In Acts 7 Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, has been falsely accused. The High Priest asks, “Are these accusations true?” If Stephen would have simply answered the question he might have been released. “No, they are not true. I have been misunderstood.” End of story.
But Stephen saw a higher purpose, a grand opportunity to present the gospel to this group. So he launched into a lengthy history lesson. His problem: he refused to just answer the question his religious culture was asking. “Yes” or “No”, “True” or “False” – which is it?
He saw “the heavens opened” – a physical manifestation of the spiritual insight he already had. In being attacked he was seeing a spiritual opportunity to confront his religious culture. He was seeing the battle was not against flesh and blood but was a spiritual one. He refused to answer simply “yes” or “no” because deeper, spiritual issues were involved. God had an answer that superseded merely “yes or no”, “for or against”.
I am concerned that when confronting my culture I fail to have the insight of Stephen. I tend to go with the surface answer – just responding to the options culture presents me. I fail to see there is another layer, a deeper purpose, a God answer not just a good answer. Read more
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
A passage that has been echoing in my heart for several months now is this one – Philippians 3:10. Paul says he has a deep desire to know Christ. My response: “What do you mean you want to know Christ?! Surely you know Him better than any man who ever lived.
The other Apostles walked with Him in the flesh and were trained by Him on this earth but you have walked with and were trained by the Glorified Christ in the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) But Paul said he desired to know Him and in fact it was a main priority of his – “this one thing I do”. (Philippians 3:13) Read more
Reading Acts 13 this morning I was impressed again with the phrase “they were ministering to the Lord.”
As a young believer I was reading Psalms and came across the phrase “Bless the Lord”. I stopped. What? Me, bless Him? I knew He could bless me. But me bless Him? Acts 13 is even more unbelievable – they were “ministering” to Him? How do you minister to the all-powerful, transcendent God?
Then I discovered the problem. I was reading one of those new versions. So I got out the trusty old King James to see what those verses really meant. Guess what. They said the same thing – bless the Lord, minister to the Lord. I sat back in my chair astounded. I don’t want to lose that sense of wonder that we, mere specks of dust in the cosmos, can minister to the Creator of it all. What an unbelievable concept. We can please Him. We can “grieve” Him. What we do impacts Him emotionally. Think about that. What you do today makes a difference in the heart of God. Isn’t that unbelievable?!!
(Zeph 3:17, Eph 4:30, Gen 6:6, Is 62:5)
We couldn’t know that if He hadn’t told us in His Word. Obviously He wants us to know that we matter to Him. We matter so much that what we do touches His heart. We can make His day – or grieve Him. So, I have a choice today – and every day. Will I bring a smile to the heart of God today or be a source of sorrow for Him?
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
It’s easy for fear to grab your heart when the news is stories about economic collapse, nuclear arms in the hands of nut-case leaders, Iran threatening to annihilate Israel, Russia rebuilding while the US is downsizing. No wonder people love pictures of kittens cuddling dogs and squirrels pushing strollers. In comparison to reality it appears sane and normal.
But look at this surprising thing Jesus said and notice something really interesting:
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. (Mark 13:7)
“Those things must take place”. In other words, this is all part of the plan. God is still in control, all this evil is not only under His control but it is a necessary part of His plan. Did you catch that, a necessary part, they must take place, it needs to be this way for His purpose to be fulfilled.
That is great news! It is not the wacky leaders who are in control. All power still belongs to Jesus and He loans it to those He chooses to use to accomplish His purposes. These things “must take place” so these leaders, which seem to be out of control, and their maniacal agendas are just part of His plan.
I don’t have to worry and fret (in fact, doing so won’t change a thing) because this is all part of His pre-determined plan. God is still at the helm, things are under control and He was aware of all “those things” at least 2000 years ago. So take a deep breath, let it out slowly and rest in peace knowing He is still on the throne. I don’t know what my future holds but I know Who holds my future. Therefore, fear has no place because the Peace of God sits enthroned in my heart.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
There are a lot of weird names on the internet. Does only a yahoo use Yahoo? What the heck is a Mopho.to? Perhaps most amazing of all is how a company named Google not only survived, but even added a verb to the world-wide vocabulary – “Google it.”
Imagine creating a business so huge it becomes a new international word. That is amazing! When I mentioned that, someone responded, “They’re pretty successful”. “Hmmmm”, I wondered, “Are they successful or merely amazing?”
Do the founders have spouses and children that love and admire them? Do they have time in their lives to enjoy the journey, to drink in the beauty around them? Do they have life-long friends that trust them and would go to bat for them? Are their hearts at peace with God and man? If they died today what would people say characterized their life? Would the talk just be about a business they built or about people they impacted? Do they have a “good name” or did they sacrifice integrity on the altar of achievement?
I have no idea about the people behind Google (and don’t care so spare me any insights). The point is it is easy to think a big name, a big business, recognition by the masses or a huge bank account means we are successful. It’s easy to daily flush our lives away chasing things that ultimately prove to be hollow.
I don’t want to be like the guy who fought all his life to climb the ladder of success only to discover when he reached the top that he had placed the ladder against the wrong wall. Let me encourage you to evaluate where your life is headed. Are you doing things that add up to a successful life? Don’t be a yahoo! And if you aren’t sure what that means… Google it!
1 Corinthians 3:13-14
But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.
The Lord said to Moses, “.. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses … gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
Even though Moses disobeyed and struck the rock instead of speaking to it God performed a miracle and blessed the people. It is easy to assume, when we see miracles or great things happening in a ministry or through a minister, that it is God’s seal of approval upon that ministry. Obviously miracles, growing budgets or burgeoning pews can’t be taken as a sign of God’s approval of all that is happening in a ministry. Think of the many national church leaders who have fallen in the last number of years. Most were seeing great things happen in their churches even while they were wallowing in sin. Read more
Categories: Micah, Numbers
Psalm 101:7, 8
No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.
Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord.
I absolutely love this passage. Here’s why. A number of years ago my family was enduring a brutal time. The church I pastored had severe financial pressures (we had nothing to do with creating the debt we just “inherited” the consequences of someone else’s “faith”).
I had outspoken critics in the congregation who with syrupy sweetness regularly told me all I was doing wrong as a pastor. (The most vocal of them had been saved almost 3 years so surely had great insight into church leadership.) Some of the critics were self-proclaimed prophets who would spout as “the Word of the Lord” any bird-brained idea that flitted through the canyons of their cranium. Others thought nothing of slandering me and harassing my kids because they actually acted like children. Though their children were in rebellion and running from God, they knew exactly how “pastor’s kids” should be raised. Read more
Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume.
But Judas Iscariot said, “That perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
Jesus knew Judas was stealing from the group yet He didn’t call him on it. He let Judas get away with it. Dang, I hate that about God. He let’s scoundrels get away with their scoundreling. He let’s jerks get away with their jerkiness. People may stab you in the back and instead of God bringing down the hammer of justice – He blesses them! Read more
Categories: John, Matthew
When we sow a seed of sin it promises pleasure and it delivers. There is immediate gratification or we would not be tempted by it. But that short-lived rush of reward is followed by a long term harvest of guilt, insecurity and often pain, not only for us but for countless others as the waves of sin’s impact spread. Once we start the wave we lose control of how big or far reaching it will be. Sometimes we can do nothing but stand back and watch in horror as it builds into a tsunami of destruction rolling over our loved ones and even innocent bystanders. Read more
Categories: Galatians, James
Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.
I’ve been fooled. I listened to one side of a story and because I trusted and respected the person, I believed what they told me was accurate. “They wouldn’t lie to me”, I reasoned. However, experience has taught me even mature Christians often present a side which “sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.”
With an arrogant attitude she informed me, “My Dad refused to sign the disciplinary notice and he said he doesn’t care what you do about it.” I was principal of a Christian school and the high school girl had been brought to my office. I felt a twinge of anger rising up at Dad’s refusal to cooperate. We were bending over backwards to help get his daughter on the right path and he was refusing to cooperate. I called him but … I had been coached to always go into these conversation like a cat, gently. You can always turn into a bear later if you have to but start quietly, calmly. (Proverbs 15:1, 25:15) Read more