Putting God's Word into Practice…

1 Peter 1:1-2 Introduction ~ Be Encouraged

This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.  I am writing to God’s CHOSEN people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.  God the Father KNEW YOU and CHOSE YOU long ago, and His Spirit has made you HOLY. As a result, you have OBEYED him and have been CLEANSED by the blood of Jesus Christ.  May God give you MORE AND MORE GRACE AND PEACE.

Peter, was a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ during His life on earth.  He got in trouble with his big mouth several times; and in Jesus’ time of deepest need, Peter even denied he knew Jesus.  He suffered from pride and selfishness–just like me!  And he needed Jesus’ forgiveness and grace–just like me!  After Jesus affirmed Peter’s commitment to the truth, He returned to heaven.  With the promise to build His church through Peter ringing in his ears (Matthew 16:18), Peter was filled with great boldness and set about the mission entrusted to him.

Peter was no stranger to persecution.  In Acts 4 we find Peter’s first overnight jail stay for healing a lame man in the name of Jesus.  His boldness in preaching in the name of Jesus led to a second arrest and imprisonment–followed by a miraculous escape (Acts 5).  And in Acts 12, we learn of his third arrest, imprisonment and supernatural release.  Peter’s faith ultimately culminated in His martyrdom around 67 A.D. under the rule of Nero.  Peter was crucified head downward out of respect for his Savior-Jesus.

Therefore, if anyone qualified to be writing to the confused, scattered and discouraged Christians under extreme persecution, it was Peter!

Peter started right off with a hope-filled reminder and greeting.  He reminded the Christians that God knew them, chose them, and made them holy!  WE CANNOT DO ANYTHING TO MAKE OURSELVES HOLY!!!  We can only be made clean by coming to the cross and humbly bowing to King Jesus.  A true view of our standing with God helps us endure suffering.  True obedience only flows out of the change He makes in us by the blood of Jesus.  If we forget the price of our holiness, obedience will not be our default action.

Not only do we need reminded of our hope in our salvation and our value in the eyes of God, we need His grace and peace in desperate and uncertain times.  How comforting to know that when asked, God gives “more and more grace and peace”–it is multiplied in our lives and over our circumstances!

  • Where do you need God’s grace and peace today?  May it be multiplied to you!
  • Discouraged, weary???  Remember that God knows you and has chosen you!
  • Feeling like you don’t measure up???? If God has made you holy, you are holy!
  • Lacking obedience to the Lord???  Be reminded of the price that was paid to make you holy–the blood of Jesus shed on a cross!!!
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Acts 14–Speaking

Again I am struck by the power of the spoken word–the bold proclamation of the gospel.  This chapter says over and over words like, “Spoke, speaking boldly, in a loud voice, crying out, saying…”  These are in reference to healing, preaching, correcting, encouraging and strengthening.  That is the work of all followers of Jesus Christ.  How can I use my words for His glory today?

Although Paul was forced out of Antioch, fled from Iconium and was stoned and left for dead at Lystra; he returned to encourage and strengthen the disciples to remain faithful in tribulation.  He led by example and reminded them of their eternal reward.  How can I speak encouragement to someone who is struggling in tribulation today?

Another way we see Paul using His words is correcting people from worshiping the wrong thing, and pointing them to the one true living God.  He also reminded them that God has revealed Himself all around them through rain, fruit, food, and gladness.  If anyone has ever experienced any of those things–they have experienced the truth and goodness of God.  (BTW-that would be everyone)  How can I use my words to point people to the eternally existing, sustaining, providing God today?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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