Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Who have you been with?

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus." - Acts 4:13
As far back as the 12th century, apprenticeships were a large part of learning a trade. Parents would often place their teenage son under the instruction of a Guild's Master craftsman. After 5 to 9 years the young man would most likely become highly skilled in the specified trade. His future success as a craftsman would depend on who he had been with during his years of training.
While the disciples were uneducated, common men, they had spent three years with Jesus. They sat under his teaching and joined him in a great many ministry activities. They had become highly skilled servants and preachers of the Gospel. But, what was most significant was not so much the lessons learned as the One they had been with during their years of training.
When you minister from week to week my friend, what do people observe most of all? Are they impressed with your Bible knowledge, or is it your vast church experience? Do you have an impressive resume from the best Bible Colleges and Seminaries? These will never have the  same lasting impact as who you spent time with in preparation. Every day and every week, your skill in ministry should be rooted in this fact: that you have been with Jesus.

Monday, June 26, 2017

God grows the flower...

"By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." - Acts 3:16
My wife loves to plant flowers in the spring. She makes plans and arranges everything in her garden to look a certain way. She plants, fertilizes and faithfully waters the little guys. After a while our house looks like "Better Homes and Gardens". While Jayne does a lot of work and learns better gardening skills every year, the truth remains... God grows the flower.
When Peter spoke to the man crippled from birth, he jumped to his feet and walked. People came from all around to see the miracle. Did Peter call attention to himself or the Lord as the healer? Peter was given the privilege to plant seeds of faith in the Lord's garden, but... God grows the flower.
As you venture into the Lord's garden today, keep in mind that you are serving with the Master. You will be given opportunities to plant seeds of truth and faith, and people will be greatly blessed. Some lives may be dramatically changed and blossom in beautiful ways, but after you've diligently labored, remember... God grows the flower.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Cut to the heart...

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”" - Acts 2:36-37 
I cut my finger. Yes, I wasn't being careful and with a slip of the hand a very well sharpened knife sliced right into the little digit. I always make sure that my knives are sharp as razors and when they are properly used they are great tools. But this time, with a misguided flex of muscle, the blade literally "cut to the bone".
When Peter spoke the Word of God in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, people responded. They were moved to conviction and knew a decision was needed. When the Scriptures are used with God empowered precision, they are "... living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword..." (Hebrews 4:12) With a well guided flex of the Spirit, the Word will literally "cut to the heart".
Paul counseled Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to do his best to rightly handle the Word of truth. Are you doing your best in the study of the Bible? Are you skilled in using it to bring truth to bear in your life and in the lives of others? Remember my friend, the Word of God is a sharp tool of spiritual value, intended to "cut to the heart". 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our foremost purpose...

"both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians — we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." - Acts 2:11
I have a Subaru Outback. It can serve as a luggage carrier, shelter from rain and snow, mini concert hall and small conference center. But at the end of the day, this mighty motor driven vehicle has one foremost purpose in life: transportation. It gets me from point A to point B, and it does this admirably.
God bestowed spiritual gifts in a similar way. While the giftedness of believers may differ in many ways and be used to accomplish many goals, God has given them to expand His kingdom. They may be desired and nurtured for various reasons, but after all is said and done, these supernatural abilities have one foremost purpose: to glorify God by proclaiming his mighty works.
Once again my friend it's not about us, it's all about HIM. The lesson is clear; identify your spiritual gifts, regularly exercise them and seek the one foremost purpose: glorify God by proclaiming his mighty works. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Be Pray-pared"...

"They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." - Acts 1:14
The first phrase I learned as a Scout was "Be Prepared". According to the Scout handbook, the idea is: "Be prepared for life - to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best." Big moments in life come without warning and it's too late to prepare. So, the best plan of action is to always "Be Prepared".
One of those big moments was coming for the disciples. They had been through so much over the previous months, but they still needed to get ready. They were instructed to wait for power from on high and they did just that. But, how did they wait? They joined together constantly in prayer. What were they praying for and why did they pray constantly? Above all other considerations, they joined together in prayer to "Be Prepared".
Is your prayer life just a matter of asking for the needs of the moment? Do you just "put out fires" through prayer? Or do you spend time seeking spiritual wisdom and strength "to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best."? The best plan of action is to "Be Pray-pared".

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A simple meal...

"Jesus said to them,“Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish." -- John 21:12-13
For over thirty-nine years I have been a Pastor to people from almost every culture. While there are a variety of differences from one culture to the next, I have noticed one similarity. The time of socializing is most often shared around meals. The breaking of bread among neighbors, friends and family has always served as a casual door to deeper moments of sharing. A simple meal can be a valuable moment of significant communion.
This timeless practice was a common event in the ministry of Jesus. He fed multitudes that came to learn, as well as shared deep truths during an evening meal just hours before his crucifixion. His invitation to the Church of Laodicea was "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)  A simple meal can be a valuable moment of significant communion.
How has this week been for you and yours my friend? Have you been rushed by the possibilities of great sales and demanding schedules? In the midst of it all have you made the time to just sit down with loved ones and friends to share your heart over a few bites of refreshment? You will find hearts more open to spiritual truths when sharing in a casual atmosphere. A simple meal can be a valuable moment of significant communion.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mountain tops...

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."  - John 20:19-20
During my teen years our church youth went on a summer retreat in Canada. A family in the church had a cabin right on the water in the Thousand Islands region. The scenery was beautiful, the surroundings were serene and the weather was perfect. It was just the place to spend time with the Lord. We came back home rejoicing from our "mountaintop" experience.
Retreats are great, but are they always necessary for a serious encounter with Jesus? The disciples were gathered together, locked up in a house, afraid for their very lives. There were no gentle breezes blowing, no soothing sounds of a lake and no warm rays of the sun to bask under. The atmosphere was far from being a "mountaintop" setting. But then, Jesus came and stood among them and they were overjoyed.
Jesus will meet us anywhere, anytime in any setting. We just need to take the time to patiently seek his face and the "mountaintop" will come to us. May your joy never be determined by the beauty of the creation my friend, but may it overflow from the beauty of the Creator.  "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."