Next Step Christian Church
Live Stream 7-11-2020
  • 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
  • How Can I Keep From Singing
  • Love Came Down
  • Love On The Line
  • The Mercy Train

    Two weeks ago Saturday I get a call. It’s Bryan and Jamie San Diego who many of you know, volleyball friends, camp family, they’ve been to church many times. Their older kids were going to be coming through town and needed a place to stay that coming week.
    I said yes, we’ll figure it out, and a few days later a van full of 6 young men and women pulled up and piled out from a drive from Washington State and hung out with us for a few days.
    Going where the Spirit led, across the country, doing what the Spirit called and… at every stop, sharing their testimonies. So I asked a couple days ahead if they would share with us. I invited our youth kids, Samuel and Melaina invited some of their friends, soon we had 30ish mostly-masked people in our backyard Wednesday night and a few participating via Zoom.
    God brought it all together. And that Wednesday evening they played a few songs and just shared their stories. So good. Some of them had stories of God changing their life: from suicide, from drugs, from a homosexual lifestyle, from trans-sexual identity, from self-harm… and simply from complacency in knowing God and being comfortable.
    And whether or not any of the other kids there heard anything, if only for my kids, they were on the edge of their seats! Arabelle and Drew wanted on the Mercy Train!
    The power of stories, of testimony, of what God has done in people’s lives, transformation and victory… we could hear that over and over!
    What is your story?
    Are you ready to tell it?

    Paul - Arrested and Beaten

    Paul has come back to Jerusalem. As an act of love to his Jewish Christian brothers and sisters he has submitted to a 7 day ritual cleansing, and paid for 4 men to do it with him.
    Unnecessary, and risky, but Paul is willing to do it, I believe, because he was willing to be all things to all people that by all means he might save some.
    But it is risky, and sure enough, he is recognized by some of the Jewish Christians in town from the Province of Asia, near Ephesus, where he has been pastoring. And they stir the crowd up with lies about him sneaking Greeks into the temple.
    And it’s a mob, and they drag him out of the temple, and just outside the temple they start beating Paul, it says, seeking to kill him. The unrest attracts the attention of the authorities and someone calls the cops...
    And the soldiers have to pick Paul up off the ground and carry him away, the crowd is so violent, and still screaming for Paul.
    While he’s being carried.
    Black and blue. Bleeding I’m sure. “May I say something?”
    “I am a Jew from Tarsus, I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.
    Acts 21:39 The Message
    Paul said, “No, I’m a Jew, born in Tarsus. And I’m a citizen still of that influential city. I have a simple request: Let me speak to the crowd.”
    and then he does.
    We have heard a lot from Paul. We have heard some of his best sermons, the highlight reel. When it comes down to a “defense”, what do you think Paul’s go-to is? When he gets to address a giant crowd full of angry Jews who were just beating him to death?
    What does he tell them? Maybe the most powerful tool any of us have.
    He tells his story. He testifies.
    Acts 21:40 The Message
    Standing on the barracks steps, Paul turned and held his arms up. A hush fell over the crowd as Paul began to speak. He spoke in Hebrew.
    Let’s listen, let’s hear it in English. Picture the angry crowd hush, miraculously. A broken and beaten man tells his story.
    Acts 22:1–21 The Message
    My dear brothers and fathers, listen carefully to what I have to say before you jump to conclusions about me.” When they heard him speaking Hebrew, they grew even quieter. No one wanted to miss a word of this. He continued, “I am a good Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but educated here in Jerusalem under the exacting eye of Rabbi Gamaliel, thoroughly instructed in our religious traditions. And I’ve always been passionately on God’s side, just as you are right now. “I went after anyone connected with this ‘Way,’ went at them hammer and tongs, ready to kill for God. I rounded up men and women right and left and had them thrown in prison. You can ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; they all knew me well. Then I went off to our brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents authorizing me to hunt down the followers of Jesus there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing. “As I arrived on the outskirts of Damascus about noon, a blinding light blazed out of the skies and I fell to the ground, dazed. I heard a voice: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’ “ ‘Who are you, Master?’ I asked. “He said, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the One you’re hunting down.’ My companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the conversation. “Then I said, ‘What do I do now, Master?’ “He said, ‘Get to your feet and enter Damascus. There you’ll be told everything that’s been set out for you to do.’ And so we entered Damascus, but nothing like the entrance I had planned—I was blind as a bat and my companions had to lead me in by the hand. “And that’s when I met Ananias, a man with a sterling reputation in observing our laws—the Jewish community in Damascus is unanimous on that score. He came and put his arm on my shoulder. ‘Look up,’ he said. I looked, and found myself looking right into his eyes—I could see again! “Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has hand-picked you to be briefed on his plan of action. You’ve actually seen the Righteous Innocent and heard him speak. You are to be a key witness to everyone you meet of what you’ve seen and heard. So what are you waiting for? Get up and get yourself baptized, scrubbed clean of those sins and personally acquainted with God.’ “Well, it happened just as Ananias said. After I was back in Jerusalem and praying one day in the Temple, lost in the presence of God, I saw him, saw God’s Righteous Innocent, and heard him say to me, ‘Hurry up! Get out of here as quickly as you can. None of the Jews here in Jerusalem are going to accept what you say about me.’ “At first I objected: ‘Who has better credentials? They all know how obsessed I was with hunting out those who believed in you, beating them up in the meeting places and throwing them in jail. And when your witness Stephen was murdered, I was right there, holding the coats of the murderers and cheering them on. And now they see me totally converted. What better qualification could I have?’ “But he said, ‘Don’t argue. Go. I’m sending you on a long journey to outsider non-Jews.’ ”
    Now when the Jews here this they flip out. “He should not be allowed to live!” and they take Paul to the barracks to “examine him by flogging.” Nice.
    Over the next few years! he is put on trial before the Roman Tribune, then before the Sanhedrin Council, then before Felix the Governor, they all keep punting, finally brought before the vassal King Agrippa.
    What does he bring? Same. He brings his story. His testimony.
    A story so good, you get to hear it twice!
    Now Paul, perhaps in chains, before the “King.” Marcus Julius Agrippa, Agrippa the II.
    Acts 26:1–23 The Message
    Agrippa spoke directly to Paul: “Go ahead—tell us about yourself.” Paul took the stand and told his story. “I can’t think of anyone, King Agrippa, before whom I’d rather be answering all these Jewish accusations than you, knowing how well you are acquainted with Jewish ways and all our family quarrels. “From the time of my youth, my life has been lived among my own people in Jerusalem. Practically every Jew in town who watched me grow up—and if they were willing to stick their necks out they’d tell you in person—knows that I lived as a strict Pharisee, the most demanding branch of our religion. It’s because I believed it and took it seriously, committed myself heart and soul to what God promised my ancestors—the identical hope, mind you, that the twelve tribes have lived for night and day all these centuries—it’s because I have held on to this tested and tried hope that I’m being called on the carpet by the Jews. They should be the ones standing trial here, not me! For the life of me, I can’t see why it’s a criminal offense to believe that God raises the dead. “I admit that I didn’t always hold to this position. For a time I thought it was my duty to oppose this Jesus of Nazareth with all my might. Backed with the full authority of the high priests, I threw these believers—I had no idea they were God’s people!—into the Jerusalem jail right and left, and whenever it came to a vote, I voted for their execution. I stormed through their meeting places, bullying them into cursing Jesus, a one-man terror obsessed with obliterating these people. And then I started on the towns outside Jerusalem. “One day on my way to Damascus, armed as always with papers from the high priests authorizing my action, right in the middle of the day a blaze of light, light outshining the sun, poured out of the sky on me and my companions. Oh, King, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?’ “I said, ‘Who are you, Master?’ “The voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I’ve hand-picked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you. “ ‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’ “What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that! I became an obedient believer on the spot. I started preaching this life-change—this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life—right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and from there to the whole world. “It’s because of this ‘whole world’ dimension that the Jews grabbed me in the Temple that day and tried to kill me. They want to keep God for themselves. But God has stood by me, just as he promised, and I’m standing here saying what I’ve been saying to anyone, whether king or child, who will listen. And everything I’m saying is completely in line with what the prophets and Moses said would happen: One, the Messiah must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing.”
    Let’s just hear Paul’s story. Incredible journey: transformation and rescue… he was lost and Jesus found him. He was an enemy and Jesus befriended him. He was blind but now he sees!

    What’s Your Story? Are You Ready to Tell It?

    Paul is ready in season and out of season.
    2 Timothy 4:2 ESV
    preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
    I like the way Peter says.
    1 Peter 3:15 ESV
    but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

    What’s Your Story? Are You Ready to Tell It?

    If you were asked for “the reason for the hope that is in you?” What would you say?
    If you were being beaten to death and got the chance to say one last thing… what would you say?
    If you were called before the King, before Congress, and asked to defend who you are in Jesus Christ, what you are doing for His name and His glory… what would you say?
    What is your story? Are you ready to tell it?
    We aren’t all evangelists or teachers or preachers… but every single one of us has a story to tell… and someone needs to hear your story exactly the way God reached you, changed you, taught you, transformed you, is transforming you...
    Logan told me, his favorite story wasn’t the story of those who were delivered from drugs or suicide. It was Samuel sharing how God called him out of comfort and complacency. That’s what Logan needed to hear.
    Someone needs to hear your story exactly the way you tell it.
    Write out your testimony. It could be the day you got saved. It could be a moment God spoke to you. Something He changed in you. Something He taught you. A moment you knew for sure He was real. A moment you knew He loves you. A moment you knew He was with you.
    The five minute version. The one you can give on an Uber drive. I’ve done that. I’ve had several Uber drives end up in sharing testimonies, listening to their story, sharing mine, ending the drive with a time of prayer. Amen!
    Write your testimony… because you need to be ready.
    And, if you’re willing, I ask you to share it with me. Email me: I won’t share it any further than that without permission.
      • Acts 21:39ESV

      • Acts 21:40ESV

      • Acts 22:1–21ESV

      • Acts 26:1–23ESV

      • Acts 26:28ESV

      • 2 Timothy 4:2ESV

      • 1 Peter 3:15ESV

  • Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
  • Freedom Song

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