke th word of God boldly.”

May it be true of you and me.

Messages So Far In this Series:

You Will Be My Witnesses
Before Pentecost

Saturday, October 01, 2011