Archive for August, 2017

Acts 10

Acts 10 has Cornelius receiving a vision from God to send some of his men to bring Peter back to his place.  So he does, and God gives Peter a vision that they were there for him and he should go with them. As part of that vision, God also instructed him about what he could eat, shattering the teaching he had always followed. “What God has made clean, donot call common”.  The three arrive and the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them”.  Not a lot of detail, just God’s direction to go.

So Peter went down and agrees to go with them.  “Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends”.  There is a bunch of people assembled when Peter arrives.  “And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered”.  This was a big deal to Cornelius.  Peter says to him “when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me”.  Peter is unsure why he was summoned, and Cornelius is basically in the same boat.  “Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord”.  Not a lot of clarity, just trust that God has a plan.

Then we see the power of God at work.  Peter has no clue what he’s to talk about.  “So Peter opened his mouth” and  gave a powerful message to the people that had gathered.  He didn’t know why he was there and certainly didn’t know what he was there to share.  But God moved when he was obedient and opened his mouth.  That’s how God works.  What God originates, He orchestrates.  He gave Peter the words based on his obedience.  Peter said, speaking of Jesus, “he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead….that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”.

It was the message of the gospel and as they believed, “the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles….he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  It was a huge day filled with God’s hand at work in the lives of two men who really had no clue what was happening but both just obeyed as God led them.  It turned into an evangelistic service where God moved and changed the lives of many through one man’s words and another man’s invitations.

Acts 9

Acts 9 has Saul preparing to take a journey to Damascus to capture Christ Followers and bring them back to Jerusalem bound and ready for punishment.  “But Saul, still  breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters  to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem”.  He had the official documents and a group of men with him to go do his evil work.  But God has a different plan.  “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him”.

That in itself would get your attention, but Christ goes further and audibly says “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me”?  The men with him heard the voice too. Saul falls to the ground and loses his sight. Then “Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing”.  The men with him lead him into Damascus where God speaks to His prophet Ananias and tells him to “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight”.  Ananias says ‘wait a minute Lord.  I know about this guy and it isn’t good’.  He isn’t so sure he signed up for going to meet a guy who was killing Christ Followers.

But God has a plan and tells Ananias “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel”.  God’s got a plan for Saul, but before that is set in motion, Ananias needs to visit and restore his sight and baptize this new Christ Follower.  “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Saul doesn’t argue or resist because Ananias healed him.  So “Saul increased all the more in strength, and  confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ”.  Talk about persecutor to effective witness.  He is proving to all that Jesus is who He said.

This is quite a shot in the arm for the early church.  They have been scattered and fleeing from persecution and now there is a new guy on the team that is making quite an impact.  “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up….walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied”.  These fledgling believers are now energized and empowered.  They are walking with the Lord and growing the church consistently.  God continues to empower His disciples.  Peter is asked to come to the home where Tabitha (or Dorcas) has died.  “Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, Tabitha, arise”.  He speaks to a dead body and it gets up.  There is power in prayer.  We serve the same God with the same power.  We merely need to learn to plug in and use it!

Acts 8

Acts 8 has Saul approving the stoning of Stephen.  But he didn’t stop with that. It was the beginning of a movement to destroy the followers of Christ and the early church. “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles”. This is a new group of believers that have heard the Apostles preach and teach and have followed Jesus.  And now, one of the leaders has been stoned and some devout men have buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.

Saul uses this to kick off his assault on the church.  “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison”.  Saul had one thing on his mind, to destroy the early church.  But they were not dissuaded and though scattered, they kept on sharing.  “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word”.  The believers literally fled for their lives and were scattered all over the place, but they didn’t stay silent.  As they were spread, they shared wherever they went.

Philip was one of those who was chased out of Jerusalem.  “There was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.  He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah”.  This rather well to do leader was reading in his chariot and “the Spirit said to Philip, Go over and join this chariot”.  Remember that Philip has been run out of town, but God now wants him to go to a powerful man and share.  “So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, Do you understand what you are reading”?  No fear, just obedience.  Philip does exactly what God told him.

And it was a powerful interaction as “he invited Philip to come up and sit with him….he told him the good news about Jesus”.  Philip wasn’t gun shy about speaking the truth.  He shared the gospel.  The Eunuch “commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him”.  Talk about a life changing experience.  Philip simply fled one place to go to another where he could continue to share Christ.  God blessed his obedience and brought another to Christ.  God uses us when we are available and willing to follow His lead!

Acts 7

Acts 7 has Stephen before the high priest defending himself.  He gives a long history lesson of God’s faithfulness and the blessings God has bestowed on His people.  He walks through the story of Abraham and Isaac and Moses and continues to the present time where they have killed the Christ.  He then lets them have it.  “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.  As your fathers did, so do you”.  Not a gentle and quiet defense to say the least.  Stephen was direct and in their face.  But he continues.

He tells them “they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it”.  All the show the religious leaders tried to make wasn’t worth anything and Stephen calls them out.  They are not amused.  “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they  ground their teeth at him”.  The easy way out would be for Stephen to keep his mouth shut and just take the punishment the high priest might hand out.

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”.  Stephen was tuned in and connected to God.  Does that describe your relationship with the Father?  What would you do if accused of your faith and standing before someone who wants you to deny that faith in order to be set free.  Stephen doesn’t give an inch and “they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him”.  Stephen answered without fear and was willing to face the persecution that was headed his way.

“Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him….the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul”.  Here we meet the man Saul who was right in the middle of the killing of Stephen.  But he doesn’t give an inch, and “as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”.  Stephen doesn’t lose sight of the reality that God is there with Him.  “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”.  Stephen doesn’t lose sight of his relationship with God and even while they were killing him for his faith, he willingly offers forgiveness and love.  That’s faith in action God’s way.

Acts 6

Acts 6 has the Apostles dealing with growing pains.  “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution”.  People are people no matter when and where they are, even 2000 years ago they were looking out for their own interests. The special interest group of Hellenists were upset that their widows weren’t getting the same attention as the Hebrews, so they filed a complaining with the church leadership – the Apostles.

Rightfully so, the Apostles determined that it just wasn’t their problem to deal with.  They had other responsibilities so they needed to put a team in place to take care of the problem.  “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables”.  Big lesson here on priorities and fulfilling our HABU (highest and best use).  God wants us using our talents, gifts and heart in the most effective way possible to further His kingdom.  For the twelve, it was staying focused on the work of the ministry that they have been performing.  So they instruct the disciples to “pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty”.

They even delegated the selection process because they had a single minded focus of not getting drug into the needed solution.  “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word”.  They stayed the course and seven were selected to take on the needed focus of caring for the widows.  As a result “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”.  Not only did the church continue to grow but some of those who were part of the established religious leadership began to follow Christ.

One of the selected was “Stephen, full of grace and power, doing great wonders and signs among the people”.  Again, it is upsetting some of the religious leaders so “they secretly instigated men who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God….This man never ceases to speak words against  this holy place and the law”.  All lies, but enough to get him hauled in before the council.  But what they saw was not what was expected.  “And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel”.  Stephan gets a chance to defend himself in the next chapter!

Acts 5

Acts 5 begins with the story when “a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet”.  They did a good thing, selling their property to give money to the fellowship of believers.  But unfortunately they lied about what they had done.  Peter confronts him, and “When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last”.  A few hours later, Peter confronts Sapphira his wife.  “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out”.  God will not be mocked.

The Apostles are growing the church day by day.  “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them”.  God blessed their ministry and it was creating quite a stir.  “The high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison”.  The religious leaders saw their system falling apart, so they throw them in jail to try and shut them up.

But God is with them.  “During the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life”.  Prison doors were locked, but God brings them out and sets them free.  The religious leaders send for them to be brought from the prison and find they have escaped.  But the Apostles hadn’t run, they had merely gone back to teaching, so they are brought again before the leaders and told to stay quiet. To which they respond “We must obey God rather than men”.  The Apostles have no intent of being quiet.  They are going to obey God.

They decide to try and silence them again by dragging them before the leaders, but one of the Pharisees named Gamaliel, intervenes in their plan to kill them and says “keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God”!  They listened and decide to let the Apostles go.  But not silenced.  “They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ”.  The church continues to grow as they faithfully shared the good news of Jesus.

Acts 4

Acts 4 has Peter and John stirring up quite a bit of activity that was upsetting the way things were.  “And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead”.  Anybody who was a leader or powerful was on hand.  The healing of the lame man has stirred the pot and the religious leaders want to shut it down sooner than later.  They arrest Peter and John and bring them before the leaders.

As they are questioned, Peter answers “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well”.  There aren’t any words to make it clearer than that.  Peter and John were fearless in telling the story of the power of Jesus.  But they don’t end with that.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone”.  They accuse the religious leaders of crucifying the son of God and the cornerstone of the church.  “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”.  It’s clear as can be – Jesus alone is the only way to be saved.  There is no plan B, no other options, it is Jesus or nothing.  Peter and John fearlessly proclaim that truth before all the people and leaders.  It’s the same for us today.

Things are getting out of hand and the religious leaders are losing control.  “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus”.  Like that is going to stop them.  Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”.  Peter and John are not going to be deterred.  They are going to speak the truth of Jesus.  “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”.

Acts 3

In Acts 3, Peter and John are headed to the temple for prayer and come upon a man who has been unable to walk since birth.  He sees them coming and speaks to them, asking for help.  Peter says “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk”!  The lame man was looking for a bit of a handout, but Peter gives him far more. “Leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God”.  Peter changes this mans life completely.

The man gets up and tells everyone what has happened.  But the words weren’t the testimony, as people saw him walking and praising God”. What a way to get the attention of everyone.  Peter doesn’t miss the chance to address the people who have seen the change in this man lame from birth.  He and John take no credit, even though the healed person was clinging to them and proclaiming his changed life.  Peter doesn’t accept the praise but immediately confronts the people who just days before had put Christ on the cross.  “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead”.

 There’s no soft sell or slow entry into the message Peter has to share.  “To this we are witnesses”.  Others have witnessed the healing of this man lame from birth, but Peter and John witnessed the life of Jesus.  That is what the message is all about.  Jesus was the Son of God, “And his name—by  faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all”.  There’s no glory grabbing happening here.  Peter points all the credit to Jesus.  He doesn’t let any of the praise or amazement flow to himself.

But he doesn’t stop there.  He points to Jesus and then reminds them that they have to be changed if they want to experience the healing of Jesus in their life, physically or spiritually.  “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out”.  This hasn’t changed at all.  We’re all sinners in need of healing.  For that to happen, we must repent and turn from our sins.  Repentance means we stop what we’re doing and turn around and go the other way.  That’s when our sins are forgiven.  Jesus is the way for us to be set free from the penalty of sin.  He alone is our salvation.  We need to receive that free gift of grace through His shed blood.

Acts 2

Acts 2 happens on the Day of Pentecost.  Peter is there with the rest of the disciples and Jesus’ promise of the Comforter being sent is fulfilled.  “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Scripture lists 15 different languages that the Galileans spoke and it bewildered the Jewish leaders who could not explain how these people could all speak natively in a language that was not their own.  “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God”.  It was mind blowing to the religious leaders.

Peter seizes the moment to paint the picture of what has just happened.  “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus,  delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.  Peter unabashedly reminds them of the facts around the crucifixion of Jesus.  Remember that not many days earlier, he had denied even knowing Jesus.  But he’s over that fear and tells the story in a rather accusing way.

He goes on to challenge them to deal with the reality of Christ’s death.  “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified”. Peter challenges them to deal with the reality that Jeuss is both Lord and Savior, and they have to respond to that reality.  He tells them what to do: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.  No fear here from Peter – just share the gospel of Jesus with those who need to hear.

Did it work?  “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls”.  Not a bad day of sharing the gospel.  But what happens as a result is the foundation of the church.  Check out what they did after receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers….and many wonders and signs were being done….And all who believed were together and had all things in common….And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

They lived as Christ Followers and had an immediate impact on those around them.  Did you notice the outcome of the early church doing life well together?  The Lord added to their number daily.  Not occasionally.  Not here or there.  It was happening daily as they lived life as Christ Followers and impacted those around them.  That’s what it should look like.  We live as Christ Followers in fellowship with each other, focused on teaching and fellowship and breaking bread and prayer, and we let God bring the increase as He brings people to a saving relationship through Christ.  How exciting can it be?

Acts 1

Acts 1 has Jesus presenting Himself to the Disciples one last time.  “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God”.  Jesus has gone to the Cross, risen from the grave, and now is ready to give His last instructions to the eleven.  “He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father….You will be baptized  with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”.  Jesus is leaving them, but God is providing these faithful followers with power to carry on the mission.

He proclaims a promise and direction that is still the marching orders for Christ Followers today.  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”.  The charge is clear – as Christ Followers we are to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Being a Christian isn’t about filling a pew on Sunday morning.  It is about living a life filled with the power of the Holy Spirit professing Jesus Christ as a witness of what He has done.  We are to share the power of God in our life through Christ.  At home, in areas around us, and to the end of the globe.

That was the last instruction He shared, “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight”.  Jesus has given the disciples their marching orders.  First He told them in Matthew 28 to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ and now follows it up by reminding them to be witnesses of His life around the world.  One thing no one can argue with is how Jesus has impacted our life.  As a Christ Follower, we have a story to tell of Jesus love and salvation.

Jesus is gone, and there is a spot among the twelve that is open.  The eleven are working to figure out what to do.  “And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place”.  They turn to prayer in order to find the right replacement for Judas.  It isn’t a popularity contest or the one who gets the most votes.  They leave it to God.  “And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles”.

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