WE CANNOT BE SILENT

ACTS – The Acts of God

I would assume that many of us have had the same experience in the work place, church or secular. A tremendous plan has been executed after many months of preparation and problem solving with potential to impact the world. Then those in leadership over you feel a need to “call a meeting” to discuss the implications of your actions and of those who worked with you. I still cringe at those words, usually delivered in a memo, not in person, “there will be meeting first thing Monday morning.”

It happens a lot to those who step out in faith, out of the world’s comfort zones, to do what God asks us to do. When God leads and you are dedicated to follow, you don’t think about the implications of what others might think at the time. Your only desire is that God is glorified and His salvation through His Son is brought into the Light of day, open and honest, so that others may see Him as He really is…Savior and Lord. Our intention is not to hurt anyone but to help.

Here is Peter, led by the Spirit, to change the life of a man at the gate of the Temple. God then uses this miracle to glorify His Son, giving Peter a platform to testify Truth. The Holy Spirit lets loose in Peter so that he brings God’s plan of salvation for all out into the open meeting called by the religious leaders who ordered Jesus to be killed a few months earlier. So, we think we have it bad? Not so much. There will always be people to question our moves and motives. Be ready, like Peter, to shift the attention from you to Jesus Christ. Use all as a platform to tell the Truth.

Key: Whatever we do must be led by the Holy Spirit. Will we ruffle feathers? Yes. Every time. The world prefers to live under the covers of darkness, all snuggled up in their self made comfort.

With the evidence of a healed man right in front of them, they could not make their charges stick. “We have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the one God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole.”

Peter and John get a stern talking to and then return to their mission given to them by Jesus Christ. “Jesus is the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone. Salvation come no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, ONLY this one.”

“We cannot keep quiet about what we have seen and heard.”

Will there be other “meetings” called? Yes.

Acts 4 been with Jesus

Acts 4, The Message
Nothing to Hide

1-4 While Peter and John were addressing the people, the priests, the chief of the Temple police, and some Sadducees came up, indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus. They arrested them and threw them in jail until morning, for by now it was late in the evening. But many of those who listened had already believed the Message—in round numbers about five thousand!

5-7 The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religion scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander—everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: “Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”

8-12 With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.”

13-14 They couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright—so healed!—what could they say against that?

15-17 They sent them out of the room so they could work out a plan. They talked it over: “What can we do with these men? By now it’s known all over town that a miracle has occurred, and that they are behind it. There is no way we can refute that. But so that it doesn’t go any further, let’s silence them with threats so they won’t dare to use Jesus’ name ever again with anyone.”

18-20 They called them back and warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, “Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”

21-22 The religious leaders renewed their threats, but then released them. They couldn’t come up with a charge that would stick, that would keep them in jail. The people wouldn’t have stood for it—they were all praising God over what had happened. The man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old.

Acts 4 Jesus

What do we learn?
–Tell the Truth of Jesus Christ.
–Be led by His Holy Spirit who lives in You.
–Focus on God with motivation to please Him.
–Be ready for opposition.
–Present the evidence. (God’s Word)
–Proceed with fearless confidence…from Christ.
–Let God do the rest.

Dear Heavenly Father,
If there was fear in Peter and John for being called into “the meeting” for reprimand, it is not indicated. They knew the facts and were not afraid to tell Your Story of salvation for all. Their confidence came from you. That is evident. May Your Holy Spirit lead us and develop the same confidence and boldness in us to speak when You give us the platform to speak.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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TURN

ACTS – The Acts of God

Our work, as volunteers for Christmas Palooza, was to get a great picture of little ones sitting on Santa’s lap last night. That was our assigned post, Randy and I. We were beside the camera, trying to get kids of all ages, from infant to big kids, and their parents to TURN from looking at the crowd, the synthetic snow that was falling (yes, we had that, too!), the music, and all the rest of the distracting goofiness around us. What fun!

Acts 3 pics with santa

It was a fun evening to host the community in a free fair with games, food and pictures with the guy in red. The maze the people traveled through ended with singers at the nativity. TURN, look at Jesus! was the message of the evening. Over a thousand came last night and it’s not over! Our church will open the doors at 2pm today for another round of hosting. But that’s not all, they will also finish with a few hours on Sunday after worship services! This is one of the greatest outreach opportunities Randy and I have experienced…helping others find and follow Jesus by seeing Jesus in us…getting them to turn their eyes to focus on the One who created us and provided a way to save us was the goal.

Randy and I did all kinds of silly antics trying to get the babies and kids to TURN their eyes toward the camera so that the best picture could be taken for the family. We were exhausted after only a few hours of non stop Santa sitting, telling and picture taking. We cannot count the times we smiled and said, “LOOK this way!” The lines were long because this guy in the red suit draws quite a crowd! But what an opportunity!

There was another instance where a crowd gathered to see a man who couldn’t walk previously in life, be healed completely. His joy of being restored to full health sent him dancing in the Temple courts praising God. Can you see it? Those gathered dropped what they were doing to TURN to see this man praising God. More and more people did the same thing. What is going on here?

Acts 3 repent

When Peter saw he had a congregation of people, he began to tell them about God. He reminded them of WHO their God was, for they had forgotten over the years. He also brought Jesus to their attention and boldly told the story of what God’s people did to Jesus only weeks earlier. Look, listen, TURN your faces to God! Peter passionately preached using God’s act of healing the man as a way to draw the attention of the crowd to God. That’s how God works! (It’s not about us!)

As hard as we worked to get the eyes of children to look at the camera, we should be ready for opportunities to passionately tell God’s Story of His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son. Look this way! Repent, TURN to God, His Story, His Message and be saved.

Acts 3, The Message
Turn to Face God

12-16 When Peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed the people:

“Oh, Israelites, why does this take you by such complete surprise, and why stare at us as if our power or piety made him walk? The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his Son Jesus. The very One that Pilate called innocent, you repudiated. You repudiated the Holy One, the Just One, and asked for a murderer in his place. You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead—and we’re the witnesses. Faith in Jesus’ name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet—yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.

17-18 “And now, friends, I know you had no idea what you were doing when you killed Jesus, and neither did your leaders. But God, who through the preaching of all the prophets had said all along that his Messiah would be killed, knew exactly what you were doing and used it to fulfill his plans.

19-23 “Now it’s time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you, and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely, Jesus. For the time being he must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be. Moses, for instance, said, ‘Your God will raise up for you a prophet just like me from your family. Listen to every word he speaks to you. Every last living soul who refuses to listen to that prophet will be wiped out from the people.’

24-26 “All the prophets from Samuel on down said the same thing, said most emphatically that these days would come. These prophets, along with the covenant God made with your ancestors, are your family tree. God’s covenant-word to Abraham provides the text: ‘By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ But you are first in line: God, having raised up his Son, sent him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways.”

Acts 3 turn

Think about it…
–There are many distractions today. Does the crowd decide for us what we will do, who we are and where we will go?
–Peter told them two choices were presented by Pilate to be crucified: Jesus, who did no wrong and was the Son of God and Barabbas, a thug, murderer, thief, and rebel for hire. And you chose the evil Barabbas. Peter also explained; “But God used it to fulfill HIS plan” of saving all of us. YOU have a chance to repent, turn to God and be restored to a full relationship with God! Grace.
–God wants to save, restore, and bless with His best. Repent, it’s not too late. TURN from the world to look at Him. Focus on His wonderful face!

One more thought…
–It was interesting and challenging to get a whole family group to TURN and look at one focal point! When all eyes were looking the same way a great picture, wall worthy, was made. I wonder if it frustrates God when members of His family are looking in different directions instead of focusing on Him?
–How many of God’s leaders today are tenaciously, continuously shouting, “TURN, look this way? God’s way.
–What is the picture of His church? The posture of our bodies in worship and the direction of our eyes tell the story.

Dear Heavenly Father, 
There are so many thoughts about You this morning! It has always been about You, is about You and will be about You for eternity! You are God and we are not. Let us TURN and look at You, focus on You, and see You working all around us. May all we do and all we are be in Your Name for Your glory. Your are amazing, Lord!
In Jesus Name, Amen.

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BUT WHAT I DO HAVE…

ACTS – The Acts of God

The first place of worship that Randy pastored was the church where we grew up. The church building was located on the border of two cities at a well traveled crossroad with a busy intersection. It wasn’t a big church but must have seemed friendly to passersby. Randy’s door was always open which meant many interesting visitors came by asking for handouts. He heard many stories of particular situations of dire need…in their eyes. They came wanting money. We had very little.

At that time in our lives, I was teaching to keep our financial situation solvent to pay the bills of a family of five. His salary was not always counted on as the church was financially struggling as well. So, this next passage makes us smile when Peter says to the beggar at the Temple Gate, “I don’t have a nickel to my name,…” It certainly fit our situation at the time.

Our journey taught us not only to empathize with someone struggling to make ends meet but it taught us how to survive and even thrive as good stewards in problem solving which led to helping others do the same. Faith in Our Provider always brought us through tough times and we knew He would do it for others.

One day Randy was approached by a young man about ten years younger than himself who also had a family. This man was asking for money to buy tires for his car to get to a job site. Randy told him, “Let’s go take a look.”

Randy went outside the church doors to the yard where the car was parked. Yes, the man needed tires. Randy told him, “I don’t have any money on me but what I do have is a way to help you solve your problem. Come with me.” Truth: we might have had $20 in our bank account at the time and rarely carried cash because there wasn’t any to clutter our wallets!

Randy took the young man to a local junk yard with spare car parts and recycled tires. Randy knew this place well because it was how we survived! He told the owner what he was doing and asked to see what was available. In under an hour, this young man learned how to recycle old tires for tires with enough tread to last until better times. He was back on the road again. Total cost: Time and Faith (The owner helped, too!)

This is only one of many opportunities that came to the open door of Spencer Road Church of God in those days. Randy taught a young man how to spend $20 and buy healthy groceries that would last for a week. Yep, in that day, it could be done. We learned to rarely hand out money, but to help while retaining a person’s dignity. Those in real need got it and appreciated it. Are there still opportunities to share God’s love and faith in tangible ways such as this? Absolutely!

We don’t need money to declare the glory and power of God! We only need faith and a willing heart to stop, listen to His Spirit and notice someone in real need and help them learn about the provisions that God provides all around us.

“I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have is_______”. May God’s Holy Spirit lead us to filling in that blank…maybe even today, maybe tomorrow. Then, like Peter, give God ALL the glory and praise for what happens. God is God and we are not. We are only His hands and feet. How can we help others know Him? Listen to Him.

May all we are and do be done in Jesus Name, Amen.

Acts 3 faith

Acts 3, The Message
1-5 One day at three o’clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.” He looked up, expecting to get something from them.

6-8 Peter said, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.

8-10 The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple’s Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.

11 The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon’s Porch to see it for themselves.

Something to think about…
–Spoiler alert: God’s Holy Spirit in Peter uses this healing of the beggar as a platform to lead others to the Truth about Jesus and is His salvation.

–God’s Holy Spirit prompts us to help others. Could what He does through us be an open door, after helping, to tell His story?

–Be open to God’s Holy Spirit. You never know when He will invite us to be a part of His salvation for another human being.

“…but what we do have is….Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth and The Life!

–Want to be a world changer?
Rise up and walk…In Jesus Name.

And I’m singing…

Hope for all the world, You came down,
Traded heaven’s throne for a sinner’s crown,
Grace poured out.
Son of righteousness crucified,
Hanging on the cross You paid the price,
To give us life

In Jesus’ name our sins are washed away,
In Jesus’ name we are rescued, we are saved,
For love has come to make a way for us,
In Jesus’ name there is freedom for the broken,
In Jesus’ name there is healing for the hopeless,
For all our days, we rest in Jesus’ name

You alone are good forever true,
Never far away, we’re holding on to You,
Only You

In Jesus’ name our sins are washed away,
In Jesus’ name we are rescued, we are saved,
For love has come to make a way for us,
In Jesus’ name there is freedom for the broken,
In Jesus’ name there is healing for the hopeless,
For all…

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THE ALTAR CALL THAT BEGAN A REVOLUTION!

ACTS, The Acts of God

Believers, for whatever reason, are somewhat afraid to talk about the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure why, unless it is because some who claim to be of God, “full of the spirit”, have made a spectacle of themselves. Some have used God’s name in drawing attention mostly to their ministries with impure motivations in order to make a lavish living preying on the emotions of others. Could that be it?

We have seen it happen in many religious movements over the decades of our own lives. But those do not last. What remains is what is clearly stated in God’s Word. For His Word and promises do not change. Ever. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, another Friend, like Him, who WAS a part of Him, to help us.

What peace to know that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Lord, He gives us a part of the Trinity to live IN us Who is HIS Holy Spirit. There is power in His Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the grave! There are no spiritual calisthenics we have to do to receive His Holy Spirit. It is simply a gift from Him to help us and to guide our living and behaviors because of His love for us and others.

No man can conjure Him up, emotionally make it happen or purchase Him. His Spirit is of God and of Jesus, the Three-in-One. God-Jesus-Holy Spirit. We teach children about this gift using an apple as an example. The apple has a skin, flesh and core. You can peel away the skin from the apple but it is still apple. You can cut away the flesh from the apple, but it is still apple. You can see the core when you finish the process of cutting an apple to eat. Even the core is still apple. Core, Skin, Flesh…all still apple. Separate but One.

God’s Holy Spirit is in all who believe in Him. God’s Holy Spirit was upon Jesus and in Jesus when He came to earth. Now, with Jesus back in heaven, sitting at the right hand of God, His Holy Spirit is poured out, as promised by Jesus, over the people who are gathered after the resurrection waiting for the promise. They do not know what to expect, they just know it will happen.

The followers, men and women, had all gathered for the feast of Pentecost. They were all in one place, in unity, as we read in Acts chapter one yesterday. That’s when it happened! God’s Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus, came and spread through all hearts and minds “like a wildfire” and sounded like “a strong gale-force wind”.

Full of God’s Holy Spirit Jesus’ followers were given the ability to speak in the language of all who had gathered in Jerusalem for the event. “Devout pilgrims from all over the world” had come and needed to hear about Jesus. The Holy Spirit jump-started the revolution of God’s church in men AND woman with the ability to tell the story in their own language so they could understand the Truth completely. Now the Pilgrims from other nations could go back and tell Truth in their own hometowns!

What a miracle! Do you see what is happening here? This is not an emotional experience but the power of the Holy Spirit living and working within men and women who have given all to follow Christ and live to tell the Truth about Him.

Through God’s prophets, He predicted the actions of His Holy Spirit and this resonates with those gathered in Jerusalem. Peter, (“the Rock upon which I build my church”, says Jesus) begins is first, bold “sermon” by connecting Scripture that they know with the Truth they do not yet know. The Holy Spirit is promised to give us just the right words at the right time in the right Spirit. Perfect example!

Enough talk, let’s pray, read and see what God’s Spirit says to us today!

Acts 2, The Message
1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Acts 2 God was glorified

Peter Speaks Up
14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”

22-28 “Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him. David said it all:

I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.
I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you’ll never dump me in Hades;
I’ll never even smell the stench of death.
You’ve got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.

29-36 “Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried—his tomb is in plain sight today. But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah—‘no trip to Hades, no stench of death.’ This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it. Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear. For David himself did not ascend to heaven, but he did say,

God said to my Master, “Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies a stool for resting your feet.”
“All Israel, then, know this: There’s no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross.”

37 Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?”

38-39 Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”

40 He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!”

41-42 That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

What do we learn?
–God’s Holy Spirit comes to reside in all who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. There is no “trick” to receiving His Spirit. It is a gift to all who believe. His Holy Spirit lives in us and becomes a part of who we are in Him.
–We also live in a “sick and stupid culture”. Get out and rise above it with Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives! Follow His Holy Spirit’s guidance!
–Living by His Holy Spirit means surrender to all that the world has to offer. In return there is peace, renewed spirit, peace, restored joy, peace and an unconditional love that makes you giddy and assured. And did I mention peace? When our minds are focused and “stayed” on Jesus, the peace from His Holy Spirit calms our troubled hearts and teaches us consistently in all that are best for us?
–The best “altar call” ever expressed is boldly spoken with urgency from Peter who has the power of the Holy Spirit leading him. The Holy Spirit through Peter answers the world’s desperate question, “What now do we do?” We are a mess, we have done wrong, we have missed the boat, what must we do to turn life around?

Peter answers, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—WHOMEVER, in fact, our Master God invites.” –Peter, by the Power of the Holy Spirit in him.

Peter gets to the heart of it all with, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!”

–“That day about 3,000 took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up.”
–We finish this passage with the beauty, foundation and commitment of the new marriage of Jesus, the Groom and the Bride of Christ, His newly formed church:
“They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.”
God’s Word, Shared lives, Communion Meals, Prayer…Foundational and Effective to Honoring and Loving God and Loving Others.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have taught us much this morning as we read about the beginnings of Your established church, men and women, devoted to You and to each other, living fully and boldly by Your Holy Spirit’s power and guidance. Thank you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for living and working in us and in me. Continue to transform me to be and do all that You intended…by the power of Your Holy Spirit in me.
In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! …

43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

CAN we get an AMEN??

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THE UPPER ROOM

ACTS, The Actions of God

The closer we get to Jesus, the closer we get to each other. Our love for others deepens when we fully realize the depth of Jesus’ love for us and our love for Him.

After Jesus rose from the grave, He not only appeared to many of his followers to prove his resurrection by letting them see the scars, eat with him in fellowship but Jesus also spent 40 days getting them ready and solidifying the continuous of the mission to “Go and Teach” and “begin in Jerusalem”.

The first “church plant” is in an upper room. The Eleven are there along with about 120 others who will become witnesses of the resurrection and hope in Jesus Christ, our Savior AND our Lord. They will begin to proclaim, teach and help others find and follow Jesus.

I love this statement, “They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included.” No one is left out of the mission. Together in prayer is the key to their success. We will see this though out the book of Acts. Prayer brings action…the Action of God.

The first order of business was to replace Judas. Peter becomes the leader, “the rock upon which I will build my church,” we recall from Jesus’ words. Listen to the way they choose this person. He must have been with us, in other words this person must have longevity with the teachings of Jesus, “designated along with us as a witness”. There are two that fit the bill. THEN THEY PRAYED, relying on God to choose. They draw straws and Matthias is chosen.

As we read the books of Acts, let us learn how to be the church, how to rely on God’s will and plan and to watch for prayer as the key to God’s actions in our midst.

Acts 1 prayer as Jesus taught them

Acts 1, The Message
Returning to Jerusalem
12-13 So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place:

Peter,
John,
James,
Andrew,
Philip,
Thomas,
Bartholomew,
Matthew,
James, son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot,
Judas, son of James.

14 They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers.

Replacing Judas
15-17 During this time, Peter stood up in the company—there were about 120 of them in the room at the time—and said, “Friends, long ago the Holy Spirit spoke through David regarding Judas, who became the guide to those who arrested Jesus. That Scripture had to be fulfilled, and now has been. Judas was one of us and had his assigned place in this ministry.

18-20 “As you know, he took the evil bribe money and bought a small farm. There he came to a bad end, rupturing his belly and spilling his guts. Everybody in Jerusalem knows this by now; they call the place Murder Meadow. It’s exactly what we find written in the Psalms:

Let his farm become haunted
So no one can ever live there.
“And also what was written later:

Let someone else take over his post.

21-22 “Judas must now be replaced. The replacement must come from the company of men who stayed together with us from the time Jesus was baptized by John up to the day of his ascension, designated along with us as a witness to his resurrection.”

23-26 They nominated two: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, O God, know every one of us inside and out. Make plain which of these two men you choose to take the place in this ministry and leadership that Judas threw away in order to go his own way.” They then drew straws. Matthias won and was counted in with the eleven apostles.

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Lead and guide our every thought and action today. We ask that your desires become our desires. We know that where you lead us, your will guide us and provide for us. We will be looking for your actions in this day. You are always at work. It’s time we noticed and praised You for all actions.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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IN ON THE ACTION!

ACTS, The Actions of God

We leave the quartet of gospels to dive into the acts of God after Jesus ascended back heaven. He left his believers with a command to go and teach the world, beginning in your own home time, then to all the parts of the world. Without missing a beat, that is exactly what they did. Luke records the Acts of God as directed by God’s Spirit. Why?

Because the story of Jesus is so impressive–God among us! God speaking a language we can understand! God acting in ways that heal and help and save us!–there is a danger that we will be impressed, but only be impressed, (especially this time of year when Christmas lights and music impress us greatly, even bringing tears to our eyes.) Impressions are not lasting. We are mere spectators.

As the spectacular dimensions of this story slowly (or suddenly) dawn upon us, we could easily become enthusiastic spectators, and then let it go at that–becoming admirers of Jesus, generous with our oh’s and ah’s, and in our better moments inspired to imitate him.

It is Luke’s task to prevent that, to prevent us from becoming mere spectators to Jesus, fans of the Message. Of the original quartet of writers on Jesus, Luke alone continues to tell the story as the apostles and disciples live it into the next generation. The remarkable thing is that it continues to be essentially the same story. Luke continues his narration with hardly a break, a pause perhaps to dip his pen in the inkwell, writing in the same style, using the same vocabulary.

The story of Jesus doesn’t end with Jesus. It continues in the lives of those who believe in him. The supernatural does not stop with Jesus. Luke makes it clear that these Christians he wrote about were no more spectators of Jesus than Jesus was a spectator of God–they are IN on the action of God, God acting in them, God living in them. Which also means, of course, in us!

Jesus taught/trained/schooled his disciples about God, Who He is, How He works and is always at work. He even told them that they would do even greater acts than He would do! God’s Word became flesh to show us God in Person.

In the coming days ahead, let us dive into the book of Acts with a mind desiring to grow and think like the first generation disciples on mission, IN on the Acts of God!

Web

ACTS 1, The Message

To the Ends of the World
1-5 Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”

6 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”

7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

AND HE’S COMING BACK!…

9-11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”

WHY DO YOU JUST STAND HERE LOOKING UP AT AN EMPTY SKY?

Let’s get to work, watching for God, listening for His invitation to join Him in His work, then get IN on the action!

Always In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe!

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LET’S GO FISHING!

John, The Love of God

When we are sad, frustrated, overwhelmed, mourning the loss of someone, or in transition between jobs and ministry, as humans we have a tendency to go back to what we knew well and do that for a while until the next door opens. I have done it a few times and I bet you have, too. Going back, to what we knew how to do and be, soothes our troubled minds, restores our confidence and peace and allows us to not sit in a stagnate pool of self pity.

Peter knew fishing. When Jesus called to him to follow him, Peter was fishing. To catch fish was his livelihood. It fed his family. His enthusiasm to get up and go fishing was contagious. Some of the other disciples who were also missing Jesus and missing his daily companionship decided to jump up and follow Peter when he declared, “I’m going fishing!”

I don’t think it mattered if they caught anything, but they had to DO something. They fished all night. They caught nothing. When the sun rose in the morning sky, they see a man waving to them from the beach. He yells a typical question to fishermen, “Did you catch anything for breakfast?”

Then Jesus reminds them of when they were first called to follow him in ministry by asking them to cast the net off the right side of the boat and “see what happens”. Flashback! They caught so many fish they needed help to pull it in. John says to Peter, “It’s the Master!”

Peter (in Peter fashion) immediately jumps into the sea and swims to Jesus, leaving the fish behind. Once again. To see Jesus!

Jesus serves a breakfast of fish and bread to his disciples, also reminiscent of their past ministry together when they blessed a few fish and loaves of bread and fed thousands. Can you hear the conversation and laughter. “Remember when…” they say.
Jesus, only Jesus, can come to us in the “stuck in neutral” times in our lives and remind us of the how He taught and invited us to His work in the past. Jesus has a way, still today, of “serving us a breakfast” of encouragement just when we need it most. He has for me. I pray He will for you…just when you need it most. Maybe it is even today.

Use the good thoughts of how God helped us in the past to move us forward with encouragement for the challenge of future ministry. After breakfast and just being with Jesus, He then challenges Peter with what lies ahead for him. Read and be blessed and encouraged.

Jesus loves us all very deeply. He loves us where we are right now. He loves us enough to always move us forward. This relationship between Jesus and you (and me) is very personal. He singles us out, like Peter, and speaks to individual hearts. Listen….to Him. Be restored (like Peter), blessed and encouraged. Let’s go fishing!

John 21 shore boats fire

John 21, The Message
Fishing
21 1-3 After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”

3-4 The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him.

5 Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?”

They answered, “No.”

6 He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.

7-9 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!”

When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.

10-11 Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip.

12 Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master.

13-14 Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.

Do You Love Me?
15 After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.”

17-19 Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

20-21 Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?”

22-23 Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.” That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?”

24 This is the same disciple who was eyewitness to all these things and wrote them down. And we all know that his eyewitness account is reliable and accurate.

25 There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books.

On a personal note…
This passage of that tells us of the relationships between Jesus and his followers is very personal to me. I can recall quite a few times when Jesus has “served breakfast” to me to encourage me to look back only long enough to see how God works so I could get up and “go fishing” once more.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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