Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Now the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.”" -- Acts 23:16-17
When the Lord directs our steps, he carefully arranges the details. Paul was informed in verse 11, "... you must testify also in Rome.” but the way was not specified. An ambush, a nephew, and a wise tribune were all pieces of the puzzle to bring Paul to his destination. 
Have you ever wondered what details are at work to bring you to the next step in your journey for Jesus? Never minimize the importance of the small things in your life. When the Lord is in charge curious moments are often critical elements in fulfilling God's plan.
Take courage my friend and stay close to the Lord every day. Allow him to guide the events of your life and follow him each step of the way. While you may not be able to trace his hand... just trust his heart.

Think about this: "It is not our trust that keeps us, but the God in whom we trust who keeps us."
- Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”" - Acts 23:10-11
Of the 102 passengers that boarded the Mayflower in 1620, 37 were members of the separatist Leiden congregation seeking freedom of worship in the new world. They were willing to take a most dangerous journey for the hope of religious freedom. For those believers, seeking and serving God freely was worth any sacrifice, so they chose to set sail and... Take courage!
Paul was faced with opposition and persecution time and again. There were times when his very life was endangered. Yet, the Lord was always faithful to come along side to encourage him as needed. Paul knew that God had much for him to accomplish and the path would not be easy, but he pressed on with the Lord's message ringing in his heart... Take Courage!
The Lord has a purpose and plan for every believer, but it may not be easy. Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12... "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted".  Your path may be difficult at times but the Lord will stand near to encourage you. The Pilgrims found freedom and you will achieve God's task if you will just press on and... Take Courage! 

Think about this: "Only he who can say, 'The Lord is the strength of my life' can say, 'Of whom shall I be afraid?'
                                                                     - Alexander MacLaren

Monday, July 29, 2013

“Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard." - Acts 22:14-15
Who are you? Many people would answer that question by stating their profession. Their career is their identity. There are bankers, lawyers, physicians, contractors, hairdressers and then there are ministers. But, should the minister be listed in the same way as other careers? The minister is a calling, and it runs deeper and wider than any career. When careers have come and gone, those who have been chosen to "witness to all men of what they have seen and heard" continue to be ministers... called by God.
Paul was chosen to know God's will, see the Lord and hear his words. He was set apart to bear witness of these things for a lifetime. His calling was quite simple; listen, learn, live and light the way for others as a minister of Christ. Paul might have said that his profession, career or identity was being a tent-maker. But, when Paul put aside the tools of his daily trade, he continued to be a minister... called by God.
Who are you? Are you a policeman, fireman, soldier, designer or software programmer? After you have answered that question, who are you in light of God's calling and giftedness? "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses..." (Acts 1:8) Every believer is chosen of God to listen, learn, live and light the way for others. To a certain degree every believer is a minister... called by God.

Think about this:"He who disregards his calling will never keep the straight path in the duties of his work."
                                                                       - John Calvin

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly." - Acts 21:17
I like dogs. I own a dog. I don't own a cat. All this to emphasise the major difference between the two and why I choose one over the other. When I am away from the house more than ten minutes and return, my dog JoJo, unlike any cat, jumps around with such excitement it's insane. There's just something special about coming back home and having a glad reception.
Christian fellowship runs far deeper and is of great significance than the companionship of a dog. But, having stated the obvious may I say that when Luke recorded the events before us today he was blessed and grateful for warm Christian fellowship. He considered it just something special to come back home and have a glad reception.
When other believers saunter into your church or Bible study, how are they received? How do the brethren respond to you when you arrive, after being away for vacation? Along with everything that makes up Christian fellowship, the first quality is the special blessing of receiving a glad reception.

Think about this:  "Keep company with the more cheerful sort of the godly; there is no mirth like the mirth of believers."
                                                                        - Richard Baxter

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”" - Acts 21:13-14 
We have a number of young men who have spent numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every time they left for a new tour we had great concern for their safety. The truth is; no one wanted to see their loved ones go to war. But our young men and women who choose to serve their country go where they are called... without question.
The Christian life to which we are called is warfare. There are some battles that are more demanding than others, but Paul was ready to serve the Lord, anywhere at any cost. He was deeply loved and no one wanted to see him exposed to danger, but when his Commander and Chief called Paul obeyed... without question.
Has the Lord been calling you to new challenges lately? Have there been dear loved ones that are worried for your "welfare"? Have they expressed emotional concern and tried to discourage you? Take a lesson from Paul and obey your Masters call. May "The Lord's will be done."... without question. 

Think about this: "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”" 
                                                                                              - Matthew 26:39

Friday, July 26, 2013

"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." - Acts 20:29-31 
We have a neighborhood full of squirrels. Usually they are cute little creatures who scurry up and down the trees. On one occasion though, we had a rogue squirrel that chased people, jumped onto their backs and would bite them. Someone eventually got hold of the little guy and put an end to the spree of terror. While this little "nut case" is gone and things are back to normal, we never know what may suddenly jump up, so we are always on our guard.
Paul was far more concerned about "savagery of the soul" than "terror from the trees". He knew that people would come into the church with ulterior motives and lead believers astray. Some would come "into" the assembly and some would jump up from "within". His words of caution directed the Ephesians back to three long years of consistent teaching and warning from God's Word. He called on them to remember and be on their guard.
The church seems to be a quiet neighborhood where we should feel spiritually safe. But, there will always be those who will sneak in without warning and "distort the truth". We need to be well versed in God's Word and always alert to those who "will not spare the flock". Read the Word daily, study faithfully, listen carefully and be on your guard.

Think about this: "The best way to be safe and secure from all Satan's assaults is, with Nehemiah and the Jews, to watch and pray, and pray and watch.  By this means they became too hard for their enemies, and the work of the Lord did prosper sweetly in their hands..."
                                                                                                         - Thomas Brooks

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece." - Acts 20:1-2
I have a missionary friend who was called to the ministry at an early age and appreciated great blessing. But, as the first few years passed he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His physical condition reached the point that he could no long return to the field. Yet, in all his rainy days he has been ever diligent to encourage others in every way possible and continue in the ministry of reaching others for Jesus. He welcomes each day with thoughts on the Lord and spreads the good word.
Paul set us a living and lasting example of how to deal with hardships and trials of life. In the face of violent opposition and personal danger, his mind was focused on encouraging the disciples. He made this his intention where he was located and his goal where ever he traveled. Paul was true to his exhortation as written in Philippians 2:4 "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
The best way to rise above the clouds in your life is to reach out to others. When you are involved in the welfare of someone else to encourage and bless them, your own struggles will fade into the background. Take time to redirect your efforts today my friend. Encourage someone in whatever way possible and love them like Jesus.

Think about this: "The faintest whisper of support and encouragement uttered by a Christian in the ears of his fellow believer is heard in heaven."
                                                               John J. Murray

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." - Acts 19:18-20 
In a time when unemployment is still high, employers can be very demanding in their hiring choices. They are looking for employees that will be fully committed to the business. They want someone who will  leave their personal life at home and come to work completely focused. Anything less than this work ethic will lose someone their job. In this climate, there is no place for half-hearted workers.
In the same way, disciples of Christ are expected to be fully committed, leaving their past behind. A great number of new disciples in Ephesus were coming to Christ from a background in the occult. They recognized the need to make a complete break from this past if they were to be faithful followers of Christ. The sacrifice and monetary loss was great, but on that day in Ephesus, there were no half-hearted disciples.
When you came to Christ you became "a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) As the heart becomes new, so should the lifestyle. Our connection to past sins and gods needs to be broken forever. The Lord looks for disciples who are fully committed and totally focused on Him. Have you taken practical steps to put the past behind you with a whole heart, or are you still a half-hearted disciple?

Think About This: "Let him make our lives narrow; let him make them intense; let him make them absolutely his!"
                      Oswald Chambers


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately." Acts 18:26
The days of "Mom & Pop" stores are quickly slipping away. The mega store with all its bells and whistles is the place to go for whatever you may need. The stock is plentiful, the prices are great and tons of people can shop at the same time. There is one thing missing though... the personal touch.
 In the days of Paul, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila people gathered in large groups for worship and study, but they also spent quality time in the home "explaining the way of God more adequately". From the very early days of Acts 2:46 believers met in the Temple courts and their homes. While group study and fellowship was of great importance, they also studied together in their homes. They saw the value of... the personal touch.
 Some believers are satisfied in meeting together in the mega church setting. This might be 10,000 people or it could be just 100 people. The attraction of the larger church seems to be more like the mega store, providing a vast number of ministries. But in the process, the one-on-one discipling and mentoring has slipped away. You and I can make a difference today, if we will take on the mantle of Priscilla and Aquila. We can open our hearts and our homes to others and share the "way of God" in small individual settings. In a day of mega everything, we can still provide... the personal touch.

Think about this: "Mass communication can aid in personal evangelism and the development of Christians, but it cannot be a substitute for the world seeing the truth lived through us."
             - Erwin W. Lutzer

Monday, July 22, 2013

"And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." -- Acts 18:9-10
When the Lord calls us, he has a purpose and he will faithfully provide. If we look at troubling circumstances, we will be discouraged, but not if we keep our eyes on the Master. When the Lord is our vision, there is hope.
Paul was following the Lord's lead as he preached and was faced with steady opposition. Yet, the Lord came to him in a vision to assure him. God had many souls in the city and he would protect Paul until he completed the task. Paul was encouraged to look to the Lord who was with him and find hope.
When you walk through the storm, in that which God places you my friend, don't be afraid. Keep your eyes on the Lord and his purpose and live for him. Don't be afraid, because you're never alone in the work of God. He is with you.

"BE THOU MY VISION "

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.


Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." - Acts 17:11 
A Cubic Zirconia or a beautifully cut diamond... which would you prefer? Given the stone was free for the taking I am sure most people would choose the real thing. From a distance you might be fooled, but under close examination, there is always a difference. Our world is full of knock-offs and fakes that catch the eye and skillfully mimic the original. To know the difference you need a close examination.
In the days of Paul, there were many traveling orators; some brought truth and some deception. As a result some people became very cautious as they listened to visiting speakers. Some were of far more "noble character" than others and carefully compared Paul's teachings with Scripture. These were men and women who wanted the real thing, so they made time daily for a close examination. 
In the same way today, there are charlatans who mimic true preachers of the Word. They look slick and they are enticing. Their words are smooth as they smile their way into your heart but, are they giving you the truth of the Word? Which would you prefer... a Word from God or a word from man? To know the difference we need to be in the Word daily for a close examination.

Think About This: “Sadie,” a Labrador retriever belonging to the Charles Thurber family in Terra Linda, California, was ordained as a minister of faith by the Hilltop House Church in San Rafael. The dog’s name and $15 were submitted by the Better Business Bureau of San Francisco through a newspaper ad. By return mail Sadie received her “Certificate of Ordination.”

Anyone can be ordained...
but only those called of God will have a word from God.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened." - Acts 16:25-26
I often marvel at the way some roads have been cut through rock. As one travels along, many roads have been cut through entire mountains. As our country was settled and access from one city to the next was needed, nothing ever got in the way of progress. Engineers always made a way.
When Paul and Silas were on the missionary trail, God had an agenda for them to fulfill. On occasion they were slowed down or "tied up" for the moment. While the Lord had good reason for such moments, moving on to the next city was necessary. Nothing ever got in the Lord's way of spiritual progress. God always makes a way.
Are you "tied up" right now, when you know there are great tasks ahead to accomplish? Is it possible that there is an immediate purpose of which needs to be attended? Be about the Lord's business where you are, and allow God to open the doors for future work in His time and way. Nothing ever gets in the Lord's way of spiritual progress. He always makes a way.

Think about this: "God can never be outmanoeuvred, taken by surprise, or caught at a disadvantage. He is a God who knows no crisis. Before an emergency arises, God in his providence has made adequately and perfectly timed provision to meet it."
                                                                                   - J. Oswald Sander

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." - Acts 16:6-10 
I recently used a Google map for directions and learned a new meaning for the word "lost". The stories are unending about wild and woolly experiences brought on by internet map usage. Using such maps is like using our own heart for spiritual guidance. The chances of our arriving at the wrong place are most often guaranteed. If we want to find the right road to take in life we need to use our Divine GPS.
Paul and his team were passionate about reaching their world for Christ. They were truly "on a mission" that drove them forward with great energy. They were careful though, to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If He said "no" to one direction they considered other ways until He said "yes". When they followed the Lord's leading, people came to Christ. They were wise and therefore blessed when they faithfully followed the directions of their Divine GPS.
Are you using a flawed "map-quest" today by following your heart? Where will your passion or drive lead you in the decisions of life? The Lord will lead you in His way, and His way is always best. Be wise and therefore blessed by following the directions of your Divine GPS.

Think about this: At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson, former New York Yankee second baseman, offered a prayer that is a classic in brevity and poignancy: “Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"... men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ." - Acts 15:26
From year to year we read about those who have risked their lives for the sake of others. This summer the raging fires of the southwest led a number of firefighters to even lose their lives for the welfare of many local families. For these public servants, there was no sacrifice too great when lives were in danger.
From the very early days of the church there were those who risked their lives for the sake of others. They faced persecution, loss of possessions, comforts, family and friends. All this was willingly laid down for the spiritual welfare of lost souls. For these faithful servants, there was no sacrifice too great when lives were in danger.
When you look around today, what do you see my friend? Are there not hundreds of men, women and children who are living outside the saving grace of the Lord Jesus? Consider the words of Romans 10:14: "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" Will you be the one who will sacrifice everything for sake of those who are in danger? Are you ready to risk your life for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Think about this: "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him."
                                                                              - C. T. Studd

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” - Acts 15:11 
Shortly after we married, Jayne and I adopted a little dog. Her name was Jenny and she was the sweetest pup anyone could ever have. We went to a rescue shelter one afternoon and looked around until we came to a litter of pups that had just arrived. One small pup... the "runt" of the litter spotted us and kept coming to us wherever we moved. We couldn't imagine what she would look like when she grew up, but she won our hearts and that day we took her home... just as she was.
Paul pleaded with the church leadership to stay on point concerning the work of salvation. No one is saved and adopted into the family of God because of what they bring to the table. The Lord takes us into his family through his grace alone. The day we come to Jesus, he saves us from a homeless and hopeless future, out of a heart of grace and love... just as we are.
Becoming a child of God is far more significant than being an adopted dog. But in a way, the simplicity of the process is similar. Have you come to Jesus, saddened by, and repentant of your sin? Have you come with nothing to offer but a heart cry for mercy? He will save you and love you with an everlasting love. You don't have to be the "Best in Show" to win the heart of God. He will take you into his family by his grace alone... just as you are!  

Think about this: "Perfection demands perfection; that is why salvation must be by grace, and why works are not sufficient."
                                                                          - Donald Grey Barnhouse

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." - Acts 14:21-22
Navy SEAL training prepares candidates for the extreme physical and mental challenges of SEAL missions. Those who are up to the challenge will be in incredible physical shape and possess the confidence, determination and skills needed to succeed in any combat environment. Training exceeds the demands.
Paul had severely suffered for his faith, only to rise up and press on for Christ. He then returned to those disciples of earlier days to strengthen and encourage them in preparation for many tribulations. He wanted them to be in incredible shape to succeed in any spiritual combat environment. His training exceeded the demands.
Are you training to be God's SEAL my friend? Have you taken seriously the challenge to be in great spiritual shape for the battle? Are you in turn training others to be confident, determined and skillful in spiritual warfare? Does your training exceed the demands?

Think about this: "The whole Bible and all past history unite to teach that battles are always won before the armies take the field. The critical moment for any army is not the day it engages the foe in actual combat; it is the day before or the month before or the year before...."
                                                                                           — A. W. Tozer, Topical Reader

Monday, July 15, 2013

"But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe." -- Acts 14:19-20
How committed are you to the cause of Christ? Some are willing to give a day here or there, while others are ready to give their all for a whole season or year. Still others are faithful through life until they grow weary from labor and age. But, who is prepared to go the distance?
Paul set an example to follow that takes in all of the above and more. His commitment went from day to day, through a lifetime and never gave up. When he was stoned to the point of death, rather than slipping away in the night he "rose up and entered the city." Paul was always prepared to go the distance.
Has there been too much demand on your energy and time lately? Have you found little to encourage you in your efforts for Jesus? Are you tempted to retire and let someone else take over? Commitment is for every day and a lifetime, with or without the accolades of men. We are called by the Lord, from the very first day of our new life to go the distance. Are you prepared?

Think about this: "The sign of our professed love for the gospel is the measure of sacrifice we are prepared to make in order to help its progress."
                                                                                - Ralph P. Martin

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." -- Acts 13:38-39
Laws are written because men are sinful. Society would be chaotic without legal guidelines and the nature of man reinforces this everyday as laws are broken. Mankind is bound to laws by chains of sin and true freedom is out of reach. Where can one turn to be free?
The message of Paul alerts us to the great fact of freedom in Christ. As we are forgiven, we are set free from the power of sin to live for God. Our new found freedom is given so we might live as we should, not as we want. There is no law that could ever set us free in this way.
What are you doing with your freedom in Christ my friend? Are you living as you want, or are you living as you should? Do you yearn for God's will and way in your life, or have you returned to bondage of sin? Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." 

Think about this: "Freedom does not mean I am able to do whatever I want to do. That's the worst kind of bondage. Freedom means I have been set free to become all that God wants me to be, to achieve all that God wants me to achieve, to enjoy all that God wants me to enjoy."
- Warren W. Wiersbe

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." - Acts 13:1-3
With the advent of cell phones the question "when will it be convenient to call?" has become more significant than ever. When will we be best prepared to receive a call from someone? The real issue is when will we have the time to listen and respond? But for some special people in our lives we are always willing to "make the time'.
The prophets and teachers of Acts 13 had gathered together to worship the Lord. Even in a busy ministry schedule they slowed down and stepped aside to worship and fast. It was in this setting that the Holy Spirit extended a fresh and challenging call to Barnabas and Saul. They heard his call and responded because they had "made the time".
When will it be convenient for you to take a call from the Lord? Is there time in your daily and weekly schedule when you simply stop the busyness to worship? In those quiet moments you are saying to the Lord "Speak, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:10) God always has a fresh and challenging word for you if you will "make the time". 

Think about this: "To stand by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and to give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask?  Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth.  I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him."   
                                                                      -- Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot

Friday, July 12, 2013

"When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished." - Acts 12:12-16
There are some people who hear the weatherman announcing rain, and choose to leave for work without their umbrella. Why are they so quick to reject the news? Why not take the update seriously and prepare for the storm? The answer is simple... they have little faith in the report.
The disciples were gathered together in prayer, but did they believe that God would answer? At first blush I am sure they would claim a great confidence in the Lord. But, when Peter came to knock, they were overwhelmed with shock. They had little faith in the Lord.
When you pray for rain, do you bring your umbrella? When you ask the Lord to intervene and provide for your needs, do you expect great things? Or are you surprised when He suddenly does the impossible? When you pray, are looking for real answers, or do you have little faith?

Think about this: "Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand."                             - Augustine

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"...The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." - Acts 11:26
I attended a college in Tennessee during the seventies and worked full time to pay the freight. When I spent time with fellow workers from the area I was often tagged a "New Yorker". I spoke a little different than they did and I had an urban lifestyle that reflected where I was raised. It was simple; I was called a "New Yorker" because I was!
There are three occasions in the New Testament that believers are called "Christians"; in the above passage, Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. The term was originally a derogatory tag. But it was a term that expressed one truth about the believers... they were "Christ Ones". Their speech was different and their lifestyle reflected the One they followed. It was simple; they were called "Christians" because they were!
Today people are called "Christians" for the most unwarranted reasons. To many, it is nothing more than an empty religious tag, but, what about you? If you are called a "Christian" or "Christ One", is it true? Is your speech different and does your lifestyle reflect the One you follow? Are you called a "Christian" because you are?

Think about this: "Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion—it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ."
                                        - Billy Graham

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Here Comes the Judge

"And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."" -- Acts 10:42-43
The news is regularly filled with unfolding court cases. We learn the details of one legal battle after another, with judicial decisions that are often quite controversial. We have recently been saddened by the decisions made by the highest judges in the land. Yet, could there be a higher and more righteous judge to whom we will be accountable?
There is one and only who has been appointed to be judge of the living and the dead. Jesus Christ was foretold of by the prophets and belief in him alone will bring forgiveness of sins. He is more than a prophet, more than a teacher and more than a great religious leader. He is the one to whom all mankind is accountable.
This message has been the same since the early church to this very day; it needs no improvement or addition. Peter preached this truth with powerful results and we are still commanded to preach Christ, crucified, risen and coming again. The only way to prepare for eternity and our standing before the Lord is trust in him today, before it's too late.

Think about this: "It is no inconsiderable security that we shall stand before no other tribunal than that of our Redeemer."
                                                                                     - John Calvin

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Inviting for Change

"The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends...  Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people... “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." - Acts 10:24, 27, 47

Holidays come and go, and with them the gatherings of family and friends. There are many times through the year when you will invite people to your home to celebrate holidays, birthdays, graduations and even sporting events. At the end of each occasion everyone will leave, well fed and filled with fond memories. But, have they been changed?
Cornelius was a man with great social prestige. I'm sure that he had many occasions to entertain family and friends.  Yet, this gathering was different than any other before. People didn't gather to eat, drink and be merry. They came together in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord had commanded Peter to tell them. (Verse 33) At the end of the night no one wanted to leave, because... they had been changed.
This is the question: Is your home open for others to gather to hear the good news of Jesus? Do you make plans through the year to invited family and friends to hear a missionary, see a Gospel movie or have a Bible Study? Cornelius wasn't even converted yet, and he filled his house to evangelize. When was the last time someone left your home having been changed?



Think about this: Men may not read the gospel in seal-skin, or the gospel in morocco, or the gospel in cloth covers; but they can't get away from the gospel in shoe leather.
                                                                    - Donald Grey Barnhouse

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Barnabas

"When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." - Acts 9:26-27
I well remember the first year or two after Bible College. I was seeking the Lord's direction for ministry and looking for any opportunity to preach. My pastor was a kind and gracious man who took me to ministerial fellowships and introduced me to fellow pastors. As a result, I was invited to preach at different churches and one eventually called me as their pastor. My pastor, George Bogan, (who later became my father-in-law) was a true "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36) to me. Everyone needs a Barnabas.
Paul shook his world for Jesus. He had the courage and tenacity that very few men have. He traveled throughout his world three times with the gospel message and debated with the wisest men of the day. He wrote volumes of deep doctrinal truth that even Peter found hard to understand. (2 Peter 3:15-16) Yet, Paul needed an encourager to come alongside and introduce him to the disciples in Jerusalem. Paul needed a Barnabas.
Be wise my friend, and don't try to go it alone. We all need someone who will be an encourager on the road of life. At the same time, there is someone that the Lord has brought into your life that needs you to be their encourager. Will you answer that call? Just remember... Everyone needs a Barnabas.

Think about this: "He climbs highest who helps another up."  - Zig Ziglar

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Suffer or Success?

"For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."" -- Acts 9:16
Suffer or success... Here we find two opposite poles  Many people are willing to give all they have to succeed, but not many are willing to suffer. They want great gain without any pain. But, what kind of gain will they have?
Paul was chosen of the Lord to suffer for the sake of his name. It was all about the cause of Christ. Today there are many who believe that Christians should be successful and prosperous. Yet, if they have to suffer for the Lord's name, they back off. They want great gain without any pain; even if the gain is the cause of Christ.
As we serve the Lord, let us remember his words in John 15:20, "'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." If the cause of Christ will be our gain, there will be pain. But, oh what a gain it will be!

Think about this: "There are no gains without pains."   - J. C. Ryle

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Spirit Led

"And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” ... And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing." -- Acts 8:29, 39
Some people are led toward making money. Others are driven toward success at any cost. Still others are all about living the "good life". In a very real sense, everyone is led by something. What is it that leads you?
Philip was led by the Holy Spirit. He willingly dropped everything to go where the Lord wanted him. When he had accomplished his task, he was off again, led by the Spirit elsewhere. As a result of going where he was led, Philip had the privilege to share the good news of Jesus with someone who was ready to believe. All this happened because he was at the right place at the right time.
That is the key to being led correctly my friend. When the Lord is the one leading you, it will be certain that you will be at the right place at the right time. Make the right choice every day; look for the Spirit of God to lead you step by step and you will be surprised how he will use you.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Right Hearts

"But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God." - Acts 8:20-21
We hear it all the time; "Everyone has their price!" There seems to be a general sense that everything in life can be purchased. People have been known to buy freedom from justice, positions of power, as well as academic recognition. Some even believe that the good things of God are for sale. The truth is, God's blessings are reserved for those whose hearts are right with Him.
Centuries have come and gone, but very little has changed in the misunderstanding about the things of God. As much as Simon believed that the gift of God could be purchased, there are those today that give large sums of money to the church with ulterior motives in mind. They are persuaded that God will bring success to their business, and eventually they will have a special place reserved in heaven. But, they tend to forget, God's blessings are reserved for those whose hearts are right with Him.
Have you been convinced that God can be bought my friend? When you are ill do you seek His healing work by doing good works or giving large gifts? Such thinking is not far from the ways of Simon the magician. God freely cares for His children out of love and grace. These are gifts that can never be bought. Remember, God's blessings are reserved for those whose hearts are right with Him.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Great Gain from God's Change

"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria... Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." - Acts 8:1, 4
On two occasions, our family has moved to new church ministries. Both times the change has been quite a shock to our lifestyle. Yet, each change brought spiritual challenge and significant growth. When the Lord is in the change, it can be of great value. Change for the sake of change can be a real pain, but... change for God's sake will bring great gain.
The intriguing truth of this passage is found in this fact; Acts 1:8 begins to unfold in Acts 8:1. Persecution brought change in lifestyle and led to many believers moving to new and unfamiliar regions. Yet, wherever they went, they preached the Word and people came to Christ. While the change was frightening and very unsettling, it was for God's sake and... it brought great gain.
Great persecution may not be breaking out in your life, but events may be occurring that are bringing unexpected change. Since God is always in control, you can be sure that this change has divine purpose. Will you pray for the Lord's wisdom to get the most spiritual value out this change? Remember, when God is in the change, there will be great gain!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tragedy to Triumph

“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord" - Acts 7:30-31
D. L. Moody was a powerful and productive american evangelist of the nineteenth century. From his conversion in 1855 throughout the 1860s Moody grew to be quite the Christian worker and preacher. But on Sunday, October 8, 1871 he concluded his evening sermon in Chicago and shortly afterward a fire broke out, burning on until Tuesday afternoon, consuming much of what Moody had built. In the months that followed the young preacher came to realize that he needed to stop moving forward on his own, but first wait on the Lord for for His direction. Tragedy became triumph in Moody's life.
Moses had launched out on his own and murdered a man in the process. He was forced to flee for his life and spend the next forty years on the far side of the desert, shepherding flocks. At a ripe old age of eighty one would think that his usefulness was ended. All his youthful dreams and fervency were long gone with the passing years. But, the lesson was clear, until we breathe our last, God is not finished with us. In the hands of God, the greatest tragedy can become a triumph.
Have you had a few fires or dry desert years my friend? Are you dreams and personal aspirations all gone up in smoke? Well, come alone to the wilderness bush and find the divine fire of new dreams and aspirations. Take time and listen for the voice of God and let him turn your tragedies into triumphs!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household." - Acts 7:9-10
Martin Luther was a man of great conviction and courage. As a result, he found himself hiding in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. During this stay at Wartburg, which he referred to as "my Patmos", Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German and produced a wide array of theological writings. As God was with him, in time he was rescued from his afflictions and returned to Wittenberg.
The story seems to be the same throughout the ages. Those who serve the Lord may suffer persecution in many ways, but God is with them. As we think about Joseph we must realize that he spent thirteen years in servitude and prison. The time was sufficient to embitter the best of us, but Joseph only grew stronger and more effective for His God. In the end, God rescued him and blessed him abundantly.
Are you in the Wartburg Castles or Egyptian dungeons of life my friend? In such dark hours find a way to carry on with great purpose for your Lord. Seek to be a blessing by blooming where you are, and in time... the Lord will rescue you out of your afflictions too.

Monday, July 1, 2013

"So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”... So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. - Acts 6:2-4, 7

As every football season concludes MVPs (Most Valuable Player) are recognized and honored. What about those players who were not so valuable? Would any game be won without them? Where would the quarterback be without an offensive line to protect him? Who would run with the ball if there were no wide receivers or running backs? And how would the ball get through the uprights without a kicker? The simple truth is... every player is a MVP.
The disciples were not better than others, nor were they too good to wait on tables. They had been assigned a certain task for the growth of the church. They needed others, who were spiritual and wise to carry out other tasks. It wasn't a matter of who was more valuable; it was a matter of each team member doing his or her part to grow the church. The simple truth was... every player was a MVP.
What task has God assigned for you to do in building his church? Do you feel less important than the next person as you labor for the Lord? Do you think the pastor, elders, deacons or teachers are more valuable than you? Maybe you are one of those mentioned but someone has more responsibility than you. Keep this in mind; God has strategically assigned each one of us to achieve his purpose. That makes YOU quite important in the growth of His church, so remember... every player is a MVP.