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
Sometimes I really don’t recall the specific details of how God has led my life or how the many aspects of my life came about to bring me to where I am today. Some of it is a blur and some of it is still a bit of a surprise to me, but what I do know is that God has gone and continues to go before me and I know that He is present with me.
I recently finished studying the names of God and the last name I looked at was Jehovah-Shammah ‘The Lord is Present’. I spent time looking at some verses throughout the Old Testament mostly to try to understand what God is communicating to us about Himself through this name.
In Exodus 13:20-22 the Israelites (God’s people) are wandering around the desert. During the day the Lord was before them in a pillar of cloud and at night He was a pillar of fire. God went beforeHis people. It was Him who was leading them. And He never left them.
Later on in Exodus 23:20-22 we see that God again goes before His people. As the Israelites fight their enemies it is God who actually defeats them. God fights for His people.
When Joshua fought against the city of Jericho God sent the captain of His host to fight with Joshua. God does not leave His people to fend for themselves. No, He fights with and for His people. (Joshua 5:13-15)
Again with Gideon we see that God fights forGideon and joins in battle with him.
As you follow the path God sets before you, He has already walked there. It may seem unknown to you, but God has already been there.
When you feel helpless or overwhelmed, remember that God is fighting for you. He wants to see you succeed and His name glorified. He is the God with you, engaged in battle and bringing you forward.
Part of this blog-post originally appeared on March 22, 2013 at ‘Be Strong and Take Heart’
A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor finally confess something I’d been waiting for a pastor to say my entire life. During the middle of his sermon, he declared, “This sermon is going to have four endings.” I was so happy I wanted to give him the world’s most awesome side hug. Finally, a pastor was admitting the difficulty of ending a sermon.
“WHEN THE END IS NEAR”
Seven Signs a Sermon Is (Almost) Over
This blog post is from Jon Acuff and he has heard quite a few sermons in his day. Here’s his handy guide for discerning when the end is near.
Some pastors just preach until the clock runs out and then tie the whole thing off unexpectedly with a prayer. With little or no warning, right after they’ve read a Bible verse, they’ll say, “Dear God, we just thank you for this Sunday.” If you’re in the audience taking notes you don’t even know you’re supposed to have your eyes closed. “Are we in a prayer right now? Was that the end?”
To prevent End of Sermon Whiplash or “ESW,” I’ve collected seven signs that will indicate to you that the ride is about to come to an end. Get your Bibles and your coat. Break yourself, fool, it’s time to go to lunch!
1. “In closing…”
This is an old school sermon ender. When you hear this phrase, you’ve got about seven minutes left.
2. “If I could leave you with one thing today…”
When I hear this, I kick everything else out of my head and laser focus. The “one thing” approach is like a grenade of knowledge that is about to be dropped.
3. “As we’re wrapping up…”
Technically not accurate, since only the pastor should be wrapping up. Hopefully the crowd isn’t zipping up Bibles or gathering stuff while he’s trying to close the sermon. That’s distracting.
4. The band starts to materialize like musical mist.
Wait a second, is that a guitar player slowly creeping onto the stage all quiet like? Did the drummer just rise out of the floor to sit behind his kit?
5. The pastor closes his Bible.
Class is over. We took a good look at the good book and now we’re done.
6. The pastor sneaks a peek at the clock and gets nervous.
I’m not a pastor, but occasionally you’ll see me do this when I’m speaking. A lot of churches have clocks on the back walls indicating how much time you have to speak. And they count backward. When you go over your time they start flashing red. If you ever see a pastor look up, as if to the heavens, and get “insta-sweaty” it’s because he’s way behind.
7. They start talking faster.
I have two talking speeds – fast and wicked fast. If I realize I’m out of time but still have two main points to share, I speed up. Like a ninja. Or a cheetah. Or a ninja cheetah, the fastest of all martial arts jungle cats.
Those are the signs a sermon is about to end. If on the other hand a pastor takes his coat off, removes his watch or says, “Today I want to talk about …” forget it, that sermon is nowhere near over.
Me, personally? I don’t worry about the length of a sermon. I let the Holy Spirit take all the time necessary, but I’m probably holier than you are.
Question: What does your pastor say at the end of sermons? Are there any other signs that a sermon is about to end?
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.
Let’s Build Bridges to Reach Today’s Generation
It’s a real challenge to reach our culture today. In my 25 plus years of ministry, I have never seen greater Bible illiteracy.
There was a time when you could assume most people had a general idea of the Bible. If you were talking with someone and made a reference to Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Noah and his ark, or even Jesus Christ, they would have a sense of what or who you were referring to.
Not anymore. People are largely oblivious to the Bible, not only as God’s Word but even as great literature. The obsession of some to implement the “separation of church and state” has contributed to this illiteracy concerning God’s Word.
When I present the gospel today—especially to younger people—I can no longer assume that they understand what I mean when I say something along the lines of, “You need to repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus and become His disciple!” They might wonder what it means to repent, or even what sin is.
Our challenge as believers in reaching this post-modern generation is to make sense without compromising our message.
By the way, I think way too much is made of the whole modern/post-modern generational issue. There are some valid things to know about each group, but let’s not forget that the essential gospel message does not change. The gospel that the apostles delivered in the first century still resonates with the twenty-first century.
But we still need to adapt and become, as Paul said, “all things to all men.” Paul said: “I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I became one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. Yes , I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
Note that Paul says, “I fit in with them as much as I can.” There is a place to draw the line when you are around people who have differing or contrary beliefs to your own. We want to be careful to try to influence them more than they are influencing us.
Sometimes, in an attempt to “relate” to people who do not believe in Christ, Christians will make unnecessary compromises. Listen, if you become too much like them, they will never want to become like you. Let’s reach people, but let’s also stand our ground and hold to our principles as followers of Jesus.
Some may want to rationalize compromise in their life as a Christian by protesting, “Well, Jesus hung around sinners!” That is not really true. Jesus did not “hang around sinners,” for the most part. Actually, He “hung around” his disciples when He was not teaching.
When Jesus was with sinners who were separated from God, they did not stay that way for long.
He confronted the woman at the well about her sin. Sure, He loved her, but he pointed out she was living in sin with a man at present. She also came to faith after that.
Yes, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, but it was only after she called Him “Lord.” Even then, He said to her, “Go, and sin no more. . . ”
When he went into the home of the notorious and despised tax collector named Zacchaeus, the little guy emerged transformed.
So, let’s work on building bridges to our lost world, not burning bridges.
At the same time, let’s not lower our standards in order to extend our reach.
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.’
Rust never sleeps and sometimes I don’t either. We have a fairly new leased (or as Dave Ramsay says ‘fleeced’) car and it is showing signs of age already. Of all the things that could wear out on a vehicle our window frames are rusting. Now this article isn’t about the pros and cons of a new car or leasing per-say it is about how new things lose their ‘gleam’ so quickly and how easy it is to become discontent with things.
“For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”—Philippians 4:11
If we can learn how to be content in these very uncertain times we will know something very important.
Contentment, quite simply, means satisfaction, being at ease and at peace with one’s situation. We also might define it as “being comfortable in one’s own skin.”
We might think we know where contentment comes from. We may think it comes from affluence – from having plenty of money. John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men of his day, and who had a net worth of $100 million, was once asked, “How much wealth does it take to be happy?” He answered, “Another million dollars.”
A person with six kids is more content than a person with $6 million. Why? Because the person with $6 million wants more! (That was a poor attempt at humour)
Anyways, the thing about money is, no matter how much we have, we think we need more.
We may think contentment comes from achievement. If we earn one more degree, get one more promotion, then we’ll be content.
Or we may think contentment can be found in acquisitions – from getting things on our “wish list.” A new house, a new car, a new boat, a vacation home – that will make us feel content.
But contentment seldom comes from affluence, achievement, or acquisitions. Paul learned that lesson.
Paul was one of the most ambitious men in the Bible. He was driven to succeed, to excel. And he had accomplished quite a lot in his life before he met the risen Christ. He lists some of his accomplishments in the third chapter of Philippians. (Check it out)
But he had also suffered a lot as an apostle and as a follower of Jesus Christ. He had suffered vicious beatings, shipwrecks, and being thrown in prison. But he could still write these words:
“I have learned to be content.”
Paul had discovered the secret of contentment. The secret was not found in external experience. He learned that contentment is an inside job.
Paul made this discovery: Contentment is not a matter of affluence, achievement, or acquisitions. Contentment is a matter of attitude.
The translator of The Message Bible explains it this way.
Philippians 4:10-13 “I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
I have also learned to be content. It sucks that my Jetta is rusting in weird places but really it’s just a car. When I was younger there was a band called ‘Elim Hall’ I liked their music a lot and once I met the band members I really liked them personally as well. They came out with a recording called “Things Break”. It made an impression on me that has lasted all these years. Bottom line: Stuff is temporal. When I wrap my heart and attitude around that and put my thoughts towards people and the things unseen. I find contentment, I find calm, I find the Kingdom.
I think that is why Jesus said so clearly to put treasures in the heavenly realm where moth and rust have no affect.
On earth rust may not sleep but in heaven rust is deceased.
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.
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?