Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Acts’ Category

Lost Wonder

This event in Acts 5 marks the beginning of the lost wonder of God. Oh, it didn’t happen overnight. But gradually as the 120 who are full of God start dealing with issues resulting from those who aren’t, their fullness fades and the wonder is lost.

This first incident is handled by God Himself. Ananias and Sapphira, as a result of not being full of God, have yielded to the temptation to keep for themselves some of what they had promised to God. Though this incident does not have a negative effect on the 120, it does mark the beginning of other incidents that will. Soon the group will become scattered and distracted by issues.

It is interesting, and I think maybe by the statement God made by the way He handled Ananias and Sapphira, verse 13 says “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people”. This group of 120 was pretty tight. They were of ‘one heart and mind’. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”

It makes sense, this idea of the early church selling their possessions, when you think of it in relation to this small group. They were a part of something that was bigger than life. It meant more to them than life. Possessions meant nothing. It was nothing for them to sell them. It is hard for us to imagine being willing to do the things they did because we have not seen the things they were seeing. Can you imagine if you did see it though – if you were right in the middle of it? Would it not change your perspective?

How many groups of 10, 30 or 120 are there in the world today that need to come together until they are empowered. They may not see as much of the miraculous as these first 120 saw, but what if we saw part of it? Isn’t the world—and church—in desperate need of seeing some of God’s lost wonder?

Read Full Post »

The same people who sent Jesus to the cross were in church the following Sunday. Peter addressed them. He said, “you handed him over to be killed”, “you disowned him”, “you killed the author of life”.

Though this specific group of church people were literally part of the actual crowd that handed Jesus over – who disowned Him and killed the Author of life, who just days before were yelling crucify Him – there are some in the group of church people today, who by their blatant conduct during the week are also disowning and killing the Author of life?

And what did God do about it? He gave them another chance to see. Luke points out that He knew they “acted in ignorance”. Their eyes had not seen – their hearts had never understood.

He provided a display of the miraculous of which they could not help but to take notice. He healed the crippled beggar that they had seen Sunday after Sunday on their way to church. They saw it and were astonished. It made them perk up when Peter and John proclaimed the good news, that God had raised this Jesus from the dead.

With the added element of the miraculous, it helped them to see. Is the church not in need of this miraculous element today? In the lack of it, does it not grope around in the dark – acting in ignorance – because it knows nothing better? We pray and little happens. We preach and people don’t hear. What if Peter had prayed for the crippled beggar and the beggar had not gotten up? What if the people inside had not seen that evidence? Would they have listened?

Lord, for the sake of Your church, and those who are lost, both in and out of it, I pray the prayer that Peter prayed in Acts 4:29, 30. “Now, Lord, consider their threats (consider the fact that they act in ignorance) and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” In at least some portion, permit these things.

Read Full Post »

Priority

In these first few chapters of Acts, we see a brief period of the church’s beginning that is similar to the brief period in Genesis of man’s beginning. In Acts, God so poured out His spirit that sin was drowned out; . . . sin has a way of not staying drowned out doesn’t it?

Technically speaking, sin can be drowned out again, just like it was here in Acts, and just like it was in the Garden before the fall. It’s not that it can’t be done; it’s just that it requires a price that most of us are not willing to pay. The 120 from Acts paid it. Jesus in the Garden paid it. But most of us just are not willing to. So at best, at least for most, we just get close.

I am a recently converted idealist. In fact it is so recent, that a few days ago when I first wrote this, I wrote it from an idealist’s perspective. An idealist sees the ideal and anything less doesn’t count. It’s all or none. But in the past few days, the Lord has helped me see that instead of just all or none, most or some count too.

When I first wrote this, my conclusion as an idealist, was that when we are willing to make God’s business priority, like Jesus and these first 120 did, then and only then will we see what they saw. That really is still true. This new way of looking at things doesn’t change that fact. Some will press through. Some will see these things. It just accepts the fact that most will at best just see some portion of these things.

Years ago I tried playing the guitar. I could strum a chorus or two but that was about it. After a while, I gave it up. Some didn’t. Some stayed with it. They paid the price and some got to be pretty good. Some got to be very good and some are known all over the world as being the best. They all made it priority. They all learned to play. Some may have become more accomplished than others, but all, because they made it priority, became guitar players. They are all part of a group that did not quit. By pressing toward the ideal, they achieved a part of it and have are varying degrees of evidence to show for it.

I will still press toward the ideal. This is not an excuse to let up. It is a realistic approach to the pressing. It is not just all or nothing. Most or some count too. As long as it is priority, I am part of a group that has not quit. I may never reach the ideal, but I will achieve part of it and there will at least be some degree of evidence to show for it.

Read Full Post »

As much as I don’t want to, I know I need to move on past these first 5 chapters of Acts. This short lived period of the church without problems is getting ready to come to an end. You see, there were people in it. And that is the dynamic (problems) that people bring when they come into the church. For this brief period though, they were so full of the Holy Spirit that problems were drowned out.

But who can stay full? Who can always be 100%? Maybe we average 75% with occasional surges of up to 90% or 95%. Being honest about my life as a Christian during my first 30 years, I might could say I averaged 40% or maybe 50%. There were some 75% times but they were offset by some 20% and some flat out 0% times. But the in the past 6 years, I have definitely improved my average.

Ananias and Saphira, in a bit of a depression became greedy. In their downward turn, they dipped even lower by lying. The Grecian Jews were in a slump when they complained that their widows were not getting the attention that other widows were getting. And even Stephen, who was obviously considered to be full of the Holy Spirit, sagged just a bit one day and he got sucked into an argument. That one little moment cost, not only him, but the entire church dearly.

And now, is that not what the rest of the New Testament is filled with. The gospel is shared and people’s lives are changed. But they’re not made perfect; they’re made better. And as they gave themselves to the Apostles teachings, like Paul who pressed toward the mark – who pressed to stay full – they were improving their average.

Read Full Post »

The Promise

In Acts chapter 2, Luke writes in regard to Jesus: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father, the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear”. And then, “the promise is for you”. I wondered about myself. Have I received the fulfillment of that promise? Sometimes I feel a little short of it.

I thought of Abraham, Joseph and David. They each received a promise. They had to wait years for its fulfillment. Is this promise something I have to wait years for? The disciples didn’t. They were told to go to Jerusalem and wait, and in just a few days they received what was promised. But with me, after years, I feel I am still seeking—still waiting. It’s not that my life has not changed – it has. But the undeniable transformation that took place with the disciples here in this 2nd chapter of Acts – the power, the boldness, the wonders – are not as pronounced in my life.

This piece is about that, and what I feel the Lord has showed me as I have wrestled it out with Him. I think He likes it when we do that. It gives Him an opportunity to show us things He wants us to see. I think He is disappointed when we have a question and figure there is no good answer for it. Rather than taking the time to work it out with Him, we just cling to a previous misconception and move on. It robs Him of the opportunity to show us cool and life changing stuff.

For some reason I kept thinking of Moses. I’ve always thought he waited 40 years for something previously promised to him. Actually he wasn’t waiting; he was just living out his life. Delivering Israel wasn’t even on his radar. The burning bush incident was the first he had heard of it. It was there that he was first given his promise. And in just a few days . . . he was right in the middle of it.

So . . . Abraham, Joseph and David received a promise and had to wait on its fulfillment. Moses and the disciples received a promise and relatively speaking, didn’t have to wait. There is something there. What is it?

Each was given a promise. Each chose to believe it. Each was tested. Each received the fulfillment. Said a little differently, each was given a promise that they chose to believe. Each faced opposition that tested their belief. Their belief stayed in tack, in spite of opposition, and each received the fulfillment.

Abraham believed his promise through 25 years of waiting. His promise was buried in old age. Joseph believed his promise through 13 years of waiting. His promise was locked up in prison. David also believed his promise through 13 years of waiting. His promise was tracked down and attacked relentlessly by Saul. Moses believed his promise and immediately faced opposition as Pharaoh stiffened. Even in the middle of his receiving the fulfillment – as they were actually leaving Egypt – their enemy pursued and tried to steal the promise.

The disciples faced similar opposition. They were promised abundant life. Heaven’s Spirit – Heaven’s nature would actually fill them. They would be empowered to become witnesses to what Jesus accomplished and what it meant to all. They received fulfillment immediately, but the opposition was great. In the face of beatings, imprisonment, being run out of town, spoken evil of and shipwrecked, their belief stayed tack. It would have been easy for them to question whether they had actually been given abundant life. But as they were able to sing in prison, I think it suggests they believed they had.

So it is with us. We, who have been forgiven, have received the promised Holy Spirit. We have received Heaven’s Spirit. Heaven’s nature is born into us. We are given the promise immediately and immediately the testing begins. In the face of much opposition our faith is being tested. The question is: can we keep our belief in tack in the face of this testing?

When we face hardships, can our belief that we have received the promise remain in tack? When there is a shortage of evidence of our new nature, can our belief remain in tack? When our enemy pursues and tries to convince us that we have not received the new nature – when he tries to steal the promise after we have received it – can our belief remain in tack?

With Abraham, Joseph, David, Moses and the disciples, they first received a promise.
Their belief in the promise was tested. Their belief in the One who promised was tested. Against all kinds of opposition (time, facts that suggest the opposite of the promise, enemy theft and deceitful scheming), their belief remained in tack. It was no easy road.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we receive immediately the promised Holy Spirit. It is the seed of heaven’s nature. And like any other seed, it must be fed, watered and cared for. Accepting Christ gets us into Heaven; watering and caring for the seed of our new nature gets Heaven into us.

Paul puts it this way: ‘We reap what we sow. Sow to the flesh and reap corruption. Sow to the spirit and reap life. Jesus, knowing we would need water for this new seed to grow extends an invitation to us to come and drink. In John 7:37 He says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”. Sipping is not enough; we must come and drink and come and drink often.

As we come regularly to drink from His word, we receive the nutrients we need for growth. We are strengthened against all forms of opposition. Our new nature, though it may struggle with the old at times, will eventually dominate. If we do not come regularly to drink – if we just sip now and then – the old will dominate the new.

So to answer my original question, have I received the fulfillment of this promise? Is it something I have to wait years for? In a way, the answer is yes to both. I have received the promised Holy Spirit. It was deposited in me, the seed of Heaven’s nature, when I accepted Christ. To the extent that I water and care for it, is the extent to which the seed of that new nature will grow. No plant bursts out of its shell into a mature plant; there is a growing period – the waiting aspect.

Our growth and waiting may be linked to the plan God has for us. Abraham was to be the father of a nation. So what if it took 25 years for it to begin. What did it hurt to wait? It didn’t have to happen as soon as got the promise. It happened in God’s good timing; the same with Joseph and David. Joseph was to provide food for this nation in a time of drought. What did it hurt for Joseph to wait in prison until the drought got there? David was to be king of this nation. What did it hurt for him to have to live in caves until the other king was gone?

But with Moses it was a little different. He was going to deliver the nation from bondage. What he was called to do was ready as soon as he was called. Waiting 15 or 20 years wouldn’t have worked. When he approached Pharaoh, it was game on; similarly with the disciples. When Jesus left this earth, there was momentum. It was game on. To wait 15 or 20 years for an outpouring would not have worked.

There is one aspect of our growing that relates to our watering and caring for our new nature. But there is another that is out of our control. None of the Old Testament guys or even the disciples could have done anything to hasten the events they are associated with. In God’s good timing it happened. Whether it was years or days, it happened in His good timing.

It is on us to care for our growth. But when the thing God has prepared for us comes together, I believe He tops us off with an extra portion of this Heavenly nature. It is that extra portion that we long for – that can make us feel like we are a little short of what we could have in Him. Whether that takes 25 years, or just a few, we wait. And while we wait, as much as is in us, we believe.

This morning I had a thought that led me to Revelation 12. It relates to the opposition we face. John says of our enemy that he “was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus”. He does his best to keep us from reaching maturity – from the thing God has planned for us.

In the same chapter of Revelation John adds; “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Part of our ability to overcome him has been from the testimony of others who have overcome him. When we overcome him, we must tell it to help others.

John refers to this enemy as the accuser. He accuses us before God day and night. Do you ever feel like you are being accused . . . constantly? It is the enemy. He’s trying to discourage. He’s trying to get us to quit – to not believe. It is his ploy to keep us down.

Our only defense is the word of God. It is His truth. If we do not immerse ourselves in it, we are easy targets to delude. We will not readily recognize his subtle lies and suggestions that lead to our misconceptions. We set ourselves up to have Satan’s side of the story pipelined into our minds.

By familiarizing ourselves with God’s word, we allow Him time to show us His side of the story. We give Him the opportunity to speak to us. We develop a firm bed of truth that the seed of our Heavenly nature can grow to maturity in. Only God knows what He has planned for us and for when it is planned. We have no control over that. But we can control our growth so that when the time does come, we are ready for whatever it is.

It is a critical time in our nation. The church has just been challenged by Glenn Beck in his 8/28 speech. Perhaps if we had paid more attention to this promise over the years, we would not be where we are today. But we haven’t and we are. The way out . . . every individual must wrestle this out with God. We must do the ‘hard thing’ as Beck puts it. If we don’t, we will lose for sure. If we do . . . ? The line has been drawn. It’s game on.

I finally let my wife read this today. With so much going on in relation to it, I wanted her to read it. She waited till I was gone. When I got back, she told me she had read it and that she liked it. Then she sat me down to watch something she had recorded. She had come upstairs to do some ironing. When she turned the TV on, the Martins were singing – of all things – The Promise. Neither of us had heard it before. It was a pretty cool moment. If that was not enough, the link to it, for any who might be interested in listening, was posted on October 13, 2009. We were married on October 13, 1979. The Promise

In Acts chapter 2, Luke writes in regard to Jesus: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father, the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear”. And then, “the promise is for you”. I wondered about myself. Have I received the fulfillment of that promise? Sometimes I feel a little short of it.

I thought of Abraham, Joseph and David. They each received a promise. They had to wait years for its fulfillment. Is this promise something I have to wait years for? The disciples didn’t. They were told to go to Jerusalem and wait, and in just a few days they received what was promised. But with me, after years, I feel I am still seeking—still waiting. It’s not that my life has not changed – it has. But the undeniable transformation that took place with the disciples here in this 2nd chapter of Acts – the power, the boldness, the wonders – are not as pronounced in my life.

This piece is about that, and what I feel the Lord has showed me as I have wrestled it out with Him. I think He likes it when we do that. It gives Him an opportunity to show us things He wants us to see. I think He is disappointed when we have a question and figure there is no good answer for it. Rather than taking the time to work it out with Him, we just cling to a previous misconception and move on. It robs Him of the opportunity to show us cool and life changing stuff.

For some reason I kept thinking of Moses. I’ve always thought he waited 40 years for something previously promised to him. Actually he wasn’t waiting; he was just living out his life. Delivering Israel wasn’t even on his radar. The burning bush incident was the first he had heard of it. It was there that he was first given his promise. And in just a few days . . . he was right in the middle of it.

So . . . Abraham, Joseph and David received a promise and had to wait on its fulfillment. Moses and the disciples received a promise and relatively speaking, didn’t have to wait. There is something there. What is it?

Each was given a promise. Each chose to believe it. Each was tested. Each received the fulfillment. Said a little differently, each was given a promise that they chose to believe. Each faced opposition that tested their belief. Their belief stayed in tack, in spite of opposition, and each received the fulfillment.

Abraham believed his promise through 25 years of waiting. His promise was buried in old age. Joseph believed his promise through 13 years of waiting. His promise was locked up in prison. David also believed his promise through 13 years of waiting. His promise was tracked down and attacked relentlessly by Saul. Moses believed his promise and immediately faced opposition as Pharaoh stiffened. Even in the middle of his receiving the fulfillment – as they were actually leaving Egypt – their enemy pursued and tried to steal the promise.

The disciples faced similar opposition. They were promised abundant life. Heaven’s Spirit – Heaven’s nature would actually fill them. They would be empowered to become witnesses to what Jesus accomplished and what it meant to all. They received fulfillment immediately, but the opposition was great. In the face of beatings, imprisonment, being run out of town, spoken evil of and shipwrecked, their belief stayed tack. It would have been easy for them to question whether they had actually been given abundant life. But as they were able to sing in prison, I think it suggests they believed they had.

So it is with us. We, who have been forgiven, have received the promised Holy Spirit. We have received Heaven’s Spirit. Heaven’s nature is born into us. We are given the promise immediately and immediately the testing begins. In the face of much opposition our faith is being tested. The question is: can we keep our belief in tack in the face of this testing?

When we face hardships, can our belief that we have received the promise remain in tack? When there is a shortage of evidence of our new nature, can our belief remain in tack? When our enemy pursues and tries to convince us that we have not received the new nature – when he tries to steal the promise after we have received it – can our belief remain in tack?

With Abraham, Joseph, David, Moses and the disciples, they first received a promise.
Their belief in the promise was tested. Their belief in the One who promised was tested. Against all kinds of opposition (time, facts that suggest the opposite of the promise, enemy theft and deceitful scheming), their belief remained in tack. It was no easy road.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we receive immediately the promised Holy Spirit. It is the seed of heaven’s nature. And like any other seed, it must be fed, watered and cared for. Accepting Christ gets us into Heaven; watering and caring for the seed of our new nature gets Heaven into us.

Paul puts it this way: ‘We reap what we sow. Sow to the flesh and reap corruption. Sow to the spirit and reap life. Jesus, knowing we would need water for this new seed to grow extends an invitation to us to come and drink. In John 7:37 He says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”. Sipping is not enough; we must come and drink and come and drink often.

As we come regularly to drink from His word, we receive the nutrients we need for growth. We are strengthened against all forms of opposition. Our new nature, though it may struggle with the old at times, will eventually dominate. If we do not come regularly to drink – if we just sip now and then – the old will dominate the new.

So to answer my original question, have I received the fulfillment of this promise? Is it something I have to wait years for? In a way, the answer is yes to both. I have received the promised Holy Spirit. It was deposited in me, the seed of Heaven’s nature, when I accepted Christ. To the extent that I water and care for it, is the extent to which the seed of that new nature will grow. No plant bursts out of its shell into a mature plant; there is a growing period – the waiting aspect.

Our growth and waiting may be linked to the plan God has for us. Abraham was to be the father of a nation. So what if it took 25 years for it to begin. What did it hurt to wait? It didn’t have to happen as soon as got the promise. It happened in God’s good timing; the same with Joseph and David. Joseph was to provide food for this nation in a time of drought. What did it hurt for Joseph to wait in prison until the drought got there? David was to be king of this nation. What did it hurt for him to have to live in caves until the other king was gone?

But with Moses it was a little different. He was going to deliver the nation from bondage. What he was called to do was ready as soon as he was called. Waiting 15 or 20 years wouldn’t have worked. When he approached Pharaoh, it was game on; similarly with the disciples. When Jesus left this earth, there was momentum. It was game on. To wait 15 or 20 years for an outpouring would not have worked.

There is one aspect of our growing that relates to our watering and caring for our new nature. But there is another that is out of our control. None of the Old Testament guys or even the disciples could have done anything to hasten the events they are associated with. In God’s good timing it happened. Whether it was years or days, it happened in His good timing.

It is on us to care for our growth. But when the thing God has prepared for us comes together, I believe He tops us off with an extra portion of this Heavenly nature. It is that extra portion that we long for – that can make us feel like we are a little short of what we could have in Him. Whether that takes 25 years, or just a few, we wait. And while we wait, as much as is in us, we believe.

This morning I had a thought that led me to Revelation 12. It relates to the opposition we face. John says of our enemy that he “was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus”. He does his best to keep us from reaching maturity – from the thing God has planned for us.

In the same chapter of Revelation John adds; “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Part of our ability to overcome him has been from the testimony of others who have overcome him. When we overcome him, we must tell it to help others.

John refers to this enemy as the accuser. He accuses us before God day and night. Do you ever feel like you are being accused . . . constantly? It is the enemy. He’s trying to discourage. He’s trying to get us to quit – to not believe. It is his ploy to keep us down.

Our only defense is the word of God. It is His truth. If we do not immerse ourselves in it, we are easy targets to delude. We will not readily recognize his subtle lies and suggestions that lead to our misconceptions. We set ourselves up to have Satan’s side of the story pipelined into our minds.

By familiarizing ourselves with God’s word, we allow Him time to show us His side of the story. We give Him the opportunity to speak to us. We develop a firm bed of truth that the seed of our Heavenly nature can grow to maturity in. Only God knows what He has planned for us and for when it is planned. We have no control over that. But we can control our growth so that when the time does come, we are ready for whatever it is.

It is a critical time in our nation. The church has just been challenged by Glenn Beck in his 8/28 speech. Perhaps if we had paid more attention to this promise over the years, we would not be where we are today. But we haven’t and we are. The way out . . . every individual must wrestle this out with God. We must do the ‘hard thing’ as Beck puts it. If we don’t, we will lose for sure. If we do . . . ? The line has been drawn. It’s game on.

I finally let my wife read this today. With so much going on in relation to it, I wanted her to read it. She waited till I was gone. When I got back, she told me she had read it and that she liked it. Then she sat me down to watch something she had recorded. She had come upstairs to do some ironing. When she turned the TV on, the Martins were singing – of all things – The Promise. Neither of us had heard it before. It was a pretty cool moment. If that was not enough, the link to it, for any who might be interested in listening, was posted on October 13, 2009. We were married on October 13, 1979.

Read Full Post »

Wait First

As I transition from Luke’s writings of the account of Jesus’ life to the account of the formation of the church, my goal is to capture what Luke captured as he did the same. He doesn’t write as it happens, it has already happened. He labors to leave us an account of what he saw—what he thought was significant for us to know.

Having read through Acts before I started my study of all that he had written, and knowing that he had actually seen all that he would write about, I wondered if there would be hints in his gospel that would lead to the same point he made in his account of the early church. There were more than just hints. It was as if he had two chances to make one point. That point is ‘power’.

Luke closes his gospel with Jesus’ final time alone with His disciples—with His final words to them. I’ll let them speak for themselves. Luke 24:48, 49 “You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

He begins Acts by picking up where he left off. It’s hard to beat how he put it. I’ll let him tell it. Acts 1:1-8 “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I catch myself sometimes trying to figure out what the Lord’s plans for me are. Similarly here the disciples ask, ‘Lord, are You getting ready to do this’? His response spoke to me when I read it. It is not for me to know what He will do when; it is for me to have power for what He is doing now.

They are about to get this power. I find it interesting that as much as He told them they were to be His witnesses of all they had seen, He equally told them to wait until they had this power before they started. I am convinced that too many are going out too soon. There is too much emphasis on going out and not enough emphasis on waiting first. Lord, help us to get it right.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts