Sunday, June 23, 2013

Daddy loves you! (Acts 20:28-21:1)

I think Friday (6/21/13) was the first time I heard the story of the 3-year-old boy (Grayson from North Carolina) who was born without the nerve responsible for transmitting sound from his ears to his brain.  Recently Grayson had a procedure intended to allow him hear for the first time.  I don’t remember the name of the procedure or how it works, but what I will never forget is the look on the boy’s face when he was able to hear for the very first time.  I’m sure the words had been spoken over – signed to – him countless times before, but for the first time Grayson heard “Daddy loves you.  Daddy loves you.”  The look on his face was priceless!  Sheer joy at the sound of his father’s voice.

I cried immediately thinking about how sweet the sound will be when we, as believers in Jesus Christ, hear audibly the voice of God our Father, saying, “Daddy loves you.”  … And then I cried again because I realized that there are people whom God loves who have never heard that God loves them.

In Tentmakers (and on this blog) we have been studying the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul.  Last week we read in Acts 20:24 that Paul’s goal had become to, “finish [his] course with joy and the ministry which [he had] obtained from … the Lord Jesus, faithfully to attest to the Good News of God’s grace” (Amplified).  His ambition was to make sure that people who had never heard the Gospel would hear (Rom 15:20).  This week studying Acts 20:28-21:1, in which Luke records the remainder of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders, we see that Paul uses a flock-shepherd analogy (familiar in Scripture) to explain the role of the Ephesian elders from this point on.  In verse 28 alone, Paul tells them who their flock is, what they are to do with them, and why they should take their position so seriously.  If you flip over to 1 Peter 5:1-3, you’ll also see how elders were to tend their flock.  All of this looks forward to the time “when the Chief Shepherd is revealed” (1 Peter 5:4).

Now What?  Well, I asked the class today to think about the flock over which God has appointed each one of them as a shepherd.  I ask you to consider the same question.  Along with that, think about the what, why, and how discussed in the paragraph above.  What are you to do with the flock?  Why is it so important?  How are you to lead?  And I’m quite sure that “when the Chief Shepherd is revealed” – and we are blessed by seeing His face – we will also hear the voice of God, saying “Daddy loves you!”

Finally, I realized that not every reading this is well-versed in Scripture, so if you’re one who has never heard that God loves you, don’t take my word for it.  Take His:

“God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.  This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10, NLT)

No matter who you are.  No matter what you’ve done.  Regardless of whether or not you love yourself … or have ever been loved by any person.  God loves you!


TIME Magazine link:


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Selah! (Acts 20:13-27)

Last night Mara surprised me by going through her bedtime routine without us even knowing about it.  She came into the living room dressed in her pj’s with a great big smile on her face.  When I asked her what was going on, she replied, “Mama, I know I always complain when we’re getting ready for bed, so today I decided to do everything by myself, so you wouldn’t have to hear me complain!”  All I could do was Selah!  (Selah is a Hebrew word used frequently in the Psalms, which means pause and calmly think of that.)

This morning her words were still rolling around in my head.  How – at 6 years old – could she recognize and acknowledge a specific situation in which she was prone to complain?  And not only that, but to intentionally take action to keep history from repeating itself.  Maybe her words stayed in my head because I had set myself up to complain just yesterday afternoon when I didn’t allow enough time to get us out of the house before going to gymnastics.  Or maybe it was because I haven’t had the urge to write for several weeks now (in case you’ve noticed).  I’ve just been waiting for God to give me something to say.  Turns out He gave Mara something worth saying.

Since I last posted, we have continued to follow Paul on his third missionary journey.  In today’s study, we catch up to Paul on the last leg of this journey.  Go ahead and read Acts 20:13-27.  I’ll warn you that the beginning of the passage includes several cities that may be unfamiliar.  Just push through, saying the names confidently … Don’t even think of using them as an excuse to get out of reading the rest.  (Yes, I’m talking to you.  Laughing.)

If you look earlier in Acts 20, you’ll see that Paul and his traveling partners (once again including Luke, the writer of Acts) begin our passage in Troas.  They are headed to Jerusalem, making several pit stops along the way.  One stop Paul was trying to steer clear of was Ephesus, but Paul wasn’t avoiding the Ephesians altogether.  Luke tells us (vs. 17) that Paul “sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church [to come to him there].” (Amplified).  So if he wanted to talk to the elders, why wouldn’t he just go to Ephesus?

We discussed a few of the possibilities in Tentmakers on Sunday.  Maybe there was still some unrest after the Artemis (Diana) riot (Acts 19:23-20:1).  Maybe Paul was afraid that the need would be so great that he wouldn’t be able to leave in time to make it to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts. 20:16).  In verse 25, Paul tells the elders that this is goodbye.  Maybe he couldn’t bear the thought of saying that to the whole congregation.  Maybe … (you can fill in your own “maybe”).  The ‘Maybe ...’ I filled in this morning came from Mara’s statement about avoiding complaining.  I wonder if Paul sensed that he would be tempted to complain about (and work on) the problems he would see in the church from close-up instead of keeping the focus on his farewell address. 

Now What?  Well, next week we’ll be studying the rest of Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders.  Until then, I challenge you to do what I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future:  Recognize and acknowledge when and where you may be tempted to complain, and (like Mara … and maybe Paul) do something intentional to turn your complaining into a great big smile.  “… if only I may finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have obtained from … the Lord Jesus, faithfully to attest to the good news (Gospel) of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).  Selah!