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 -|—

Morning devotions ~ Don’t wait to be asked

After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” [Acts 13:15]

After reading from the Law and the Prophets, the ruler of the synagogue urges Paul to share words of encouragement with all those gathered. No doubt they had heard of Paul and his ministry, now they want to hear for themselves. And so Paul goes on to talk about Jesus, who was crucified and raised from the dead. Paul shares that through this man (Jesus) there is forgiveness of sins and freedom from that which the Law of Moses could not free you.

Upon hearing Paul’s words of encouragement and the Good News they begged him to stay and say these things again the next day. And why wouldn’t they? When you hear Good News you just can’t get enough of it.

Christian, do you really know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Do you believe that your sins have been forgiven through faith in Jesus? Do you cling to the hope of the resurrection? I mean, do you really? Does this excite you and give you encouragement? Then don’t wait for people to find you and ask you to share words of encouragement, because chances are they won’t. If the Good News is really Good News then share words of encouragement without being asked.

And sometimes you don’t need to start out saying words. Sometimes your life is enough to get people’s attention. But don’t let that be enough for you. Don’t simply do things for others but also say words. Paul writes in Romans that faith comes through hearing (not seeing alone). Faith comes through words (not actions alone). Faith comes through YOU speaking words so therefore, do so without being asked.

But what am I saying, if Jesus is the Word of Life; I mean really the Word of Life for you, then you are probably already doing what I have said. If Jesus is not the Word of Life for you then I pray that the Holy Spirit infects your hearts with hope and leads you to faith in Jesus as your Savior.

And once you have said these words of encouragement, say them again and again because if people are anything like me, you just can’t get enough of the good stuff.

So in the words of TobyMac from his hit song Speak Life:

So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak…
You speak Life

Speak life and praise God always and forever. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Dare to believe

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. [Acts 12:5]

King Herod has Peter thrown into prison and the Church begins earnest prayer for Peter. What we are NOT told is what they were praying for. Reading what happens next; that an angel rescued Peter and returned him to his church, one can surmise that they were praying for his release, but we don’t know.

The church might have been praying for his well being. They might have been praying for God to strengthen his faith to stand strong before Herod. They might have been praying for God’s will to be done. And maybe, they were praying for his release. Who knows. But when Peter knocks on the door of the house and it is reported that he is there, they don’t believe. The church is praying for Peter but don’t believe that he could possibly be there.

What a shame.

Yesterday before worship I got a report about a man that we have been praying for. He had a brain tumor (notice the tense of that last verb) but after 30 radiation treatments there is no sign of the tumor. The doctors at one time did not have much hope for this man but apparently God has other plans. He still has chemo to go through, but the tumor appears to be gone.

I just love giving the congregation reports like this. We had been praying for him to be healed in anyway that God sees he needs to be healed but deep down inside we were still hoping for a miracle.

Praise be to God!!!

It is OK to dare to pray for miracles. It is OK to dare to believe that God will do something amazing. But also:
~ Dare to believe that God is God and that His will, will always be done.
~ Dare to believe that God’s will is always perfect (even though it may not seem perfect at the time).
~ Dare to believe that God sees the big picture and knows what is best.
~ Dare to believe that God is in control.
~ Dare to believe that God is your Father and that you are His child.
~ Dare to believe that God will give you what you NEED, not necessarily what you WANT.

But also, dare to believe the miracle of all miracles:
Jesus Christ dying on a cross and then rising from the dead that you may be forgiven and thus live forever with him.

If nothing else, dare to believe that.

Holy Father, grant us the faith to believe and trust in your wisdom and mercy. Help us to see that as a loving father provides for his children, that YOU do so and more. May we dare to believe that you can do the miraculous and may we praise and worship you always and forever, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Pushing Back

And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” [Acts 5:25]

Yesterday we heard that Peter and John were told not to speak about Jesus anymore. They responded that they were going to obey God rather than man. Bold faith.

Today (Acts 5), the apostles are arrested and thrown into prison for continuing their ministry. While in prison, an angel of the Lord opened the doors and told them to carry on. So they did.

[I just love this next part]

The next day the high priest ordered that the apostles be brought to him but when the officers arrived at the prison the apostles were gone. The guards were in place, the doors were locked but everyone was gone.

Where were they? [and here’s the part that I love] The apostles were back doing their thing; teaching and preaching about Jesus in the public square. The high priest had to be baffled and annoyed at their persistence. So in addition to being ordered to shut up, the apostles were beaten and then released.

The apostles’ response?

They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus.

Wow, I love that part but it does make me wonder how I would do under pressure like that. Would I stand up to a stern warning but then back down after being threatened with prison or torture or capital punishment? Would I rejoice that I was counted worthy to suffer for Jesus? Would I continue ministering knowing my very life was in danger?

I hope so and I pray everyday for the faith to stand because what a powerful witness to those who don’t believe; when they see Christians willing to suffer for their faith. Actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to say you are a Christian but when the chips are down, are you really “all in” or are you all smoke and mirrors; just an allusion with no depth.

Your strength to stand depends not on you but on whether you truly believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose that YOU may be forgiven and thus live for ever with him in God’s Kingdom. So go to God in prayer; asking for the faith to stand and witness to the resurrection. Ask for strength and boldness to continue under pressure. And don’t be afraid.

Hold firm and believe in your heart that you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. And when push comes to shove, don’t worry, God will push back.

Have a great day serving and witnessing to our risen Lord and may God be praised forever and ever.

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Boldness

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” [Acts 4:29-30]

There is a lot of opposition to the Gospel in the world today. Civil rights watchdog groups and government organizations are keeping their ears to the ground listening for any rumblings of religious talk in the public square. And when I say “religious talk” I mean Christian. For no other religion seems to be as persecuted as much as Christianity. Even with the stigma that Islam has in the U.S. you still see people being careful about what they say about Islam.

And because of this pressure to conform you often see the Gospel get watered down in order not to offend anyone or Christians backing down and retreating when pressured.

Where is the boldness?
Where is the confidence?
Where is the faith?

As Peter and John were before the council in Acts 4, they were questioned as to where they got their authority to preach what they were preaching. Peter went on to speak with boldness the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The council then gathered to confer; trying to decide what to do with these guys since they couldn’t deny the “noble sign” they performed (healing of a lame man). So the council ordered Peter and John to shut up. They didn’t want this message to spread.

Sound familiar?

Do you have the boldness, confidence and the faith of Peter and John? This faith is nothing otherworldly. Simply look to scripture. Look to God in prayer. Ask for strength to stand firm. Ask for the faith to not water down the Gospel. Ask for the wisdom to speak out. Pray those verses from Acts 4 that I included here and trust that God is with you.

Jesus died for you and rose that you may live. And no one can take that away. Not the government. Not a civil rights watchdog group. No one. Stand strong and speak with all boldness in the name of Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

God’s grace revisited

As I mentioned on Monday, I am working through the book of Acts this month, following the First Lesson for each Sunday.  Last week I preached on Acts 8 – Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.  This Sunday the text is from Acts 10 – Peter and Cornelius.  Both texts deal with the grace of God coming in “usual” circumstances and coming to people that the new church did not expect.

In Acts 10, Cornelius is a Roman centurion who was considered a “God-fearer”.  He did total subscribe to the Jewish faith but was still seeking for God.  Cornelius was generous to the poor and was an example to his family.  It seems that he was on the verge of something but just couldn’t put his finger on it.  Cornelius needed a witness and Peter was it.  So Peter and Cornelius have “visits” from the Spirit and the two eventually meet.  While Peter was proclaiming the Gospel to Cornelius and his family, the Spirit came upon Cornelius’ group and they began speaking in tongues.  Peter and all who were with him were amazed that the Holy Spirit was poured upon Gentiles…of all people.  This was a significant turning point in Acts where the new church realized that Gentiles were also included in the mission of Christ.

After Peter witnesses this amazing event he asks a similar question the Ethiopian Eunuch asked in Acts 8, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?” Or rephrased, “Can anyone keep these people from receiving the grace of God?” Obviously the answer is NO since the Spirit came upon those Gentiles and there wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop it.  The grace of God is for ALL people.

Who around us do we consider “Gentiles”?

Who in our communities do we consider “outside” the church?

Is there anyone we know (or group of people) that we consider unworthy of attention?

Who’s not worth the effort?

In Acts 8 and Acts 10 we see that the mission of Christ does not stop at the “boundaries” of the church building or at the group of people who call themselves the church.  The grace of God extends across boundaries and shatters our expectations.  In Acts 1:8 Jesus says “…and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”

Who are the “Corneliuses” out there that need a witness?

Who is the Spirit leading you to?

Listen and pay attention.  Someone out there needs a witness.


The grace of God

I have been slow to update anything here and for that I apologize.   I guess vacation really threw me off my blogging routine.  Let’s see what we can do to change my past habits.

In any case (enough with the excuses)…I am preaching my way through the Acts texts this month.  After Easter the first lesson is from the books of Acts so I thought I would spend some time here with my congregations.  So far it has been a fun journey.  Yesterday (May 10) the text was from Act 8; Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.  After Philip spends some time sharing the Gospel, the Eunuch sees some water and asks “What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

What a great question…

…but I phrased the question like this yesterday, “What is to prevent me from receiving the grace of God? Ultimately…I believe this is what the Eunuch was really asking.  So I turned the question and threw it back at the congregation and asked them: is there anything that can prevent us from receiving the grace of God? Can sin do it?  Can our dark past or embarrassing secrets do it?  Can hardship?  Well…the (very) short answer is…NO!  Nothing can prevent us from receiving the grace of God.  We may be able to turn our backs on God, but God is not going to stop giving us His grace.

The Ethiopian Eunuch is so overjoyed and blown away by this amazing grace that he returns home praising God.  How could he possibly keep this to himself?  This was indeed amazing grace.  But…is it really amazing grace for us…right now?

I believe the problem with the church today is that we have taken grace for granted.  We are so used to hearing about grace.  We are comforted by songs like “Amazing Grace how Sweet the Sound”.  We discuss grace as a good Bible study topic.  But how often do we really contemplate God’s grace…for us…right now.  I mean think about it…each breath we take is an example of God’s grace.  Each time we wake up in the morning we experience God’s grace.  The birth of a brand new baby is an experience of God’s grace.  And…coming up to the table to receive the body and blood of Jesus is an experience of grace.  But yet we take this for granted.  We should be going through our days overjoyed with what God has done for us.

Nothing can prevent us from receiving the grace of God.  Period.  Don’t take it for granted, rather, praise God always and forever…so much so that people think that you are on something.

God’s grace is indeed amazing…what a sweet, sweet sound.



P.S.  Next Sunday (May 17) is Acts 10…Peter and Cornelius.  I will have some thoughts on this text coming up later.