WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE?
After a few weeks away from the book of Acts, I would like for us to spend some time this morning picking up the apostles’ story again. The last time we were in Acts we read from Chapter 7. The last verse we read was Acts 7:60. The last sentence of that chapter says, “And Saul was there, giving approval of his death.” That verse was talking about the stoning death of Stephen for his very blunt message to the Jews. We have left out some important things happening through the apostles in Chapter 8, but we are skipping ahead to look at what happened in Chapter 9. Before we dig deeper into verses and Saul’s story, let start by looking at our story. Every one of us has a different story. I am pretty sure most all of you here this morning has gone to church for a long time. Some maybe 5 years, others 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years. As good as that is, that does not guarantee that you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and become a true Christian. As we look at Saul’s journey today, I would like you to look at your journey to where the Holy Spirit has brought you, just as the Lord is encouraging me to do the same thing. Saul has been a devoted lifelong Jew. He was committed to doing what he thought God would want him to do. Paul, at one point later in Acts, gave his resume of how devoted a Jew he truly was from the minute he could live it out. (Acts 22:1-5) He was serious about stopping the crazy people who were trying to deceive God’s people, so he arrested and saw to it these “Christians” were stopped. That is until one day on the way to Damascus again to arrest Christians; he had a personal encounter with the risen Savior. Of course, Saul had two options, he could believe and accept what was happening or he could reject it. It was obvious, though, God wanted to get Saul’s attention to the point of causing him to be blind literally for several days. We see he was led by those traveling with him to Damascus. Once there, God called a Christian by the name of Ananias to go see Saul. Ananias wanted nothing to do with Saul. He knew what Saul had been doing, persecuting, even killing Christians. But Ananias obediently did what God asked him to do.
As we reflect on the journey Saul took to be where God truly wanted him to be, what about you and me? What has our journey been like? Are we in the early stages of that journey? Has our journey been going on a long time? In all honesty, have we actually ever truly started our journey? This is something only you and our Lord knows what the answer is. Have we had a life changing event to get us started on our journey? Has the Lord used someone to help you get pointed in the right direction? Or has the Lord used you to point someone else in the right direction?
For a couple of minutes, I would like to share with you a story I got to see firsthand. It involves my wife, Cathy, and her father, Herb. Just a brief background, Cathy’s dad was an alcoholic. Cathy’s parents divorced when Cathy was around 12 or 13 years old and he moved back to Springfield. Alcohol was an important part of Cathy’s dad’s life for his entire adult life. Cathy’s grandma (her dad’s mom) came to live at Friendship Hill soon after Cathy and I got married. We would take her grandma to Springfield on occasions to visit. When he was not drinking, he was pretty easy to talk to. However, when he had been drinking it was not very pleasant. On one occasion when our kids were around 6 and 3, we took the kids and Cathy’s grandma to Springfield to visit. He was drunk when we got there and said every profane word under the sun while we were there and after leaving, we both swore we would never expose our kids to that again. To fast forward ahead a few years later, Cathy’s dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He really had no one in Springfield to help him. Cathy had an aunt in Springfield who checked in on him but that was pretty limited. Although Cathy had very little contact with her dad over much of the previous years, she felt compelled to do what she could for her dad. In spite of having two young children, she would put them on the bus each morning and immediately leave to go to Springfield to help her dad. In most cases, she would try to be back when our kids got off the bus. Other times her mom and sister helped with the kids. In all honesty, during the week I was not much help because I would leave early and get home late. For almost three months, she would go to Springfield showing love and support to someone who was not the most lovable or supportive most of his life. Over the course of three months, I saw a man transformed from a self-centered, profane person to a thankful, appreciative man. Cathy’s aunt asked her dad if it would be alright if her pastor came to see him. He said yes. A couple of weeks before he died, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. In the course of a few short months, I saw God transform Herb from a man we would not let our kids near to a man we felt comfortable leaving our young son alone with while we ran some errands. I am convinced Cathy’s dad had an encounter with the risen Savior in large part because Cathy refused to let her dad go.
She refused to let him die alone without hope.
In Saul’s story, we saw Ananias was faithful to God and did what he was called to do. I believe Cathy’s faithfulness to God on her dad’s behalf also changed her dad’s life for eternity and it also changed mine. Again, I ask you what is your story? What has God done to help you get to where you are? As you continue your journey, how is God using you? We must each have that moment when we personally encounter the risen Savior. Sometimes God uses events to bring us to that place. God is asking you and me this morning—What is it going to take? What did it take? We each have story. May we who have strong relationship with the Lord be willing to say, “Lord, here I am, use me.”
July: We will worship in the sanctuary at 10:00 for those who feel comfortable coming. Physical distancing must be maintained and the wearing of face masks, please. We will also continue the facebook live service for those who wish to stay home. Sunday School has started—9:00.
Every Tuesday: Bible Study 9:30
Offerings are still being collected in the back of the sanctuary. We are thankful to all who are faithful in bringing them or mailing them. (PO Box 45)
Please remember to lock the doors when you are the last one to leave the church. We have found unlocked doors on occasion in the past month or so.
If you have copier issues, please let Carol know.
The board voted to not have the food stand or church rummage sale this summer.
The board also agreed to continue worship as we have been having it. Here is something from the NY Times: “Across the U.S., more than 650 cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches, religious events and Christian youth camps — many from the last month. With infection rates soaring in the South and West, some churches that fought to reopen in those regions are being forced to close again.”
We don’t want to be one of those statistics. I know of at least one Church of the Brethren in Virginia that ended up with several cases in their congregation.
Upper Room and Daily Bread: issues available in the back of the sanctuary
THANK YOU: to the people who have been mowing!
to all who helped in any way with our revised edition of the Strawberry Festival!
to the State Bank of Cerro Gordo for the grant money
First Sunday of the month: Food Banks
Food needs: boxes of cereal, boxes of prepared foods, such as soups, potatoes, rice, mac & cheese, peanut butter, jelly
Donation Box July and August: AC bills
Larry Traxler’s phone number: 217-454-2362
Keep in Your Prayers
Junior Traxler; Anna Gentry Thompson; Larry Cripe; Arnold Schultz; Clyde and Nancy Fansler; Shirley Clarkson; Mike Seidenstricker; Adiline Young; Barb Baker; Kim Lehmann; Dylan Junior; Doug Fansler; Liam Martina; Ali Bryant; Jeff Sawyer; Liza Yore; Candy Dobson; Anna Rose Larrick; Gary Jesse; Norm & Marge Starr; Shawn Cain; Robert Cripe; Mayo Hanaver; Zola Copeland and family; Jennifer Like; Patty Cripe; Lauren Gross; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; Coronavirus crisis; healthcare workers and first responders; the families of the 134,000+ people who have died from COVID-19; Tim Wright who has been exposed to COVID-19.
Military and Other Services and their families
Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers
Joel S. Billi, president of EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) held a news conference on July 2 in Nigeria. Here is a bit of what he said:
“EYN is the single Christian denomination that is worst hit by the activities of the Boko Haram. Over 700,000 members have been displaced with only 7 out of 60 District Church Councils not directly affected by the insurgency. EYN has lost over 8,370 members and 8 pastors, with the numbers increasing on a daily basis. Many of her members have been abducted, with 217 out of the abducted 276 Chibok school girls belonging to EYN. Over 300 of the 586 churches of EYN have been either burnt or destroyed, with uncountable numbers of houses belonging to our members looted or burnt.”
He also pointed out the continuing attacks, kidnappings, murders, and property destruction. To read all of his press release, go to www.brethren.org/news/ Then click on Newsline for July 7.