The Way did not stick as a title, but it’s a beautiful title ~ a way of life, emphasizes the transformation Chad spoke of last Sunday… Everything changes, live a new way, think a new way, new values, new habits, a new life of service and purpose.
One way to think of the new church is a band of [rebels], the right kind of rebels who show the WAY of living faith in Jesus Christ. They challenge the relationship of Israel to Rome, the patterns of Judaism, as they share the message of Jesus Christ cutting through cultural and national barriers… Today, as is true in every age, it is not enough to say what we are against, but how much more what it means to live for Christ. That is the way forward… The early Christians refused to get bogged down with differences between them and Judaism, instead they broke away to live their faith as Jesus would have them live. I love the title THE WAY for our faith… so that we can be the right kind of rebel that rejects the wrongs and evils of society, and also shows the better way of “integrity, reality, and God’s love flowing through your life.”
In today’s scripture there are 3 main people who simply live the Way of the Lord… Peter, Aaneas and Tabatha. As Peter goes from place to place to encourage disciples, his attitude is “What’s next Lord?” He goes to Lydda, then Joppa, and God does amazing things. The Lord is on the move in our world, what’s next? A few weeks ago at the Thursday Bible Study Paula J. asked Denny B. what it was like going to Kendall to help people. Denny’s answer, you can’t go with an agenda, you just let assignments come to you… I agree, but I have a slight modifaction: I think in terms of always go with a [flexible agenda]…it’s good to have a plan, but if the Lord should change the agenda be available. Acts 9:31 describes a lull, a time of regrouping… the Apostle Paul was changed from a murderer of Christians to a broken man who is transformed by the power of grace. It’s an amazing dramatic moment. Acts 9:31 is a time to catch our breath. READ.
Paul will become the center of going forward with the gospel as told in the book of Acts; God chooses to use Peter’s ministry to show us the Way forward. The last verses of Acts 9 introduce us to two everyday people Peter meets that are touched by grace: Aeneus and Tabitha. There is a wonderful simplicity in these two disciples that gives me hope that an ordinary person like me can be touched by the Lord.
Peter, Aeneas & Tabitha show us the WAY forward through [simple obedience]. Peter is on his way back to Jerusalem after being sent to Samaria to check out the new converts; on the way he stops in Lydda to encourage them, Lydda is on the road to Jerusalem. Peter shows up and is open to even greater things, he has a flexible agenda. What’s next God? Peter meets Aeneas, in bed for 8 years, and declares he is healed. “Jesus Christ heals you” Peter declares…. An ordinary man, a simple declaration, then Aeneas is told to get up and do an ordinary thing READ Acts 9:34.
The Way forward is God working in [ordinary people] causing the amazing to happen. God can do anything. He does heal. I’ve never seen a healing exactly like this, but we’ve all seen the amazing. Miracles are part of our journey. God can use us ordinary people. Look at the results: READ Acts 9:35. (Lydda is on the plain of Sharon). I talked to one person this week whose life is falling apart… He lamented how he feels like he has little control over those who are closest to him as he watches lives spin out of control. “I don’t know what to do….” The best thing you can do when you feel helpless to help others is to let God control you’re life and be an [example] of what following God means. Let your life be the example of what you pray into the life of others. ~ let them see Christ in you… Aeneas is a nobody in that culture because he is unable to contribute because of his illness. Jesus touches him, he gets up and makes his bed/a meal, people see and are amazed and they become Christians. Acts 9:35 is proof positive that one form of evangelism is the way we live. READ. The WAY forward is to live what you believe and let God do the amazing.
In Acts 9:36-38 Peter travels west to the coast town of Joppa because a much loved woman, Tabatha, has died. READ. Tabatha is one of my favorite Bible heroes. It’s too bad forms of her alternate name Dorcas is used to make fun of people because this woman is anything but a misfit… I love Tabatha’s example because when my mother was my first teacher in the pre-school class of this church, she used wonderful posters of the bible stories that brought the scene to life. a few made a life long impression on my young mind ~ the man being let down by a mat by four friends through the roof, and Tabatha. In my mind, it’s kind of crazy, the greatest thing about Tabatha is not that she was raised from the dead, it is the fact that she was always doing good. That’s the picture I remember 55 years ago, the widows holding up all of Tabatha’s garments she’d made…It’s pretty cool she was raised from the dead, but God can do anything. But to sew garments for those in need, that was a choice….
Many Churches are named after great saints of the Bible, i.e. St. Joseph’s, St. Mary, St. Peter… what would you think of renaming this church, (I’m joking of course), The Church of Tabatha. Tabatha is a disciple of Christ. The Way forward is to do good and help the poor. She gets her hands dirty. She loves people. She serves. The Way forward is wonderfully and beautifully simple, Tabatha sees people, she sees needs. When my mother told the story of Tabatha 55+ years ago it made sense that Tabatha totally understood what it means to be a Christian. Many times in Acts is preaching of forgiveness/repentance… the way of salvation is spoken many times, but there is also the example of Aeneas and Tabatha who lived their faith and believed in God and many saw what happened to them and they decided they wanted Jesus Christ and His Way too. Evangelism comes through [words and example].
Peter prays, Tabatha is brought back to life, and the word of God’s miraculous power spreads far and wide. I don’t know why Peter knew to instruct her to get up after he prayed. Yesterday I went to see Jim Jeffries. I went with a flexible agenda. The neighbor dropped in and told me his mother was dying next door and asked me to go and pray. It was a divine Holy Spirit assignment as I talked with half a dozen people about their thoughts, feelings, Barbara the women who was dying… a lot of talk about God’s grace, salvation, sins and forgiveness… some I knew, most never met before. I prayed asking for peace, thanking God for a wonderful family and home… but I had no sense to pray for a transformation of body… I can’t explain why Peter commanded her to rise other than it was God’s will at that moment. God’s grace and restorative powers brought many more people to the Lord READ Acts 9:40-42.
One of the astounding details of this scripture comes at the end where it says Peter stayed at Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon (Acts 9:43). A tanner works with the skins of dead animals. To a devout Jew, a tanner is unholy, dirty, untouchable. Peter was a devout Jew, yet he is willing to stay at the house of a tanner…something is in the air, something is changing, the way forward is to get to know real people and see with your own eyes that God loves them too…God’s tent is big enough to include the whole world. He love even tanners. Even those unlike us. Those that you never thought possible. Be amazed at the people whose lives can be changed by Christ.
The way forward is simple obedience. Go forward with a flexible agenda. The Way Living Bible said it like this, “in your rebellion, in your uprooting of the evils and inequities of contemporary society, replace them with integrity, reality, and God’s love flowing through your lives.” That a great description of Aeneas, Tabatha and even Peter… as we go forward it is not about what we are against, but what we are for, to live as people of integrity, reality and letting God’s love flow through our lives. We cannot control how other people respond, but we can/must [demonstrate] God’s love and transforming power in our lives. God is calling us to be real, true, simple, faithful, channeling his love and grace….The way forward is to go with a flexible agenda. The way forward is to live a simple life of faith embracing Christ in the ordinary, knowing that at any moment we may be confronted with the extraordinary. Lives are changed as we live out our faith, receiving God’s amazing grace, serving God by serving others, loving others as God wants them to be loved. Loving the poor, the hurting, the struggling, the searching, the lonely, the disenfranchised. The Way forward is a simple life of grace and following in His Way. Amen.
_____________ is a lesser known designation for people of faith.
One way to think of the new church is a band of ____________.
The right kind of rebel rejects the wrongs and evils of society, and also shows the better way of ________________________________________________________________________
The Way forward is through ____________________,
The Way forward is God working in ______________causing the amazing to happen.
The best thing you can do when you feel helpless to help others is to let God control you’re life and be an ______________ of what following God means.
The Way forward is to _____ people and ______ the needs.
Evangelism comes through _________ and ____________.
We cannot control how other people respond, but we can _____________ God’s love and transforming power in our lives