Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Thursday, May 30, 2013

2nd Sunday after Pentecost: Who Is Truly God

This year, in the Season after Pentecost, the Old Testament readings focus on the Old Testament prophets. Included are Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, and Habakkuk. For the next few weeks in our preaching here at AMC we are going to focus on some of these prophets in a series loosely titled Calling and Working for Justice, Righteousness and Peace, and then in July we'll focus on the Gospel readings in a series Learning from the Master.

Today we look at Elijah. As history went on in the land of Israel after King David and his son Solomon's reign, it became apparent that the people just refused to live the life that God had called them to and so God sent to those people prophets, great men and women, to speak to the people on behalf of God and to call people back to Him and His ways. One of the greatest of those prophets was the prophet Elijah and one of the events that defined His ministry more than any other was the confrontation with the Baal prophets on Mount Carmel.

The name means God’s Vineyard and if you visit it you see why….there is fertility all around it and throughout the Bible this mountain is often used as a symbol of fertility…if they are pronouncing a judgement they’ll say Mt Carmel won’t be fertile…..if a blessing, then Mt Carmel will be fertile.

 I took these photos from the top of Mt Carmel when Chris and I went to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2008. Notice the fertile fields surrounding the mountain

 If you look West from Carmel you look into the Jezreel Valley, the place where Megiddo is situated….Megiddo being the place called Armageddon in the New Testament, with all its significance.
Mt Carmel is in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, whose capital was Samaria. Our story is set in the time when Ahab was king and the following verses (1 Kings 16:29-33) set the tone regarding Ahab:

 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years.  Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.  He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.  He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.  Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. 

So this king of Israel did more than any other king to take the people away from God, and made God more angry than any other king. He married Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, not a good Jewish girl, and with her as queen, Baal worship became the prominent religion in Israel! Baal worship glorified the cheapness of human life, it glorified human sexuality, and the people of God in Israel, bought into it…they enjoyed what it allowed and encouraged. (Baal worship is big Today, although it is not called Baal worship anymore)

And onto the scene appears the first of the great prophets…..Elijah. His name means 

Jehovah …..JAHweh
God …..ELI
or God is Jehovah…..Eli-Jah………Elijah

The question was being asked by people…who is really our god? Is Baal the god responsible for all this fertility

 ….or is Yahweh responsible for all this?

And Elijah, by his very name, is declaring that it is Yahweh who is responsible for all this.

Three years before the events in our reading, Elijah had gone to Ahab and said:
 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 

Now this was a direct confrontation with Baal, who was the god responsible for providing the rain which brought forth the fertility. Elijah is essentially saying:
God is saying there will be no rain for 3 years. Let’s see if Baal can provide rain in the nation.

And of course, Baal can’t, and the drought grips the nation for 3 years. 

At the end of 3 years, Elijah returns to Ahab and we read:

 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”  “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.  Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 

850 prophets of the god of that particular religion!

So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.  Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions?

What Elijah is confronting is not people who have rejected the God of the Bible, but people who are adding things contrary to the God of the Bible, to their own lives. We believe the God of the Bible, but we also believe we can add things to our lives from “other gods”….Baal allows us to sleep around, Baal allows us to get drunk, Baal allows us to gamble, especially with the lives of our children who we will throw into fire to try and convince Baal to send rain, this is what gambling is, trying to get something for ourselves but at the expense of others….All these things are contrary, in fact totally opposed, to the God of the Bible.

And he says “How long are you going to waver between two opinions?”........God's opinion of what is right, or Baal's opinion of what is right.......... Is he saying that to you today….then he says:

“If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Now, what is interesting but also very sad, is the next line of that verse:

But the people said nothing.

How long are you going to go back and forth between God’s way and your way, the way of a false god…….and the people say nothing

 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.  Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.”  So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”  So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.  Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down.  Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.”  With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.  He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time.  The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God,

Now that is getting to the heart of the matter….Elijah is not doing all this so that the people will see that he has access to great power, but rather he is doing all this so that the people will know that He (point upwards)….is God!

And then verse 38…and you have to imagine it….a clear day, because it hasn’t rained for 3 years…and it’s the time of sacrifice, which means it’s probably 3 in the afternoon, the afternoon sacrifice time…

 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

One can only imagine that there was an amazed silence

The rocks on top of Mt Carmel today

 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

Now, do you realise what they are actually saying?......Elijah, Elijah,…….and I love that connection because in a sense to see Elijah in action is to recognise God at work. To see a man or woman of God in action, is to recognise God at work....... to see Elijah/you/me in action is to recognise God at work!

 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
This is a statue on top of Mt Carmel which in all honesty, I don't like. But it serves to remind me: Don't mess with our God 

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”  So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
“There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”
 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.  The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Now, did all this have a changing effect on Ahab and Jezebel? we will see in the following chapters next week,…No, it didn’t!...........and, interestingly and sadly, it didn’t change the nation of Israel either.

The lesson here for us is that as we try and live lives that reflect the power of God at work in us and through us….the people around us will not always be convinced that the LORD (point upwards)…is God.

The second lesson is that the Holy Spirit of God, the fire of God, has descended on us and God’s promise is to continue pouring out that Spirit, that fire, that power…on us….all the time! As we looked at, at Pentecost, ask for the fire of the Lord….and you will receive the fire of the Lord

There are all different kinds of people here……..all having been given particular gifts from God (just as Elijah was), and He says.... "if you use that gift for me, as you use it you’ll show people what I’m like."

And that means if I’m going to know what God is like, I’m going to be able to watch you, and if you want to know what God is like, you’re going to be able to watch each other. This is really what we celebrate in the season of Pentecost, the season which reminds us that the Spirit of God has been, and continues to be, poured onto and into whoever asks.

Now, in all honesty, the Christian community has not been particularly good at that historically. There are a lot of times in my life, and maybe in yours, where we wouldn’t want people to watch us…in order to see God…….but that’s what God wants. And so for you and for me our calling is to be what God calls us to be and His promise is that when we do that, God will help people to see Him.

Dear God, I thank you for what happened on this mountain. It’s very easy for us to have our allegiance to more than just you…it’s easy to trust in ourselves and our own strength, and our own power and our own money and our own abilities, but you’ve shown us today, reminded us, that there is only one God (and one strengh and one power) and that’s You and we pray that we will live in such a way that how we live, how we act will make clear to people that you are God, that You are our God and that You are working through us. Please fill us with such a measure of your Spirit that as we leave here today we can feel powerfully your presence in us and know that we can be Elijah’s in the world we live in. Because....these are the days of Elijah

This sermon was inspired by the teaching
of Ray Vander Laan in the 
series, which I strongly recommend
as an excellent resource for small groups

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Questions based on: Who is Truly God

Read Who is truly God? here

Read 1 Kings 16:29 – 19:21 and Joshua 24:14-18. Then answer the following questions:

1.      What does the name ‘Elijah’ mean?  How could you wear such an identity in your life so others would immediately see God in you? What specific things show your devotion to God?

2.      What was Mount Carmel chosen as the place for Elijah’s confrontation with Baal’s prophets? How do you know people worshipped God there at one time?

3.      What is shown by the fact that the altar of Yahweh was broken down? What does the altar represent? What would represent the ‘altar’ in your life? What condition is it in?

4.      Who brought Ball worship into such prominence in Israel? Why was God’s withholding rain such a clear challenge to the pagan culture? Who or what is responsible for the decline of morality in our culture?

5.      What are the ways that people today ‘waver’ between devotion to God and honoring the gods of modern society? How total is your devotion to the God of Israel?

6.      How was the people’s response to Elijah’s call for commitment different from their response to Joshua’s challenge? What is your response to God’s call? What things might you do to be like these heroes in calling others to devotion to God?

7.      Why was the lighting bolt such an astounding event for the people of that day?
Can you think of an example in your own life when God spoke so clearly to you?

These questions are based on material
acquired from That the World May Know,
a resource I strongly recommend

Friday, May 17, 2013

Questions based on Pentecost 2013

Read the sermon here 

1.     What was/is the Jewish Festival of Pentecost?

2.     Why were there so many different nations represented in Jerusalem that day? 

3.     What are the similarities between Genesis 1:1 & 2 (Creation) and Acts 2:1-11?

4.     What are the differences between Genesis 11:1-9 (Tower of Babel) and Acts 2:1-11? 

5.     Why did the onlookers accuse them of drunkenness?

6.     What are some of the physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit?
What are Fruit of the Spirit?
What are Gifts of the Spirit?

7.     What does it mean to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38)?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

7th Sunday of Easter: No Religion but Social Religion, No Holiness but Social Holiness

No Religion but Social Religion, No Holiness but Social Holiness

My life this week has been lived out very “socially”……we travelled 550 km to Durban (on the southern east coast of Africa) to visit and meet our first grandson, Caleb Samuel Poole, who is one week old as I write this, and nine days old as I preach this.

Our grandson, Caleb Samuel Poole ....and no, he didn't actually drink his first babychino, I just couldn't resist buying him one on his first outing :-)

 In Durban we also visited my older brother Kevin, who is one week into healing from a bad fall off a ladder! So, 12 hours on the road, 48 hours with friends and family, a few more hours (as those of you who know us can imagine) spent in various coffee shoppes……as you can see, a very “social” week. And in all these places (yes, even on the road….and yes, even in the privacy of my family’s homes), hopefully I have lived out the consequences of the Resurrection on my life in all these places, because……there is No Religion but Social Religion, No Holiness but Social Holiness. Our religion is not religion, our holiness is not holiness, if they are not lived out by us, incarnated (given flesh) by us among the people that we share our homes, streets, workplaces….and yes, even our coffee shoppes with. There is no such thing as solitary or private religion! (John Wesley)

So with that theme in the background, let’s work through our readings

As I read this, pointing upwards for God, to the screen for Jesus, and to the congregation for us, the church, notice the social aspect of this part of Jesus’ High Priestly prayer….notice how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, are primarily social…they can’t exist without each other, they refuse to live without each other, and…they invite us into their social circle……..ETERNALLY!!!

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus’ prayer is that as we come to faith, that we would find some kind of oneness with other believers and that we experience a level of love that is similar to being in the very presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit….so that the world may know God’s love through Christ for the world. Christianity is a social religion and there is No Religion but Social Religion, No Holiness but Social Holiness

Now, let’s read through our reading from Acts and see where social religion and social holiness might take us (please note, you might not like where it leads to)

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Of all the people mentioned in this reading,………. the female slave, her owners, the spirit, Paul and the others, magistrates, the crowd, the jailer, other prisoners, ……….  Who is free in this reading? Certainly not the slave girl! She is not only in bondage to an evil spirit, but is controlled by evil persons who use her "gifts" for their own profit. Perhaps it is the owners of the slave girl who are to live a life of luxury because of the "great deal of money" they make from the slave girl's fortune telling gift…but then they are not really free, they are in as much bondage to her as she is to them. There is no question that Paul and Silas are free. But are they really? Accused of "advocating customs unlawful for us Romans," Paul and Silas find themselves chained to the wall in a dark prison cell. This doesn't sound like freedom to me! Perhaps it is the jailor who is free. The prisoners are chained to the cell wall. The jailor is free to play a game of solitaire, sleep, and walk around the jail compound. He is free...that is, until the earth shakes and the prison doors fly open and the prisoners are unchained. How will the jailor explain this to the authorities he reports to? He ends up thinking it would be better to commit suicide than to face the consequences of this event. This doesn't sound like freedom to me! Who is free in this reading? Who is free in this congregation this morning?

Are you free? Is there something you long to be free of?

One question opens the door to freedom: "What must I do to be saved? (from this thing I long to be free of)" Only one answer brings freedom: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!"

Being free for you and for me is only a question away! Perhaps like me you find yourself praying a prayer like this: God, sometimes I wonder if I can really be free from those things that seem to draw me away from you. If you do, then try adding this to your prayer: Keep prodding me to ask the question: What must I do to be saved? so that I can hear your Word: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."

Cedric, what does that really mean in my life, today?

Let’s see if our third reading (the last 9 verses of the Bible) helps us to answer that question:

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Many people act as if the Bible begins with Genesis, chapter 3: the sin and fall of humankind; and ends with Revelation 20: the lake of fire and death. But Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 are the beautiful story of God creating the heaven and earth, plants and animals, humankind, and more. And Revelation, chapters 21 and 22 tell of God's creation of the "new heaven and the new earth." These are the boundaries within which we are called to live out, to incarnate, social religion and social holiness,…..not the boundaries of sin and hell, but the far wider boundaries of holiness and heaven, on earth, now!

In light of the rest of the Bible, these last words of Scripture are words of comfort and assurance, of freedom, to us who live in a broken world which certainly seems to be imprisoned by sin and death or hell.
Here is the message of the last few verses of the Bible: God is in charge! We do not have a God who tells us: "Look, my children, whatever will be, will be." God does not say, "Shape up! Accept what is. That's the way the cookie crumbles."

Instead, our God assures us with these words: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." In other words, "I have everything covered; from A to Z. I am in charge!" I recently conducted various Memorial services for Louis Luyt, and at each of these those who paid tribute to him described him as “large and in charge”, be it in his family, in his work, in SA rugby….Large and in charge. Now, exactly how true those words were of Louis is obviously debateable, but they are infinitely more true of our God……whether it looks that way or not, in your personal life, in your home, in your workplace, in your church……our God is large and in charge! Remember this truth, because it is linked to another amazing promise from God, a promise which when taken to heart enables us to experience the freedom we long for, right now, which in turn sets free in us a religion which is social and a holiness which is social….right now!…….Here’s the promise God makes to you and me NOW:  "Yes, I am coming soon." Did you hear that?........... "I am coming soon."
When Dr. Martin Luther King was asked, "How long must we wait?" he answered: "Not long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again!" How long? "Not long, because no lie can live forever!"

Instead of thinking of Christ's return in chronological terms, think of His words, "Yes, I am coming soon," as a way of saying: Christ is near to us. Near to you now, to set you free….near to you now, calling you and equipping you for a religion, a faith, which is social, calling you and equipping you for a holiness which is social.

I suggest we end with the words our reading ends with, as a prayer from our hearts: Come, Lord Jesus….
And I will end with the last words in our Scriptures: The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen

Friday, May 3, 2013

6th Sunday of Easter: Guided by the Holy Spirit

This week's lectionary reading lends itself to just being read, explored and understood just as it stands before us. I don’t want to preach it so much as teach it. I think it’ll speak quite a few things into our lives but in particular I want us to listen to what it teaches us about:

Being guided by the Holy Spirit.

and our text is Acts 16:6-15

It’s two weeks to Pentecost and I think this reading can act like an appetiser, a kind of foretaste if you like, of what we can look forward to and expect the Holy Spirit to do in our lives if we let Him. 

 They traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit did not let them preach the message in the province of Asia.  When they reached the border of Mysia, they tried to go into the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So they traveled right on through Mysia and went to Troas.

Unless your geography is really good, you have no idea where these places are or were. But as we will see later, knowing where these places are, is imperative to understanding  what God was really doing.

If the names weren't important, they wouldn't be in the Bible.

A lesson to lift here though is this; Paul wanted to preach in these places, he wanted to spread the gospel here and we might say: "That is good – we must support him, encourage him, pay for his trip – this is mission work and must be supported" ........ except one thing... 
God didn't want him in these places, at that time and so.....

 They traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit did not let them preach the message in the province of Asia.  When they reached the border of Mysia, they tried to go into the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So they traveled right on through Mysia and went to Troas.

God closes doors is the way we sometimes put this – But we need to be sensitive to the guidance of God, because we are good at opening doors that God wants left shut.

And so this passage teaches us: the Holy Spirit guides us.

And there are many ways He does this: Firstly by promptings of the Spirit which require of course Spiritual perception which comes to all who earnestly seek it. But secondly, did you pick up another way God guides us?

 That night Paul had a vision in which he saw a Macedonian standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”

Through visions................ 

Throughout Scripture, people are given visions – there are many, last week, you might remember, we looked at the the story of Peter who saw a cloth full of unclean foods and God said: ‘Eat’. That was a vision which led to the inclusion of you and me in the church.

A vision is something you see, in the day or the night, while you are awake.

A dream on the other hand, (also a way God guides us), is something you see while you are asleep. Joseph in the Old Testament has dreams through which God guides him and a nation......... Daniel has visions.........and so on.

In the New Testament another Joseph discovers that his fiancé, Mary, is pregnant and he knows he is not the father of her child, but in a dream God speaks to him and reassures him and guides him.

And so we could go on and on – the lesson is that God (who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow) speaks to us and guides us through dreams and visions, just as he did people in the past.

An important point though, taught to us in this story is found in vs 10.

  As soon as Paul had this vision, we got ready to leave for Macedonia, because we decided that God had called us to preach the Good News to the people there.

Dreams and visions need interpreting, they need discerning. If we are going to grow in this means of communication that God has for us, we must share our dreams and visions with other believers and especially with people who have spiritual discernment in this area.

Paul has the vision, but it is a group who decide on what it means. And what did it mean?

we got ready to leave for Macedonia, because we decided that God had called us to preach the Good News to the people there.

They decided they must go to Macedonia. So....

 We left by ship from Troas and sailed straight across to Samothrace, and the next day to Neapolis.  From there we went inland to Philippi, a city of the first district of Macedonia;

Once again, a whole list of names that mean little to us .........

Where are these places and does it really matter?

 Oh yes it does!!!!!!

Because if we look for these places on a map we see what is really happening and it is nothing less than a small step for man, 

from Troas to Neapolis, but a giant leap for mankind, because what is recorded here is the Gospel’s arrival in Europe.

Up to this point the Gospel has been preached in Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and to Africa, now it comes to Europe from where Scripture doesn't so much record, but history does record, it will spread to every part of the world.

Almost all of Africa will be missioned from Europe, not from Africa
Almost all of North America will be missioned from Europe.
Almost all of South America will be missioned from Europe.
Almost all of Australia will be missioned from Europe. 

Here we have the start of it all..........

We spent several days there.  On the Sabbath we went out of the city to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place where Jews gathered for prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who gathered there.  One of those who heard us was Lydia from Thyatira, who was a dealer in purple cloth. She was a woman who worshiped God, and the Lord opened her mind to pay attention to what Paul was saying.

The start of it all, a group of women at a riverside, Paul preaching and one convert, the first convert in Europe, a women called Lydia. This reminds me of Jesus' parable about the mustard seed:

 Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

The seed of the gospel's spread to all the world was sown that day.

Well, what can we learn from all this:

1.    God seeks to guide us – and when we let Him, it is not always to the place that makes the most sense to us. Believe that God wants to guide you.

2.    God guides us in many ways – sometimes by shutting doors, sometimes by opening doors, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions and many other ways.
Develop spiritual perception and seek the counsel of other believers.

3.    When we are where God wants us to be, as individuals, as families as a Church – the possibilities are beyond our comprehension.
Seek to be and long to be, where God wants you to be.

Questions based on Easter 6: Guided by the Holy Spirit

Read the sermon here

If you have a Bible with maps try and find the places mentioned in these verses.

Discuss: We are good at opening doors that God wants left shut.

Discuss: We are good at closing doors that God wants left open.

Share with the group or journal privately, about times in your life when ‘doors have been shut’ or ‘doors have been opened’.

What is the difference between dreams and visions? Try and identify dreams and visions recorded in the Scriptures. Does God still speak to us today in they way?

What is the gift of spiritual discernment?

Fill in the spaces and discuss each statement:

1     God seeks to ______________________________ us.

When we let Him, it is not always to the place that makes the
most ___________________________ to us.

2      God guides us in ______________________   _____________________.
3      When we are where God wants us to be, the _______________________ are beyond our _______________________.