Find the Opportunity

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A Different Kind of Adventure
On December 30th, I went for a hike, slipped on a rock, and fell.  I ended up breaking the fibula in my left leg. I’m currently recovering from surgery, but the Great Physician is taking this opportunity to also make some cuts and alterations to my heart. I’ve had some diagnoses of pride, fear, and insecurity that I haven’t enjoyed hearing, but thank goodness they are not terminal.   What I have had the opportunity to learn about myself is that I would much rather be the roof wrecker than the one that needs to be carried to the roof.  Pride keeps you from accepting that you're the crippled friend that others have to bring to Jesus.  But I have humbly accepted prayer, encouragement, warm meals, time, and presence from women at MSM, my women’s group, and our home group. My husband has carried the weight of the extra demands with the help of his man challenge group and his men’s group. I have been able to witness the softness of the heart of Jesus for the Church through the servant heart of my husband in these few weeks of being still. I know God is capable of all things, but I don’t see how any of this happens without His Church.  How does Christ go about His work in our lives without every hand, foot, mouth, eye, ear, and heart that belongs to His beautiful bride showing up for every opportunity He presents for her. I’m so thankful to be a part of the mission of our church even though I have to witness it from a place of brokenness right now.   I thank you, church, for loving me when I’m the roof wrecker OR the crippled friend.  There are so many different ways that you bring me to Jesus.  Sometimes it is straight through the doors of our church with a friendly smile and glad you're here with the intent to make you feel seen.  It so very often is a cut-to-the-heart sermon that convictingly reveals incisions that need to be made.  Other times, it is more intentional with warm meals that warm your heart. But during this time, I get to testify to your investment and how much it matters when the January days are long and dark and you just want to go for a hike, but instead, you have church family who are willing to sit on your couch with you for the opportunity of a different kind of adventure.  Thank you for all of these things!
Angela Lovelace
Feb 5

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Repent and Be Baptized
In Acts 2:38-39 we read of Peter’s response to the people asking how they receive the Holy Spirit, in order to change the world as Jesus instructed. “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’” Peter’s words make it known that this promise isn't just good for today, but it applies to your children, your children's children, and all who are far off. It's as if Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew that at some point in the future there might be a group of people that would gather together, want to believe in Jesus and follow Jesus, but they don't want to repent or be baptized. They want to keep living the way they're living, and they don't want to make changes. They don't want to humble themselves, confess, and be baptized, but they still want Jesus. They want to follow Jesus close enough to get those benefits, but they don't want to follow Jesus close enough that it requires anything of them. This message is for the person who looks around and compares themselves to other people and believes they're doing pretty good, and instead of repenting and being baptized, they just are going to hope that God grades on the curve and it'll all work out. It's for the person who's tempted to see repentance and baptism as antiquated traditions rather than an act of obedience. They want to believe a false gospel of self-acceptance and personal growth can save them. It's for the person who sits in church week after week and wants to follow Jesus, but they don't want to humble themselves because they worry about what people will think if they do. It's for the person who thinks that God's forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit is something they can earn through good behavior and altruism. When we talk about kingdom opportunities, we're almost always talking about taking action today, not someday in the future. There's something within us that when we see a Kingdom opportunity or we sense God calling us or leading us, we think that we will get around to it one day or another. But when the Holy Spirit fills you and calls you, he'll almost always says, today! Reflection/Discussion Question: What Kingdom opportunity is the Holy Spirit prompting you to take action on today?
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Opportunities Require the Holy Spirit
We read in verses 46 and 47 of Acts 2 that, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” It was all dependent upon the power of God. If we go back to Acts chapter one and see what was said by Jesus before all of this happens, we read that the followers of Jesus were told to wait on the Holy Spirit.  You may read some of the description of the early church and think their way of living and level of devotion sounds pretty extreme and not a realistic way to live. But what we find is that the early church wasn't doing these things out of their own power and strength, but they were doing it through the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8-9, Jesus talked to them about the opportunity that they had once he ascended into Heaven. He says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” So, what Jesus emphasizes here is that no one should try to do anything on their own power. You have to wait for the Holy Spirit's power. When the Holy Spirit comes, he will allow you to do what you can't do on your own. The Holy Spirit will help you see these opportunities and lean into them. Reflection/Discussion Question: What is a recent situation that you found yourself needing the Holy Spirit as your own power was not enough?
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Power of The Church
When we face difficult situations and circumstances, we pray for solutions and answers, but we should also pray that these situations will bring about opportunities. There should be an awareness that the struggles we are going through bring Kingdom opportunities to impact and influence others. It might be something really difficult that you aren’t sure how to get through, but we, as Christ followers, have an understanding that there is an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus and to reflect to Jesus through it all. We often ask God to give us a reason why we are going through a current struggle or heartbreak. What's the purpose? Why is this happening? What's the good that God wants to bring out of this situation? What does God want to do in me? What do you want to do through me? We see this throughout the first century in the early church, where they dealt with incredible, struggles, persecution, and suffering, but at every turn, the Kingdom of God expanded and grew.  We see through the example of the early church in Acts that these Kingdom opportunities require compassion and generosity. When they gave financially, it wasn't so much that they were giving to the church, it's that they were giving through the church; that was the opportunity. Acts 2:45 says, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” They brought their offerings to the church and through the church they were able to meet the needs of people in the community. They were able to help the church expand and grow to reach the ends of the earth. It's not necessarily that they gave to the church as much as they gave through the church, and that shift in thinking is really helpful as we see the dramatic impact that's possible when we collectively embrace this way of thinking. The church is the hope of the world. When we give through the church, the church advances the Kingdom of God. The early church was able to have a tremendous impact because people weren't just coming and attending, but they were actively serving, sacrificing, and giving generously. Reflection/Discussion Question: What is a way that you can practice more generosity and compassion?
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Everything in Common
In Acts 2:44, we read: “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” When we read this verse, it probably sounds both puzzling and impossible. There is no way that this entire group of people had everything in common. In fact, we know they didn't have everything in common because many of them spoke different languages, came from different parts of the region, had different traditions and practices, different cultures, different families, different struggles, different challenges, and different stories. So how can Luke, the writer of Acts, possibly say they had everything in common?  Luke can say this because of the way the church was united around the one most important thing: Jesus! We see the opposite of this sometimes within the church, and this disunity can undermine Kingdom opportunities. The world looks at a church that's divided and bickering amongst itself, where they are attacking each other and fighting over all kinds of things that aren't that significant in the scheme of things. The world is not drawn to that. But when they see different kinds of people coming together as a united group, it draws them, brings them in, and it creates opportunities to share the love and grace of Jesus.  If you look at the early church, they were facing a lot of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, including their political standing. In the first century, they didn't any political power position. They didn't have the ability to legislate change. They were in every way the minority, and they were mocked and ridiculed. Yet, despite these difficulties and struggles that were meeting them on every side and all their worldly differences, they were able to be united in a way that attracted those on the outside to wonder what was so special about the teachings and ways of Jesus. Reflection/Discussion Questions: When outsiders look at your community or church, do they see a united group or a group that is divided because of personal differences? What can be done to create a more unified group?