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Summary: Navigating life's difficult circumstances.

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When Life Seems Scattered

Series: BREAKOUT – God on the Move through the Book of Acts

Brad Bailey – April 29, 2012

Intro

One thing we each have in our lives… is circumstances… things outside ourselves that effect the context we are in. Some circumstances we welcome… and some we can resent or even resist. We all likely have some aspect of where we are… that we just don’t like… and likely for good reasons. Today, God wants us to consider what we are going to do with where we are.

Last week we began a new series entitled ‘Breakout’ in which we are seeking God to speak to us today from the Book of Acts. We are looking at ten events over these ten weeks drawn from the 6th chapter through the 28th chapter, which is the end. It declares how the power of the Gospel… the good news of God’s kingdom reign breaking in through the coming of Christ… was breaking out.

It would move outward changing whole nations… and the world….but first it would change lives along the way. So we began last week with how it confronted the religious identity of the religious rulers. (Explain) There in Jerusalem… a man of conviction named Stephen was willing to stay true… and with no way to silence the truth… they covered their ears and dragged him out and stoned him to death. (It was a confrontation that revealed how mere attachments to forms of religious identity….must give way to relationship with God that was opening up to all through Christ. The work of God was breaking out… and it must break out in us.)

Acts 8:1-8 (NIV)

And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

Pray – Could note in prayer that what emerges from tragedy… ends with great joy in a city. God teach us to be a part of that process.

As we move from Acts 7 to Acts 8 we find that Stephen’s killing was the signal for a widespread outbreak of persecution against all who were committed to Christ in Jerusalem. [1]

Persecution BROKE OUT on a new level.

• There had been persecution already. The apostles had been beaten because they had refused to remain silent about the person and work of their Master. What had been hostility towards the apostles who were more public leaders …is now after anyone associated with this message of Christ.

• What had been more a matter of responding to public situations… was now an intense pursuing… “Going from house to house dragging off men and women and putting them in prison.

• It appears driven by one religious leader among the Pharisees named Saul…who was present at Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:58) and gave approval to his death (Acts 8:1).

Verse 3 says, “Saul began to destroy the church.” Other versions say he “ravaged” it.

This verb which mean ‘destroy’ or ‘ravage’ is imperfect, which means that he ravaged it and kept on ravaging it.

It can seem hard to imagine the sense of hatred that was coming after them. There is no intensity like that which claims God will…

Before he was taken back to heaven Christ told his disciples:

John 16:2 (NLT)

“You will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.”

That is the intensity they now faced… as Stephen … a special leader among them is stoned to death… and now Saul is leading mobs to come door to door…. Taking even women and children.

It was horrific… and it would change everything.

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”

The people are scattered from Jerusalem….driven out. [2]

To appreciate this scattering…it helps to appreciate the significance that Jerusalem held in their hearts. Jerusalem represented God’s unique promise to call them out as a unique people and nation. It represented their source of identity and affirmation. Jerusalem has been the center of God’s presence. Jerusalem is the city that every Jewish life wished to go. In fact, the last verse in the Hebrew Bible records Cyrus’s edict permitting every Jew to go up to Jerusalem (II Chron. 36:23). Jerusalem exerts a centripetal force on the Jews.

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