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’
Who do you think you are?
God says that you’re created and you’re an image bearer. You’re made to mirror Jesus. Therefore, your true identity is not yours to create. It’s given to you by God. The real question you need to know the answer to is, “Who does God say that I am?”
There are only two categories of human beings: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Are you in Adam or in Christ? In Ephesians 1, Paul says that if you are in Christ, you can be faithful, you are blessed, you were chosen and made blameless, you are forgiven, you can know the will of God, you are reconciled, you have an inheritance, you have hope, and you have the Holy Spirit.
In Adam or in Christ
The Bible speaks of identity as being in Adam or in Christ, so much so that the Bible speaks of believers being in Christ no less than 216 times. Just the Apostle Paul himself, in the thirteen letters of the New Testament that he writes, he talks about us being in Christ. He’ll use language like, “in him, in the Beloved, in Christ,” 216 times. Let me say this: anyone who tells you something 216 times, number one, it’s important, number two, they’re afraid you’re going to forget it.
Do you know how many times the New Testament says that a Christian is a Christian and uses the language of “Christian”? Three times. The Bible says that your identity is ‘a Christian’ three times, and that your identity is ‘in Christ’ 216 times. It’s one of the primary ways, if not the most common way, that God refers to a Christian.
Here’s the difference between being in Adam and being in Christ: at the cross of Jesus Christ, he traded places with us. He literally traded places with me. All of the death, all of the shame, all of the condemnation that I deserve went to Jesus. All of the forgiveness, all of the love, all of the grace that Jesus rightly has as the sinless Son of God comes to me. What that does is that changes our identity.
I want you to see this
If you are in Christ, you are in Christ’s position and Christ is in your position. He suffers and dies so that you might be blessed and live. Do you believe that God the Father loves the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he is kind toward him, and gracious toward him, that his ear is attuned toward him, that his affection is devoted to him? I have great news for you. If you are in Christ, you stand in the position of Christ. You are loved as Christ is loved, you are blessed as Christ is blessed, you are embraced and adored as Christ is embraced and adored. I want you to see this so that you’ll live from your identity in Christ, that you’ll realize that you’re free from religion and trying to perform for God. You’ll be free from shame and condemnation, because all of that is taken care of for you by Christ and is available to you in Christ.
Twilight is for teenage girls what porn is to teenage boys: sick, twisted, evil, dangerous, deceptive, and popular.
This past weekend, millions flocked to movie theaters for the final installment of the teen vampire saga. Tragically, many were driven by their parents, including some cougar moms encouraging and joining their daughters’ obsession with handsome young males.
Our family car won’t be driving to the theater for Twilight—or over a cliff for that matter.
I want to give a special thanks to Mark Driscoll for this tough love approach article to raising kids in a Christ-less culture. Pastor Mark ranted on this garbage-tastic phenomenon before, and finds the whole genre profoundly troubling.
The popularity of supernatural soap operas has inspired some real-life demonic trends. Overreaction? Tell that to the kids biting, cutting, drinking blood—sometimes while having sex—and sinking deeper into the occult:
- NBC News: “Teenagers obsessed with the Twilight vampire saga, or those simply fascinated with fangs, reportedly have been biting each other—hard—and then licking or sucking the blood. ‘These are kids who think they are real vampires,’ said Dr. Orly Avitzur. [. . .] ‘Having that thick, warm copper-tasting blood in my mouth is the best thing I can think of!’ wrote a teenager identified as ‘GothicGirl10’ this year. ‘Sometimes my boyfriend lets me feed off him. I let him feed off me as well.’”
- ABC News: “Paola Hernandez, 15, said a boyfriend tried to pressure her to allow herself to be bitten. ‘He said, “I love you and that’s the way I want to show you,”’ she said. ‘I didn’t give in because it was kind of idiotic.’ She said some of her classmates, mimicking on-screen vampires, even cut their skin so they can taste one another’s blood. ‘That means you’re stuck with them, they have your blood inside of them and you have their blood and so you’re closer to each other,’ she said.”
- Sanguinarius is a popular website for “Real Vampires” that includes a special section for teens with “advice on the problems and issues teen vamps face: school, parents, coping with awakening, how to enter the vampiric community without looking like a fool, and more.” Other resources on the site include techniques for “safe bloodletting and feeding, dealing with bloodthirst, flavoring your donor’s blood, and cooking with blood.”
- Another support page for Real Vampires appeals to outsiders with “a few words for anyone who has ever been bullied, picked on, teased or harassed because you’re different. What you have suffered is wrong. It is wrong for anyone to hit you or harass you, or to make you hate yourself for being different, whether or not you consider yourself a vampire.”
- The Week: “Lyle Monroe Bensley, 19, was arrested in his boxer shorts after he allegedly broke into the Galveston, Texas, home of a randomly chosen single woman, growled and hissed at her, dragged her down the hall, and tried to bite her on her neck. . . . When the police arrested Bensley a short time later, he told them he was a 500-year-old vampire. ‘He was begging us to restrain him because he didn’t want to kill us,’ says Galveston officer Daniel Erickson. ‘He said he needed to feed.’”
- The UK’s Channel 4 produced a documentary about the growing vampire subculture. The chance to play vampire provides an opportunity to “be nasty and evil and let my darker side out for the evening,” says one subject. The film profiles a group of teenagers in Texas who consider themselves to be real vampires (and werewolves). One explains, “When I drink someone’s blood, I feel like I own them in a sense. Like they’re mine.”
Please pray for these kids. If you know them, speak with them lovingly, honestly, biblically, and quickly. Satan is real, clever, and a deceiver who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). He’s not going to come at us with a pitchfork and horns. More likely, he’ll attempt to lure people towards darkness with methods like “harmless” entertainment, possibly in the form of bad acting and melodrama.
As a father to a teenage girl, I find it devastating to simply read the most popular web pages that come up when searching for “teen vampire.” There, girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan. These storylines offer eternality without God and salvation; in the place of Jesus’ shed blood, girls and boys shed their own blood to be awakened to their own salvation of a new spiritual way of life filled with sex and occult behavior.
I do not shelter my children from these sorts of things. Pop culture is too pervasive to hide from (on a recent trip to a Barnes & Noble with my daughter we noticed an entire section of books dedicated to “Teenage Vampire Romance”). My wife and I talk to my daughter about these things so that she can be discerning, informed, and safe.
However, we do not treat things like movies, books, and TV shows as harmless entertainment, but rather a potential threat to her well-being to be aware of so she can walk in wisdom by God’s grace. I rejoice that our oldest daughter (and all of our five children) loves Jesus, see right through this demonic deception, and speak freely with us about these sorts of things. I want that for all children and families.
As a pastor and a father, I am particularly concerned for Christian parents who are naively allowing this filth into their children’s lives, buying these books and driving kids to see these movies. To such parents, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9–11, emphasis added).
I want to give a special thanks to Mark Driscoll for this tough love approach article to raising kids in a Christ-less culture.
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.
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.
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
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 4 – Scene 1
This is a massively encouraging passage for anyone who thinks they are not smart enough, don’t know enough or just couldn’t speak about Jesus either to those who confront you or those people who you know.
Having just seen the lame man healed in and through the name of Jesus, and Peter seen the crowds response he proclaimed the message of life found in Christ Jesus. Peter and John got arrested and put in custody until the next day.
Again amazing results occurred from the bold proclamation of the gospel, verse 4 states that it was about 5000! In a previous post I mentioned that we may need to re-think how we communicate the gospel but the message of Jesus is powerful. We must be confident in the good news and Jesus power to save.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Filled with the Holy Spirit Peter confronts his opponents and they are astounded as they are uneducated, common men! Once we realize boldness in witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus and his transformation in our lives is not about intellect but by being filled with the Holy Spirit who enables a real and living relationship with Jesus. They may have been uneducated but they had been with Jesus. When their opponents said this it was in recognition of that fact that they had literally been with Jesus just a number of weeks before this recorded event.
The key factor in sharing our faith is in being with Jesus. While we may not physically be in the presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit he is constantly with us, in our best and worst moments. While it is important that we carve out time to read and pray it vital that we develop a life of prayer and practice the presence of Jesus in all our life.
“When it is natural for us to talk to Jesus, it will be natural for us to talk about him.”
Boldness is a result of sweet fellowship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit who reveals Jesus to us, as we grow in confidence of the resurrection power of Jesus at work in us bringing forth eternal life, we will also grow in boldness. Trust him!
Peter and John on their release went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. They then all prayed this prayer…
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Maybe you could pray this prayer for yourself and other Christians you know.
Things you can do, get to know Jesus, by developing a habit of prayer and Bible reading (if you have an iphone, android or another kind of smart phone, you can get great bible apps such as this one http://www.youversion.com/mobile). Write out what Jesus had done for you and how you are changing because of Jesus. Seeing it in black and white can help it sink in!
Develop relationship first with Jesus through prayer and you’ll become unstoppable in wanting to talk about him with others.
Act 3 – Scene 2
The lame man (Acts 3) had been healed by Jesus. There was great rejoicing as the man clings to Peter and John, a natural response from a man who had been lame from birth, and people are astounded at what has happened.
Peter saw this and began to preach to the crowd, in a way that the crowd understood. What you notice about all the New Testament preachers is that they pitch it at their audience. Peter is talking to a crowd who were present at the crucifixion of Jesus and had played their part (verse 14). He explains the good news to them in way that they would have understood.
Peter doesn’t pull any punches or try and soften the blow about the condition of the hearts of his audience but he does give them a message of hope. Hope that is only found in Jesus.
Christians are commissioned to be people who spread the good news of Jesus. However, we often talk in terms that people don’t understand and then don’t explain them! We need to talk in language that people understand or we’ll lose them from the conversation. We need to talk about sin but we have to explain it, as people don’t get the concept of sin. Maybe we need to talk in terms of selfishness, start there and then explain its destructive consequences (there is other jargon that we can fall into and it is a big put off for communicating the good news) the gospel’s focus is on the new life in Christ and eternal life at that, if we focus more on sin then we miss the point. Sin is serious, and has been catastrophic for the world, but Jesus is the great redeemer and restorer. What a beautiful message to bring to a broken world!
This message is still powerful and Jesus still mighty to save, a broken world, a broken humanity. Think about the language you use when talking about the good news; does it help or hinder conversations? How have people responded? How do you talk about the good news when a whole generation don’t know about Jesus? What Christian jargon is unhelpful and how can it be reworded and explained to a non-Christian?
If you have any helpful suggestions, then please feel free to comment or share stories of how you have either had successful (people still talk to you and are still asking you questions) conversations with non-Christians or when you have had un-successful ones.
Please help this conversation along and tell us what you have learned.