CERRO GORDO CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN
September 5, 2021
The gods have come to earth!
Chapter 14 begins with Paul and Barnabas at Iconium. They went to the Jewish synagogue there and a great number of both Jews and Gentiles believed their message. They again angered the Jews who did not believe and actually, in spite of everything Paul and Barnabas had done, some of the Jews and Gentiles were convinced Paul and Barnabas were wrong. Because of that, they spent a considerable amount of time with the people of Iconium. God even enabled them to perform miraculous signs and wonders while they were there. Eventually the city broke into two groups: those who believed the Jews who opposed Paul and Barnabas, and those who believed and supported God’s message. Ultimately, among the unbelievers a plot developed to stone Paul and Barnabas. However, Paul and Barnabas learned of their plans and left the city before they could cause them harm.
This is what was happening int the first 7 verses of Chapter 14 of Acts. We now see Paul and Barnabas have come to the town of Lystra. As soon as they get there, they encounter a man lame from birth. This man was in a position to hear what Paul was teaching, and obviously Paul took notice of him. Something about the man led Paul to believe his faith was so strong that healing was possible for the lame man. Without hesitation Paul looked at this man and boldly said to him, “Stand up on your feet.” Immediately the man jumped up and began to walk. Can you imagine? We all either know of people who could use this kind of miracle or have seen people who have serious physical limitations that would love to have God’s power displayed in such a way for them. When the crowd in this place realized what just had happened before their eyes they said, “gods have come down to us in human form!” They even knew who they were. They called Barnabas, Zeus and Paul, Hermes. These were two gods who were historically viewed in a positive way in Lystra. There was even a temple there in honor of Zeus. So when they saw this unbelievable miracle happen right before their eyes, some of the people were convinced the gods they had honored for generations had come to earth and had done this miracle. Once Barnabas and Paul realized what was happening, they immediately shouted, “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We bring you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God who made Heaven and Earth and sea and everything in them.” They then went on to show how God had allowed nations to go their own way even though his mercy and grace was always on display. Even though Paul and Barnabas tried to convince them they were men entrusted with the message of hope and salvation, many still wanted to treat them as gods. Apparently, many ultimately believe Paul and Barnabas were just men because some of the Jewish leaders from Antioch and Iconium found out they were in Lystra. They came to town and convinced many in the town to turn against Paul. They actually stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city to die. As it turned out, some of Paul and Barnabas’ supporters went to Paul and gathered around him. Paul got up, went back into the city, and the next day left for the city of Derbe.
Chapter 14 closes out by telling us they preached for a while in Derbe with good success. They then left and went back to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch--places that Paul and Barnabas saw the Lord move in a powerful way and yet also saw Satan deceive many who lived in those cities as well. Their main focus while in each of those cities was to strengthen the existing church and its leaders.
Paul and Barnabas had experienced the incredible power of God in all these places and extreme trials in each of these places as well. They honestly shared what had been happening and gave the churches a dose of reality. Those of us who are believers will go through many hardships before we enter the ultimate kingdom of God. At each church before they left, they appointed elders to continue God’s work. They prayed with the elders and laid hands on them, seeking God’s power and blessing before they moved to the next town. Paul and Barnabas finally returned back to what had become home. Back to Antioch and the support of the church God used as a safe haven for both Paul and Barnabas. They loved telling their home church what God was doing among the Gentiles throughout the region. The chapter ends by saying Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch a long time.
We can see in these verses today that we should not let the highs get too high or the lows too low. Unlike Herod who we read about a couple weeks ago that loved being viewed as a god, Paul and Barnabas quickly pointed out “we are men just like you.” It would have been easy to give in to the praise that was coming their way, but they never lost sight of the fact that everything that was happening should be used to point people to God through what Jesus Christ did on the cross. In spite of lots of successes there were many things that God used to keep Paul and Barnabas humble and focused. We also see the importance of having a place you can rest and feel safe. Antioch had become that place for Paul and Barnabas. I am convinced Antioch was a place they could move about in safety among believers who loved them and gave them support.
As we look at what this chapter is telling us as believers today, I am convinced we are being reminded there will be good days and there will be bad days. At times we may feel like we are on top of the world and times we are in the deepest pit there could ever be. The same God that is with you on the mountaintop will sustain you when you are in the pit. Sometimes we may eventually understand why things are happen the way they do and other times we may never understand. The important thing is, no, the essential thing is, to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus Christ our Lord. He is our refuge in times of trouble and our biggest cheerleader when things are going well. Also, we are reminded that our church family should be that safe place we can turn for encouragement and safety. Our safe haven when the storms of life come our way, the place we can turn to, to get our batteries recharged. That is one of the most important reasons God has caused the church to exist. May our Church be that place where we can find peace and encouragement. Yes, when it comes to the word of God, we do have an obligation from time to time to speak the truth in love to one another. But God wants our Church to be that place where we can be honest about who we are. Our goal, God’s goal, is to help one another be whatever God is calling us to be. The 14th chapter once again shows how God wants us as the Church to be there for one another. When that happens God can do great things through us, His Church, His people. And NO the gods have not come to earth, but the creator God is living in us and through us as the Holy Spirit moves and empowers us every day, if we will let him.
Bible Study 9:30 Tuesday
September 8 Church Board—6:15 Exec Comm; 7:00 Commissions; 7:30 Board
September 11 4:30 – 7:00 United Methodist Women’s fall dinner
October 2 All church wiener roast
October 9 Rummage sale at Brethren Church to benefit the Lord’s Storehouse. Take items to Katie or Amy.
November 5, 6 District Conference--Delegates are still needed
Offering plates are in the back of the sanctuary. Thank you!
Donation Box: Pastor’s Assistance Fund
First Sundays: food donations for food banks
Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362
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District: iwdcob.org (click on newsletter link) and on facebook
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Keep in Your Prayers
Marlene Schultz; Randy West; Jen Durst; Sarah Rudelick; Sydney (Nancy Gorrell’s niece); Tera Runyan; Tim and Betty Sue Laird; Carl and Wilma Cable; Marge Starr; Mike Gentry; Larry Albro; Mike McCleery; Sherry Wright; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker; Sonna Hall; Brittany Wright; Anna Gentry Thompson; Clyde and Nancy Fansler; Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Dylan Junior; Doug Fansler; Liza Yore; Candy Dobson; Anna Rose Larrick; Gary Jesse; Shawn Cain; Robert Cripe; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Zola Copeland; Patty Cripe; Lauren Gross; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; Coronavirus crisis; healthcare workers and first responders; the families of the 660,000+ people who have died from COVID-19; those who are ill from the virus; the unemployed; school teachers, staff, and students; victims of disasters; victims of shootings; nursing home residents; the Nigerian church; Haitian Brethren
Military and Other Services and their families
Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers
Church of the Brethren vision statement:
Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.
Our Mission Statement:
Love God, grow with others, serve faithfully, reach the lost, find peace.