You don’t find monkeys base jumping, or gorillas scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, or chimps parachuting from planes at 20,000 feet.
Only human beings have a desire to transcend their natural limitations, to take risks in order to make a mark and be remembered.
What’s more, only human beings long to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through making some breakthrough for science, or defining a new point of excellence in our profession, or giving our time and money for charity, or even raising great kids, we long to leave a legacy.
We are wired for significance through achievement.
The Judeo/Christian faith teaches that humankind is made in the image of a wise, benevolent, just and, above all, loving Father. We were made to inhabit a special place of favour under God, overseeing his natural creation and developing its awesome potential.
In this, we are like God himself. Throughout the Bible, God revealed himself as someone who thinks in epic, heroic terms.
The God of the Bible aligns himself with the underdog; he exalts the lowly and brings success to the little guy, in defiance of the odds; think David and Goliath.
God takes risks.
The birth of Jesus labelled the incarnation was the greatest risk of all. According to the Bible, God the Son took on human form to rescue us from ourselves, to redeem our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of heaven. As St. John put it, ‘he came unto his own, but his own received him not.’
This was a massive risk. Human beings are creatures of free will, with the capacity to accept or refuse any gift, no matter how lovingly it is given. The sinful, fallen tendencies in our nature makes us more likely to walk away from God than to accept him, even when He comes to teach us profound things about love and to perform amazing acts of mercy.
From a human standpoint – and we must remember that Jesus who was fully God was also fully man and so as a human – the cross was a heroic act. The four gospels amplify the fact that Jesus had every chance to avoid it.
On many occasions, he foretold how he would die – and why. His disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying. ‘What’s all this talk about dying?’ they thought, ‘He’s so full of life!’
In the last week of his life, Jesus’ every word and action seems to have been designed to bring on a confrontation with the authorities and eventually hasten his demise. All along, he was pursuing the cross.
‘No man takes my life from me,’ he said. ‘I lay it down willingly.’ He was no victim of circumstance: taking this path was his choice.
Jesus may have thought: ‘What if nobody ever remembers this moment? What if my death is forgotten, my life and all that I’ve done simply buried in history? What if people don’t accept this salvation which, for me, comes at such a high price?’
Today, the life and death of Christ form a standard against which other human achievements are measured.
They show us that achievement often comes on the other side of adversity; that heroism is usually born in the fires of trial; that the world is changed not by celebrity-seekers but by people who take self-denying risks to improve the lot of others.
In a culture that is so smitten with the self-importance of celebrity, so taken with the idea of fame for fame’s sake, it’s healthy for us to remember that celebrity itself does little to change the world for good.
If any modern day celebrity were to remind us that self-sacrifice and service, combined with a voice of hope, are the way to real and lasting influence, then perhaps their recognition could be the used as an achievement. Until then celebrity is empty. We need to celebrate the heroism of selfless accomplishments not selfish accolades.
Photo credit: Guardian UK
IS OUR TECHNOLOGY MUTING OUR PERSONAL HUMANITY?
At a specific time in history, God put on human form as we might put on an overcoat. He came in a form we can understand. He heard the cry of our heart for revelation and said, ‘This is what I’m like.’
In today’s world, however, many people are robbed of the chance to discover God even during this Christmas season. They are offered a bit of historical information about the manger scene without the glorious revelation of why He came. So often information triumphs over revelation. This gives rise to a society that is built on technology without truth.
The major claim to acceptance of any new technology is that ‘it works’. Technological development is based on pragmatism, on getting practical results. We buy into new technologies because they give us helpful new techniques for doing everyday things.
Traditionally, technologies came into existence in response to human need. Tools existed because we needed them. We accepted new technologies because they clearly made our lives better. In our time, though, many new techniques exist only because the technology is there to make them possible. In other words, the technology often runs ahead of our ability to decide if it is helpful or not!
In many cases, there is very little discussion about where technology is taking us over all, or about what specific technologies might mean to our basic humanity or our environment. At the moment, for example, there are not too many people who think that human cloning would be a good idea, but few there are very few realists who do not foresee a time when it will not be happening at some level.
Technology thrives on pragmatism and that’s fine, up to a point. We generally love it when we find gadgets that will do things better, faster and more economically. Yet pragmatism on its own can sometimes work against truth. The Bible puts it like this:
‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.’ (Proverbs 14:12)
Sometimes a man-made solution to a problem may seem to work, but it may lead to spiritual and even physical ruin down the road. Only revelation can provide the objective bedrock on which we can base healthy debates on the moral implications of technologies like cloning or gene therapy.
Of course, new technologies have brought with them some great benefits. To say, as some Christians seem to do, that we should fear technology just because it represents change is ridiculous.
Industrial technologies, for example, have enabled us to produce more. In the 1800s, one farmer could produce enough food for about four people. With machinery and fertilizers, one farmer can now produce enough food for about one hundred people.
More recently, information technology has begun to dramatically change the way we buy and sell and even the way we form relationships. Many of us have come to rely on our PDAs (cell phones, tablets and laptops). For us, they’re more tools than toys. We’ve already seen amazing things, but information technology is still only taking its first baby steps.
With all the desirable effects of technology, though, there are obviously downsides. Environmental pollution and the depletion of natural resources are good examples. Fossil fuels are being used up at a rapid rate and freeways, factories and junkyards clutter up the landscape.
Some psychologists and sociologists are now talking about a new phenomenon they call ‘technological alienation’. The word ‘alienation’ simply means a sense of powerlessness and estrangement. The rapid growth in our reliance on technology does sometimes contribute to alienation between people groups, by, for example, boosting the advantage one group or nation has over another (the technological haves verses the have nots).
In some ways, there’s an even more dangerous kind of alienation — alienation from ourselves. At the most fundamental level, what we are facing today is, in many ways, a battle between our technology and our humanity. There’s a tug of war going on between what we feel in our conscience to be right and what is made possible by modern science.
Jacques Ellul wrote that technology has taken over from Christian faith as the most sacred thing in our western society. Once we couldn’t live without God, but today we can’t live without gadgets.
We’ve invited technology into our workplaces, then into our homes, and now even into our bodies. Before long, medicos will be able to inject tiny robots (‘nanobots’) into your blood stream, to help heal you of your ailments.
Many people today live as if they take it for granted that our technology can, at least in time, meet all our most important needs. But can it?
In the natural world, the principle of entropy says that any natural system left to itself, without any outside energy source, tends to wind down. If I take a kettle of water and plug it into an electric socket and turn it on, it will gradually come to the boil. Once I turn off the power, though, it quickly cools again. Its energy winds down.
It’s the same with us on a spiritual or moral level. Without a constant input of revelation, of truth that is based on God’s character, we tend to sink toward the lowest common denominator.
Without revelation, we will go on making the same mistakes as we have always made. Only as time goes by and our technological power grows, we will make those mistakes on an even bigger scale.
Revelation does not work against technology; it helps us keep technology in check. It helps us ensure that technology remains our servant and never becomes our master.
So as you engage in the Christmas season, giving & receiving, loving & laughing and eating & treating remember to take the time to download some biblical revelation and put your personal technologies in their proper place. Enjoy the human interaction and ponder the divine revelation of why He came and maybe you will receive something truly meaningful to text, tweet or blog about.
What Do You Mean By Turning Messes into Messages?
Sometimes people create a big mess: addiction, debt, divorce, etc. God wants good things for us. He desires to take our messes and redeem us, to make something wonderful, even out of our mistakes.
On the other hand some people today seem to believe that if they can appear successful or achieve fame or be some kind of celebrity in their world, they will lead a really significant life. Then there are others who feel that only great riches make you important. But celebrity is largely about a false image and image alone can be dangerous! It works against the power of truth.
John 8:32 ’Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
They’ve told our generation that we are children of monkeys — then they wonder why people act like animals. They’ve told us that there is no right to wrong — then they wonder why people look confused. They tell us that there is no heaven or hell — and they wonder why people just live for the moment. They tell us that there is no higher purpose in this life — and they wonder why we have a problem with suicide! The simple fact is, you and I possess something that no animal has: the drive to be significant, to be somebody, to have influence. It’s in our wiring. We were designed to change our environment more than it changes us! Don’t settle for less. Seek after God with all your heart and watch your life take on a new dimension.
Sometimes people create a big mess, sometimes people settle for less, but our God can deliver us from both and bring us into good success.
Isaiah 37.20 “Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
If you find yourself in a mess, do what Isaiah did: take it to the Lord and ask him for help and healing. Watch Him turn your life of messes into a life of true successes. That will be your personal message of redemption that others will notice.
Prayer: ‘Father, I don’t need fame, fortune or friends to be successful or significant. Help me not to be drawn into a life of empty role-playing. Help me to be real and honest even in my messes. Let my life not be based false pretences, on something shaky and uncertain, but on the truth of who you are and who I am meant to be.’
Saul was on the way to destroy children of the WAY but later on God put him in the same WAY to destroy the schemes of darkness. All power has to bow down before the power from above. That’s why Acts of Apostles is also called has “The PowerBook” of the Bible.
Verses 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
It was in fact the children of God who was persecuted but if you look and see the Lord identifies himself with His people. Jesus wept when his loved ones cried, in the previous chapters we have seen that when one was stoned, Jesus stood for Him. He show kindness to the crying ones and stands for the helpless. The Psalmist says that ‘ Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered’ When the whole world stands against the saints, God stands for the saints so we conclude here that ‘ If God is with us who can be against us’ in other words if God is with us it doesn’t matter who is against us.
Verses 10-11In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
This proves that Ananias was praying man; He saw a vision while he was praying. Praying men & women will hear the voice of God, they will receive instructions from the Lord, they will receive guidance from the Lord, and a praying man or woman will obey the Lord. Prayer can do wonders. One king saw a dream but he forgot what he saw but God revealed the dream to a praying man- Daniel. God told to Ananias to go to the house of Judas and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. This was the testimony of God about Saul. God found Saul has praying. What will God testimony about us? Oh, there she is gossiping, oh there he is fighting for the chair.
Saul heard and obeyed the voice of the Lord and now he is known as praying and seeing visions. Obedience and humility are the main ingredients for growing in the Lord. The moment we obey, God starts His works in us. This is the moral of this book ‘The Acts of Apostles’. Samaritan women threw her pot and ran to the town and proclaimed Christ. She became the evangelist in the town of Samaria and many believed and came to Christ because of her. She does not have past experience with Christ but she decided to leave her old life and run towards the voice of God. Our past experience in the Lord does not count at all for the work of God but it is obeying the voice of the Lord and walking with him day by day that counts.
Verses 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel
Saul was the vessel of this world but he was broken down completely and made into a new vessel now he is no more a vessel of law but he is a vessel of God. The old vessel was broken down with its old form, now no more it is the old thing that’s why God said to Ananias “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name”. This is the message for everyone who is called according to His will. We are His vessel to carry His name…Let us not carry the things of this world but carry Him who carried us. That’s why Paul always liked him to mention as prisoner of Christ.
Verses 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized
Ananias laid his hands on Saul and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately Scales of tradition started falling from the eyes of Saul. No one can open the blind eyes by his/her effort but it is by the power of Holy Spirit the scales will be removed. Saul was zealous for the law and he would do anything for the truth he knows but when the power from above was upon him every scale that was hindering him to receive the knowledge of God started falling away. Scales of tradition, darkness or evil cannot stand before the power of Holy Spirit. All will fall.
Verses 36-40 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
Tabitha is dead so she cannot have the faith but the faith of Peter matters much here. How much faith he should have to raise this dead woman? What did peter do? I want to show 3 things out of these verses
1)Peter sent them all out of the room
2)He got down on his knees and prayed
3)Turning toward the dead woman, he said “ Tabitha Get up”
House was full of people who never expected Tabitha to come back to life. It was impossible in their eyes but here is the man of God who believes she will come back and he knows nothing is impossible for God.
So first the believing Peter cast all doubters out of the room. This is what we need to do….if you find any doubt in you first cast it out through the promise of Word. Now the house which was full of doubters is now full of faith. Secondly, Peter got down on his knees and prayed…There is nothing impossible for a person who kneels before God. Prayer is talking to God. Peter knelt before God and laid his situation before the throne of mercy. Thirdly, He turned toward the dead woman and spoke the words of unstoppable faith. He never turned toward the dead initially but he turned toward God. These verses teach us to not look at the situation first for your answer. Here is the secret key before turning toward your dead situation turn toward to God, pray and receive the miracle.
The key of this chapter which the Spirit of the Lord inspired me is that
Verses 1 speaks about Great Persecution
Verses 2 speaks about Great Lamentation
Verses 8 speaks about Great Joy
So we conclude here that after every Great Persecution and lamentation there is a Great Joy. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. Psalms 30:11
Verse 1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Some persecution comes to take us from the comfort zone, Jesus command was to leave the place once they had received the power of Holy Spirit but they stayed inside Jerusalem only. God shook the nest like eagle’s do and people were scattered through out the regions of Judea and Samaria. They were fruitful in Jerusalem but Father God wants them to be more fruitful around the world that’s why He pruned those fruitful branches. If you are persecuted for His name sake then remember you are a fruitful branch don’t be satisfied by just being fruitful, God wants you to bear much fruit for His name and through this His name will be glorified. John 15:8 says; “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Rejoice when you are persecuted for His name sake for your reward is in the hand of God”.
Verses 5 to 8 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
Notice Philip was not performing miracles firstly but he preached Christ. Miracles followed when they paid close attention to the Word. You don’t need separate miracle sessions but when we pay close attention to the Word miracles will follow thereafter. Miracles come by faith and faith comes by hearing the word of God.
If one Stephen is dead, God is able to raise many more Stephens. If one way is closed God will open another way to share His word. The world cannot stop the church. The church is unstoppable. Why there was a great Joy in that city because someone preached Christ to them. If Christ is missing, Joy will be missing. If anyone reading this is missing joy, needs healing or lacks peace in their life receive the Holy Spirit see the difference HE makes.
In the Old Testament it says that ‘The house of Obededom was blessed because of the presence of the ARK; everyone who visited him was blessed’. The Ark of the Covenant represents the Holy Spirit/Christ’s anointing which is now in you through faith in Jesus. You and the people whom you are associated will be also blessed. Joseph was put into various places but because of him those places and people were blessed because God was with Joseph.
Verses 12 and 13 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
Here is the proof of true baptism. Baptism was given to those who believed in Christ and we don’t find any infants or children in this group, it says both men and women were baptized. Secondly, being baptized is a personal decision no one can compel anyone. Verses 13 say Simon himself believed and was baptized. So these verses nullify the false teaching that someone else’s faith (like a parent) is enough for your baptism to have effect. This is why we call it ‘The Believers Baptism’. Did you believe when you were baptized or did someone else believe when you were baptized? The difference is clear.
Verses 22-23 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.
This verse states that Saint Peter has no authority to forgive your sins. If he cannot do it while he was alive how then he will mediate for you when he is dead? There is only mediator between God and us and He is the MAN Jesus Christ.
Peter seeing the bitterness of Simon says to him to pray to the Lord and not himself. Let all who mediate through the saints read this verse and understand the truth.
Verses 26-39 speaks about a servant of God who yielded to the voice of Spirit and that obedience made one person to receive Christ. It is not our talents that bring person to Christ. We just need to obey the Holy Spirit who will give us wisdom on what we need to speak, how we need to speak, to whom we need to speak …let us be in the position of obedience. After all it is not the brilliant words that attract a soul towards Christ but it is the Spirit who draws all people to the Father in Heaven.
Verses 31 How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains t to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
I want to show you two beautiful thoughts from this verse:
1) He invited Philip to come up- Philip went up to his level
2) Philip sat with him
While we share Gospel firstly we should be listeners and go the level of the person whom we are sharing the good news. Secondly, we must make a relationship with that person and then speak out the truth. Most people will not accept the truth in your first encounter, we need to make a relationship first and then proclaim the grace and truth of Christ Jesus. What was the result of this effective way of witnessing? Philip accepted and believed in Christ. Let us be an effective and unstoppable witness of Christ. Where is ‘your Philip’? How are you building a bridge of relationship to him? Is it time to share the Gospel with ‘your Philip’? I think so.
Next week Chapter 9 & 10
In reading Acts 7 it is easy to understand how western readers could get lost in Stephen speech to his aggressors, especially if you are unfamiliar with the Old Testament. He takes them on a journey of their own history, demonstrating that their forefathers had done exactly to the prophets who foretold of the coming Messiah as they had done to the Jesus; the actual Messiah who is spoken of throughout the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament.
It was a speech that would ultimately lead to his death. Stephen wasn’t afraid to so say what need to be said, the men who had him arrested were not willing to listen, and he calls them “stiff-necked” and tells them that they are resisting the Holy Spirit. Their hearts were hard and they were not going to listen to Stephen let alone God! They were enraged by what Stephen had said to them and they stoned him to death. What an agonising and horrible way to die. Yet as he was being stoned, captivated by an open heaven and a vision of Jesus this is what he says…
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:58-60 ESV)
What can we learn from Stephen? He was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (6:5), he was full of grace and power (6:8). Here was a man so completely captivated by Jesus that he had no fear of death. Hear his final request “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”, wow! Now unless those men repented and left their pious, self-righteous and sin filled rage behind, by putting their faith in Jesus alone for forgiveness, right standing with God and eternal life, then they were indeed to stand to give an account for their sinful actions.
One of them did, his name was Saul. He encountered Jesus, had his named changed to Paul and was used mightily by Jesus in the advancing of the gospel across known world (read it his story here). A dramatic turnaround if ever there was one. No one is to far from the salvation Jesus offers
We must never underestimate what God is able to to with people who are willing to speak out for the Jesus, even when it feels like you may be speaking to a “stiff-necked”, “hard-hearted”, “self-righteous” people who are not listening to the message. I’m not sure Stephen would have been able to do what he did if he has not been full of the Holy Spirit and connected with Jesus. If we are to be effective in being obedient to the mission Jesus has called us to the it has to come out of an authentic relationship with God – Father, Son & Spirit.
How do we develop this kind of unstoppable inward rest fellowship with God? We look to and follow Jesus, whom the Holy Spirit reveals to us and we look to him. Here are some questions that you may find helpful to ask yourself as you grow in your “REST” with God.
- Time – how much time do you give yourself to read the Bible and listen to what God the Holy Spirit is saying through it?
- Remove – things can get in the way of developing intimacy with Jesus. How much TV do you watch? How much time does facebook/twitter take up of your day? Is there any persistent, un-confessed sin in your life that needs to be confessed?
- Plan – get a plan. What is the best time of day for you to get time with your bible so that God can speak through word & Spirit? Do you need a devotional tool/reading plan? Get into a rhythm. Learn to rest in into it, Jesus knows you and knows what he wants to do in you and through you.
- Persevere – you are going to need to persevere and develop discipline. You’ll get distracted, but don’t give up; it will be worth it in the end.
Want further help? Then get in touch by leaving a comment and asking your question.
Act 6 – Scene 1
In 1976 Apple Computers launched, it is now trading as simply Apple Inc. This company continued to grow but between 1986-1993 the company started to splutter under competition from Microsoft, and a series of failed products. The company then reinvented itself over a number of years and with the launch of the iMac it returned to profitability. The rest they say is history…
Apple is not on their own in experiencing growing pains. Any company that wants to move forward goes through the pain of growth. It is not only companies that experience growing pains, but we as humans do too, as we grow from an infant to a toddler etc.
We experience growing pains in other ways too.
It is no different in the life of the church and we see this clearly in Acts 6. Over the previous chapters that we have been reading in Acts, we have witness the dynamic and explosive growth of the early church. In this chapter tension arises between the Hellenists, that is Greek speaking Jews and the Hebrews. The complaint came from the Hellenists in that they were concerned that their widows were not getting cared for in the daily distribution of food etc. It would appear that the apostles were still overseeing the process of these distributions.
So the apostle made a great decision, they appointed men, who were of good reputation, who were full the Spirit and of wisdom to serve in the distribution of the daily provision. This released the apostles to do what they where called to do and it meant that widows were not forgotten or missed out. Had the apostles continued to do everything then it is possible that the growth of the church may have slowed down somewhat, but more certainly than that, there would certainly have been a falling out between the Hellenists and Hebrews.
As it was, the church continued to grow as the number of disciples multiplied!
“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith”.
There are a couple of lessons that we can learn from this passage…
1. When experiencing growth you have to be flexible and adapt quickly to continue growing.
2. People have to concentrate on what only they can do. Leaders need to make space for others to do jobs that they may well be able to do, but do not need to do.
At Bethel we are experiencing incremental growth, which is fantastic but it does present its problems. Thankfully there is a growing momentum of people doing stuff that is enabling mission. We have been able to add to the small group ministry teams, meaning that work load is distributed evenly according to these roles and we have a prayerful team of elders, who recognise that we need to add to the leadership, and thankfully there are people we recognize who could fulfil this function. Please do not get me wrong our focus is not solely on “church growth” but lets face it there are things in church that need be done and developed in order to disciple people well so that we can each make more disciples. Not even to mention the need for more physical space to meet in. These are challenges but with flexibility and obedience to the Holy Spirit, we are expecting more growth as God brings it.
So, by God’s grace and provision, we are getting people into the right places, doing the right roles at the right time. Why? Because, God is gracious and we have learnt the lesson of the apostles in regards to growth and want to continue to grow.
What do you learn from this passage?
As a follower of Jesus how have you experienced growing pains and what did you learn?
How are you going to apply it?
Act 5 – Scene 3
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
A wise man named Gamaliel, who had seen people rise before and cause a stir but they had ultimately come to nothing and their campaigns had just fizzed out. This is what he says…
“…Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
So they listened to him and they let them go, after giving them a beating, and guess what, they could not stop them as their mission was from God! Our mission as a continuation of their mission, as commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. God is with us wherever we are and is calling us to participate in his unstoppable mission.
Be strong and courageous in his name, wherever you are, for his glory that we may see some come to faith in Christ.
The thing that gets me is, they rejoiced that they had been counted worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus.
When we suffer, what do we do?
What questions do we ask?
Do we rejoice, would we rejoice or ask why me? To ask, why me is normal but we have to ask, what?
What is God doing through this and what am I learning about God and myself?
I’d love it if you would share your experiences in the comment section of this blog post.
Act 5 – Scene 2
We think we have it tough with what some call political correctness, or as some have commented on, an anti-Christian agenda within the media or politics. We have seen a number of reports in recent months of Christians being put on trial whether it was for praying for a patient, wearing a cross or hoteliers who would not allow homosexual couples stay in there B&B. Now it is not my intention to comment on any of the above cases in this post but safe to say when these things happen some Christians are quick to call it persecution, is it really? Maybe, but when you read stories like these listed here it kind of puts what some in the our country endure into perspective a little. While not wanting to belittle what the people involved in these cases have gone through, there are varying degrees of scale.
Persecution is nothing new to Christians; Jesus faced it, the apostles faced it, and those in the early church faced it, so we should not be surprised by it, but ask God for grace to endure it and learn from it when we face it. Easy to say, but by the grace of God there are those, many of them, who have survived and sometimes not by his grace in persecution.
Before looking at the events in the chapter 5, let me just say that persecution is not because we do something stupid, it is suffering for our faith in Christ and for his name sake.
In Acts 5:12-42 we see that the apostles were put in prison, by the religious leaders for preaching Christ and healing people in his name.
“17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.”
That very night, an angel appeared and set them free so that the next day they could continue their mission as set by Jesus. I think this is brilliant; I would have loved to have been there to see the faces of the religious leaders, wouldn’t you? I wonder what was going through the apostle minds as they were sat in prison. Scripture doesn’t give the impression that they were worried or scared, does it? In fact as we read in their second trial before religious leader (v22-32) Peter seems to talk with great boldness and courage. He basically tells them they would obey God’s command and call on their lives, before they would listen to them and their request to stop preaching.
In today’s world not much has changed, we are still told to shut up (so to speak) and stop talking about Jesus, so much so that nurses amongst other professions, run the risk of disciplinary procedures if they talk to people about the hope found in Jesus. Does this mean we should stop and not share out faith? No, we just need to be smarter, but be confident in the message and discern the opportunities that the Holy Spirit opens for us.
Act 5 – Scene 1
Not every story has a happy ending and the story of Ananias and Sapphira is once such story. Their story is a warning for all believers to take God very seriously.
Chapter 5 tells us the shocking event of Ananias and Sapphira death. The context for this event is the latter verses of chapter 4. The Christians who had land and property sold it so that none amongst them had any need. This was not a compulsory action but they decided, one assumes, by the leading of the Holy Spirit to give gladly, cheerfully and freely by bring it to the apostles.
Ananias and Sapphira were likely a wealthy couple who, like everyone else who had the means to do so, decided to sell a piece of property. Remember this was voluntary, the apostles had not issued an edict commanding such an action. Instead of laying it all at the feet of the apostles, Ananias in cahoots with his wife kept some back for themselves, yet gave the impression that he had given it all. Peter gets a word of knowledge and exposes the lie. The result of their actions led to their death. They had lied to God and thought they cold get away with it and still look good before the people.
You might think that this is harsh and extreme, but it was something they brought upon themselves by there sinful actions. This goes to show how serious sin is and how seriously God deals with it. Left alone their deceit would have infected the community and its witness in Jerusalem.
Ananias and Sappphira wanted to give the impression that they had given it all yet they were unwilling to surrender it all and kept some back. Whilst today we may not see the same pronouncements that Peter uttered to the couple there are lessons we learn. This is not to say that God thinks any more lightly about sin now as he did then.
Ananias and Sapphira played with fire and got burnt. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts for it is the well spring of life, the Christian having encountered Jesus and his life knows only to well that he is the only one able to purify the sewer of our naturally dark hearts, into clean hearts. The serious nature of sin means, if we allow sin to get a grip and leave it to fester in the dark recesses of our hearts it will eat way at our soul, if left unchecked and unrepentant. Repentance brings forgiveness, and being forgiven by God and submitting to Jesus enables his reign in our lives. The non-believer, a person who has not been born again by the Holy Spirit – John 3, is subject to sin and under its curse which leads to death. The good news is that Jesus paid the price and is the only way of forgiveness and life and he provides life in abundance for us to enjoy here and now, and for eternity!
What does this mean for us as followers of Jesus here and now? We must be people of integrity, which means to be the kind of person we are in private as in public . The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was hidden from everyone except God, it started where sin always starts, in the heart. It started with a thought, that led to an action and that gave birth to death. James in his letter sums it up perfectly…
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 ESV)
To be an unstoppable follower of Jesus is to live a life of repentance and faith in Jesus, humbly relying on him for everything in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. I’m sure we all know people who once walked with Jesus but no longer do, why? Likely they have either been lured by sinful desire or allowed their heart to grow cold by keeping it unguarded and allowing the enemy a foot hold and they have died or dying spiritually.
Mission to a broken world requires people who are different, not perfect but being perfected, just because of Jesus’ amazing grace. The Holy Spirit is always at work in his people bringing change and perfecting (2 Cor 3:18). Ananias and Sapphira’s deceit would have affected the unity of the community and in turn that would have affected the mission of God. If we are to be effective in our unstoppable mission we must be people of integrity – which means sticking close to Jesus. Selah!