First, can we just say how fitting it is for us to be performing “Acts, A City Rising” this year? You could not find a better production to honor the life of Elder Richard LaFleur than one about the early church and foundation upon which it was built.
Wait, Did You Just Clock In?
Elder built this church on that very foundation first laid in Acts. He held on with all his might never letting go for even a second of the truth for which Brother Sowders, Brother Nick, and so many other great men of God, gave their lives so that we could work in the same vineyard as the early church and receive our penny.
And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny . . . Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. –Matthew 20
That’s Why We’re The Powerhouse We Are Today
Our brothers and sisters in Acts stood strong when their faith was challenged because they stayed put—where Jesus built them. Their determination to build on what Jesus instructed came with a cost.
It cost Elder, too, but he planted every church under his leadership on the foundation and never budged.
Even when it hurt. Even when he lost friends. Even when people betrayed him. He was wise and understood that men, no matter how highly they thought of themselves, would be brought down and fail, but the foundation—would never fail.
Pass The Torch
Brother Sowders continued the thread that connected the early church to us today. He built on the original foundation so that this dispensation would have a chance to be counted in Revelation 14.
God called him, and other men who followed, to awaken our generations. Just as Peter led the apostles and carried the church on down the road—we have the baton now.
If anything left the foundation, Elder let it go.
Message From Acts
Hold on. Be strong.
The Church will emerge triumphant, with limitless potential, with healings, with restoration, and as a harbor for those battered by the world.
WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
We’re telling you about some really cool things that went down in Acts. Don’t worry, it’s easy to follow and it’s INTERESTING—so read on.
From its beginnings gathering in an upper room, the church expands throughout the world, and with the expansion comes challenges.
It’s the story of the early Christians being challenged for their faith, faced with injustices and trumped up charges, and coming face-to-face with their number one enemy.
Avengers: Endgame. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Acts of the Apostles.
All pretty awesome sequels, but Acts of the Apostles will rock your socks off.
Acts is the big follow-up to the Gospel of Luke and the only book to tell the story of the early church after the years Jesus died. Miss this book and you’re missing a lot. Do you plan on reading the New Testament epistles? You’re gonna need to stop by Acts first to get the backstory on Paul, who wrote most of the epistles.
Long Ago In A Far Away Desert
The whole dying and rising again in Luke is tough to follow, but Acts brings the goods. It begins a couple thousand years ago. Jesus is back from the dead. He hangs out with the apostles for forty days and gives them instructions.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8
Just then, when He had spoken these things, Jesus is lifted up into the air and a cloud takes Him away. Jesus really knows how to make an exit. As the apostles are left standing there, two guys dressed in white are suddenly standing next to them. No worries. These two men clear it all up.
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
How Jesus just went up to heaven, He will come back the same way—so look for that. We’re thinking these probably aren’t just two random guys.
We’ll Have What They’re Having
The apostles head back to Jerusalem where a whole group of them, the apostles and believers, are staying in an upper room in the city.
Ten days later, as they are praying, the sound of a strong wind rushes through the room and the Holy Ghost comes down from heaven, settling on each one of them. Other Jewish people hear what’s happening and come to check it out. Some think they’re just a bunch of crazy drunks. Others are in awe and want what they have.
It’s been a busy month and a half.
When Even Your Shadow Passing Performs Miracles, You Know You’ve Arrived.
The power that came upon the church in Acts was something to behold. People carried the sick into the streets and laid them onto cots and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them as he came by.
Don’t forget, the power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us.
Peter takes the lead and they all start preaching that Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of everything the Jewish scriptures said would happen. They perform lots of miracles, but preaching the name of Jesus makes Jewish authorities very angry. The whole crew gets arrested a couple of times, but an angel breaks them out. Angels are good at things like that and nice to have around.
Things Are Getting Exciting. Are We Still Reading From The Bible?
Yes, and a lot is going on. The apostles are arrested, beaten, run out of town, and even put to death, but don’t stop there. Acts isn’t just about stonings and beheadings—there are scary and heartwarming adventures, funny and tearful times, and lots of overcoming messages being preached. The saints become one, working together to build the church.
Why Do We Care?
We wouldn’t be here if the early Christians hadn’t given everything to spread this message to the Gentile nations.
I Like To Work My Own Neighborhood
Not anymore. Peter has a vision at Joppa, and he tells the apostles they must branch out and start trying to convert the Gentiles. They can no longer just work the neighborhoods they know. THIS IS BIG. Like invention of the internet, Facebook, and social media big. When Jesus said to get the message out to the uttermost parts of the earth, He was not kidding.
Preach, Brother Stephen
In Acts 7, Stephen starts preaching and goes on for a long time. He’s sorta giving a summary of the Jewish people. He name drops some of the most important people of the Old Testament—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and Solomon—all in a few verses. That’s a lot of history to pack into one chapter, but Stephen does it, and he does it all in one mega-powerful sermon. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. The sad part? The people he is preaching to are just as stubborn as their ancestors were.
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. –Acts 7:51-53
Oh burn! The Jewish council is getting angrier about Stephen’s message and the name of Jesus being spread. When Stephen looks up to heaven and says he sees Jesus, it’s just too much for the Jewish council and people in the temple. In a rage, the crowds bite him (we were thinking the same thing—are you guys two? Are you animals?). They grab him, and take him into the city to stone him. As he is being stoned, Stephen asks God to receive his spirit.
Stephen is dying a painful death, but take note of his last words:
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. –Acts 7:60
Talk about forgiveness.
The folks in Judea now decide to openly start persecuting Christians again—just for entertainment. James is killed next by King Herod.
Yes, break out the tissues.
God is getting the church in order. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira craft a plan to short change the church after they sell some land. Lesson: Do not lie to the Holy Ghost. They each fall dead after lying about the amount of the land transaction.
And Great Fear Came Upon the Church.
Apostles Don’t Quit
In and out of prison, the apostles still keep performing all kinds of awesome miracles. They even go to the temple and manage to win some more believers. They heal the sick and many get cured. The high priest doesn’t like this at all. Miracles make him really mad, and he and the religious authorities have the apostles arrested. An angel of the Lord sneaks into prison during the night and unlocks their jail cell.
The apostles continue to preach the name of Jesus, no matter the risk.
All the while, there’s a guy named Saul (who watched the coats of the men who stoned Stephen) hanging around thinking all of this is a-okay. That’s about to change . . .
Who’s Calling, Please?
While Saul is still hard at work persecuting and looking for Christians to throw in jail, he sees a light flash from heaven. He falls on the ground and a voice asks Saul why he is persecuting him. Saul asks, ‘who is this’? Jesus answers and asks why Saul’s been persecuting Him. Saul is trembling and astonished and asks Jesus what he must do. (Umm . . . maybe stop persecuting Christians?)
Meet Me In The City. You’ll Get Further Instructions Then.
Jesus sends Saul into the city blind and tells him He’ll let him know what to do when he gets there.
After three days, God sends Ananias (not the greedy one) to restore Saul’s sight. A tad reluctant, Ananias wants to make sure they’re talking about the same Saul of Tarsus, the one who sought to destroy the church. The Lord let’s him know it’s all good because He’s going to use Saul to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.
I’ll Take “Theological Studies” For One Hundred Shekels, Alex.
Saul tosses his religious credentials and formal education. He gets right to work using a new authority: his calling from God and the truth revealed to him. He wastes no time and rushes to the synagogues and starts talking up Jesus and preaching. After he’s been preaching a while—and convincing LOTS of people—the religious authorities devise a plot to kill Saul.
But . . . the disciples get wind of it.
At first, they’re skeptical about helping Saul. After all, he was just trying to kill them all a few days ago. Barnabas vouches for Saul, and this puts the disciples at ease.
On The Edge Of Town At Nightfall
That night, the disciples sneak Saul out of town by lowering him in a basket down the wall outside the city.
Saul becomes Paul. With his disciples, he carries the Gospel around the eastern half of the Roman Empire. He does it with a whole lot of charisma, dedication, thorns in his flesh, and overcoming his life—in a MIGHTY way.
And of course, many more exciting and trying adventures.
Are you in for more Acts? We hope so!!!