Archive for February, 2012

The News Is Out

February 29, 2012

“Now the Apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.” Acts 11:1.

Honestly there are days when I dread reading the news.  Now I know what you are thinking, “So why do you read it?”  My answer is simply this, “One must be informed of his or her environment in order to make application in sharing the gospel.”

This morning I read about a multitude of things including: “increased gas prices, political wars, hints of war between Iran and Israel, and murder suicides.”  Believe it or not this was just a small sampling of what is going on in our world.

In many people’s eyes these things give us a reason to become discouraged.  But one must not life his or her life based on the course of this world. One must live his or her life based upon the course of another world.

I have good news, “The gospel is going forth and the Kingdom of God is growing.”  As this world is on a self-destruct mode, the gospel is rescuing people from this world and is preparing them for the Kingdom Of God.

This was vivid to me as I read Acts 11.  Acts 11 accomplishes two things.  First there is the good news of the gospel reaching the Gentiles.  Peter was used of God to communicate the gospel to the Gentiles.  The people of the circumcision party were confused, but Peter stands firm in the gospel.  “He will declare a message by which you will be saved.”  Secondly we read of the wonderful news of the gospel coming to Antioch.  Here we see the church developing under the leadership of five great Elders including Paul.  This would be the church that would take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.

So, what is the application for your life and my life?  I believe there are two applications: The gospel finds success when it is shared.  As Peter was obedient to share, the Kingdom of God grew.  Certainly God does the saving, but at the same time he uses obedient Kingdom members to communicate his word.  The gospel still needs to be shared with those who have never heard.  This morning, I was reminded that many people have only heard the bad news of this world and have never heard the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Today, I want to share good news with a world that has enough bad news.  May this become a passion in the life of everyone who knows Christ.

One footnote in closing:  You cannot share what you do not know.  “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;  I will make my words known to you.” Proverbs 1:23.

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A Man Who Needed More

February 28, 2012

“Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord,” Acts 10:33

This mornings readings center on Acts 10.  For me, this is one of the great moments in the New Testament Church.  In this passage we read the story of how God clearly defined for Peter and the church the following, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.”

This is an amazing truth that comes from the gospel.  Question, “Has this truth become a reality in your life?”  Consider how it became a reality in Peter’s life.  Acts 10 begins with the brief story of a Gentile who needed more (10:1-8).  Here was a guy who was loved by many, simply because he was a good man who gave to the poor and feared God.  However, He did not know Jesus Christ.  But Jesus, in his mercy, would send Peter to him to show him what he needed.

Acts 10 continues with the brief struggle of a Jew who needed more (10:9-23).  God would reveal to Peter that his adherence to the Kosher laws was hindering the gospel.

Acts 10 progresses as God brings these two men together (10:24-43) in a magnificent display of God’s glory and grace.  When Peter comes to this man’s house he discovers that the man has gathered his family and friends to hear the message that Peter would deliver.  The fact is, “There are many men who need to know more.”

Peter in obedience to God shares the message of the Gospel, “To everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  Brothers and sisters this is what every man needs to hear.

However, many people still have not heard.  It could be possible, that many of these people are in your spear of influence.  This morning I was reminded of this as I read Proverbs 31.  Consider the following, “Open your mouth to the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” 31:8-9.  We who have been given the gospel must give the gospel to those who do not have the gospel.

I am so thankful that God revealed this to Peter and I am thankful that God inspired Luke to record for us this powerful moment in the church.  I wonder, “What will history record about your church and my church?”  I pray that our churches will obey the gospel call, “God shows no partiality!!!”

Friendships Are Important

February 27, 2012

“But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles and declared to them how on the road he has seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of the Lord.” Acts 9:27

This mornings More For Christ readings, “Acts 9:26-43,” are filled with reminders about the importance of friendships.  Our text begins with Paul coming to Jerusalem and attempting to join the disciples.  Here is Luke’s commentary, “They were all afraid of him, for they did not believe he was a disciple.” I hope you can gain the depth’s of this struggle.  Here was a guy who had a record of persecution.  His record with the church was not good and now it was costing him.  However, Barnabas, uses his own great record to stand in for Paul and he was accepted based upon Barnabas record.  In this I am reminded that my right standing with God is all because of Jesus recommendation based upon his work on the cross (II Cor. 5:21).  I am also reminded of how it is seasoned disciples responsibility to come along side of new believers to help them grow,

The next scene is of Peter reaching out to a man who could not help himself.  Whereas Barnabas gave a witness for Paul.  Peter gave a word for this man. In Jesus name the man was healed.  This very day, I am reminded that it is the responsibility of brothers and sisters to lift up each other to the Lord.

The last scene is of Peter being summoned to a disciple’s home.  The bible records that she is filled with good deeds and charity.  However she has one slight problem.  The bible says, “She died.”  In this moment we see friends doing what friends can do.  They prepare her body for burial and they go and get Peter with hopes that He would cry out to God.  Again we see the miracle of friendship.  Peter pray’s and God deliver’s.  In this I am reminded that no friend is beyond the reach of Christ.  We must trust our friends, who are dead in their trespasses and sins into the hands of Christ.  He can bring life and we must live every day in the hope of this truth.

Wow, what a section of the word of God.  This morning I found myself at the end of my reading, praising God for true friends.  I found myself being reminded to be a true friend to those around me.  May you and I find encouragement to seek friends and be a friend.

For further study, John 15 and also Jerry Bridges great book, “The Gospel For Real Life.”  

A Tale Of Two Different Men

February 24, 2012

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit…” Acts 8:18.  “Now an angel of the Lord said to Phillip…” Acts 8:26.

The facts are clear, “No two people are alike.”  This is true in family and this is true in friendships.  However is this the case within the family of God?  From our scripture reading for today, Acts 8:14-40, it might seem this way.

The first man mentioned in our text is Simon who had made a profession of faith, Acts 8:9-14.  But now our text seems to indicate that something has come into his heart that has caused him to act differently.

The second  man mentioned in our text is Phillip who was a deacon/evangelist, Acts 6, in the church.  Here is a guy who acts totally different.  He responds to the Spirit’s leading and He reaches out with the gospel.

The question that bears asking is this: “What made the difference in these two men?”  Now before we answer this question, we must ask, “What makes the difference in people at your church and at my church?’  Could it possible be our different personalities or could it be our different upbringings?  Certainly these things contribute to our development of personality.  But the bottom line is simply this, “It is Christ who makes the difference.”

The fact is Simon was not a true follower of Christ.  Phillip was a true follower of Christ.  People who are true followers of Christ have characteristics that are the same because they are being filled with the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.

This day, if you find yourself feeling as if you are different from those around you?  I encourage you to take inventory from scripture.  Is the difference “Christ in you the hope of glory?”  Or is the difference, you in you.  God’s goal is not that you would look different, but that you would have Christ formed in you, Gal. 4:20.

As you approach Sunday, may Christ be formed in you.  I am praying for you.

For further study consider Galatians 4-5.  For a character study consider the difference between King Saul and King David in I Samuel 9-17.  

The Death Of A Gospel Preacher

February 23, 2012

“Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him.  And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul,” Acts 7:58

A few weeks ago the headlines read, “Two missionaries in Mexico murdered.”  The storyline focused on the consistent crime in Mexico driven mostly because of the drug cartel.  As I read this article, I could not help but be discouraged because the true tragedy was barely mentioned.  The true tragedy was the death of two individuals who were bearing forth the light of the Gospel in a dark place.

The problem in Mexico is not drugs. The problem in Mexico is the same problem as is in every other city in the world.  What is this problem?  The answer is sin.  All of humanity is corrupted by our sin nature.  This nature drives us to live a life for self that only seeks to fulfill the desires of the flesh.  The drug problem in Mexico is simply a symptom of our sin nature.

As we know, the answer to Mexico’s problem and our problem is Jesus Christ.  This is exactly the message Stephen is proclaiming in Acts 7:44-60.  However this is a message that the world does not want to hear.  This mornings scripture reading highlights this fact.

Notice with me the progression of the text: First, Stephen calls out the people, Vs: 51-53.  As we read this text we discover how the man of God calls out this people.  He points out their rejection of scripture, their rejection of the Spirit, and their rejection of the Savior.  Second: Stephen finds confidence before the people, Vs:54-56.  In these amazing verses we gain a glimpse of Christ standing in heaven.  Here we see Jesus as our advocate and our judge.  We see Jesus preparing to receive Stephen into heaven.  Oh the confidence we have in knowing that Jesus is for us and if He is for us, who can be against us?  Third: Stephen is confronted by the people, Vs: 57-60. To our shock Stephen is stoned to death.  But as he is being stoned he gives an amazing witness to the life of a gospel preacher, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”

In this I am reminded of the heart of a gospel preacher.  He is or she desires the salvation of all men.  Their amount of sacrifice is of zero consequences because the gospel is what is important.

This morning, I remind you that as a child of God you have been called to be a preacher (Proclaimer) of the gospel.  Our Lord gave you this charge in Matthew 28:18-20.  Certainly I am not speaking of the office of a pastor.  I am speaking of the obligation of every person who is a born again believer.

When Stephen died, the gospel went forth, Acts 8:1-14. When the missionaries died in Mexico the gospel will still go forth.  The only question is, “will you be apart of this?”  Oh that we would be willing to take this gospel to the world.

For further study consider Acts 8 and consider reading “Christian History Made Easy” by Timothy Paul Jones.

Greater Than Moses

February 22, 2012

This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge?  this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.”  Acts 7:35.

This mornings reading, Acts 7:23-47, centers on and important part of Stephen’s message to the nation of Israel.  In this section Stephen details the ministry of one of Israels most celebrated hero’s.  The name Moses to this day stirs pride in the Jewish people.  It was through Moses leadership that the Jewish people were able to break free from four-hundred years of oppression.

Stephen, led by the Spirit, reminds his listeners of Moses greatness in order to show them that one greater than Moses had come.  Here is what Stephen is seeking to communicate:  The identification of Moses, Vs: 35.  Moses had a two-fold task of redeeming and leading a people.  This position was more than Moses could handle on his own.  Daily he relied on one who was greater.  The illustration of Moses, Vs: 37.  Stephen reminds his listeners that Moses life was an illustration of one who would come after him, Deuteronomy 18:15-17.  The one who would come after him would provide the redemption that man so desperately needed.  Jesus would be the mediator between man and God (I Timothy 2:5).  The intensity of Moses, Vs: 38.  Moses was given the 10 commandments and with great intensity he delivered them to his nation.  These commandments were a testimony to Israel’s inability to be right with God on her own.  Only in Christ will we find what we need to be right with God.  “The Law came through Moses. Grace and truth came through Christ.'”  John 1:17.  

At this moment I want to ask you a very important question:  “Who are the hero’s in your life?”  This is a very important question in light of Acts 7.  Stephen lifts Jesus above all hero’s.  Stephen lifts Jesus above all of man’s self effort to save himself.  If we have anyone in our lives who is greater than Jesus we find ourselves in a place where Israel found herself in Acts 7.  Israel rejected the Son of God.

Be assured, any idol will lead us away from devotion to God.  I want to encourage you to take inventory of the hero’s in your life.  It may be that you discover others to be greater than Jesus.

Maybe you ask, “How can I take inventory?” Here are some helpful suggestions:  1)  Consider who occupies the most of your time.  2)  Consider who occupies the most of your resources.  3)  Consider who you talk about the most or what you talk about the most.  4) Consider who or what you could not give up if you could only keep one person or one thing.

My prayer is that I would see the greatness of Christ and that each who read this would see the greatness of Christ.  He is greater than anyone or anything.  He alone is my Redeemer.

For further study, Deuteronomy 18, John 1, and I Timothy 2:1-5.  Also consider reading Chuck Swindoll’s book, “Intimacy with the Almighty.”

 

This Is Your Opportunity

February 21, 2012

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:  Acts 7:1

Almost daily through either email (Junk mail) or by snail mail people receive advertisements for great and amazing opportunities.  The only problem is, “You have to give your social-security number and your checking account number.”  Sadly there are those who buy into these opportunistic traps and find themselves in deep trouble having lost all of their financial resources.

All of this leaves us very skeptical about the opportunities that are presented to us.  However there is one opportunity that is all guaranteed to bring success to one’s life.  This opportunity is the same one that given to Stephen in Acts 7:1-25.

Stephen is one of the seven who was called to become the first deacons of the New Testament Church.  Stephen was a guy who was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Chapter 6:8 records his short ministry, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” 

His ministry landed him in direct opposition to the world.  Stephen is brought before a religious tribunal and given a great opportunity.  This opportunity was his last opportunity because at the end of his opportunity he would be stoned to death.  However he made the most of his opportunity.

2000 years later we are still reading about his one opportunity.  I deeply encourage you to read Acts 7 in one setting to get the full effect.  I was amazed at how Stephen knew the Word of God.  This is why he was filled with power.  There is always power in the word of God.

Follow His teaching through the first 25 verses of chapter 7.  Stephen begins with God’s promise.  Our God makes an unconditional covenant with Abraham to bless him.  The sign of Abraham’s willingness to obey would be in the covenant of circumcision.  Stephen continues with God’s provision while they waited for the promise to be fulfilled.  Here Stephen reminds us of God’s love and care for the Patriarchs.  Finally Stephen shares God’s promise realized.  God would use Moses as his mouth peace to direct a great exodus of his people.

As one looks back over this text, he or she will notice the theme of God’s redemption running through Stephen’s message.  You and I must follow Stephen’s commitment to biblical accuracy in seizing our opportunity.

Imagine what a crowd Stephen faced?  However, he shared with clarity and conviction the perfect word of God.  This is the only way we can win those around us who have never heard the gospel.  This is the only way we can reach our family and friends.

Today, I challenge you to prepare yourself for your opportunity by discovering the wonderful story of creation, fall, wrath, redemption, and return of Christ.  This seamless line runs throughout the Word of God.

For further study consider Carson and Woo’s commentary on both the Old and New Testaments.  

They Would Not Stop

February 20, 2012

“And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”  Acts 5:42

This mornings More For Christ reading, “Acts 5:41-6:15,”  continues Luke’s narrative of the church in Jerusalem.  As one reads these verses it is so refreshing to see a church that stays focused on the gospel.  Certainly as you read this text, you are reminded that their work was not without trouble.

Here was a church that was now facing opposition from without (Religious leaders wanted them to stop proclaiming the gospel).  But they would not stop.  The church also faced opposition from within (Some in the church felt neglected).

In both instances the church followed God’s leadership in addressing the problems.  In the first instance they just said, “Praise the Lord,” and they continued preaching.  In the second, they recognized that there was a problem and they trusted in God’s solution which lead to their continuing preaching the gospel.

How refreshing to see a church handle its issues in life with such commitment and wisdom. Question, “What troubles are you facing in your life?”  Maybe the better question would be, “How are you handling the troubles in your life?”

Consider the early church.  Here was a group of people who only had the Holy Spirit and portions of the Word Of God.  However, their commitment was amazing because they discovered this was all they needed.

Someone once asked D. L. Moody, “How he gained so much wisdom?”  Here was his response, “I used to pray and ask God to give me wisdom.”  God’s response came back, “I have already given you wisdom.  What you need is the commitment to read what I have already said.”

As you follow the New Testament church, this very truth is seen over and over again.  This day allow me to challenge you to spend more time reading from God’s word.  As you do, wisdom will come as you start to hear and heed God’s word.

Daily I seek to apply this as I read one chapter in the book of Proverbs along with all my other readings.  This very day the wisdom you need to keep on keeping on is found in God’s precious word.

 

Getting Arrested

February 17, 2012

“And they put them into custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”  Acts 4:3-4

This morning, I found myself thinking deeply about “Getting arrested.”  Now, do not make assumptions here.  I am not involved in anything where I need to be arrested nor am I wanting to be.  But consider this fact, “This very day many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are living with the reality that they could be arrested for their faith.”

Here in America we are still able to worship in freedom.  But in much of the world, those who  know Christ daily place their lives on the line.  As I thought about this, something amazing stood out, “The church persecuted grows and the church peaceful slows.”   Many churches in America are slowing in their gospel growth.  However the church around the world is growing as they sow the gospel.

Consider the early church.  Acts 4 relates the story of how the leaders in the church were arrested for the Gospel.  However the gospel was going forth in great strength.  What was the difference?  The difference was in what the people were doing that caused them to be arrested.

Here is a simple outline of our verses for today, “Acts 4:1-27.”  They were teaching the word, Vs: 1-5.  Only the word of God has the power to confront people with their sin and their state of condemnation under the wrath of God.  Only the word of God has the power to cleanse sinners and only the word has the power to create a new heart within a sinner.

They were testifying to the power of the word, Vs: 5-12.  Brethren we must be giving witness to what God is doing in our midst.  Without our testimony the light of the gospel grows dark in our world.

They were being threatened for their stand, Vs: 13-22.  The threats did not stop the church.  This helped the church to know they were fighting the good fight of faith.

They were praying for God’s sovereign will to be accomplished, Vs: 23-27.  Here were a group of people who were more concerned for God’s will than they were their own will.  They knew God was in charge of all things and they knew God was for all they were attempting to do.

These simple things positioned the church to grow.  Yes, it did get them arrested, but it arrested the people with the truth and they turned from their sins to a Holy God.

Based on these characteristics, “Would there be enough evidence to get you and I arrested for the gospel?”  Be assured our goal is not to get arrested.  Our goal is to get the gospel to the world.  Oh how I pray you and I will be faithful even if means that we will be arrested.

“Hear These Words”

February 15, 2012

“Men of Israel, hear these words…” Acts 2:22

Today, people do not begin conversations with, “hear these words.”  Nor do those who proclaim God’s word begin with, “Hear these words.”  There are many reasons for this, but one thing is for certain.  In Peter’s day, Acts 2:22-47, this was the correct way to get someone’s attention.  Oh how things have changed.

Today, pastors are looking for catchy stories or some prop to get people’s attention.  I wonder what would happen if all pastors began their message, this week with, “Hear these words.”  Before we drill any deeper let’s back out a little and ask ourselves a very important question, “What words are we about to hear?”

When Peter spoke, the words he shared were the facts about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Peter was an eyewitness to these events.  Peter also chose to quote from David in Psalm 16. Here David speaks of the coming of the Messiah.

Today, we have no one alive who was an eye-witness to these events.  However, we do have the trustworthy written word (II Peter 1:20-21) that guides us in all truth.  So if pastors, teachers, moms, dads, singles, and teenagers want to make an eternal difference they must know what these words are.

Consider how Peter was faithful to God’s word.  When the people heard God’s word, “They were cut to the heart and asked, ‘What should we do?”  Oh dear brother and sister, if you are looking for the right words to say to someone you care about?  Share with them the Word Of God.  I encourage you to memorize it, meditate upon it, and share it with those around you.

This day I challenge those who do not believe this is the best way to share Christ. Consider what happened in Acts 2.  3,000 people responded to the Word Of God.  This same Word has the same amount of power this very day!!!

For those who have not tried this, consider all the words you have used to try to help those around you.  I have found that only the word of God can soften and reshape a heart of stone.  Take in His word and Take His word to others.

For further study, consider Romans 10:1-17; II Timothy 4:1-5, Hebrews 10:25