The "Gideon Report" by Bill Long
- Paul wanted to finish his course in life by completing the ministry that he had received from Jesus.
What did that mean for him?
- It had nothing to do with his achievements.
- It had everything to do with his testifying to God’s grace.
“grace” = “God’s intent to give us what we need not what we deserve”
- Along the way in life, regardless of our age, we are constantly making decisions and choices that will determine whether or not the story for us ends well.
- Those who live well and finish well have something in common. They stayed awake through their whole life. They paid attention to the God who is at work with them – in their blessings, in their hardships, on the wonderful days, and on the horrible days. They watched as God shaped and molded their soul.
Not every struggle will end. Some struggles are supposed to be endured and to transform us along the way.
- Struggle has always been a part of human life.
- We struggle not just with each other but with powers and principalities. Our struggle is between good and evil.
- The real battleground where this struggle takes place is within our own hearts.
- Salvation means we are save not just from an eternity in hell and separation from God. It also means that we are saved from ourselves. And we are given the life of Jesus Christ.
- To live as a Christian means that we take not only His salvation, but we also take on His struggles.
- Our contentment is found in knowing that we have spent our years struggling for the right things.
- If you are looking for a trouble-free life, Christianity isn’t the right religion for you. It doesn’t take away struggle. It focuses your struggle by claiming that there is a war out there between good and evil, and you have to decide which side you are on. We are contented because our lives are focused around a great mission.
- God isn’t easy on the people He uses. That is because their lives were caught up in a great struggle.
- Life is a struggle that can make you angry, mean, and cynical. Or, it can make you tender, loving, and humble. It is your choice, and you make it every day.
- Barnabas, a highly respected member of the church, interceded for Paul.
- Barnabas wasn’t “the star”. He conducted most of his life in the wings, helping someone else find the spotlight.
“encouragement” = “paraklesis” = “called to come alongside”
- The Holy Spirit’s ministry is also often referred to as our “paraklesis”. The Spirit takes us and encourages us in the right places for life.
- The question today is: Are we being a Barnabas?
- There will be no Pauls in the next generation if there are not Barnabas's in our generation.
- Clearly the American church is no longer the star and it may be that the time has come for us to be Barnabas to the 90% of Christianity that lives elsewhere.
- The great irony of choosing to be a Barnabas is that you think you are doing this to be a giver, but as all givers know; they always receive more than they offer.
- It isn’t stressful to be an encourager. And this is why the American church has to now become Barnabas to the international church. For too long we have become irritable and grumpy about our many theological debates. For the sake of our souls, it is time to be Barnabas.
- Most of us know about turnaround moments in life.
- Christians do not believe that God is always the cause of our turnaround moments.
- Christians do believe that nothing escapes the notice of God, who still comes to us in Jesus Christ and redeems any strange turn of events, any tragedy, and any evil for good.
- Christians also believe that sometimes God does directly intervene to turn our lives around.
- Perseverance is only a virtue if you are headed in the right direction. Otherwise, it is just a stubborn resolve to get more and more lost.
- We have free will, and we can use it to respond to God’s call to make dramatic changes in our lives.
- Arabia is the place where you go to be with God before you start to move in the right direction. In Arabia you discover that the right direction isn’t so much a matter of specific choices, but a matter of drawing closer to God.
- Arabia is a hard place where we do the hard, spiritual work of looking for streams in the desert, collecting daily manna, learning to trust and listening to God.
“liturgy” = “the work of the people”
- The work of worship is to stop the noisy busyness, to let the music and the words of worship guide us, and to listen for the Word of God that turns our lives to new directions.
- You go nowhere in life by accident.
Part of our mission is knowing how to have good failures.
- Seldom is someone argued into believing in the need for a Savior. Faith is always a gift from God.
- Paul never got over this early failure. That’s the good news because he continued to learn from it, use it, and experienced more of God’s conversion through it.
- We spend most of our lives either being converted toward or away from the image of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing like a failure to make you move one way or the other.
“gravitas” = “a weighty soul”
- No one has “gravitas” without experiencing some good failures along the way. These are the people you go to for counsel and advice.
- The difference in a devastating failure and a good failure is one that results in more conversion of your life.
- Anyone who is living life to its fullest has to spend some time on the edges. And you can’t get out on the edges, where risk is taken and faith is exercised, without occasionally falling off the edge.
- How do you respond to this inevitable failure when it comes?
- Some become paralyzed with analysis.
- Some become paralyzed with regret and remorse over what we have done and left undone.
- Some become paralyzed with fear that it will happen again.
- The reason Paul could keep going to the next town to talk about Jesus wasn’t because he expected to succeed, but because he wasn’t afraid to fail. He knew he could never lose the love of God in Christ Jesus.
- Both the successes and failures of life should make you humble.
- The Lord’s commission to the church, especially when it is afraid and hiding behind its own walls, is “Get up and go!”
- Today’s text is another conversion story. Ananias was converted from fear and hiding to a mission and the embrace of his enemy.
- The only successful way the church has ever responded to persecution is by reaching out to its tormentor saying, “Brother Saul.”
- The problem isn't Saul, or Ananias, or whoever is different from us. The problem, as President Roosevelt said long ago, is “fear itself.”
- As Saul the persecutor was transformed to Paul an apostle of the church, and as Ananias was transformed from being afraid to getting up and going to his persecutor, so does our country need to be transformed.
- God’s ways are not our ways, but He never leaves us alone. His message is always the same. “It is time to get up and go to the person who makes you afraid – and bless that person.”
- The church was placed on the earth in part to resist this evil. But we do that differently than the Department of Homeland Security. The place where the followers of Jesus begin their war on terror is not by fretting over them, but by exploring and confessing the evil in our own hearts. We confess this, find forgiveness, and then receive the perfect love of God that casts out fear. This is where we put our faith – in the God of grace who is with us.
- Let at least the members of the church of Jesus Christ stand in our nation as people who know how to be unafraid – so unafraid that we can resist evil by being a blessing to the people who only want to hurt us. But the only way we can say, “Brother Saul” is if we have in the love of God that flutters by us every day.
Life doesn't move in a straight forward direction. But it is always at the turn in the road where God is most visible to us.
- Is there something about your life that you would like to change?
- Is there something about your life that your friends and family would like you to change?
- Is there a change that God wants you to make?
- Real change can only come from the Creator of our lives.
- As much as we talk about change, the only changes we are really interested in are the ones we control. God has other ideas.
- Whether we realize it or not, our understanding of God determines everything we believe and how we live our lives.
- For most of us, conversion begins in a moment, but over a lifetime.
- Everything we do here at church is only a vehicle to carry us to God. The point is not to get enamored with the vehicle.
- Real change in our lives comes not from what we know, but whom we know. And knowing more of the love of God will always lead to the best changes in our lives
- When your life has been interrupted – not just turned, but turned upside down – have the courage to be quiet long enough to look through the interruption prayerfully, asking for a glimpse of God.
- You are defined by the ideals and the relationships to which you are committed.
- The most extraordinary things can happen when people pray and are willing to make a commitment.
- Some of us remember past hurts when someone made a commitment that he or she could or would not keep. It hurt so much that we vowed we would never go through that again. So we become weary of committing our fragile hearts again.
- How do you make a commitment to something that will become different than it was when you made the commitment?
- It is easier to be in love with the idea of love than to commit ourselves to the flawed people God wants to give us.
- Others of us are afraid of commitments because we have failed at them in the past.
- From the deepest places within us emerges a yearning to be connected, interwoven, devoted and committed to others. But how do we do that?
- A commitment isn't really something you make. It is something you receive.
- Commitments are costly.
Freedom is found only in commitments.God is involved in our commitments. It is the three-fold cord that doesn't easily break.
- Through committing ourselves to others, we receive blessings from God.
- We love our plans. If you want to reach a goal, it takes a good plan.
- Grace is all about God’s initiatives in our lives, which means that God also has plans. God’s plans often interrupt our own plans.
- There is a false piety which is often an excuse for laziness. Naomi took the initiative, but she followed the direction which she believed God was already pointing out.
- Faith always grows when it acts on the basis of what the Lord has already accomplished and provided.
- The entire story of Ruth is one of ordinary people who are all doing the best they can with their plans.
- The grace of God that redeems us, changes our lives, and brings us under His wings is mediated through ordinary people.
- If God wants to do something, He certainly can. But most of our stories are like that of Ruth, who never saw a miracle. She didn't expect it, and neither should we.
- Expect to have to devise a strategy for what you will do with your life.
- You only have this one life. This is your one opportunity to make a difference.