I Have Called You

20170108-1hbsI, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.

I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles.
(Isaiah 42.6)

God wants us to be his people. It is a message that goes all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. After they sin, it would have been easy for God to kick them out of the garden and have nothing else to do with them. (Let’s be honest, that’s how we treat most people who let us down.) That wasn’t God’s plan, however. He clothes them and even though there were repercussions for their sin, they were still his people.

We see it again in the story of Abraham in Genesis 12 and following. God wants this man to be the start of a great nation; a nation that God would call his own. We see it in the lives of God’s kings; we hear it in the voices of his prophets.

It is the same story told by Peter, who in the midst of a religious climate that refused to associate with Gentiles (non-Jews, or in our day we might think of them as people without faith and opposed to God), discovered that God shows no favoritism. While many people would assume that you MUST exclude people unlike you, Peter is directed by God to accept and bring people completely opposite of him into the church.

Finally, we feel the full impact of God’s desire when his son is crucified on the cross. God wants us to be his people.

Too often, we miss that our responsibility is not just to be his people. We forget that we are to help others be his people, too. All the way back in the book of Isaiah, we are told we are to be God’s covenant people, which meant we would be not only in covenant with him, but also a light to the Gentiles.

There’s more, we would:

  • Open eyes that are blind
  • Free captives from prison
  • Release from the dungeon those in darkness

Being God’s people means more than just a single focus on God and us. It also means looking to those seeking him, or those who perhaps do not yet even know he is the one they seek.

It is what his servant and son Jesus did. How well do you seek out others to be his?

 

Questions:

•In what ways have you sung the praises of God’s great love and made his faithfulness known to others? What specific things would you include in your song? Make a list and share it with someone also reading these passages.

•How does knowing God seeks you out, he WANTS you to be his, affect your devotion to God? How does it make it easier for you to want to follow him?

•How do you think you would have reacted to Peter’s acceptance of a Gentile? In what ways might we exclude people from faith today? How can we overcome the tendency to be exclusionary or to play favorites? What is something you can do today to do so?

•In what ways have you felt the affirmation of God on you? How has it affected your spiritual walk?

•Do something today that reminds you that God really, really does love you, and also helps you remember to share his love with others.

Vacation – June 19

Text: Acts 4.23-31 (Read it here)20160619

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

(Acts 4.29-30, NIV)

Hello, God?
Author: Rob Anderson

Hello, God?

It’s me.

Again.

Are you there?

Are you sure?

Because, you see, last time we had this conversation, I’m not sure you really heard me. At least, I wonder if you did because nothing really changed, or at least, I don’t feel like it did and so, here I am again.

God?

Are you there?

There is a part of me that is jealous of the believers in Acts 4. In the midst of great struggles they pray to God for boldness and what happens? The place they were meeting was shaken by what we can only assume was the power of God.

Too often, my prayers are more like the one above, not prayers of power that God responds to in miraculous ways.

That being said, I don’t want us to assume that our prayers are unheard (they are not) or that a prayer without shaking ground is invalid (it is not). Instead, let’s look at three things that might give us more comfort during our times of prayer.

First, notice that the believers pray to the “Sovereign Lord.” They go on to explain what they mean by this: the one who made the heavens and earth. When you pray, do you remember and acknowledge the power of God?

Second, when troublesome times hit the believers, their first inclination is to pray. Not complain or bemoan their circumstances with one another. They turn to God and pray. How do you respond to troubles?

Last, they seek to move into the fire, not away from it. Too often we try to pray away the problems. In Acts 4, the believers pray for boldness to speak powerfully.

The ground may not shake when you pray, but God’s power is no less real when you do.

Questions:

When you face trouble or persecution (even a minor episode of trouble), what is your response? What would you consider an appropriate response? What would you consider a poor response? How does your response compare to how the early Christians in Acts responded when facing persecution?

Why do the Christians in Acts 4 appeal to God’s sovereign nature when they pray to him? What does their prayer tell you about how they viewed God, especially during times of dire circumstances?

How do you think you would respond if you prayed for God to “stretch out his hand” and at the conclusion of the prayer the place where you were meeting was shaken? How do we assume God will respond to our prayers? Does our assumptions indicate a sense of trust or indicate we may be filled with more doubts than faith? In what ways?