Sunday, December 25, 2011

From Acts to Revelation - Part 9: Persecution of the Church

From Acts to Revelation
Part 9 – Persecution of the Church
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

Last week we talked about Peter and John and their daily trips to the temple, where they would preach and teach what they had seen and heard while with Jesus.

There was a man, lame from birth, who asked for alms, and Peter healed him in the name of Jesus.

This aroused the attention of many, including the sanhedrin, the religious leaders.

Today we will see how the religious leaders begin to struggle with control, and acting in fear of losing this control, they try to put a stop to Peter and John preaching and teaching about Jesus and the resurrection.

In the world we live in, persecution is different in the US than in other parts of the world, where it is closer to biblical persecution we read about.

But we are still faced with decisions we must make when it concerns the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God.

On what do you base your decisions in everyday life?  You may say God...but is that true?

Does favor of men control how you act? Or perhaps money is the basis for your decisions?

When you vote for a leader, does what God says is important, important in your decision making?

Are God's values reflected in your choices?

Today we see that the religious leaders are beginning to lose their God is reclaiming it.

Today's scriptures will make us ask ourselves, is it better to listen to man, or God?

Acts 4:1-22
 1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
 5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is
   “‘the stone you builders rejected,
   which has become the capstone.’”
 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
 21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

1.      Apostles were bringing attention to themselves
1.      In Acts 2 we see they healed a man who was lame from birth on the way to the temple

2.      This man told everyone what had happened, including the Temple priests

3.      Everyone in Jerusalem knew this man because he had lived here his entire life of 40 years, lame, a beggar in from of the Temple gates.

4.      After asking Peter and John for alms, Peter healed the lame man in the name of Jesus.

2.      Daily the Apostles taught of Jesus and the resurrection in front of the Temple
1.      This created animosity in the priests.

2.      These men were winning converts from Judaism to this new Church faith, referred to as Christianity.

3.      By this time, over 5,000 had accepted to the teachings about Christ and the resurrection, and had devoted themselves to Jesus, becoming His followers.

3.      Preaching the Truth has consequences
1.      When you preach the truth, two things will happen;
1.      People will come to Christ
2.      People will hate you

2.      When I began to preach at the First Baptist Church, immediately, people loved my preaching because it was the truth of God's Word, and immediately, people hated me for the very same reason.
3.      After two years preaching there, the church became divided into two groups, those who loved the Word of God and His Spirit working in the Church, and those who hated it, because God was gaining control...and they were losing it.

4.      I too was taken aside by the leaders of the church
1.      At first, encouraged by them to continue leading the church
2.      After those who hated wrote enough letters, I was asked by leadership to “play nice” with the handful of self-elected people who truly ran that church.
3.      When I refused to to stop preaching and teaching the scriptures, such as allowing people to come forward for the Elders of the church to pray and lay hands on them, the leaders once again called me for a meeting.
4.      This time, offering me my choice between three other churches to lead.
5.      To which I refused, as I told them, God had already told me years before that my ministry for Him would be here in Tawas, not another city.

5.      Animosity, anger and hate, all because of the Word of God.

4.      The Sanhedrin hated the Gospel for the same reason...
1.      The high priests were no longer high priests when Jesus came.

2.      The people no longer needed the priests for seeking God

3.      The religious leaders no longer were the top-dogs with the Apostles around

4.      So they beg, and threaten to hold on to their control of God's people, not wanting to hand it over to the Holy Spirit.

1.      The Sanhedrin asked “By what authority do you do this?”
1.      Peter and John make it clear, the healing, teaching and preaching was all done in the name of Jesus.
2.      The lame man was healed in front of the Temple so that ALL the people of Israel should know the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

3.      Remember: this is one of the signs that the Apostles were speaking for God, signs, wonders and miracles.

2.      Peter then reminds them who Jesus is
1.      You know, the one whom you crucified, but God brought back to life!

2.      The one you tried to silence, but could not.

3.      The one you tried to rid yourselves of, so that you would stay in control of God's people, but weren't able to.

3.      By the way...
1.      Salvation is found in no one else.

2.      For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which you can be saved.

1.      The Sanhedrin had a problem
1.      They asked that Peter and John be taken away so they could talk

2.      They knew these men were unschooled, and ordinary men, yet, they spoke with courage, and they realized that they had been with Jesus.

3.      They also knew that an outstanding miracle had taken place in this name they were operating in. The man had been lame for forty years, yet stood before them now.  Lame from birth, yet walked as if never lame.

4.      All of Jerusalem knew this man because he begged in front of the temple his entire life.  All those coming to the Temple saw him, and see him now. They could not deny he was healed.

2.      Questions they asked themselves
1.      They asked each other, “What are we going to do with these men?”

2.      “Everybody in Jerusalem know about this miracle.”

3.      “We cannot deny the man was healed, BUT, to stop the spreading of this Jesus, we must warn these men to speak no more to anyone in His name.”

3.      The Sanhedrin's Command
1.      Bringing Peter and John back into the room, they give their command, “Speak no more in the name of Jesus!”

2.      “Do nothing else in His name.”

3.      “Stop preaching and teaching what Jesus taught you.”

4.      The Apostles Response
1.      “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.”

2.      “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

5.      More threats and release
1.      The scriptures tell us the Sanhedrin threatened Peter and John more before releasing them.

2.      They could not decide how to punish them because all the people were praising God for what happened, because the lame man who was healed was forty years old, and everyone knew him.

The religious leaders hated the teachings of Jesus, because they were losing their control and power over the people.

They tried to put a stop to what the Apostles were teaching about Jesus and the resurrection, but the signs, wonders and miracles that followed the Apostles proved that they were speaking the Truth, and were speaking for God.

Neither the leaders, nor the people could deny that these signs, wonders and miracles were taking place, therefore, the Sanhedrin could only threaten the Apostles.

But Peter asked them to judge for themselves if it were better to listen to men, or God?

Do we ask ourselves the same question on a daily basis?  We should.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Service 2011

Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

{slide 1} - WELCOME
I would like to welcome you all to the 6th annual Christmas Eve Service here at the House of Faith Church.

Tonight, we will be paying homage to God the Father for the Messiah, and His promise of redeeming humankind.

Though we know that December 25th is not the actual day of Christ’s birth, it is the day many have chosen to celebrate His coming into our world, and His ultimate sacrifice to pay our debt to reconcile us to God and allow us who believe in Him to have eternal life.

Tonight is a special night for friends and family to gather, give reflection, praise and worship to our King.  Not baby Jesus, but Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Lord of Lord’s and King of King’s, our savior.

{slide 2} - CALL TO WORSHIP
So as we celebrate this evening, let the songs fill your soul with the love and joy of Jesus.

Tonight, as we celebrate His coming, give thanks to God for the love He has shown, and given us.

Let us celebrate Christmas in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who came to us from the heart of God’s own being, in the form of a servant, born in human likeness.

Let us celebrate God’s entering into our lives, bringing light to the entire world.

Tonight, may love be reborn in our hearts as we worship God together.

OPENING PRAYER: Pastor Bruce Shields


         1 John 4:9-10
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

         Galatians 4:4-5
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

{slide 4}
...And the people cried out for the Messiah to come, the one that God promised, the one that the prophets spoke of.  They sang out, Emmanuel, which is two Hebrew words, El, meaning God, and Immanuel, meaning with us.

O’ come, Emmanuel is a cry for God to come and be with us.

{slide 5} - SONG: O’ Come, O’ Come Emmanuel

{slide 9}
The time had finally come for the Messiah to come into the world, to be with us, to show us love, to free us from the bondage of sin, and reconcile us to God.

{slide 10} - SONG: Mary Did You Know? - Special Music by Trenton Shields

{slide 11}
         Luke 1:26-38
 26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

 34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

 35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God...

... 38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

         1 Peter 1:3-4
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,”

{slide 12} - Advent Candle - HOPE
We first light the advent candle, which represents HOPE.  God fulfilled His promise of bringing the Messiah. Our HOPE is now in Christ, and His promise to return, which will also be fulfilled.

(Light the shortest purple candle for HOPE)

{slide 13} - SONG: O’ Little Town of Bethlehem

{slide 19}
         Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

{slide 20} - Advent Candle - PEACE
We now light the advent candle, which represents PEACE.  Jesus is the Prince of PEACE, and He promises to leave His PEACE with us, a PEACE which does surpass worldly understanding.

(Light the purple candle for PEACE)

{slide 21} - SONG: Let the Peace of God Reign

{slide 33}
         Luke 2:8-12
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

{slide 34} - Advent Candle - JOY
We now light the advent candle, which represents JOY.  We rejoice because of the overwhelming joy Christ has brought to us.

(Light the pink candle for JOY)

{slide 35}
         Luke 2:13-15
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

{slide 36} - SONG: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

{slide 43}
         Luke 2:16-18
 16 So the shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

{slide 44} - SONG: O’ Come All Ye Faithful

{slide 53}
         John 3:16 - 18
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”

{slide 54} - Advent Candle - LOVE
We now light the advent candle, which represents LOVE.  As the scriptures say in 1 John 4:8-10 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
(Light the purple candle for LOVE)

{slide 55} - SONG: The First Noel

{slide 62}
John 1:14 & 16,17
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

{slide 63}
The last candle represents the light that Jesus Christ brought to the world when He came.

(Light the big candle for CHRIST)

{slide 64}
Jesus took the disciples in Matthew 28, and gave them the “Great commission”, which instructs that the light that Jesus brought, would be shared with the world through the Body of Christ, which is us, the believers and followers of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:14
“You are the light of the world...”

The Word of God tells us that we are this light.  Jesus Himself said to take this light, and share it with the world.

As we sing Silent Night, let us pass this light from one to another, and let it represent the lives we are living in the world, and how we share the Gospel and light with others around us daily.

{slide 65} - SONG: Silent night

We will now close with our final song of the evening, afterwards, I will close with prayer, and you are all welcome to stay and have snacks and coffee and fellowship together.

{slide 72} - SONG: Joy to the World

{slide 81} - CLOSING PRAYER

·        Thank you for this evening, and each one here

·        Bless each for coming

·        Pray that each one takes with them tonight, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love of God

·        Most of all, the Love and light of Christ, which they will share with all around them

·        Pray that each one here tonight, takes this Light that Christ has given us, and shares it with the world as He commanded in His Word