Putting God's Word into Practice…

Acts 8-My Faith Hero, Philip

Philip was one of the seven men chosen to meet the needs of the early church, which means he was a man of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.  Of the seven, he and Stephen are the only two we know about.  The other five are just named in chapter 6.

After Stephen’s martyrdom, Luke tells us there was a great persecution that broke out among the Christians.  God used this horrific persecution to fulfill His purposes for His followers.  In 8:1,4 Luke wrote, “(the Christians) were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria…(and they) went about preaching the word.”  Remember that in 1:8 Jesus told His followers that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Philip went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ.  Jesus had revealed Himself as the Messiah there years before.  Philip showed up and gave them the rest of the story.  The people believed and were filled with joy.  The message and the power of Christ–the changes He brings about–always result in joy (8, 39)!

After Philip got the ball rolling in Samaria, he faded into the background while Peter and John took over.  That alone, sets him apart as a great man in my book.  But there’s so many more reasons!

Philip was visited by an angel of the Lord (God must find him pretty trustworthy).  The angel said, “Rise and go,” and Philip rose and went. Even though it meant going through a desert place, Philip listened and obeyed the call of the Lord.

Not only was Philip willing to share the good news with the Samaritans (referenced as “dogs” by the Jewish people), but he also obeyed the Spirit to encounter an Ethiopian eunuch who was in charge of the queen’s treasure.  The eunuch (How would you like to be known as that!  No prominent job title in the world can gloss over being described as a eunuch!) had been worshiping in Jerusalem and was reading the scroll of Isaiah on his return trip.  The Spirit told Philip to “go,” and Philip ran.  Quick, enthusiastic obedience to the call of the Lord again!  When someone is seeking God, God will use people to reveal Himself to them.  When He calls you or me to help, are we listening?  Do we respond with quick, fearless obedience like Philip?

First Philip listened to the man, then he “opened his mouth.”  Listening is key to sharing the gospel, and so is speaking!  Actions are a good start, but if people don’t hear the word, how can they be saved!?  There is a quote that many believe St. Francis of Assisi spoke, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”  What a foolish quote!  If all people see is how we live, we can be defined as good and moral, but there is no Jesus in that!  People have to hear the name of Jesus and be pointed to His work on the cross as the source of all joy and good in our lives.  Philip didn’t speak any opinions–he used Scripture to tell the good news of Jesus.   As followers of Christ, it is so important that we know the Word of God so that we will always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, then the Spirit carried Philip over 30 miles away to Azotus.  Without hesitation, he continued over 60 miles to Caesarea preaching the gospel to all the towns as he went.  Philip was a man of single-minded focus and purpose.  No wonder his ministry was so effective! It was Spirit-driven, and gospel-centered.  Philip didn’t waste the persecution he endured, he used it to the fullest.

We are capable of so much more work for the Lord than we think.  It’s all about listening to and relying on the Holy Spirit and focusing our speech on the message of Jesus Christ alone for salvation and joy.

Leave a comment »

Acts 6:5,8-7:60 Stoning of Stephen

What a great gift we’ve been given in the description of Stephen.  He was one of the seven men appointed serve in the church and to take on the complaints of the people.  He was described as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit in verse 5, and in verse 8 it says he was full of grace and power and was doing great wonders and signs among the people.  Stephen was also described as having a face like an angel.  Although his life was cut short, as he was the first recorded person who was martyred for following Jesus Christ, we can see many evidences in his final moments of the Spirit-filled, faith, grace and power that characterized his life.

  • Stephen preached the truth and the history of God’s rescue and redemption of His people boldly before a hostile crowd.
  • He fearlessly called out the sinful condition of the hearts of the men who held his life in their hands.  (7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”)
  • He possessed the saving faith that upon his death, he would enter the presence of Jesus.
  • He called out in a loud voice petitioning the Lord to show grace to his perpetrators.
  • He followed the example of Christ until His last breath.
  • He fully believed Jesus was worth living and dying for.

Stephen was called upon to lead and serve in the early church.  He fulfilled his responsibilities until the end.  Lord, may it also be said of me that I was a faithful, bold servant of Jesus until my life on earth is ended. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Leave a comment »

Acts 6:1-7 Order in the Church

~~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.  And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose (seven)…These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.  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.~~

Being married to a pastor, this passage hit home with me.  First, more people equals more opportunities for complaining due to needs being overlooked.  Even at the beginning there were people in the faith who were concerned with their needs more than the message of the gospel going forth.  In many churches today, the pastor is pulled in so many directions that their primary responsibilities–praying and spiritually feeding the people–are exchanged for those that meet the physical needs of their congregation.  IT IS NOT RIGHT!  God has called them to pray and preach!  It is good for there to be other leaders in the church whose main responsibility is meeting the physical needs of the congregation. Not just anyone can fulfill this function either, but men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.  The role of leaders in the church is to meet the needs of the people to protect the pastor!  

This order in the church has exceptional results.  Look at verse 7!  “The word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly.”  Maybe the reason we don’t see so much fruit in our churches today is because the pastor doesn’t have enough time for prayer and preaching.  When we are obedient to God’s plan, He empowers us to fulfill the great commission that He gave to us–to go and make disciples!

What can we do with this:

  1. If you are a church leader-protect your pastor, wisely meet the physical needs of the people, and operate in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  2. If you are not a church leader-pray for your church leaders and your pastor.
  3. If you are a complainer–take your eyes off your needs that you don’t think are being met and get to work helping others.
  4. If you are a pastor–devote yourself to prayer and preaching!

Acts 5

Acts 5:1-16.  Seeing all the generosity of the fellow believers, one couple decided to sell some property and vowed to give the proceeds to the apostles.  However, in their hearts, they planned to pretend that they were giving all while keeping a little back for themselves.  Their sin was not greed–it was lying.  Peter was very distinct about to whom they lied.  In verse 3 Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie TO THE HOLY SPIRIT and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?”  They had just received the gift of the Holy Spirit and to do something so grievous to Him was astonishing.

Things had been moving along so well for the early church–characterized by power, purity and unity.  Then Satan came along and deceived Ananias and Sapphira causing them to take something for themselves that was set apart for the Lord.  Their sin was punished with death.  The result was that great fear came into the church.  (Sounds a lot like Genesis 3)

The fear of the Lord is what’s missing in many churches today.  Could you imagine if God immediately judged hearts and disciplined us in the midst of our gatherings today?  Could you imagine getting a chance to be honest about our sins and receiving grace, but choosing to lie and hide our sin instead only to be met with immediate death?  Maybe it would put some healthy fear of the Lord in our churches and restore the purity of Christ’s Bride!  Maybe the Holy Spirit would be restored to the rightful place in our lives and the church would be filled with power and boldness again!  Maybe God would start to receive the honor and glory that is due Him in our land!  Maybe multitudes of believers would be added to the Lord daily!

Acts 5:17-42.  All that power and boldness came at another cost, too.  The apostles had some enemies.  The Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy–quite the opposite of what the apostles were filled with–the Holy Spirit.  I just made a quick list of some contrasts between the two types of people from these verses.

  1. Jealousy-filled men fear man while Spirit-filled men fear God.
  2. Jealousy filled men are wishy-washy with no distinct plan while Spirit-filled men hear and follow God’s plan.
  3. Jealousy-filled men are held back by fear while Spirit filled men boldly proclaim the name of Christ and forgiveness of sins through Him–daily and tirelessly.
  4. Jealousy-filled men are distinguished by disunity while Spirit filled men work together for sake of Jesus.
  5. Jealousy-filled men stay inside and question/criticize while Spirit filled men go to the people and  speak about Jesus.

Lord, send conviction and confession to your people and restore your church.  Restore our hearts for Your Spirit to live in, restore our boldness with the gospel, restore our desire to tirelessly point people to Jesus.  Restore our fear of You. In Jesus’ holy name I ask it, amen.

Leave a comment »

Acts 4 – The Powerful Name

I’m reading through the Psalms this month along with my journey through the New Testament.  Yesterday I read Psalm 69-71.  In Psalm 69 I was convicted afresh of my waning zeal for God’s house and my desire to be reproached, to weep and fast.  I begged Him for more sacrificial passion in my spiritual life. As I continued through 70 and 71, my heart was drawn to how often the mouth was mentioned in conjunction with proclaiming the praise, joy, glory and greatness of God, along with declaring His righteous acts and mighty deeds.  Upon reflection, I realized what my mouth was full of, and how I want it to be full of the aforementioned language.  Then I moved on to Acts 4 and felt more conviction.  

Peter and John were arrested for healing in and attesting to the powerful name of Jesus Christ.  There ministry was effective and bold.  They spoke of salvation through NO OTHER NAME!  That is absolute truth, yet seldom boldly proclaimed.   They were uneducated, common men, yet were recognized for their boldness and set apart as men who had spent time with JESUS.  I spend a lot of time reading the Word and thinking on it, but I’m not sure that people look at me and think,”There’s a common girl who behaves and speak in an uncommon way because she spends time with Jesus.”  That is how I long to be recognized, though.  Peter and John were bold in hostile situations.  How can that be?  The answer is in verse 8–they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS IN TOTAL CONTROL!  However, so often, I want to be in control…doing and saying what I deem acceptable and not listening to what the Holy Spirit wants.  That is why my words lack power and boldness.

Then moving on to the next section, I was terribly convicted about my prayer life.  I’ve never prayed with such devotion and fervency that God shook my house!  Peter and John went to their friends upon their release, and their first response was prayer, calling out to a “Sovereign Lord, who Created ALL things.”  They praise Him, petitioned Him and asked for power through the name of the Holy Servant, Jesus.  Everything they asked in faith by Jesus’ name was answered just like He promised before His ascension.  He gave them more of the Holy Spirit which equaled more boldness.  That is a request He will grant all day long!

Because of this recognized need for the Holy Spirit, their dependence on Him for their work and worship, the people were unified.  No one was trying to do their own thing, push their own agenda, operating in their own strength, “and great grace was upon them all.”  Isn’t that how we should long to see the body of Christ living–unified in power and boldness under grace?  It takes surrender, prayer, and more of the Holy Spirit.

That is what I’m asking for today–for me, my husband, my sons and our church.

Leave a comment »

Acts 3–Faith to be Faithful

There was a man lame from birth who asked for alms (money or food) at the Beautiful Gate of the temple.  Peter and John healed him in the name of Jesus.  God used this healing to receive praise and to draw together a crowd.  Peter seized the opportunity, not to get glory for performing a miracle, but to point people to the power of God and the power of faith in Jesus–the Holy and Righteous One, the Author life who was killed by and for sinful men and raised again.

What do you do with a message like Peter’s that points out Jesus’ holiness and man’s sinfulness?  There is only one correct option: repentance/turning from sin.  In verses 19-20a it says, “Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

Need refreshed?    There is refreshment in His presence, yet our sin separates us from His presence.  Confess your sins and return to the Lord.

Been refreshed?  Think back over the details of how God drew you to hear the truth of the gospel and how by His grace you responded in repentance.  Thank Him!

Living in a difficult circumstance?  The lame man had no idea how God was going to use his disability to display His glory and power and to draw thousands to salvation.  Press on in faith knowing your suffering is never wasted in God’s plan.

Personal Points of Conviction: 1) When was the last time I asked God through Jesus by faith to do something impossible and then used it to attest to His greatness? 2) How many opportunities has God given me to point people to Jesus, that I have missed?

Lord, let me be faithful to take every opportunity to point people to You–Your power and glory.  Give me great faith in You to accomplish great things through me in Your Great Name! Amen!

Leave a comment »

Acts 2 Pentacost, Preaching, Personal Changes

Pentacost. Acts 2:1-13. The day of Pentacost is actually the Jewish holiday, Shavuot-The Latter First Fruits Celebration, and was instituted in Leviticus 23:15-21.  It was held 50 days after the celebration of the Early First Fruits to give thanks for the early wheat harvest and to increase hope for an abundant fall harvest.  It also commemorates the day that the LORD gave the Law to Moses for the Israelite people.  During the synagogue service, the Jews and proselytes, would listen to the reading of Exodus 19-20, Ezekiel 1, and Ruth.  Ezekiel 1:4,28b reads, “As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal…Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”  In God’s Appointed Times: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays on page 55 it says, “Imagine thousands of Jewish worshipers leaving the Temple after the morning service having just read the passage from Ezekiel 1.  Suddenly some manifestations of the Holy Spirit started to appear before their eyes!  No wonder they were amazed and perplexed by the windstorm and fire.  They must have wondered if God was revealing his glory for the first time in nearly 600 years!  The glory of God was present at the giving of the Law; the same glory was manifested at the giving of the Holy Spirit.”

Preaching. Acts 2:14-41.  Peter boldly proclaimed a Christ-message, naming the Lord at least five times.  The message of Jesus brought conviction, repentance, forgiveness, baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  His bold message had supernatural results, too, 3,000 people gave their hearts to the Lord that day and believed in the name of Jesus.  This brought immediate changes to the people’s lives.

Personal Change. Acts 2:42-47. Those who believed in Jesus began to be changed into His likeness.  How they spent their time and possessions all changed.  They devoted their time to listening to sound teaching, to fellowship with each other, to eating together, and praying.  Selling their possessions to help meet each others’ needs became normal, not exceptional.  There was a “mi casa es su casa;” “What’s mine is yours” mentality.  They received from each other with glad and generous hearts.  How do you receive with a generous heart?  I think it means they knew even what they received was not theirs and could be given away to help others.

What was the outcome of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives?  Onlookers were awe-filled.  The apostles did wonders and signs.  There was great unity and openness among the believers.  Glad and generous characterized their hearts.  God was praised and worshiped.  Believers had favor with man.  The Lord gave a great, supernatural harvest–adding a great many believers daily.

Leave a comment »

Acts 1 – Ordered to Wait

Who likes to wait?  Not me!  It’s hard.  It takes faith that something is coming–that the waiting will come to an end.  Jesus ordered His followers to wait for the Holy Spirit who would come to them “not many days from now.”  That command leaves a lot of unanswered questions.  How many days?  What will it be like?  How will we know?  How can we prepare?

In verse 8 Jesus gave them a  few more details.  The Holy Spirit will give them power–not just power for anything but to be witnesses of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  He also told them where they would be His witnesses–everywhere!  A great mission, needs a great God to empower it!

The disciples are left with another promise in verse 11.  The angels promised that Jesus will come back again–in person!  (We are still awaiting the fulfillment of that promise.)  Instead of staring into the sky indefinitely, they all trouped a half mile back to the upper room…to wait.

There are so many things I could think to do while I waited for days…worry, fret, talk, cry, plan, clean, eat, etc…but not the disciples.  Verse 14 says, “ALL these with ONE ACCORD were DEVOTING themselves to PRAYER, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (who finally believed Jesus was the Savior).  Oswald Chambers once said, “Prayer doesn’t fit us for greater work; prayer is the greater work.”  There could be no better way for Christ’s followers to fill their time waiting.  Prayer and waiting should always go together.

Leave a comment »

John 21 ~ Revelation and Restoration

Revelation.  John 21:1-14.  The disciples were not looking for Jesus to reveal Himself to them again.  They had gone home, dusted off their fishing equipment and set sail for the night.  But “Jesus revealed Himself” to them.

It says in verse 4, “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.”  Understanding this as real time description, I also see spiritual significance in these words.  They remind me of the bridge in David Crowder’s song, Glory of it All.  “After night, comes the light, dawn is here, dawn is here, it’s a new day, it’s a new day, everything will change, things will never be the same, we will never be the same.” Jesus and the sunrise go together in Lamentations 3:23-24, too.  “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  The disciples needed a fresh reminder of the love, mercy and faithfulness of their Savior.

The disciples had gone out to the sea for peace, purpose and fulfillment but returned empty.  It was not until Jesus got involved, sent them out, and they obeyed that they found more fish than they could have imagined.  Jesus didn’t even need their fish; He was already cooking some up for breakfast.

Restoration. John 21:15-25.  In these verses we see some similarities to Peter’s denial of Jesus in chapter 18.  There was a charcoal fire (18:18, 21:9).  Peter denied Christ three times.  Here Peter admits his love and loyalty to Christ three times, and each is followed with a personal commission to Peter.  Loving Jesus and doing the work of Jesus go hand in hand.  It’s not enough to say we love Him, we must follow and obey.  We see that Jesus–the Shepherd from chapter 10–is passing on the baton to Peter.  He asked Peter to 1) feed MY lambs 2) tend MY sheep and 3) feed MY sheep.  Jesus was telling Him to take care of and feed the Word to the young and old–to make disciples.  The lambs/sheep don’t belong to Peter, they belong to Christ.  Knowing who the “lambs/sheep” belong to, changes how we treat them, don’t you think?

Right away Peter started to take His eyes off Christ and look at people.  That is such a common misstep in ministry.  It is so easy to move from following Christ and His plan for the ministry He has entrusted to me, to measuring and comparing that ministry with someone else’s.  That breeds discouragement and jealousy if their ministry appears to be going better while breeding self-righteousness and pride if theirs appears to be going worse.

Peter’s ministry started with the Lord’s call to, “Follow me” and ends with Jesus’ command to “follow me.”

Am I still following Jesus with my whole heart?  Am I measuring myself to His plan or to His plan for others?  Do I love Him enough to lay everything aside and take care of those He entrusts to me?  Am I trusting Him to “fill the net with fish” doing more in a moment than I could strive to do all night?  Am I trusting in Him alone to provide all I need to do His work?  Do I realize that the lambs and sheep belong to Him and not to me?

1 Comment »

John 20-Looking for Jesus

I love this chapter because it teaches us that those looking for Jesus will find Him and will experience the peace He brings into life.

  1. SEE. Peter and John raced to see the empty tomb for themselves.  Peter went all in, while John hesitated at the doorway.  Yet both believed upon seeing the folded grave clothes.
  2. HEAR. Mary Magdalene wept outside the tomb over its empty state.  Jesus revealed Himself to her by calling her name.
  3. SEE. The other disciples needed Jesus to show up in the midst of their locked room and see the scars on His hands and side.
  4. TOUCH.  Jesus made Thomas wait eight more days to reveal Himself and allowed Thomas to put his fingers on His wounds.
  5. EXPERIENCE. We cannot see Jesus or touch His wounds or hear His voice in person.  We believe by faith!

God knows if we are truly seeking Jesus exactly what we need to believe.  For me it was by reading a fiction book that made me think about eternity.  I realized that I knew about God, but I didn’t really know God for myself.  I knew I was a sinner and that Jesus was the answer, but I had never made Him my Lord.  Once He revealed to me that I didn’t have a relationship with Him and hadn’t been reconciled to Him, I could only cry out like Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved!”

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”

If you hear God calling you today, confess and believe!  Three times in John 20 when Jesus showed up, He said, “Peace be with you.”  Only when we believe will we experience His peace and have peace with God.

Leave a comment »