Following Their Lead

Today’s readings are Judges 17-18, Psalm 21, and Acts 1.

I’m excited today as we begin to read through the book of Acts which was written by Luke who also wrote the Gospel of Luke. Although I’ve been a Christian my whole life, I must admit I did not know much about the book of Acts until we moved to Bloomington-Normal, IL in 2011 and shortly thereafter our new church home, Eastview Christian Church, preached through it for many months. As we just celebrated Easter this last Sunday, I must also say there are few things that convict me more about the truth of the Resurrection and the Good News of the Gospel than the behavior of the disciples as told in Acts.

As far as we know, John is the only disciple who was near Jesus at the cross, as he is the only one specifically mentioned. We are told some of his followers were in the distance (of which we know he had many), but it does not specifically say any of the other 12 disciples, nor any by name.  At best, the disciples were in the distance and not near Him, presumably because they were scared. We know Peter denied Jesus three times just as Jesus said he would, and we know when Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter evening they were in a locked room. Why were they in a locked room? John 19:19 tells us they were fearful. They had just seen what the Jewish leaders had the Romans do to Jesus who they thought was the Messiah and would be their earthly king restoring Jewish power and control. And why wouldn’t they think He was their earthly savior after seeing all the miracles He had done? Now, He had been brutally killed for all He had done and said. Would they be next?

In Acts 1:3, we learn Jesus appeared to them multiple times in the next 40 days telling them about the Kingdom of God. He also tells them He will send the Holy Spirit and to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8). What did the disciples do? They did exactly what He told them, so that you and I would know Jesus and the Good News of His Resurrection today. Most historians agree every one of the disciples, and even Paul, who Jesus appeared to and who wrote much of the New Testament, were all martyrs or killed for their faith in Jesus either directly or indirectly with John being cast away and imprisoned dying on the island of Patmos.

We will read later in Acts 4 where Peter and John go before the same Jewish Council who sent Jesus to the Romans to be crucified. While being threatened to stop speaking about Jesus, they said in Acts 4:20, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Powerful when you think of what could happen to them for this. Why the behavior changes from running scared and locking themselves in a room to this? Why would they risk and ultimately give their lives? To me there is but one answer, they saw Jesus alive after being killed just as we are told in the Gospel and here in Acts. Well, I guess there is a second answer, we will read they will soon receive the Holy Spirit as Jesus tells them in Acts 1.

We know we are told many times in the Bible the Holy Spirit who Jesus tells of in Acts 1 also lives in us now as believers (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Timothy 1:14). Sadly, there are few times in my life where I have been more on fire for the Lord and desiring to tell others about Jesus more than when we studied the book of Acts in 2011. I pray that as we read through the book of Acts in the upcoming weeks we remember the Holy Spirit within us and we have the desire, courage, and boldness to tell others about Jesus just like the disciples in Acts.

Truth in Love

Today’s Reading: 7/26/2016 Judges 9; Acts 13; Jeremiah 22; Mark 8

Acts 13:38-39 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses

Good Morning,

Acts 13 helped me reflect on the wonderful love from our Lord. What a timely and wonderful reminder that no matter our selfish driven mistakes, the true forgiveness comes from our Lord.  Now,  I understand you still may have those who may hold a grudge against you, or you can struggle with anger, but continue to show God’s truth in grace and love. I know, it’s hard at times to always show this love because of a past or present situation. But persevere with this love so these tribulations if not addressed with God can result in hurtful actions or negative words. I know easier said then done, I get it but allow yourself to have a growth mindset knowing with God He can do all things. With Jesus and prayer we have the strength to not give into these temptations. While in the midst of our own walk with the Lord,  we have to remember that God wants us to make a difference in others.  Those who know you are a Christ follower will see your relationship with the Lord. This includes in our words and actions.  Do I act in a way that I would in the presence of the Lord? Or can I fall into the hypocrite category by what I say and how I act. To others who I’ve just met I may be the only example of a Christian they know? Am I saying, doing, believing what God has asked? At small group the this last week we said what if Jesus was a guest at your house? – Literally sitting on the coach with you. We challenged each other to go into the next week thinking this. Would you be watching the same shows? Would you be saying the same words? Would you be thinking the same thoughts?  Would you be doing the same things? All along, the truth is that He is. Maybe not in the physical sense like we discussed, but in our hearts and soul. Applying this to your day will change all aspects of your life.

Acts 13:47 I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

This earth is huge and we encounter many people daily.  Am I bringing salvation in my Acts? Am I providing light to others?

Acts 13:26 Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.

What we share is the wonderful message that God loves us, cares for us, and wants us to be with him all the days of our lives and eternally.

Acts 13:32 We tell you the good news: what God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus.

So no matter where you are at, who you are with, and how your day is going….Jesus is with you. He will listen, comfort, and heal if you ask Him. I encourage you today and everyday to share this wonderful command and Love given by our Father.

Acts 13:29 O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord!

Dear God,

Thank you for who you are. I pray for us to share Your light with others and in our own week moments of flickering in the midst of darkness, share Your love to remind us to turn to you for the guidance we need.  Give us the reminder that our words and actions are representation of you. You love us more than we can ever imagine, please continue to be with us as we live out your Word.  Lord we need you. Amen

The Holy Spirit

White Holy Dove flying in the sky panoramic view

Joshua 20–21; Acts 1; Jeremiah 10; Matthew 24

In Acts 1, the disciples are hanging around Jerusalem after Jesus’ death. While they wait, Jesus comes to them.  He talks with them about the kingdom of God. Talking to the one who died on the cross, brought them hope.  Hope that their dreams of a new life had not ended. In fact, their life with Jesus was very much alive. The disciples could feel the new world order upon them. This was the time that they had waited for. Jesus would now rule the world! Israel will finally be restored and all of God’s promises would now be fulfilled. The Bible explains these promises with words like freedom, liberty, fearlessness and peace, along with promises about healing our physical ailments and living prosperous lives. This was it. Israel will again be on top, the leader of all nations. Let’s go! But, Jesus wasn’t ready. He was holding them back. When they ask when it will happen, he responds, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business” (Acts 1:7, Message). For now, he continues, “you will receive the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that will enable you to be my witnesses.”

In that moment, upon hearing Jesus’ answer, do you think the disciples were disappointed? Seriously, the victory party they were anticipating seemingly vanished into thin air. No doubt, they did not fully understand. Yet, they remained silent. Consider that their silence is an indication of their acceptance and submission. They trust Jesus with whatever is coming. Or, perhaps their hope is kindled in Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit. With his presence, Jesus explains, the disciples will receive power. In Greek, it is called “dynamis.” If you hear our modern words “dynamite” and “dynamic” in there, you are getting the idea. The Holy Spirit brings power that is explosive. His power provides “energy, ability, efficacy, and meaning.” With the Holy Spirit, Jesus explains, the name of Jesus will be extended “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I readily admit that this scripture reveals my ignorance of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, this American Christian often misuses and misinterprets the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, selfishly claiming His good work for myself.  Similar to the disciples, I want to use this power to reign over all.  If I cannot reign over all, I’ll settle for health and good fortune.  You see, when the Holy Spirit indwells us with the power of God, we can easily use His gifts to get ahead in this world.  According to John Maxwell, this is a defensive posture resulting from focusing on my short life and not on servicing all of God’s creation, extending His rule for eternity.

Contrast that with true Holy Spirit indwelling. Jesus releases the Holy Spirit to us so that we can share God’s love and meaning with the world. Aligning with Him means that I will use my gifts in concert with His vision, not mine. This is what the disciples were able to grasp. They quickly dropped their own pursuits and limited vision in favor of His. As we move through the book of Acts over the next several days, we get to watch the Holy Spirit work through the lives of Jesus’ disciples. The Spirit gives power is both dynamic and explosive in the lives of everyone that the disciples meet. It is the beginning of Jesus’ great vision to take God’s message of love and hope to the ends of the earth.  Today, we continue to carry out this vision.  How are we doing with it?

In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan offers several great questions that help us evaluate our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Take some time to consider them.

  • Can you say with confidence—from the depth of your being—that you know God and are known by Him?
  • Do I want to lead, or do I want to be led by the Spirit?
  • How would you be missed if you left this place? What would change? Basically, what difference does your presence here make? Or, as my youth pastor once asked me, what would your church (and the worldwide church) look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?


Joshua 10; Psalms 142–143; Jeremiah 4; Matthew 18

Several years ago I had the life-changing honor and privilege to participate in a study called Discipleship Essentials, written by Greg Ogden. One of the many takeaways from that study was on a model for prayer (keyword “model”, not a “mandate” as there are many ways to pray) using what is referred to as an acrostic to help teach us to pray. The model is ACTS; Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. ACTS invigorated my prayer life over the years and has served as a reminder to make confession a regular part of prayer as it is often very tempting to skip right to the “bless me” or “save me” part.

The ACTS pattern popped out at me today through Psalm 143. Here’s how I saw it and a good example for our own prayer lives.

Adoration: In verse one, David opens up by addressing God as Lord; his ruler, humbling himself before him and asking him to listen. I read this as “You are God and I am not”; it sets the record straight. David specifically expresses adoration through referencing God as faithful and righteous.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    give ear to my pleas for mercy!
    In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! (Psalm 143:1)

Confession: David is acknowledging that he is a sinner. We all are. No one living is righteous before him. It is very tempting to skip over this part of prayer because we all have sins and it hurts to confess, however God already knows our sins. Confession is telling God what he already knows. When I get to the confession part and nothing is immediately there to confess, I ask God to reveal my sins that I’ve forgotten or suppressed… and the floodgates open… talk about an answer to prayer…

Enter not into judgment with your servant,
   for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:2)

Thanksgiving: Reflecting on what God has done and expressing gratitude.

I remember the days of old;
  I meditate on all that you have done;
  I ponder the work of your hands. (Psalm 143:5)

Supplication: Asking God to meet your needs and the needs of others. In Psalm 143:7-12, David asks:

  1. For the Lord to answer him quickly.
  2. For God to not hide his face from him (or for God to be near and present).
  3. To hear of God’s steadfast love.
  4. For direction; the way he should go.
  5. For deliverance from his enemies; to be within God’s refuge.
  6. To be taught to do God’s will.
  7. To be led by the Spirit.
  8. For his life to be preserved for God’s glory.
  9. For his soul to be brought out of trouble (again, deliverance).

And finally David has faith that God will answer his prayer; that in His love he will cut off his enemies and destroy the adversaries of his soul. As we worship our God through prayer, we can trust he will take over; we should be faithful because he is faithful.