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Summary: Where is God? This was my first sermon at a new church, and it showed several priorities: worship, ministry, and outreach.

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Acts 17:16-28 – Not Far From Each One of Us

Today I would like to share with you a fairly simple thought. It’s been debated and dissected over the years. A person may not know what to do with it, but one thing is for sure: you can’t escape it. That truth... is that God is near. Today I’d like to show you what I mean by that, and what it means for us, Centreville United Baptist Church, as a group of believers.

I’d like to read to you from Acts 17:16-28. You can turn in your Bibles or follow along on the screen. The passage starts in the middle of one of Paul’s journeys as a missionary, spreading the Good News wherever he went. On this particular journey, his co-workers were in the middle of something, and Paul was planning just to wait for them. He ended up in Athens, a huge Greek city. That’s the context for the passage today. Read Acts 17:16-28.

I found this little story that asks the question, “What if God used voice mail? “You know, we’ve all learned to live with voice mail as a necessary part of modern life. But what if God decided to install voice mail? Imagine praying and hearing this...

Thank you for calling The Lord's House. Please select from the following options: Press 1 for GENERAL REQUESTS. Press 2 for THANKSGIVING. Press 3 for COMPLAINTS. Press 4 for HEALING. Press 5 for HELP WITH REVENUE CANADA. Press 6 for SNOW or NO SNOW. Press 7 for MIRACLES. Press 8 for LOTTERY WINNING NUMBERS. Press 9 to hear this menu again. Press 0 to hear more options.

You press 0 and hear these: If you would like to speak to Gabriel, press 11. For Michael, press 22. For a directory of the other Archangels, press 33. If you would like to hear King David sing a Psalm while you are holding, please press 55. Then wait for the beep and enter the number of the Psalm you wish to hear. To find out if a loved one has been assigned to heaven, press 62. Enter his or her social insurance number, the press the pound (#) key, enter their date of birth, then press the pound (#) key twice.

This office is closed for the weekend. Please call again from Monday to Friday between 9:30 and 4:30 Eastern time. For all emergencies, refer to your BIBLE.

Let me ask you... aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way? But the audience listening to Paul that day in Athens thought of religion that way. For example, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was the ruler over Athens. But a person wanting victory in war would pray and sacrifice to Ares. An Athenian wanting to fall in love would pray to Aphrodite, but would sacrifice to Hermes before going on a journey. A couple wanting to have a baby would pray to Hera, but would worship Hera’s husband Zeus as supreme ruler of all. The polytheism – the worship of many gods – was a confusing spiritual mish-mash in Athens. I found an article online that describes the scene this way: The ancient Greeks considered sacrifice as the appropriate method to worship God. Public worships were held to obtain public blessings, rain, good harvest, military victories, etc. Private sacrifices were offered for fulfillment of personal goals, wishes and victories. Blood sacrifices of animals such as oxen, sheep, horses, swine, dogs, birds, fish, fowl etc were common in the temple of Gods. The Greek temples were part slaughterhouse and part barbecue. During sacrifices, the people offered the blood, bones and hides of the slaughter animal to the God, the remaining portions were used up as food for themselves.”

So in walks Paul. Having grown up Jewish, which teaches that there is only one God, and now Christian, which teaches the same, Paul sees all the temples and all the statues to all the gods, and is deflated. He knows there is a better way. And he starts to elaborate on it.

Notice that he doesn’t come right out and tells them all the things they’re doing wrong. He’s tactful. He’s patient. He’s loving with them. He knows that if you want people to care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.

So he sees their devotion to their gods, and commends them for it. He notices that since they don’t want to leave any god out of the picture, they have set up an altar to AN UNKNOWN GOD. And he goes from there to explain the truth of the real God from this starting point. He says that the real God made the world. He’s Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples, and He does not need to be served by human hands. He gives life to everything all that lives, and created all humans and nations from one blood. He desires that all people should seek Him, because we are his offspring. Thus, true and living God is not like any idol made by human hands.

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