Archive for January, 2017

Complaints and Challenges (Acts 6)

January 31, 2017

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[a] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. Acts 6:1

 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council. Acts 6:12

Someone once said, “When it starts, it is hard to stop.”  This comment was made concerning complaints and challenges.  It seems that when a group begins to complain and to challenge, all momentum in lost.

Question:  “Is this true in your life, your work, your home, and yes, your church?”

In Acts 6 we read of both complaints and challenges.  The complaint came from within the church and the challenge came against the church.

First, the complaint: As the church grew, the amount of ministry also grew.  The church struggled with leadership in the ministry side.  It seemed as if the Apostles were about to be taken away from what was of most importance in their work.  But instead of getting bent out of shape over the complaint, they came up with the solution.  Out of the complaint came the awesome ministry of the first Deacons!!!

Second, the challenge: One of the deacons stood out about the others.  His name Stephen.  He was full of the Spirit and wisdom.  The challenge came from those who did not want the gospel to spread.  In these verses we are reminded of how we are to respond to challenges to our faith.  The challengers were of no match to the man of God.

Brothers and sisters, when you and I field complaints and when we face challenges, we must respond.  The response is critical.  But the way we respond is just as much critical as well.

In both cases, the people of God responded in Godly wisdom.  The challenge for this day is clear:

  • We must resist the challenge to respond with fleshly emotion and wisdom.
  • We must resolve to seek the wisdom of God.
  • We must stick with the wisdom given by God.

Here is how the writer of Proverbs gives us counsel:

 Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” Proverbs 4:5-9

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
    guard her, for she is your life. Proverbs 4:13

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Did you hear what happened at church? (Acts 5)

January 30, 2017

When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. Acts 5:5-6

Each week, I have the opportunity to talk with brothers from around the country with whom I have served with over the years.  Always, somewhere in the conversation, the question will come, “What’s happening in your church?”

This is always a tricky question, because the flesh wants to lift up itself and the flesh only wants to promote the good things of our lives.  Imagine what would happen if I said to one of my friends, in response, “Joe Bob died as the offering plate went by last weekend.” We laugh at this, but consider for a moment what Luke describes in Acts 5:1-11.

Question:  “What is taking place here?”

  • Both Ananias and Sapphira were trying to fool God.

They wanted God to bless them and they wanted the people to affirm them.  This was their rationale for lying to God.  But the reality of their foolishness reveals the heart of many people who fail to give to God what he asks.

Many people fail to trust God.  This couple said, “We will give, but we will keep part of what we give.”  They did this because they did not believe God would release what they needed back to them.  I have to care for myself.  This was Adam’s deal as well.  He believed God was keeping back from Him.

  • Both Ananias and Sapphira were trapped by their flesh.

They thought God would bless them without being totally sold out.  They thought this moment of self-centeredness was no big deal.  They forgot the true issue was in the heart.

As I consider, each week, how I am going to answer my brothers question, “What’s happening in the church?”  I realize I can only answer for my heart.

I admit to God, “I want to be truthful with Him.”  I confess, “I need Him to keep my heart pure.” I cry out, “I trust you Lord with my whole heart.”  I proclaim, “I want the Lord to be honored in His church.”

Brothers and sisters, “Let us take this moment in history to be reminded of this fact, what we do has great implications in the church.”  May we do what we do for the glory of God.

Jail Time (Acts 4)

January 27, 2017

“And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening,” Acts 4:3

Imagine you are sitting in the worship service of your church. The service has come to the teaching time.  The pastor is about half-way through the introduction of his message.  Suddenly police walk into the service and proceed to the platform with a warrant for the pastor’s arrest.  The congregation and you are in shock.  The warrant reads, “arrested for preaching the gospel.”

Before you can respond, he is taken away!!!  Question: “Are there things you would be willing to go to jail for?”

Here was my answer, as I read about the Apostles being arrested for preaching the gospel. I would go to jail for family, freedom, and faith.  This is my list.  I would add to the list, “friends.”

The Apostles were rewarded, for preaching the gospel, with jail time.

Think with me about what faith they possessed:

As they spoke out their faith was assaulted by people who hated the gospel.  The Bible is clear, “men hate the light,” John 3:17-19.  These men were arrested.  But notice, how bold they were in the answer of their faith.  They stood for in whom they believed.  God anointed the men to preach Jesus as the only way of salvation, Acts 4:12.  They refused to back down because Jesus was the only way!

In this moment they were released.  We rejoice in a short jail time.  But we also reflect, not everyone will have or have had a short jail sentence.  Many believers have died in jail.  Is their faith any less or any less effective for God?

Answer, “God uses some in moments of deliverance for His glory and often God uses many in moments of death for greater glory.”

Please reread 4:23-31 and ask yourself, “What can God do in your tough moments?”

Brothers and sisters, I am so encouraged and I am so challenged by what I have read.  I praise God for what will happen in our tough days.  I will pay attention to the assaults of the enemy.  I will be prepared to go to jail for the gospel.  I will have my answer in hand.  I will be a part of a local family so that I have others to walk with me through this hour.  Thank you Lord for those who read this today.  They are my family and I am theirs.  May we be willing to go to jail together for the name!!!

What do they expect? (Acts 3)

January 26, 2017

And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. Acts 3:5

Brothers and sisters, we are living in times where the unexpected happens on a daily basis.  It is almost too much to even watch or read the news of the day. Just when you thought, “humanity cannot lower itself any more,” you discover new low’s on a daily basis.

Scripture teaches us, II Timothy 3:2-5, this is the path of depravity.  We expect lost people to act in lost ways because they are lost.

However, “should there be different expectations for followers of Christ?”

I asked myself this question as I approached Acts 3.  We do not know how much time elapsed between Acts 2 and 3.  It was probably not many days after.  Luke records this scene for us so that we can see the godly actions of the leaders in the first church.

As we read their story, we discover godly expectations being met:

  • The church was observing the Jewish law in praying.
  • The church was genuine in their concern for those who were hurting.

Unlike the leaders in Luke 10 who passed by a hurting man, Peter and John stopped and paid attention to the hurting man’s cries for help.  Apparently there were some who already cared for this man.  Daily they would carry him to this spot.  It was all they could do.  Apparently people daily gave to the man. It was all they could do.  But in this moment, we encounter people who could do more.

  • The church was filled with powerful faith.

Peter knew the Lord could heal this man and he spoke in faith knowing the Lord’s power. Nothing is impossible with Jesus!!!  Jesus led Peter to speak and Jesus healed this man, Vs: 16.

Pay attention to the man leaping and praising God.  This is what happens when God exceeds men’s expectations.  Question, “What do we expect God to do?”

  • The church proclaimed Jesus.

Peter sees the divine appointment and steps up to proclaim Jesus.  There were four areas of proclamation.  See if you can spot them in your readings.  Here they are:

  1. He highlights Jesus ministry.
  2. He highlights Jesus love.
  3. He highlights Jesus mercy.
  4. He highlights Jesus second-coming.

When Peter is finished proclaiming Jesus, he is arrested.  But the gospel could not be arrested.  Many people come to know Jesus (4:1-4).

At the end of this moment together, I want to ask you three questions and then give you one Scripture to consider through your day:

  • What does the work expect from you?
  • What does God expect from you?
  • What do you expect from you?

Ephesians 3:19-20

19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

 

Promise made, promise kept, and promise still being kept (Acts 2)

January 25, 2017

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:39

Imagine that you happened to find a book filled with promises.  Imagine that you began to claim those promises.  Imagine that you received every promise your claimed.

Such imagination would lead to, as some have said, “a fairy tale world.”

In Acts 2 we do not find a fairy tale world, we find an amazing faith filled world.

Keep in mind, Jesus had made a promise to His disciples in John 7:38-39

38 Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Keep in mind, Jesus had made an earlier promise to all people, John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s Word is a book filled with promises.  The two most important promises are these:

  • I will save all who believe in me.
  • I will give the Holy Spirit to all who believe in me.

In Acts 2 we see the promise being kept for the first time.  All those who were saved received the Holy Spirit.  Immediately after receiving the Spirit, these began to share the glorious news of the gospel.

This lead to Peter’s great Spirit-filled message that led to 3,000 people claiming the promises of God. They were saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

This is so amazing to me!!!  But what amazes me more is this:  “The promise became personal to me in 1974.”

God, who made the promise, has kept the promise for 2100 years and is still keeping the promise for all who would believe on Him.

This promise book leads me to two actions:

  1. Praise Him for including me in the promise.
  2. To plead with Him to give me opportunities to share the promise.

Brothers and sisters, claim the promise and claim the people the promise is for.  They are afar off, Ephesians 2:14-16.  But they will be brought near by the blood of Jesus!!!

Where is “the end of the earth?” Acts 1

January 24, 2017

But 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.” Acts 1:8

When I was a kid, I remember the many unusual beliefs of my grandmother.  One in particular comes to mind this day.  She struggled with believing the world was round. She wondered if the first moon exploration was simply in her words, “Something from Hollywood.”  In her view, the world had to be flat.  If that was the case, my grandfather would reply, “if you go to the end of the earth, you would fall off.”

Question:  “Where is the end of the earth?”

If I had been one of the disciples who heard the “Great Commission,” given by Jesus. I would have wanted to know, “Where is the end of the earth?”

In context, Acts 1 stands as the moving from Jesus ministry to the church’s ministry!  Jesus gives the battle plan for the church.  She was to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  For 21 centuries the church has been at work trying to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Brothers and sisters, this is important: “It’s impossible to get somewhere unless you know where you are going.”

The Bible is clear, “the ends of earth” are those places where the gospel has never gone.  God has called His church to get the gospel to these place.  Jesus said, “When the Gospel has been preached in the entire world, the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14.

So, where is the end of the earth?  I believe for FBC Jackson, it is in Malawi Africa and in every place where the gospel has not been proclaimed.  It is true, each church has its personal end of the earth assignment. And it is also true, each person has their personal end of the earth assignment.

The question now becomes, “Where is your end of the earth place?”  Take time today to do the following:

  • Place a map of the world before you and pray for God’s direction.
  • Keep it in front of you until you have seen the place.
  • Tell your church leadership where it is, and ask them to join you in prayer.
  • Look for partners for that place, and then “go to the ends of the earth.”

The agony of a broken heart (Mark 16)

January 23, 2017

11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. Mark 16:11

This days readings are glorious for all who understand the power of the resurrection.  I can honestly say, “following Jesus through the Gospel of Mark has been an amazing journey.” If you remember where our reading left off, you will understand the title of our blog today.

When we last read in Mark, these words filled our minds and hearts: “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” Mk. 15:47

Truly the hearts of each genuine follower of Jesus were broken.  Imagine the agony of that Friday, that we call “Good Friday.”  It was day one for Jesus in the grave.  Day two was on the Sabbath, as His followers began to deal with life without Jesus.  As the dawn breaks for day three, in the grave, three ladies make their way to the tomb of Jesus.

We see their love for the Savior on this Sunday morning. They came with spices they had bought.  They were coming to anoint the body of Jesus.  This was all they could do.

When they arrive, they receive the most glorious news.  Their Lord and Savior had been resurrected.  We rejoice with the Angel who said, “He is alive!!!”

We envy Mary Magdalene, who was the first to see the resurrected Lord.  We long to see Jesus like the two witnesses did.  One day we will see Jesus!!!

But wait just one moment.  Where are the disciples?  Answer, “They are dealing with the agony of a broken heart.”  It is so true, “A broken heart will rob you of the joy of resurrection power.”  Only when they saw Jesus did the agony leave.   These facts help us to understand how to overcome the agony of a broken heart:

  • We need daily encounters with Jesus.  (Every day you must meet with Jesus in your quiet place).
  • We need a daily reminder of Jesus assignment for our lives.  (We are called to go with the gospel to the nations).
  • We need daily power in Jesus  to overcome all the stones that are in our path.  (God will work miracles every day when we are walking with Him)>

Question:  “Are you having an agonizing day?” If so, tell it to Jesus.  Close the door from the world and spend a few minutes on your knees with Jesus.  Take time to be reminded of what your real purpose is in life.  Now, get up, believe He will do what He says He will do.

Oh my brothers and sisters, “Watch as God rolls away the stone!!!”

The morning (Mark 15)

January 20, 2017

15 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. Mark 15:1

Whenever I consider the morning time, I consider all I have to be thankful for.  I think about how others have to get up at so early hours to drive to Atlanta for work.  I think about how many mothers had sleepless nights with their children.  I consider all those who could not sleep because of the anxiety in their hearts.  I am so blessed in the morning.

Maybe you are reading this as one who is having a tough time in the morning?

Consider with me, Mark 15.  Take time to read each section of the chapter, slowly and without distraction.  This chapter causes me to rise up in praise and hope no matter what the morning may look like.

Here is a easy to follow outline of the chapter:

  • Look closely at the condemnation of Jesus by the Jewish council. Vs: 1-5
  • Look closely at the corruption by the Jewish council.  Vs: 6-14
    • Pilate knew they were envious.
    • The chief priests led the crowd to turn on Jesus.
  • Look closely at the cruelty of the Roman soldiers. Vs: 15-20
  • Look closely at the crucifixion  of the Son of man, Vs: 21-32

Brothers and sisters, I will never look at the morning the same again.  Jesus faced the darkest morning in all of eternity with the greatest of determination to redeem us from the darkest of mornings!!!

Whatever you face today takes on a different look because of the morning Jesus overcame.  Here are some morning verses for your day:

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. I Peter 2:24-25

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Phil. 3:8-11

Last but not least:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

Beauty in a war zone (Mark 14)

January 19, 2017

But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. Mark 14:6-7

I think most of us have had the experience of thinking, when in a tough season of life, “how can anything good come out of this?”

Years ago I meet Bill and Jan.  This married couple had a wonderful story of their meeting.  It was during the time of the Korean conflict.  I will never forget the way Bill told the story of how God put them together in the dark days of war.  In his view God did something beautiful in a war zone.

Question:  “Could God accomplish something wonderful in the war zone you are presently walking through?”

Just ask, “Mary” (the sister of Martha as well as the sister of Lazarus).

The first 9 verses of Mark 14 tell us the story of how a moment of war turns into a moment of beauty.  Jesus is with His disciples in the home of a former leper.  The group is gathered around a table.  I do no know if the meal was over and they were resting, reflecting, and being refueled by Jesus.  But I do know the war zone was happening.  The battle was for the souls of men.  The cross was just days away.

In this moment, with Judas preparing to betray Him, something beautiful happens!!!  The smell of food is replaced by the smell of perfume.

Mary does the unusual:

  • She takes the most expensive thing she owns and gives it to Jesus.
  • She gives us a picture of what was about to happen to Jesus.  He was anointed by God to give His life for us.  Mary knows this and is giving to Jesus her best before the hour.
  • She gives us a strong example of how we are to give our best to the Lord.

The disciples do the unbelievable:

  • They consider this beautiful moment a waste.
  • They could not see the betrayer in their midst.
  • They could not grasp the beauty of the cross that was to come.

With all of this war zone stuff happening, Jesus gives us understanding:

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.

This is a beautiful moment!!!

Brothers and sisters, “What is God calling you to do in our war zone moments?”

Can I suggest a few options:

  • Praise Him for what you know about Him.
  • Give your best to Him, knowing He gives His best to you.
  • Offer the gospel to those who are in the war zone with you.

If you attempt these things, the war zone which has the smell of death will be transformed into a war zone that has the smell of life!!!

Stay Awake (Mark 13)

January 18, 2017

37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:37

Question:  “has anyone ever had to say to you, stay awake?”  I confess, it has happened in my life several times.  On in particular comes to mind.  It happened several years ago.  It was New Year’s Eve.  There was a group of people who came over to our house with the goal of making sure I stayed awake until midnight. I can still remember Sherry saying to me, “Stay awake.”  This direct would last for about 20 minutes and again she would find me falling asleep.  So again the imperative would come.  “Stay awake.”

Brothers and sisters, I am happy to report, “because of her prompting I made it.”

Consider Jesus last words recorded in Mark 13. They are a summary of everything He has said in the chapter. Chapter 13 is about “End Times truth.”

The disciples wanted to know two things: “When would Jesus come to establish His kingdom and what would be the signs that would let them know it is coming.”  These are questions we still have today.

Here are those signs:

  • False leaders would come as well as fierce conflict around the world.
  • There would be natural disasters and famine around the world.
  • The church would face international persecution.
  • Families would divide over the gospel.

Brothers and sisters, “We have experienced these signs in every generation.”

Here are some signs still to come:

  • The gospel will be proclaimed in all nations.  Vs: 10
  • The Antichrist will come to rule in Jerusalem and the world.  Vs: 14-18
  • Believers in Jerusalem will have to flee for their lives. Vs: 15-18
  • The tribulation will be more intense than anything that has ever happened in our world.  Vs: 19-23
  • The Lord will return. I.E. “His Second-coming!” Vs: 24-27

At this point we need to hear Jesus warning to us, “Stay Awake.”

God has called His church to pay attention to the signs.  God has called His church to be prepared for His return. God has called His church to reach others because His return come happen any day.

Listen to me carefully:  God says, “Be on guard!”  “Keep awake!”  “Stay awake!”

Here are our takeaways:

  1. Make sure you do not become distracted by living as if you are going to be here forever.
  2. Make sure you stay on task with things of eternal value.
  3. Make sure you are awake to the very end of your race.

When I think back to that New Years Eve, I remember everyone saying, “Keith you made it.”  But as I thought about it, “I really did not make anything of eternal value.”  I want to someday hear Jesus say, “Keith, you made it.”  Oh how I want the same for all who read this today.