To Be a Witness

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
[Luke 24:45-49]

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
[Acts 1:8]

Holy God,
through Jesus Christ
You have called me to be Your witness
to the ends of the earth.
And why not, for…
I have seen your glory,
I have heard the truth,
I have tasted that You are good,
my sins have been forgiven,
I have been given hope,
I have been redeemed.

This is joyous news, so…

May the Good News of Jesus,
that has transformed me, now,
always be upon my lips.
Reveal to me opportunities to witness to the resurrection
that those who see and hear
may be drawn to You.
May I never hold back.
May I never seek self-glorification.
May I never twist the truth.
May I never judge.
For I am called to be a witness,
to all the world;
to all people.
All worship, praise, honor and glory
be unto You,
o
h God,
through Christ Jesus my Lord,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

For the Sake of the World

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [Acts 2:42, ESV]

And isn’t this what the church should be about:
Diving into and learning scripture,
Spending time with other believers,
Worshiping and communing together and
prayer?
It seems to make sense to me. Sure there are other things about being a church, for example, it’s not about being with believers ONLY, but sharing the Word of Jesus with nonbelievers.

Basically…

This verse in Acts 2 lays out a church on fire for Jesus.
This is a church wanting to be closer to Jesus.
This is a church who is excited about the hope they have.
This is a church that looks to the needs of others.
This is a church who gets it.

This is not a magical formula for success, but rather the activities that flow from the assembly out of their faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. When a church lives out Acts 2:42, the church is doing the very thing that should come naturally, like breathing. If these activities are laborious then something is wrong. You can’t force anything of those activities and you can’t fake it. You are either verse 42 or not. If your church is not, then go back to the beginning: Devote yourself to scripture.

To having any real and lasting hope; for the church to make an impact in the world; for the church to be a beacon of light in a dark world, verse 42 needs to be present. Because believe it or not, people need and want to be part of verse 42.

Only God can make a difference. Only God will bring the increase: And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. [Acts 2:47]

Let’s be an Act 2:42 church that glorifies God almighty for the sake of the world.

The Pastor -|—

Call on Jesus

image

Amen!
Praise be to God!
Alleluia!

But this verse is not hocus pocus.
It’s not a magical incantation.
The name of Jesus is not some name to be used to get what you want.

This verse is an act of worship; an act of submission. Notice that it does not say, “calling on the name of Jesus” but rather “Lord”. It is definitely referring to Jesus but instead uses the title that describes Jesus’ relationship to you.

To call on a lord is to recognize their authority over you. You aren’t going to call on a lord if you don’t think they can save you. But in this case, calling on THE Lord, Jesus, is something one does because they already know Jesus can and has saved them through faith. A person is not going to do this willy nilly because they want to save their butts from the eternal flames, but one does this out of love for the one who forgives sin through amazing grace.

But also, one doesn’t not submit to a lord if they still want freedom over their own life. You don’t submit to a lord if you’re too proud to admit you need help. You don’t submit to a lord if you want your cake and eat it too. But the fact of the matter is we need help and with Jesus you get something better than the proverbial cake. With Jesus you get THE Lord of lords who takes great joy in saving your life.

Amen!
Praise be to God!
ALLELUIA!

So go on, call on Jesus, submit to him and praise his Holy name.

Father God, you’re an awesome God. Thank you for sending Jesus to be Lord of my life to save me from myself. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Sighs, groaning and praying

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” [Acts 7:55-56]

Stephen knew he was in trouble. He knew his life was in danger. Stephen knew that he was not getting out of this crowd alive. But he was unfazed. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he sees the reason for his faith. And I can about imagine the peace he felt, even as the people dragged him out of the city to stone him.

The reason I was drawn to this text this morning was because of a prayer request I received yesterday from a friend. He sent a group text to a few of us; asking how we should be praying for those Christians that ISIS recently captured. This has been weighing on him and wanted to know how to pray. So I sent the above text and wondered if we should be praying that those Christians see what Stephen saw and thus be strengthened and encouraged. Someone else then chimed in and suggested that we pray that the faith of those persecuted Christians have an impact on their captors.

But is there more?

I’m not sure what those Christians truly need since I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for them. I can’t imagine what I would pray for if I were in that situation or how my faith would hold up. But I like that text from Acts so I am going to pray for those Christians using that text and then pray that their faith impacts their captors and then fall in Romans 8:26…

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

…and then turn it over to God.

I don’t and can’t know what they truly need, but God does. So let’s allow the Holy Spirit to take our groanings and sighs and cries and carry them to the Lord. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for us. Let’s give it up to God and say, “May your will be done

Let’s pray…

[Sigh]

Amen

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Prevailing

So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. [Acts 19:20]

Sometimes I get the feeling that the Word of God is taking steps back. I watch the news (and that might be my first problem right there) and read the paper online and I see this world continuing to sink deeper into depravity. I see chaos all around and therefore plead with God, “Come, Lord Jesus and end it all.”

Here are just a few of the things I have been noticing:
~ With the rise of ISIS one wonders if this war can even be won. It’s scary.
~ Racism seems to be on the front burner again. Not that it ever left but it seems to be garnering more headlines now.
~ With continued court battles over marriage, it seems that traditional, biblical marriage is gone forever and families seem to be falling apart.
~ The prosperity gospel seems to be taking a stronger hold among many people as they strive for happiness now instead of eternal joy.
~ The holiness of God seems to be slipping into only a theological concept for many.

And I could go on, but that would get too depressing. Looking around; how does one not wonder what God is up to.

So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

But then I read the book of Acts. I am also reminded of Isaiah where he says that God’s Word WILL NOT return to Him empty. But more importantly, I am reminded of the cross. You see, God’s Word has already prevailed. Jesus has already won. The forces of evil and darkness have already been defeated. ISIS and racism and hatred and war and Satan may have their day, but that’s it.  God’s Word has prevailed and will continue to prevail.

And so I pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” so that those who do not know may find their hope in the Lord. Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.(Psalm 30:4-5 ESV) Morning is coming, my friends. Hold on and know that the Word of the Lord has prevailed through Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ No distinctions

But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” [Acts 15:11]

In the early years of the church, they were struggling with how to deal with Gentile converts. There were many disagreements among the Jews on what the Gentiles needed to do to be saved. For them, faith wasn’t enough but you needed to be circumcised as well. So finally, the elders in Jerusalem were discussing this when Peter chimed in (he was the one called by God to preach to Cornelius, a Gentile, in Acts 10. There, Peter realized that salvation is for all people through faith).

So why make distinctions?
Why place requirements on some for salvation?
Why place a greater burden on some to enjoy the gifts of God?

I believe the simple answer was, and still is in some cases, that many in the church want to maintain a sense of power and control. And maybe even to help maintain appearances. You can’t have just any person off the street in here. If so, then live like we live and dress like we dress.

What a shame that some believe this. But Jesus says:

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
(Luke 15:7 ESV)

Salvation is through faith alone in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ; that through his death and resurrection you have forgiveness of sins and thus will live forever. And therefore the church needs to be a place for messed up sinners, not a museum for saints. And in case you haven’t figured it out, YOU are a messed up sinner.

Jesus didn’t make distinctions and neither should we. Celebrate and give thanks that you are saved through faith ALONE and that you are welcomed even though you are still a messed up sinner.

What an awesome God we have. Praise be to God through our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ “Poison” people

But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. [Acts 14:2]

Paul and his associates were preaching the Gospel in Iconium where many hearts were being turned to the Lord. The church was growing and people were turning away from their previous ways of life. But there were many who opposed Paul and the others; opposing the Good New of Jesus. So they tried to “poison the minds” of those who believed. Eventually, those who opposed the message tried to stone Paul and his crew but when they learned of the plot they fled to Lystra. At Lystra Paul proclaimed the Gospel but people from Iconium came and stirred up the people and this time they stoned Paul to “death”. But of course Paul did not die. Instead he continued proclaiming the Good News and then moved on.

There are many today who oppose the Good News of Jesus by trying to “poison the minds” of those who believe AND don’t believe. There are many who are going to try to steer you away from serving Christ. There are going to be many who are going to try to convince you that regular Sunday worship is not important. The media will continue to “poison” minds through inaccurate and biased reporting of Christians. The government and other groups will “poison” minds through oppressive rhetoric and legislation. And believe it or not, there are and will be many within the church or those who claim to be Christians that will “poison” minds through false teaching.

So many detractors out there. So much poison.

But what should our response be to those who would oppose the Gospel? Paul did not fight or argue or fire unsavory words at his detractors. When people oppose the message of Jesus; when people try to “poison your mind”; fire back in kind; “poison” their mind and heart with the Gospel.

Continue to live your faith.
Continue to announce forgiveness.
Continue to show love.
Continue to be bold.
Continue to walk in the Way and don’t not bend to popular opinion.

Your determination (the Holy Spirit working in your life) will give power to your words and actions but don’t stoop to the level of those who would “poison” you. Instead, rise up and boldly proclaim the name of Jesus. Don’t let detractors dictate your message. Don’t let opposition steer your path. Don’t let the fear of man control you but rather the fear of God.

The Good News is that God can not be opposed. Actually, God has already won through Jesus Christ. The enemy has already been defeated. Opposition is irrelevant.

So choose your “poison”, but choose wisely; for only one leads to eternal life.

Praise be to God and Amen.

The Pastor -|—