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{July 12, 2020}






Heartland Community Church


 

THE JOURNEY

 

REVOLUTIONARY: Letters of Courage

By Sherèe Lutz

Our scripture for this week covers a lot of ground—geographically and narratively. But I hope to put on the brakes, zeroing in on a very important few verses that could be easily overlooked. They fly by and could almost go unnoticed. But they are vital to my life, one which hopes to put Jesus and his teaching first. What do the verses from Acts 23:2-5 highlight? Apologizing as a Jesus follower.

Not an easy topic to be sure. We all tend to fall on one side of a fence (neither of which is better than the other). We either barrel through life, adhering to John Wayne’s philosophy, “Never apologize mister, it is a sign of weakness.” Or, letting the words “I’m sorry” pass through our mouths too often and too easily, apologizing for everything—for standing in the wrong place, accidentally misunderstanding someone, or for other people’s behaviors. This version perhaps comes across the same way that my two-year-old sarcastically says, “I’m sorry mamma,” knowing full well she doesn’t mean it (just doesn’t want time-out)! Neither stance gives the thoughtfulness and/or heart posture that confession needs. What could God intend for confessing offense to others?

Let’s take a look at Paul’s apology. This particular situation in Acts occurs while he is in Jerusalem on trial in front of the Jewish leadership. In a moment of anger, he lets his words get the better of him. “Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?" "I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.”” Acts 23:2-5 (New Living Translation)

Paul stops in the middle of his self-defense to say I am sorry to his enemies. It seems ludicrous, so why does he do it and what can we learn? First, Paul apologizes because he knows his words went against Scripture. He holds himself accountable, not to current popular opinion (which can dramatically shift over time) or leaders’ attitudes, but rather to God’s standard. He is referring to the verse in Exodus 22:28 stating, “You must not dishonor God or curse any of your rulers.” He knows the importance of only apologizing according to Jesus’s values.

Second, Paul does not deny or make excuses for himself. If it were me talking, I would be very tempted to say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry I insulted you, BUT you are holding me in an unfair trial and making false accusations. You continue threatening my life, so of course I lashed out with angry words.” Paul does not get defensive. Instead, he simply says I’m sorry and moves on. Benjamin Franklin sums it up well when he said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” It almost always cheapens it and makes it inauthentic.

Third, I find that if Paul can take the time to apologize while in a life-threatening situation, shouldn’t I be even quicker to offer authentic and heartfelt confession both to another person and to God in less tense times? James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Scripture reveals how confession and apology to one another is healing. If that is the case, what is it that makes it so hard? I would argue, my pride and lack of attentiveness. I pray for more intention in my apologizing! For me, that could mean saying it less often, but with greater weight.

Dietrich Bonhoffer sums up the importance of Biblical confession, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Let’s take a page out of Paul’s book sometime this week!

 

{sunday 7.12.20}

Read Acts 23:2-5

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Did you notice Paul’s quick apology in our scripture reading? Has a confession ever felt inauthentic in your life? What standard does Paul hold himself to? If there is someone you owe an apology to, ask God to give you the authentic words and posture to offer it.

 

{bible reading plan: acts of the apostles}

By Meghan Hemenway

THE JOURNEY VIDEOS: CLICK HERE to subscribe to our Youtube channel, The Journey Online, for a Monday-Friday video post from Seth Davidson that takes us a layer deeper in the scripture reflections. New posts will appear each day. 

{monday 7.13.20}

Read Acts 22:17-29

Observe, Reflect, Apply: We pick back up in Acts 22 this week as Paul recounts his story of hearing Jesus tell him to quickly leave Jerusalem. Does Paul receive that message and immediately flee? No, he offers Jesus an alternative plan and his own qualifications for getting the job done in Jerusalem. Have you ever done this? Thought you heard a clear message from God and yet still thought you might have a better way of getting things done? Maybe we want to be sure we understood his message or maybe, like Paul, we just really want to help God out. God will use us to accomplish his plan, but he doesn’t need us to come up with the plan. How can you trust God this week with what he asks you to do and can you catch yourself before you offer him you alternative plans? 

 

{tuesday 7.14.20}

Read Acts 22:30-23:11

Observe, Reflect, Apply: As it turns out, Paul did not leave Jerusalem and was instead imprisoned and put on trial. But Paul saw this as an opportunity. He was given another group of people to whom he could spread the message of Jesus. Maybe this is what it is like to count everything as a blessing – to be grateful for hardships when they give you an opportunity to share your faith with others. What hardships are you experiencing in this season that gives you a chance to talk about Jesus?

 

{wednesday 7.15.20}

Read Acts 23:12-24

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Sometimes the obstacles in our lives can only be moved or changed with a miracle. There is no conceivable way forward. What do you do when you come up against an unmovable wall? Here we find a large group of men plotting to kill Paul. How would he ever escape an ambush while being imprisoned? Through God’s protection. God sends a child to overhear the plan and pass it along to a Roman commander for then sends 470 soldiers to get Paul to safety. Our ways are not God’s ways. If Paul had come up with a plan for escaping it surely wouldn’t have looked like this. Our understanding and our imaginations are so limited when compared to God’s. So when you are at that wall and need a miracle what will you focus on? The obstacle or the One with the power to clear the path?

 

{thursday 7.16.20}

Read Acts 23:25-24:3

Observe, Reflect, Apply: In this passage Paul is successfully and safely taken out of Jerusalem – which was God’s plan from the beginning. In Acts 23:11 God tells Paul that he did a good job preaching in Jerusalem so he has more work for him to do in Rome. Paul was uniquely designed for this – because of his Roman citizenship he was protected and brought out of Jerusalem. Even though he is still imprisoned God has given him another opportunity to share the message of Jesus which is what Paul wanted to be doing. God didn’t create us all the same to be doing the same work. Like Paul, he created our complex life stories to prepare us to reach a very specific group of people. Who are the people God is asking you to reach out to and what parts of your story have made you the best candidate for that work?

 

{friday 7.17.20}

Read Acts 24:4-16

Observe, Reflect, Apply: In today’s verses we find Paul on trial in Rome. When he defends himself against his accusers he seems to be making a case for Christianity. Paul must have been so ready to take the stage. I imagine he eagerly awaited his turn to speak knowing that this was what God had called him to do. Sometimes in life God asks us to wait. We think we are ready to move forward, but God has perfect timing and in the waiting he is preparing us for what comes next. What in your life are you wishing would resolve or more forward? In what ways do you think God is telling you to wait and how might he be asking you to use the time to prepare for what is next?

 

{community discussion questions}

We weren’t meant to experience the life of Jesus alone, so we encourage you to rally a few others to discuss what you are hearing, reading, and reflecting on together. Whether you are meeting as a Journey Community group, talking with a few friends throughout the week, or bringing up spiritual conversations around your table at home, feel free to use some of these questions as conversation starters on your journey.

  • Can you name a takeaway or challenge from the Sunday message?
  • How has that been relevant, challenging, or meaningful to your life this week?
  • What have you observed about God, Jesus, yourself, others, or God’s plan for you from these readings?
  • Where do you need a breakthrough from God this week?
  • Who do you need to share what you’re learning about God with?

 

{extra journey resources}

CLICK HERE to visit The Bible Project site and explore their super simple, super informative Bible videos (and other resources).

CLICK HERE to get the Read Scripture App, from our friends at The Bible Project.

CLICK HERE for more on how to use the observe-reflect-apply approach to getting the most out of your Bible reading.

The Bible App Get a free Bible for your phone, tablet, and computer. Experience the Bible anywhere, with options to highlight, save notes, and share what you are reading with others.

Bible Gateway Provides advanced Bible searching capabilities, which allow readers to find passages in scripture based on keywords, phrases, or scripture reference.

 

Please visit us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and share what you are learning, questioning or experiencing. We love conversations!

 

© 2020 Heartland Community Church

12175 S Strang Line Road, Olathe, KS 66062

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