Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, but for many different reasons, they can also be exhausting. For me, I can be exhausted because of the business that leads up to Christmas with school and church concerts and programs. I know for some, family can bring on added stress and anxiety. Whatever the reason may be, our focus gets lost on why we celebrate Christmas and we bear our stress and business burdens with us wherever we are during the season.
The irony of all the burdens we bear at Christmas is that we are celebrating the very person who came to take away our burdens. Please look at Matthew 11:28, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Jesus has a much better way than what we have, yet we cling needlessly to our burdens as if we know what is best. Reading on in this passage, we see that Jesus tells us to take His yoke on us and let Him lead us. A yoke is what they put on two oxen to do the work that was desired from them. Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We do not need to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders because that is God's job, our job is to follow Christ's leading and allow Him to take our burdens.
Are you trusting that Christ can carry your burdens and following His lead?
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Yesterday, while in the company of relatives, I made reference to a joke between my husband and I. While my husband knew exactly what I was referencing and smiled; other people at the table didn't understand the reference to the private joke meant for my husband. I realized after I said it that it could have been taken for an insult towards my husband because of the fact that they didn't know the inside story. It was a reminder of how I need to remember that what I say and what I mean can sound very different to a listener that has a different background than me.
When our team was preparing for Zambia, we were prepped very carefully by our team leader to be sensitive to the culture and understand that we were going to things they may not understand and become offended. Their experience wasn't going to understand some of our American references and even though we don't mean to cause an offence, the difference in our cultures would sometimes do just that. We were reminded to think about what we were going to say in reference to their culture before we said anything. On the flip side, we were also prepped to not become offended by some of our cultural differences as well.
This makes me think of the verse, Proverbs 17:27 which says, "The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered." We need to exercise restraint with our tongues and think about how our words will be received and understood by the listener. We also need to have understanding that our backgrounds are different from the person speaking and not take offense easily because they may not be trying to offend.
Are you exercising restraint with your tongue and being sensitive about what you say? Are you showing understanding by accepting that a person is speaking from their own history and not meaning to offend?
Monday, December 27, 2010
I don't like to be uncomfortable, in fact, I'll even admit to going out of my way to avoid discomfort. I have found that God wants to pull me out of comfort and bring me to a place of obedience and discomfort. Discomfort not for the sake of seeing me squirm, but a healthy discomfort to see me grow. I know for a fact that the times that I have experienced discomfort are the times that God stretched me and grew me in unexpected ways. I have seen where God has given me a choice between growth and comfort. Sometimes it can be easy to overlook what God wants us to do and look at what makes us comfortable instead. Please look up Haggai 1:1-15.
God didn't mince words when He said, "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" I know that God was directly talking to the Israelites at that time; however, it still makes me think of the fact that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. It makes me wonder where my heart needs some rebuilding or fixing up. The house I should be most concerned about is my heart; comfort shouldn't be my number one goal. Please look at what God says in verses 5-6. I don't want my comfort to make me do meaningless things. I can look at my life and see how I have filled the time with meaningless things for the sake of comfort when that could have been time spent building my relationship with God.
Where is God challenging you to be uncomfortable? Where does God want to see some rebuilding in your life?
Friday, December 24, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
When Christ came to Earth, the Jews were living during a politically stressful time under the Roman Empire. They were sure that the coming Messiah would return political peace and free them from the Roman rule. That was not the kind of peace that Christ would bring. Romans 5:1 tells us, "Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us." This peace is a much greater prize than what any government could ever offer; a peace with God! When things are not going well, it is difficult to remember that we have a gift from Christ that surpasses anything. I guess when we look at our problems here in comparison to the hope that God gives us through Christ, we can experience joy as well.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember the true gift of peace that we have with God.
Monday, December 20, 2010
This morning before jumping onto my blog to write this post I read an article where there is speculation of whether or not some of Amelia Earhart's bone fragments were found. The bones need to be tested to see if it is human DNA and then compare the DNA to a female relative of Amelia Earhart to see if they belong to her. These bone fragments could belong to Amelia Earhart or they could belong to a nearby turtle shell that was found, either way they were dry, old bones that were scattered on a beach and no longer served a purpose. It is hopeless to think that those one inch bone fragments could ever do anything purposeful in this world again.
We have things in our lives that those bone fragments represent: things that are useless or a part of our past that seems hopeless. We have past mistakes or hurts that just don't seem to represent a purpose any longer, yet God has a different view on those "dry bones." Please look at Ezekiel 37:1-14. I want to look particularly at verse 5 for a moment, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life." If you have "dry bones" setting up and taking space in your life, know that God can make them useful and bring them to life. Can you imagine what that could mean in your life? That hopelessness that you are looking at is not hopeless when God puts His breath into it!
What is God's breath? There are many references to the Holy Spirit being the breath of God; and we know that the Holy Spirit is the gift that Christ gave to all believers when He physically left Earth. But I want to look at 2 Timothy 3:16 for a moment and see another way to look at the breath of God. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." Scripture is also known as the Word of God, which is breathed out to us from God. Think about it this way; when you speak you have to release your breath. When God spoke His Word, He put His breath into it! Now, please look at John 1:1-4 and savor every word. Now look further down the page and read John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Jesus was God's breath put into living flesh and bones!
Please read Ezekiel 37:3, "He asked me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' I said, 'Sovereign LORD, you alone know.'" Only God knows what He can and will do with those dry bones but know this: God can use them! God brought a solution to those dry bones in your life and it is His breath, His Word; Jesus Christ is the one that can bring life to those dry bones! Praise God that He can breath new life into any situation!
As you celebrate Christmas this year, think of the hope that God gave us in Christ. We can have new life because Christ sacrificed for us.
This Christmas, will you allow God to breathe new life into your "dry bones?"
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
As I was in church this weekend, our pastor preached on the faith of Mary. In the children's programming, they talked about how Mary's faith brought her joy. I would have to agree that when a decision is made to believe in the hope we have in Christ, there seems to be a release of joy. To know that we cannot bear the burden of our sins, but Christ can brings so much joy to our hearts.
Please read what Elizabeth said when Mary came to visit her in Luke 1:45: "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” We know that Mary believed God because that is what Elizabeth prophesied. Mary's response in verses 46-56 show the joy that had overtaken her because she believed God. Mary had a tough road ahead of her and she knew it because culturally she appeared to not follow God's laws. She was pregnant without a husband! Even in the midst of a scandal, she found joy in God's promises. She found joy in His eternal salvation.
Are you finding joy this season? Do you remember what Christmas is truly about?
Monday, December 13, 2010
As I have grown in faith and in my walk with God, I have often found myself amazed at how God works with the impossible. I have had friends in hopeless situations and have seen myself in situations that seemed overwhelming, and then watched God move His hand in such an unexpected way. Gabriel's visit to Mary is one of those moments in history where God does the impossible to show His incredible and unending love for us. Please read Luke 1:26-38.
Nothing is impossible with God! Please let the truth of those words pour over you. Who ever heard of a virgin becoming pregnant? Who ever heard of being fully God and fully man? Yet God worked the impossible to fulfill His plan of salvation and restoration with us! Maybe you are finding yourself in what seems to be an impossible situation. God wants to do a mighty work to reveal His power and glory to you and everyone around you. He may not answer in the way you expect; who ever expected the Messiah to be born to a poor family and have such a humble beginning by being born in a stable? That baby, Jesus, changed the world forever and He changed me. When God moves in your situation you will be changed.
Have you let the truth that nothing is impossible with God wash over you and your situation? We may not be able to handle our situation, but God can! 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Praise God that His power shines in our weakness! Nothing is impossible with God!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Today, I found myself hearing news of a friend who works at a church dealing with a difficult situation. Ministry is never easy and the pastor or leader can find themselves in trying situations where they have no choice but to turn to God for guidance. As I found myself praying for her today, I was reminded of the verse I read earlier about John's prayer for a dear friend in ministry. Please read 3 John 1.
I want to focus specifically on verse 2 where John wrote, "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." Such a simple prayer, but a prayer that I feel covers a lot of territory. Ministry can take a toll on a person and during busy times the minister may find themselves falling ill or becoming frustrated. Praying that they would have good health and that all goes well is a wonderful prayer of blessing.
Have you prayed for your pastor or other godly mentor lately?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
When I was in 4th grade and just learning to play the flute, I had only learned a few notes. Then the note E flat became part of my repertoire. I remember going home that afternoon and trying to play it to no avail. No matter how hard I tried, that E flat would not come out. I flung my flute on my bed and stormed out of my bedroom and announced to my dad that I was going to quit flute. Since I had only been playing for a week or two, my dad calmly asked why I was going to quit. I explained how that E flat refused to work for me and I couldn't possibly play if I couldn't play an E flat! My dad walked with me back to my room and asked me to show him how to play E flat and he played it on his first try. He laughed and handed it back to me and said, "I've never played flute before and I can play it. You've been playing for two weeks so you know more than me. You can do this." I tried again with less frustration and found myself playing E flat. That is the only time I ever felt like quitting the flute and I am so glad I didn't! Years later, I became accepted to a university for the flute and majored in music therapy.
Please read Joshua 3. The Israelites had a few choices to make when they reached the Jordan River after spending 40 years in the wilderness. They could look at the seemingly impossible and undesirable situation they were facing and run away, or they could trust God's direction and stay the course. They chose to stay the course and cross over to the promised land. The first opportunity they had to enter the promise land, they decided it was impossible and the result was 40 years in the wilderness. Maybe 40 years made them desperate enough to risk the Jordan at flood stage. Either way, trusting God's direction allowed them to finally enter the promised land!
This makes me think of what the author of Hebrews was telling us in Hebrews 12:1-2: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. " Looking at the impossibilities can entangle us and sap our perseverance; looking at Christ encourages us.
Are you looking at the impossible, or are you looking at Christ?
Monday, December 6, 2010
The story of Zechariah is amazing to think about. He was an older priest who had his once in a lifetime opportunity to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. During this moment, an angel visited him and told him that he would have a son and he was to name him John. Zechariah questioned the angel and as a result, the angel made him mute. We are not told what type of emotions Zechariah had during Elizabeth's pregnancy, but we are given a picture of his complete surrender at his son's circumcision. Please read the joyful prophecy that Zechariah spoke in Luke 1:67-79.
What a beautiful prophecy of hope, love, and joy! Can you imagine the scene that took place as Zechariah spoke for the first time in nine months? Zechariah completely surrendered to God's plan and spoke of the amazing hope that was to come. When we come to a place of surrender, we experience a hope and joy that is difficult to explain. God truly gives us a joy when we surrender to Him. I know of many people who became second career pastors and when they shared their stories with me, a common thread was experiencing peace and joy when they finally surrendered to God's plan. I am by no means implying that they never experienced difficulties from that point on, but before they surrendered, they were miserable knowing that God wanted something so much more for them but they were not following His call.
What does God want you to surrender to Him?
Friday, December 3, 2010
Living in Western New York means lake effect snow in the winter. Personally, I am not a fan of winter or snow; but I do enjoy the scenery that snow creates. I want to share with you the scenery that I woke up to see this morning. This is my backyard and the snow that came last night was on top of a snowfall that happened the day before. My children had spent a total of 5 hours out in the snow yesterday, but because of a fresh snow falling throughout the night it is all new again.
There are several references in the Bible to the image that snow creates, but I want to focus on Psalm 51:7. "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Whiter that snow! If you have ever lived in an area that receives snow, you know that when the sun shines on the snow it can be blinding. It is a great reminder that the work God wants to do in our hearts can be blinding and noticeable to everyone around us. Psalm 51:10 says, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." God can create a pure heart and renew our spirit. I looked at the thought of renewing our mind the other day, but we see that God can renew our spirit so we can honor Him.
Please look at Psalm 51:13, "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you." God's work in our hearts is not just about our own redemption; God does this in our lives for His glory. We are to shine whiter than snow so we can reveal our Father to others.
Allow God to create a pure heart in you!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The last post I wrote was about needing to live a transformed life by allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds. The God-moment for me was that I wrote that early Sunday morning and when I went to church later in the morning, the pastor spoke on that verse! He related it to Christmas and how can we change the way we do Christmas that would show that we are living transformed lives rather than conforming to the world’s view of Christmas.
He gave some very interesting statistics about Christmas; a few of which are still spinning in my head: each year, Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas and the results of a survey show that 60% of what is spent on Black Friday is bought for them. He then told us that research shows that it would take $10 billion to give every person in the world access to clean water. After being in Zambia, the reality of those statistics hit me hard; there are a lot of people who are sick or dying as a result of unclean water. The thought that a small percentage of what we spend on Christmas as Americans would change people’s lives in other countries is amazing to me. This is not our annual spending; this is our Christmas spending.
That makes me think of what a transformed life would do at Christmas. Even just a few less presents each year and donating the money saved to an organization could change our world. Isn’t that what Christ wants us to do? He called us to live differently so we could radically change our world. Three organizations that my church partners with has a holiday "gift catalog," where you can see how you can give a gift to someone around the world. These are organizations that have shown integrity with how they use the money that is donated:
How will you have a transformed Christmas?
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I have had a few people ask me why I haven't been on my blog for a while. There is no real good answer except that I have had some routines change and I have been struggling to take the time to write my posts. Believe me when I say that I miss it! Writing out my thoughts for this blog definitely deepens my personal time in the Bible. Plan to see regular posts again. I actually feel a difference in my attitude when I am not spending as much time in the Bible and with God. I need God and the transformation He brings to my life daily!
With that thought, I would like to leave you with Romans 12:2, which says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." The only way we will be able to be transformed is by the renewing of our mind. The only way we can have a renewal is through the Holy Spirit as Titus 3:4-6 tells us, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior."
Let us pray for a renewing of our minds that only the Holy Spirit can bring so we can live transformed lives and shine the light of Christ to everyone!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
During the Hopefests that we helped with, thousands of teens gave their lives to Christ and purity, and hundreds came forward for prayer. Our team had the opportunity to pray with the teens. It was awesome to be a part of a movement that God is using to change the face of the country. These teens are the future of Zambia and can slow the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Please continue to pray for Zambia and all of Africa that God would continue to work His healing power. This crisis will not be stopped by human effort alone and requires divine intervention.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I look forward to sharing some of our stories with you!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Oct 11 - Leave Buffalo (super early in the morning!)
Oct 12 - Arrive in Lusaka
Oct 13 - Hopefest
Oct 14 - Hopefest
Oct 15 - Hopefest
Oct 16 - Travel to Choma
Oct 17 - Church in Bulanda
Oct 18 - Tour Choma
Oct 19 - Work in Mayobo (stay night in Pemba)
Oct 20 - Work in Pemba
Oct 21 - Work in Katete
Oct 22 - Livingston
Oct 23 - Travel Home
Oct 24 - Arrive in Buffalo
To see how you can pray for us specifically, please visit my "Preparing for Zambia" page.
Thank you so much for praying with me! Since I will have very little internet access, I will be unable to post while I am away. You can be sure to expect a report when I return!
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Several weeks ago, I looked at how the stoning of Stephen precipitated some events that actually grew and strengthened the church rather than weaken it. The section of scripture that I am looking at today goes back to the fact that the believers were scattered as a result of Stephen's stoning. I am going to interrupt my thoughts for a moment and just praise God for the fact that He took one event and made it change the world! Look at what verse 21 says about some of the scattered believers that began preaching to the Gentiles, "The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord."
We begin to see Barnabas' story here when he traveled to Antioch and brought Saul with him. While they were there, the believer's were first called Christians. Isn't it neat to see the history of the name Christian. I certainly hope I live up to the name, Christian! These believers did as we see in verses 29-30 in reaction to hearing that other believers were going to be having a famine in their land. They sent relief to them through Barnabas and Saul. This made me think of Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson when he wrote how it is easier for a Christian to act like a Christian than to react like a Christian. I have been thinking on that idea for a few days and I would have to agree. It is so much easier to proactively say and do the "right things," but the world is unpredictable. I don't always react like a Christian - I don't always live out how Christ calls me to react. Do I react to difficult news and situations with the love of Christ in me?
How about you? Are you acting like a Christian or reacting like a Christian?
Thursday, September 30, 2010
When God works, it doesn’t always make sense to us but we need to trust Him and follow His direction. Today’s scripture is a recap of what I looked at yesterday regarding Peter and Cornelius; however, God must have felt it important that we hear the story a couple of different ways in order for us to completely understand. A lesson that I looked at yesterday was the fact that God had gone to great lengths to ensure that Cornelius would learn of His love for Him. Something else that I hadn’t looked at in great detail was the fact that God had declared the Gentiles clean. This allowed Peter to enter Cornelius’ home and allow him to tell him about Christ. Please look at the story in Peter’s words in Acts 11:1-18.
Peter had begun to tell his story because he met great criticism from the believers for going into the house of a Gentile. Something this story has made me reflect on is this question: What do I consider unclean (or unapproachable) that prevents me from reaching out to a person who needs Christ? Maybe it is going to a place I do not consider safe or appropriate. Maybe I’m uncomfortable with a particular person. For Peter, this meant that he had to throw away a rule he had followed all his life to not enter the house of a Gentile. Can you imagine if Peter would have continued to shout out, “unclean!” to God after God had said, “Clean.”
I am reading from the NLV today, and I love what Peter says in verse 17, “And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” Who am I to stand in God’s way? I need to examine my life and think deeper on what I could possibly be doing to stand in God’s way. Maybe I’m standing in the way of what He wants to do in me! Am I really as prideful and as bold as to assume that I have a better way and I understand the situation better than God?
Take the time to examine and see if there are road blocks you are trying to put in God’s way. Where do you need to step aside and let God do what He does best?
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The story of Cornelius and Peter is beautiful because up until this moment, Peter’s ministry was only to Jews. Cornelius had a heart that sought God and was generous in his love for God by giving to those in need. God saw his heart and wanted to make sure that Cornelius would have the opportunity to experience Him. Please read the entire chapter of Acts 10 today.
The Bible is a story of redemption and love. This story to me sums up the reason why Christ came to earth, died and rose again. He didn’t just do it for the Jews; He did it for everyone on the earth! Please soak in this story and remember that you were once a Cornelius who didn’t know Him but came to know Him in a new way. Does this make you realize that God is drawing all of mankind to Him? Everyone is loved by God. In Cornelius’ story, God called Peter to go to Cornelius so he could hear how much God loves him. Have you ever been prompted?
I have, but I haven’t always listened or obeyed the prompts. Once, God kept prompting me to reach out to a neighbor that was not well received in that neighborhood. I have to admit that I avoided approaching that person because I knew it would be work. God wasn’t going to let me off the hook; however, and continued to prompt me. Finally, I had a friend pray with me about me obeying God’s direction and within a few days of praying, the person came to me. I was able to share how God changed me; however, maybe my neighbor would have seen it even more if I would have gone to them first.
Has God prompted you to reach out to someone you wouldn’t have normally reached out to?
Saturday, September 25, 2010
A year ago, the name “Dorcas” didn’t ring a bell to me as a significant person in the Bible; however, God changed that for me. I was serving in our church’s children’s ministry when Dorcas’ story was told. The story didn’t focus so much on the fact that Peter had raised her from the dead, but on what she had done while she was alive. Since that perspective was told, I remember her story of how she touched the lives of the people around her. Please turn to Acts 9:32-42.
Peter came to the town of Lydda and healed a man who had been paralyzed for eight years. When the believers saw that, they rejoiced and sent him to Tabitha’s (Dorcas) house in Joppa because she was dying. By the time Peter arrived, she was already dead but the room was full of “widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them.” Dorcas had made a difference in the lives of the widows and they were greatly grieving their loss. It makes me think of what my former senior pastor would say to the church and how this statement challenged him when looking at the church’s direction: If our church were to disappear right now, would anyone in the neighborhood notice? This isn’t about noticing the church because it’s big; it is noticing the church because it is making a difference in the lives of the people that live around it.
Let’s step away from the statement focused solely on the church and look at our individual lives. Dorcas showed us that an individual can make such a difference that people feel it. There truly is more pain and suffering in this world than what one person can handle, but God placed each one of us where we are so we can make a difference in our immediate community. Dorcas did what she could and made clothing for the widows; we have skills that God wants to use to change the lives of the people around us as well.
If I were to disappear right now, would my neighbors notice?
Friday, September 17, 2010
I am amazed by the first few verses in this section of scripture, "Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues saying, 'He is indeed the Son of God.'" That got me to think about my mission trip to Zambia coming up. At our recent meeting we discussed how we will be changed by the trip but that it is easy to fall back into the routine and rhythm of life when when we return home. I asked the question how do we avoid that from happening? And I think Saul lived a perfect example of how to avoid getting stuck back into the trap of routine.
The Bible tells us that Saul immediately began preaching about Jesus. He didn't wait until it seemed like the right time because he knew that he needed to do it now. I've felt passionate about something but because I didn't move into immediate action I slowly walked right into the trap of routine. Before I knew it, the passion was fading and I no longer felt called into action. I am praying that I will have the courage, strength and wisdom to move into action as I find myself changed by this trip.
Have you found yourself stuck in a rut or routine? What have you been passionate about that you have allowed to fade?
Monday, September 13, 2010
Have you ever had a defining moment with God where you walked away changed? The moment of your salvation is definitely a defining moment; however, in our walk with God we will have moments when our journey takes us to a new place. It is almost as if God reveals something new to us about Him or ourselves. In the Old Testament, we see the altars or “standing stones” the Israelites would erect so they would always remember those moments. One of those moments was when they crossed the Jordan River; God told them to collect rocks from the river bed and make an altar (Joshua 3-4). Another moment that comes to mind is when Jacob had a vision of God (Genesis 28:10-22). There are times when people were given a new name, such as Jacob after he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-31). That gives permanence to the moment when God proclaimed who they are in Him! Today we will get to read how a man named Saul had a moment with God that changed his life; please read Acts 9:1-9.
Saul was on his was to Damascus with papers giving him permission to arrest anyone belonging to “The Way.” On that road he met Jesus. Do remember when you first met Jesus? It is such an amazing moment when Jesus reveals Himself to us in a new way. At that moment, Saul knew that Jesus is God and he was a changed man. I find verse 7 very interesting, “The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.” Isn’t that the way our moments with God are like? We can have a moment and other people “hear the sound.” A perfect example was an opportunity to see Cici Wynans perform at a woman’s conference; it was a concert like I have never seen before or since. There was something happening between her and God while she was worshipping; we heard the sound, but she was in communion with God. I stood in awe of how she and God could have such a private moment when there were thousands of women watching. I have no idea if it was a defining moment for her, but there was something special happening between her and God.
In Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson writes of “Inattentional Blindness” (pg 43) where we become so used to our surroundings and routine that we become blind to the daily miracles around us. We miss out on the Holy Spirit’s promptings and opportunities to worship because we become accustomed to our environment. God gave Saul a physical reminder of how he was missing out on who God was because he was stuck in the routine of the law by making him blind for three days. I can’t help but wonder when the scales fell off Saul’s eyes if everything seemed new to him. He could probably look around and see the amazing work of God’s hands all around him.
What are your defining moments with God? Have you done something to help you remember those moments when things get tough? Where are your blind spots keeping you from appreciating all God has done?
Saturday, September 4, 2010
I am currently reading the book, Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson who writes that we need to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction, even if it doesn’t make sense at first. While I am only on the second chapter of the book, I have already found it challenging me to throw away the things that hinder my ability to follow the Spirit’s direction. I am currently reading the book as part of a team project, but I love how God’s timing of the book went with my personal Bible study. Please read another part of Philip’s story in Acts 8:26-40.
Before I jump in with my main point, I just want to say that it must have been really strange for the eunuch when Philip disappeared. And I also wonder what it was like for Philip being whisked away from the spot! What really stuck out at me after reading the first chapter of Wild Goose Chase and then reading about this event was the fact that Philip just followed and obeyed what God told him to do. He had no idea why he needed to walk on that desert road, but he did it anyway. God does that to us sometimes. He may ask us to do something that doesn’t seem to be a part of the plans that we had or maybe it just doesn’t make sense, but our obedience can lead us to a great adventure. In Philip’s case, he was led to walk the road and then led again to go to the eunuch. Philip was willing and had an opportunity to explain about Christ to the eunuch and baptize him!
I think of the missed opportunities I may have had because I felt a nudge and didn’t follow it because it just didn’t make sense. There have also been some incredible experiences I have had because I did jump in and follow the Spirit’s lead. Sometimes it may not seem like a pleasant experience like, “take a walk on the desert road,” but it is worth following the lead because we are about to have an adventure. Not every adventure is going to be huge, but life will not be boring. I once was at a conference where the author, Donald Miller was speaking. Without directly quoting him, he spoke a message that has since come back to my mind and challenged me often. His message basically said that if we are not living a life that is worth writing about or putting into a movie, we are not living the life God wants us to live. The point isn’t that we are to draw all attention to ourselves, but God wants us to live a life that is doing something. We need to be living a story worth telling. Philip followed God’s lead and had a story worth telling.
Where is your passion? What has God given you a “righteous anger” about? Are you following His lead and bracing for an adventure?
Friday, September 3, 2010
Do you remember the Beatle’s tune, “Can’t Buy Me Love?” The famous line in the song says, “I don’t care too much for money; money can’t buy me love.” Not everyone would agree with that line; there are several people that marry for the convenience of more money. God; however, can’t be bought with money; He really doesn’t care about it except that we trust Him with our money. God wants our hearts and today’s reading will show us how important the heart is over money. Please read Acts 8:9 – 8:25.
Simon was a sorcerer and was used to gaining attention by doing magnificent things. He had a following and enjoyed his status. When Philip came into to town, Simon noticed that people were amazed by what he was doing and began to follow him. In that process, he became saved and was baptized. Peter and John heard how many people in Samaria were becoming saved and baptized and came to pray for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Simon was amazed that people were receiving the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on them and offered Peter and John money so that he could do that as well. Remember that in Simon’s world, money bought him whatever he wanted; that was probably how he learned sorcery. Peter rebuked him for thinking he could buy a gift from God with money. Simon asked Peter to pray for him as a result.
We may not be approaching our pastors and asking that God gift them by offering money; however, that attitude is not that difficult to have, it is masked in a different way. It is easy to think that because we tithe faithfully that we will be blessed always; it is almost as if we tithe with the expectation of a gift. Maybe a person feels that because they give faithfully, the church should do and provide what they feel should be done. Maybe a person serves expecting favor from God because of what they do. God does not work that way! God is looking for people to follow Him because they love Him and to trust Him during times of blessing and difficult times. God just wants us.
Are you trying to buy God’s love and faithfulness?
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
When we are being treated unfairly, it is difficult to understand why God would allow such a thing to happen or how He could possibly use it. I’m sure you have either worked somewhere or have known someone who has worked somewhere with a terrible working environment. Usually, when that happens, several people come and go from that workplace and scatter. Scattering doesn’t sound like something God would want or use, but today we are going to read the rest of Stephen’s story and see how God can use difficulties and persecution to strengthen the church rather than weaken the church. Please turn to Acts 7:54-8:6.
Reading this selection, we can see that Stephen was killed because he was bold in his faith. I highly doubt that the early church looked at that moment and thought that now God was going to spread the truth to all nations. I’m sure that the church was discouraged, and we can even read in Acts 8:1 that, “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” From the human perspective this seemed horrible; it seemed as if the church was going to crumble because it was scattering. However, we can see that was not the case as we read on in chapter 8. Please look at verse 4: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” They may have fled from the persecution, but they didn’t stop spreading the truth and hope of Christ. We can even read how God used Philip in Samaria.
The early church had just reached a turning point and I’m sure they thought it was for the worse at the time. The fact that I am writing this blog and that you are reading it is evidence that when they were scattered, God used it to further spread His love. Just think on the fact that everyone was staying in Jerusalem until persecution hit. I don’t know if the persecution is what was needed to spread the word or if God used it as an opportune moment, but the end result was that the church grew instead of disintegrating.
Look back at your own life for a moment. Can you see times when God used something bad to bring you to a turning point in your relationship with Him? God can use both the good events and the bad events to work for His purpose if we are willing to let Him work in our lives. Please look up Romans 8:28 and see what the Bible says God can do.
What has God used as a turning point in your life? Are you in a difficult situation now? Are you trusting that God can use it for His glory?
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
History is important; however some people hate studying history. Personally, I enjoy reading and learning about history, but I have to admit that it depends on the source. When I was a music major in college, the text book that was used for music history was used by most music schools and was terribly dry. It was so dry that I found that I couldn’t read beyond one page before I felt myself nodding off to sleep; combine that with the topic being Gregorian chant and I was set up for a nice afternoon nap. In high school, I had a great American Military History teacher that brought it to life. While we still needed to learn dates, the dates were not as important as understanding the political and cultural environment. We found ourselves not only learning about events, but we understood why those events happened and the significance to us today. Today, we are picking up Stephen’s story when he was brought before the Sanhedrin. He shows us how important it is to understand our spiritual history; please look up Acts 7:1-53.
I know that this is a lot to read today, but please read through it. Stephen was questioned by the Sanhedrin whether or not the accusations against him were true. Stephen didn’t answer their questions directly; instead he began telling them their history starting with Abraham. The difference between Stephen’s accusers and Stephen is like the student who learns dates and events and the student who is taught to understand the entire story surrounding the dates and events. Stephen’s accusers learned the stories; Stephen understood the significance behind the stories. When Stephen was questioned, he was not backed into a corner because he knew what he was talking about. The Holy Spirit had given him an understanding of the purpose of the law and the purpose of the tabernacle. Our obedience is to be fueled by our faith and God wants to live in the hearts of believers.
I have heard of people who only read the New Testament and there are those who focus on the law and the Old Testament. The problem with both views is that we only learn a portion of our history. The more I study, learn, and understand my spiritual history; the more I can recognize the significance to it for me today. My feeling is that if God felt it important to have both the Old and New Testaments together, then we need to ask for wisdom and understanding of both. When we look at both together, we see a beautiful history of God drawing us closer to Him. Without the Old Testament we cannot completely appreciate and understand the significance of the new covenant. Without the New Testament, we have no hope.
Are you studying your spiritual history? Do you believe God has a purpose giving us the opportunity to learn it?
Monday, August 30, 2010
I have seen people I know have their reputations destroyed by lies. When I was a teenager, there was a guy I knew that was completely devastated by a rumor that he was gay even though he was not. I have watched people suffer the consequences of rumors and lies and have learned that they are powerful and destructive. Today, I want to look at how someone’s life was threatened by lies in Acts 6:8-15.
Stephen’s opposition was cunning how they used the volatile religious and political climate to their advantage. The Sanhedrin was already struggling with trying to determine what to do about the early church, so they started rumors that Stephen was speaking blasphemy against Moses and God and the temple. As we look at Stephen’s answer to the accusation tomorrow, we will see that this is not true; however, today the result was that he was on trial unfairly before the Sanhedrin.
We looked at Stephen yesterday when he was appointed as one of the overseers of the distribution of food. According to this section of scripture, we see that Stephen was described as a “man full of God’s grace and power,” and did “great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” According to yesterday’s reading, we also know that the qualifications for the leadership position he was in required that he was “full of the Spirit and wisdom,” (verse 3). Being full of wisdom, grace, power, and the Spirit didn’t stop opposition from coming; in fact, I believe it attracted opposition. We can read that his opposition could not stand against his wisdom, so they resorted to rumors and lies.
When we are doing what God wants us to do, lies may come. It is important that we keep our relationship with God strong so that when we are facing the opposition, we can withstand the pressure. It is not easy to be lied about, but the enemy is the father of lies so we know that this is something that he will use. Please look at what Jesus says of our enemy in John 8:44. Jesus also tells us how the world feels about us in John 15:18-19. But then we have His beautiful promise in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Praise God! He has overcome!
Are you facing lies and rumors? Trust in the promise that Christ has overcome!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I think one of the hardest aspects for a leader to deal with is growth. Growth brings many challenges and begins to stretch a leader in many directions. Structure and procedures become vital not only to continued growth, but to keep from decline. The Bible has some examples of how a leader needed to delegate responsibilities to other people in their ministry in order to keep providing for everyone’s needs. Today’s story reminds me of the importance of good leadership and structure as a ministry is growing. Please look up Acts 6:1-7.
The issue with the Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews isn’t what I want to focus on; I want to look at how the apostles responded to the problem. The apostles found themselves in a position that if they didn’t do something to delegate this task to someone to oversee the process, their time and energy was going to be taken away from what they were called to do. They suggested that seven men be chosen that were full of the Spirit and wisdom to oversee this situation. Seven men were chosen, and everyone seemed happy with this solution. The apostles prayed over the men. And while the last verse has been said about the numbers growing in other chapters of Acts, it was interesting that it was said after telling about the addition of structure in the leadership. Verse 7 says, “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.”
Even the priests were becoming obedient to God’s call! I just think of what this verse might have said if the apostles didn’t have the wisdom to see that they needed more structure and needed to delegate this responsibility to someone else. Every growing ministry faces this; and I’m sure that if you asked leaders of large ministries they will say that at some point they faced the realization that there were some responsibilities they had to learn to let go. That is so much easier said than done; sometimes we have to delegate or let go of something that we enjoy but may be keeping us from doing what we were called to do with excellence. The apostles didn’t hand this responsibility over because they didn’t care about the conflict or unfair treatment; rather, because they cared so deeply they saw the need to give the responsibility to someone who could devote time and energy to the matter.
What is in your life that may be keeping you from doing what God has called you to do? What do you need to do to create more structure and leadership support so you can do your call with excellence?
Thursday, August 26, 2010
No matter what we are doing, there will be opposition. In fact, my experience has been that when we are doing what we feel led to do by God the opposition becomes all the greater. While we know that we will eventually face opposition, we don't always know how or when it will come. Sometimes opposition meets us with a small trickle and other times it feels like we are standing under a great waterfall and we can bearly catch our breath. The question is, if we feel that we are following what God has called us to do and it matches with what the Bible says, how do we react to opposition? Please turn to Acts 5:17-42 to see how the apostles reacted to the opposition they faced.
Verse 17 tells us that the high priest and his officials were filled with jealousy. Jealousy is dangerous because we don't make wise decisions when they are based on jealousy. Jealousy can lead to unhealthy decisions that are based on feelings rather than reality. That seems to be the case here because the Bible doesn't say that the high priest felt strong convictions that the apostles were wrong. When the apostles were given the opportunity to answer for their actions (of creating a scene by healing people), they took the opportunity to speak the truth to the high council. They did not back down from opposition.
My instant reaction to opposition is to back away and create peace. But this example shows that there are times when that is not the right solution. When it is a call that God has given me and it is a matter of truth or lie; I need to take a stand. Verse 41 tells us, "The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus." I don't think I ever rejoiced for the opportunity to face opposition before. It is a convicting thought that I don't want opposition and the apostles rejoiced because "God had counted them worthy."
What is your reaction to opposition?
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I think there is an issue that the church is forever facing as culture is always changing: how do we bring people to God? What can we do that will bring people to a place to see that they need a savior? How do we build excitment so that people want to see what is going on? It is interesting because the early church saw many people come to Christ, so what is the difference? Let's look at what was happening at Solomon's Colonnade, which we read about last week. Please turn to Acts 5:12-16.
I know I have said this a few times since studying the book of Acts, but can you picture the scene? Stop for a moment and picture the commotion that must have been happening at Solomon's Colonnade while many people were coming to be healed. The Holy Spirit was at work through the apostles and people were seeing many miracles and healings. Look at verse 15 where it says, "...sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter's shadow might fall across some of them as he went by." The apostles were not creating the scene; however, God was! I think that is a very important point to remember. We cannot control how God wants to move, but we can be a willing part of His movement.
Having grown up in a very large church and seeing my husband on staff at some very large churches, it is easy to get caught up in attractional models. I enjoy excellence and quality, and I do believe that the church needs to do the best it can with the resources that it is given; however, we need to be careful that we do not focus soley on material things and programs to attract people to church. There is something to be said that in our culture, people enjoy an experience. Think of how McDonald's has worked to update and redecorate it's existing restaraunts and how so much of a coffee shop's success is based on the atmosphere it creates. But that isn't necessarily what draws the most unsaved people to the church. Overall, atmosphere is enticing, but the coffee still needs to be good. Please keep in mind that this is my own observation and I am not currently backing it with any data; but what I have witnessed in the churches we have attended is that when we go out and do God's work by loving people and helping people that draws more people to meet God. I think a church still needs to do quality, but quality in and of itself will not bring unsaved people in its doors. Creating a scene by showing God's love to the hurting will bring people to God.
The world desparately wants to see a difference between the world and those who follow Christ. Just as the coffee shop needs to make good coffee, we need to be doing good works so that we shine for Christ. I love the way the NLT translates James 3:17, "So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."
What is the church doing to show the world that faith makes a difference? Are you being used by God so people sees a difference?
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Up until the 5th grade, I was raised Lutheran and went to a Lutheran school. At the school, part of the curriculum was memorizing the Ten Commandments and memorizing Martin Luther’s definitions of them in the Lutheran Catechism. For every commandment, Luther started his definition with “We should fear and love God…” As a fourth grader this confused me because I always knew God as a loving God, so why do I need to fear Him? I asked my mom why I needed to fear God and her answer was that we needed to respect the fact that He is God. This was a good answer and probably the best way at the time that I would understand. Later, when I read the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis described it well when he was explaining Aslan to Lucy. She asked if he was a gentle lion, and Mr. Beaver explained that he was a good lion, but he was still a lion so a person needed to respect and fear him. Our God is a loving, caring, and merciful God, but He is still the most powerful being. Today’s story is a reminder of how God is God and we need to have a respectful fear of Him. Please turn to Acts 5:1-10.
I think the important thing to remember is that this story’s point has very little to do with whether or not Ananias and Sapphira gave all that they earned from selling their property. This story is more about how they attempted to lie to the apostles, which meant they were lying to God. I think the issue is a heart issue of forgetting that God knows and sees all and He wants us to approach Him with an honest heart. Do we need to walk around in fear of retribution? I believe this is a heart issue. God knows where your heart is and what your intentions are. We are going to have struggles with our new selves and our humanness; that isn’t the issue. The issue here was that Ananias and Sapphira were intentionally trying to lie to God.
We are going to make mistakes, and we have an incredibly merciful God. But we need to have a healthy respect and fear of the fact that His greatness is bigger than anything we can imagine. Do you have a healthy fear of God?
Monday, August 23, 2010
As I was watching football yesterday, the Minnesota Vikings were excited to have Brett Favre come back to their team earlier in the week. The reporters were talking of how much the coach and team wanted him back this season to the point that the coach sent three of his players to Brett’s house to encourage him to come back and not retire. While this was going on, an “unnamed source” on the Vikings reported how some not so nice things were said about the coach by other team players, Brett included. Brett didn’t address this in the press; however, when he came back he warned the team how doing things like that can be dangerous to the team. Reporting complaints to the press will destroy a team’s unity, everyone needs to be able to trust each other; this was an issue that should have been discussed as a team. Please look at Acts 4:32-26.
We read that, “all the believers were one in heart and mind,” in Acts 4:32. Luke then went on to explain what that meant: they shared everything they had. Verse 34 says there were, “no needy persons among them.” Their hearts were for each other as they learned to love one another just as God commanded. Our culture in America isn’t necessarily a “sharing” culture. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen incredible generosity here in America; I think of our response to Haiti as a perfect example. I just think of the idea of sharing and I think we could all do that a little bit better (myself included). How often do we share our talents and skills with others; how often do we loan out something to someone in need? I think we do okay at this; most people are willing to share, but does God want to stretch our comfort zones a little bit more? Are we thinking of our possessions and talents as God’s?
I find it interesting that as we are sharing and meeting each other’s needs, it helps unify us. Perhaps that’s why no one has everything. No one can do it all. We are unified when we share our possessions and skills. We become “one in heart and mind.” When we look around and see how God can use us to meet a need for someone else and we love that person, we become unified with that person. Please read how Paul expresses gratefulness to the church in Philippi for their willingness to share in Philippians 4:10-20. When we share and no one has need, we see a glimpse of God’s glory (verse 20).
Are you sharing what you have? How is God stretching your comfort zone today?
Saturday, August 21, 2010
We have all experienced it; when we are new to something everything starts out great. Whatever it is, there seems to be a “honeymoon” period where things seem to be smooth and there doesn’t seem to be any major problem. After a bit of time; however, flaws begin to show and adversity sets in. When that happens, it is shocking and even if we know that adversity will come at some point we are still blindsided by it. When that happens, how do you react? Peter and John and all the believers were shocked back into reality when we read yesterday how the religious leaders put them in prison and threatened them not to preach about Jesus. This was the first time since Jesus’ death that someone was imprisoned to speak the truth. Please read the reaction of the believers in Acts 4:23-31.
The believers reacted by turning to prayer, which is the best response. Please notice how they prayed. They didn’t pray for the chief priests and other religious leaders to leave them alone; they could see in scripture that adversity would come. They witnessed how they put Jesus to death on the cross and that God has victory over death. They also saw that it was part of God’s plan. They prayed that they could be bold through their adversity; they prayed that others would see God’s power through miracles. In a few days we will see how God answered that prayer. But today, we read that, “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” God gave them the Holy Spirit to embolden them to live and speak the truth.
I think of my reaction to adversity, and I often pray for it to go away. That prayer isn’t always the way God wants things to happen and I should be praying for strength, wisdom, and boldness through the adversity. It is in that prayer where God can use me the best; that prayer is where we get to witness firsthand the power of God in our lives. Remember what Christ promised us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We get to witness Christ overcoming the world!
What is your reaction to adversity? Do you turn to God and ask for strength and boldness?
Friday, August 20, 2010
The other day, a friend and I were talking about how our minds go blank when we introduce people. I know this has happened to me and it is a strange sensation because often times I may be introducing people that I may not hang out with but I’ve engaged in several conversations with them and know them by name yet my mind blanks when I go to do an introduction. On the flip side, I have never forgotten my husband’s, children’s, or best friend’s name during an introduction. Maybe this is because they are such a huge part of my life that I know their name even when I am nervous. The story I am looking at makes me think of how well do we know Jesus when we introduce Him; please look up Acts 4:1-22.
This section of scripture is another extension of the original story I looked at when Peter and John healed the beggar in chapter 3. They spoke of Jesus in Solomon’s Colonnade and that is where we pick up today. The priest and Sadducees had Peter and John arrested and brought them before the religious leaders the next day. I love the question they ask them; it is if they are asking for an introduction: “By what power or name did you do this?” We read that Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit (verse 8) when he answered and proclaimed the name of Jesus in verse 10. He didn’t give a big speech, but what he said was powerful. He didn’t shy away from the introduction and this is the same man who denied him just months before! What is the difference? Peter is emboldened by the Holy Spirit.
When Peter denied Christ, he was not empowered by the Holy Spirit and he was afraid. I am amazed how God took that weakness of fear of the religious leaders and empowered him to stand before them with boldness to proclaim the name of Jesus. God takes our weakness and makes us strong so that we can witness the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. That empowering the Holy Spirit gives us allows us to introduce others to Christ. Another key to Peter’s introduction of Christ is that he knew Jesus. I’m not just talking about the fact that he was His disciple; Peter knew who Jesus is. Peter knew that Jesus is God and He is the only way to salvation.
We can know Christ intimately as well. When we spend time in prayer and in the Bible, we build our relationship with Him. When our intimacy is deeper and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can give an introduction to Christ that is powerful and effective. Not everyone will listen as we see in this story, but the truth can be given in love.
Do you know Christ? When given the opportunity, are you introducing him with power of the Holy Spirit?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
There always seems to be a common place for people to “hangout” in our workplace, community, church, etc. Conversations at these places can range from gossip to political or religious discussion. I think when we go to the popular hangout place, we need to be careful of how we engage in the conversation; we need to be careful not to join in the gossip. I want to look at how Peter and John used the hangout to tell others of Christ and how he used an opportune moment to do so. Please read Acts 3:11-26.
Please remember that this is an extension of the story we looked at yesterday when God used Peter and John to heal the beggar. Keep in mind that the beggar was making a scene, “walking and jumping and praising God.” The people who saw him were amazed. In verse 11 we see that the people ran over to the place where Peter and John were which was called Solomon’s Colonnade. This will not be the first time that we see reference to this place in the temple area. When I looked it up, I found out that Solomon’s Colonnade was an area that was like a covered porch. This seemed to be an area that people lingered in (much like the area outside the sanctuary of a church) and engaged in conversation. This wasn’t the only time a scene was created in this area; please look up John 10:22-42.
I find it interesting that this was the place that Jesus revealed who He was and it was the same place that Peter talked of who Jesus was. I can’t help but wonder if some of the same people were there because this event took place shortly after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. People didn’t move around much in this culture, so it was very likely that some of the same people that heard Jesus in Solomon’s Colonnade were the same people that witnessed the miracle and heard Peter’s speech. I get goose bumps thinking of how God was giving them another chance to hear and witness the truth. I also love how God used a common place that people gathered to reveal Himself.
We can learn from this example. What places do people gather in your workplace or community? Every moment you’re there doesn’t have to be a big religious discussion, but God wants us to engage with people where they are. Peter and John were not strangers to that place; they were probably there several times a week. People will listen when we come to them and engage in their lives. We cannot expect to affect our community if we are not going out into the community!
Where does God want you to be?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
One thing I learned as a music therapist is that it isn’t always easy to provide the care the client really needs. It is so much easier to provide a service that helps the symptoms on the surface; however, when I was a therapist writing out goals and objectives for my clients I had to dig deeper and look at the cause of the symptom. Sometimes, in order to reach the long-term objective those surface issues needed to be taken care of first, but I often found that if I treated the issue causing the symptoms therapy was much more effective for my clients. Today’s story reminds me of that because Peter and John chose to by-pass what was on the surface and dug deeper to give a man something better. Please look up Acts 3:1-10.
Peter and John were going to the temple for their afternoon prayer time when a beggar asked for money. This man was begging for money because he couldn’t earn money due to his physical condition. Peter saw that this man needed more than money; he needed healing. So Peter prayed and the man and his feet and ankles were instantly strong and he jumped up. The man began praising God and went into the temple with Peter and John. Can you imagine the scene? He was “walking and jumping and praising God.” There is an important lesson here that is beyond the amazing healing power of God; sometimes in order to help someone we don’t give them what they ask for, we give them something better.
I have mentioned this in a past post, but the book, When Helping Hurts Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert explains how we sometimes do not provide what people really need but we provide what they want on the surface. For example, we could just give money to someone struggling in another country and we will find that we will always need to give them money in order to keep surviving. A better way to help may be to give them a micro loan to start a business and teach them sound financial business practices and they will be able to provide for their family for life. My church is currently running an instrument drive (ZIP Drive – Zambia Instrument Project) to help a music academy in Choma, Zambia. For each instrument collected another student is able to attend school. These children then learn life skills, obtain an education, and learn about HIV/AIDS and human trafficking prevention. This is so much better than giving the child money! They receive hope and learn of eternal hope in Christ.
When we help it is important that we look at why they need help. As I have said before, sometimes we need to treat the symptom in order to reach the heart of the matter. The Buffalo City Mission does exactly that when they provide a meal and shelter to the homeless. Once they have helped the problem on the surface, they begin to help the homeless turn their life around. Find an organization that doesn’t just treat symptoms but treats the problem and partner with them. That is the best way to make a difference.
Have you looked to see how you can help?
Monday, August 16, 2010
In America, our culture is busy and quite honestly a bit self centered so we don’t leave much time for fellowship with others. Career obligations, children’s activities and other things can leave us so busy that we don’t have time for fellowship; it just becomes one more thing that we have to do. We can even become too busy by doing “good” things at church, but if it takes time away from God and from fellowshipping with fellow believers, we are in a dangerous spot for our spiritual growth. Please look at what believers were doing together when the church was experiencing an amazing movement of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:42-47.
There are several points in these verses that show why the church was growing:
- They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
- They devoted themselves to fellowship
- They ate together
- They prayed together
- They helped fellow believers in need
- They worshipped God together
- They were glad to be together
We most definitely grow in our alone time with God, but He created us to need fellowship. When we are with fellow believers, we grow and learn from each other and are encouraged by what God is doing in the lives of the people around us. I just recently talked with a friend, who is facing a serious health issue, but she shared with me what God is doing in her life and I was very encouraged! Not only am I praying for her, but I am encouraged at how God is working in her life despite what she is facing. It is encouraging to see faith in action.
When we are doing what God wants us to do, we have a joint purpose and goal. We have unity. When we are united, it is amazing what God will accomplish within the church and outside its walls. Please look at the last half of verse 47, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Fellowship with a foundation in Christ changes lives and the world notices. Please look up Galatians 5:13-15. We are to serve one another in love.
Are you enjoying loving fellowship with other believers?
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Earlier in chapter 2, we see what happened to the believers who were gathered together on Pentecost and I wrote how the scene must have been absolutely incredible! Today, I am looking at Peter's testimony to the Jews who were looking at the results of the Holy Spirit's work in the believers lives and they thought they were drunk. Peter explained that what was happening had nothing to do with anything a person could do, they were witnessing a fulfillment of scripture. Please read through Peter's testimony in Acts 2:14-41.
I want to point out that Peter's audience were Jews not Gentiles. I am pointing that out because I believe understanding our audience and what they believe changes how we present the message of hope. Notice the amount of scripture that Peter uses during his testimony; this is effective because he is using prophecy with which the Jews were familiar. To show that God was at work in the believers, Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 to point out that this was something that God said would happen. Peter's method continues with the idea that the Jews were witnessing a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel and points out other prophecies about Christ that had already recently been fulfilled. The Jews were amazed and 3,000 were baptized and added to the church!
Please keep in mind that this was the very same Peter who denied Christ three times on the night before His crucifixion. The Holy Spirit was working in him and gave him the boldness and the understanding of how to address the people that were questioning what was happening. Peter also could relate to them because he was a Jew himself, so he knew what they were familiar with and which scriptures they would be able to relate to the best. There will be spontaneous opportunities that we were not expecting to share our testimony, and what I have found is those spontaneous moments are usually with someone that I know. This probably means that it will be someone from a similar cultural background as me. But not everyone has gone to church and is familiar with the scripture. I am not saying that using scripture is ineffective when that happens; however, I am definitely saying that when we are with someone who is familiar with the Bible but are not practicing a live and active faith walk using the Bible to help them find God can be very effective.
Know who you are talking to! It will change how you share your testimony. I will look at other examples of this thought when I get further into Acts.
Do you use scripture as a way to point someone to God?
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Please look up Acts 2:1-13 and look imagine you in this scene. I think of the scene in Acts 2 and picture both an amazing and amusing scene. I cannot even imagine how awesome it was to be one of the believers on the day of Pentecost to visually see the Holy Spirit at work in each one of them. I wonder what it was like to feel the Spirit’s wind on their faces and to hear the commotion that followed. I wonder if the believers realized that they were speaking another language and not just sounds or gibberish when they opened their mouths to speak. The scene must have been amazing!
One thing I want to point out is that Pentecost was a required feast and a time of sacrifice and assembly. You can read about it in Leviticus 23:15-22. This was also known as the Feast of Weeks and happened at the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. The significance was to show joy and thanksgiving over the bountiful harvest. During this feast, they were to offer a fellowship offering to the Lord along with other sacrifices. I just find it interesting that God chose the day of Pentecost to gift the believers with the Holy Spirit. Jesus often referred to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor (John 14:25) and a gift (Acts 1:4) and the day that the Holy Spirit came was on a day that the Jews were to offer a fellowship offering to the Lord.
When the Holy Spirit came, the commotion began as everyone began to speak in different languages. They were enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak in different languages (verse 4). I think this is an important point: verse 4 says, “as the Spirit enabled them.” They spoke different languages as they were given the ability by the Holy Spirit. Too often, we try to do things on our own without the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit’s enabling, these believers (most of whom were not educated) would not have been able to speak in other languages. God used the Holy Spirit to spread the word of the hope in Christ by giving them the ability to speak to more than just those who spoke their own language. When we are facing a road block that seems impossible to get around, we can let God do His work and do the impossible.
One last point is found in verse 13. Not everyone felt that there was a miracle happening in their midst. They decided that the believers were drunk and looked foolish. When we are empowered by the Spirit, it may not always seem impressive to onlookers. Not everyone will find the work of the Holy Spirit to be an exciting thing to take place.
Are you working in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit?
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
During my prayer study and yesterday starting Acts, I wrote how I have learned that we need to wait on God’s timing for an answer. Sometimes; however, we find ourselves in a situation where we have to make a difficult decision immediately, such as after interviewing candidates for a job a decision needs to be made. The blessing we have with our amazing Father is that He understands our timing just as well as He understands His own timing. He understands that there are things on earth that need immediate attention and He helps us through those times. We left off yesterday with Jesus telling the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to empower them, and today we pick up with them coming down from the Mount of Olives together. Please turn to Acts 1:12-23.
In verses 13-14 we read that they gathered together and were “constantly in prayer.” They didn’t know what they were facing or what was next, so they immediately turned to prayer; after finishing my look at prayer, I can appreciate this! I know I have been there asking God, “What’s next? Why am I here and what am I supposed to do?” During this time of prayer, Peter felt it was important to organize a little bit and said that it was time to replace Judas, who betrayed Jesus. I do have to chuckle a little because it almost seemed like a job interview as they chose who should fill the spot. They had some criteria that the person needed to fit, and the disciples used those criteria to narrow it down to two candidates. Isn’t that what we do when we’re filling a job opening? Sometimes when we are in spot like this, we find a few people that could equally do the job that needs done, but a choice needs to be made. They didn’t make the choice on their own; once again, they turned to God through prayer. This was a situation where they saw an immediate answer to their prayer so they could make a decision that couldn’t be left hanging.
Don’t you love how God can appreciate and understand that we do have some circumstances that require an immediate answer? Our Father has a timing that is all His own; timing that we will never fully understand on earth, yet He still sees our need in our timing as well? Doesn’t that just make you love Him all the more? I do think that sometimes we have needs that we feel require immediate attention, and God makes us wait. Those spots can be difficult, but they can also be times of great growth spiritually. It is later when we can see that God, as always, has the best timing when He chooses to move His hand. I am so thankful that we have a Father that knows the best course of action! I am so thankful that our God cares enough to know when we need help now.
When it is time to organize, we can trust that God will lead us in the right direction. We just need to turn to God in prayer; remember the disciples did not go into this decision blindly. Are you trusting and turning to God when a decision needs to be made?
Monday, August 9, 2010
This summer, I had the opportunity to read through the book of Acts as part of a committee seeking direction. As I read through Acts, I saw some prevalent themes throughout the book and I decided that I wanted to dig deeper and see how the early church followed God’s direction. Some of the major themes I noticed were:
- We need to wait on God’s timing.
- We need to pray for God’s direction.
- We need to have the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
- We need to meet the needs of others.
- God will help us when we face opposition.
- The Holy Spirit will make us bold.
- Unity in the church is important.
Today, I want to begin by looking at Acts 1:1-11. As I started reading through Acts, I was struck how this book reads as a narrative, even though its purpose was for historical documentation. Luke wrote Acts as well as the gospel of Luke; and he started writing Acts right where he left off in Luke. He gives a brief synopsis in the first few verses, reminding us of the climate in which Acts takes place. The Roman Empire was over Israel; however, the Jews were able to still practice much of their religious rites. When Jesus came, He did not meet the expectations of the Jewish leaders. They thought the Messiah was going to restore Israel; instead, Jesus brought heaven to earth and turned everything upside down by talking of a spiritual kingdom. This is where Acts enters: political and religious tension. Keep in mind that Jesus is talking to the very disciples that split and fled during Christ’s crucifixion. These were men that were afraid of their opposition. With that in mind, please read Acts 1:1-11.
I want to focus specifically on verses 4-5 and think about the command that Jesus gave them. They were in Jerusalem which seemed to be the center of the religious tension. Jesus was commanding them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift that was promised to them – the Holy Spirit. In verse 8, Jesus says, “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.” They were told that they needed to wait for God’s timing to receive His gift to them and they needed to wait in a place that despised Christ’s message. Our life is like that as well; sometimes God puts us on hold because He has something better in store for us. Sometimes He has us wait in an environment that is not comfortable or even opposing and it can be difficult to understand why while we are there. Be encouraged! Think of how much the disciples and early church leaders would have missed out on if they would not have been obedient. God’s plan is always so much better than anything we could ever think of.
Does God have you in a place where you need to wait? Are you being obedient and waiting for the empowerment that the Holy Spirit gives?