E-Message Bible/Commentary

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

ACTS
The Disciples Were Grounded
While staying with them, he ORDERED them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. (Acts 1:4)

Stay where you are. Stay put. Don't leave. But wait! And you will receive the promise of the Father. And all of God's promises are Yea and Amen! Jesus knew what would happen if His disciples scattered and went their separate ways, so He grounded them! He ordered them to stay confined to one place - Jerusalem. Jesus knew how powerful prayers would be if all were together on one accord.

Being grounded isn't all bad. When we are grounded, we have time to think, to meditate, to be still and know that God is Lord (Psalm 46:10). In our hectic lives, we should remember what Jesus ordered His disciples to do: to stay put. Sometimes we need to just stay put and reflect on the goodness of God. If we run out of things to think about, consider (1) Who God is; (2) What God has done; (3) What God will do.

Being grounded has value. Rather than sending your children to their rooms, why don't you go to yours instead?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
Final Instructions
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 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 Samara, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:4, 8)

When a boss goes on vacation, he leaves instructions for those who will run the company in his absence. When a parent leaves home, she gives instructions to the children so the house will still be intact when she returns.  In the first chapter of Acts, our Lord and Savior gives the disciples final instructions before He ascends to heaven. His final instructions are unlike those we give. However, we can learn the principles and use them the next time we give instructions.
 
The final instructions of Jesus are given THROUGH the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:2) Make sure what you tell people to do is through the power of the Holy Spirit and not through your own flesh.

The final instructions of Jesus start out with something NOT to do. "Do not leave Jerusalem." Make sure your instructions include what not to do.

The final instructions of Jesus include what to do. "Wait for the gift My Father promised." Your instructions telling someone what to do should be related to what you have told them not to do. Refrain from giving a list of unrelated do's and don'ts.

The final instructions of Jesus give a promise. "In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Give people something to look forward to. This will motivate them.

The final instructions of Jesus give a result. "But you will receive power." Most people want to know "What's in it for me?" Make sure you remind them of personal benefits.

The final instructions of Jesus give an orderly procedure. "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

You must admit these instructions are specific, concise, orderly, to the point, with a promise, and personal benefits.  If those under your authority are not following your instructions, could it be that your method needs improvement? Follow the above example, and you are guaranteed to get better results immediately from your employees, children, spouses, and parishioners. Try it and see.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Power to Do God's Work
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. (Acts 1:8)

Do you try to do things on your own without hearing from God? If so, you will discover that the task becomes challenging and difficult. It is better to wait to be empowered to do God's work. There is no power in that which God does not permit.

Case in point: In 1998, I asked God to show me how to reach the masses to teach His word. I heard one word: E-MESSAGES! That was 1800 messages ago. God prepared me to serve Him through E-Messages that are read around the world by people I know and by some people I will not meet until we get to heaven. The ministry would not have survived had it not been ordained and empowered by God.

Because it was God who gave the permission and the power, an E-Message is written and is sent to thousands of subscribers every weekday without fail. What has kept this E-Message Ministry alive when similar ministries have failed? The answer is in Acts 1:8. The power to do God's work came from God Himself.

There is absolutely no way you can serve God's people without God's power to do so. If you are thinking about starting a ministry or working in any capacity for God, consider first doing the following:  #1 Seek God's face and ask Him what He would have you to do. Don't step out into anything until God has given you the green light. Remember, God gives power to that which He permits. #2 When God gives you a specific assignment, do not modify it. Follow the instructions to the letter. God is an orderly God. #3 Be a good steward over that which God has entrusted into your care. Be dedicated, faithful, committed and consistent.

When you follow the above advice for your own ministry, you will understand why the power of God has been in each E-Message from  #1 "Seize the Day" (September 1998) to #1800 "Power to Do God's Work" (April 22, 2005). Had these been sermons from the pulpit, it would have been 35 years of preaching.

Again, God is not obligated to empower that which He does not permit!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Silent Witness Week
And you shall be witnesses unto me . . . (Acts 1:8)


Christians are asked to participate in a national witnessing event during Holy Week, April 1-8. “Silent Witness Week” will be an opportunity for Christians to share the meaning of the resurrection with friends, family and even total strangers. Christians are asked to wear a lapel button next week that reads, “Easter: He Lives!”

The outreach is called "Silent Witness Week" because many Christians are nervous about initiating a conversation about the Gospel. This way, even if nothing is said verbally, the message on the lapel pin will speak volumes. And if someone asks about the message of the resurrection, the Christian will have an open door through which to share his or her faith.

Imagine thousands of Christians wearing this testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a non-intrusive manner. This button will lead to countless opportunities to share the Gospel. When you see others wearing the button just like the one you are wearing, you will know that the two of you have more in common than the button. You both serve the risen Lord!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

How Are You Wired?
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . . (Acts 1:8a)

We are all made in God's own image, but we all have different personalities and passions. Why does one person have a deep passion for preaching, another for teaching and yet another for missions? While God has commanded us all to spread His word, some find it easy and comforting to do; yet others find it to be a chore. In other words, we are wired for specific tasks. When we try to perform a task we are not wired to do, there is no electricity; there is absolutely no power. A special wire must be connected to our likes and dislikes, attitudes and personalities that makes us passionate about the task we are to perform.

Some people go years and years without fulfilling their God-given mission. Then they give up everything to go into ministry full time. That's why attorneys, doctors and executives leave lucrative jobs to go into ministry. It is because a certain wire has finally slipped into place. A connection is made, sparks fly, and they can teach, preach and witness with power!

How are you wired? What do you have a passion to do? Hopefully, your wire will soon connect with God and you will go full force with a ministry using your gifts in a passionate way.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Unfinished Business
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The mission of spreading the gospel has already taken place in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, but it has not spread to the uttermost parts of the earth. The gospel of the saving power of Jesus Christ has not reached its final destination if someone in your family, your workplace, your school, or your community has not heard about Jesus Christ. The task of spreading the gospel is still to be done. That task, started by Paul and the apostles, is still the unfinished business of the church. 

We may attend church services, worship, praise and pray, but if we are not witnesses to the gospel of Jesus, then we have unfinished business to do.  When is the last time you led someone to Christ?  When is the last time you prayed with a co-worker and told him/her about the goodness of God?  Have you ever witnessed to a stranger?  If not, you have unfinished business to do.

Stop waiting for others to spread the gospel.  This mandate is for ALL of us.  So, let's get up off the pews and out into the vineyards because "the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37).
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Experience the Power of God
But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection. (Acts 1:8)

How do we experience the power of God? We experience the power of God through the Holy Spirit. God in His orderly wisdom ordained it that way. The first step is to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior to come to God the Father (John 14:6). When Jesus ascended to heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit that would be with us to empower us and guide us into all truths. Jesus kept His promise. At Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), the Holy Spirit was made available to all who believe in Jesus. When we receive Christ by faith, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within us at that very moment. Instantly, the Holy Spirit begins a lifelong process of change, drawing us into a close personal relationship with God and making us more like Christ (Philippians 1:6).

How do you experience the power of God? Through God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Dramatic Exit
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus had talked about His departure, but He never told His disciples exactly how He would go back home. His disciples still had not grasped the significance of all He had taught them. Jesus' ascension may have been a final vivid object lesson that He was leaving the physical world and returning to spiritual realms. His extraordinary departure helped the disciples proclaim Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of heaven.

The disciples stood gazing up at the sky as Jesus disappeared, but two angels assured them that Jesus would one day return in the same manner in which He had departed; in the same resurrected body and in clouds and "great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

We were not there when Jesus made His dramatic exit. By faith we believe we will witness and be part of His dramatic return. We can be assured of this because of our righteous living.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Cloud; Not Clouds
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)

Why was it important for the disciples to have seen with their own eyes that Jesus was taken into heaven? They would know without a doubt that Jesus was who He said He was. They would know what He had taught them was exactly as He had said. They would have no doubt that He was God, and He was returning home to heaven. Also, seeing the ascension with their own eyes was like a down-payment on the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit sent by God after Jesus' arrival in heaven.

Why, then, did a cloud instead of clouds hide Him from their sight? The answer is quite simple. They could see Him longer as He ascended farther into the sky though one cloud versus many clouds obstructing their view. This was Jesus' final lesson for them -- a vivid object lesson that He was leaving the physical world and returning to a spiritual realm. His demonstrative departure helped the disciples to see Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of heaven.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, witnessed the ascension. She was with the disciples as they waited for the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit in the upper room. Mary is not mentioned any more in the Bible because her purpose had been fulfilled. Notice, when Jesus came as a human, He came through a human agent. When He ascended, He needed no assistance from anyone. And He was not hidden by clouds ... only a cloud!

How will He return? "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) Hallelujah!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Going Home Again
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.  (Acts 1:9-10)

Thomas Wolfe's classic "You Can't Go Home Again" is based on the concept that after a person leaves home, he or she can never return and find things the same again. His logic was that once you leave home to go away to college, to get married, to go into the armed forces, or to move out of the house for other reasons that you can never go back to the things the way they were before. For instance, your room has probably been given to a younger sibling. Your place at the table is now being occupied by someone else. Even your chores have been divided up among the rest of the family. Not only that, but your old friends have moved away so you can't even get together with them as you have done so many times before. Everything has changed. Things aren't like they used to be. In that sense, you can never go home again.

In another sense, you can go home again. Robert Frost wrote in his poem "The Death of the Hired Man" that home is where when you go they have to take you in.  After spending 33 years on earth in human form, Jesus went home again after His work on earth was completed. In His final address to His disciples, He said He had finished the work He had come to do.  He went home again, and His Father received Him. He now sits on the right hand of His Father, but He will return again to gather up all those who have steadfastly followed His commandments.

When Jesus returns, He will take the faithful ones home with Him. Are you included in that number?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Waiting For His Return
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. (Luke 24:51) "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going . . . This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:10-11)

Do you remember when you were young and your parents went into town to shop? They would say, "You all behave yourselves until I get back." While they were gone, you did everything you were big enough to do, and then when you thought it was time for them to return, you straightened up the mess you had made of the house and tried to put everything back in order before they returned. Then you started looking up and down the road, listening for the sound of their car as you pressed your nose against the window pane. So many times you thought it was them, but the car kept past your house. You waited and waited for what seems to be an eternity.  Then you and your sisters and brothers began to play games to make the time go faster.  You counted the cars as they passed by, or you looked to see how many white cars, or red cars, or black cars passed . . . anything to occupy yourselves until your parents arrived. And then, they did.  Just as they said they would. And they brought you that bag of popcorn or that "Sugar Daddy" or that "Tootsie Roll" just as they promised.

Well, Jesus is coming back. Before He left, He told us to behave ourselves.  But if you are acting up and misbehaving and playing games, it is time to get right for His return.  Because He will come back just as He left.  And when He goes, he will bring us much more than popcorn and candy.  He will bring us HIMSELF. "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 How Do You See Jesus?
This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)

Our response to anything is how we see it. How do you see Jesus whose birth you celebrated at Christmas? Do you still see Jesus as a baby still in the nativity scene? If so, your view of Jesus is quite limited. Your Jesus is still wrapped in swaddling clothes.
 
Do you see Jesus as that twelve year old in the temple asking questions from the scribes? If so, you are only in amazement over Jesus' intellect.
 
Do you see Jesus as a miracle worker who fed the multitudes with a meager meal? If so, you see Jesus as one who can give you things and perform miracles.
 
Do you see Jesus as the Son of God who was both human and divine? Do you see Jesus as one sent by God as a baby who grew up to teach, preach and heal? Do you see Jesus as one who died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead to save you from your sins? Do you see Jesus as God's Son sitting at His right hand making intercessions for you? If so, you are seeing Jesus as the only one who has gone from glory to a manger, from a manger to a cross, from a cross to a tomb, from a tomb back to glory and from glory to your heart! 
 
Your response to Jesus depends on how you see Him.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Who Was Matthias?
 May another take his place of leadership. (Acts 1:20b)

While Jesus was alive he had twelve disciples to learn from him and to follow him. Question: After the death of Jesus, why was it necessary for a replacement for Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and later died himself? Originally Jesus chose twelve disciples to parallel the twelve tribes of Israel. One would think after Jesus' death it would not have mattered any longer.

After Jesus' death a replacement was necessary for one main reason: to fulfill the scriptures. It had been prophesied that one would desert Jesus and another would take his place of leadership (Psalm 109:8). All scriptures will be fulfilled.

Matthias had all the qualifications to be a disciple: (1) He had been a follower of Jesus from the beginning of Jesus' ministry; and (2) He had witnessed the resurrection. Another person, Justus, also was qualified. The decision came through two means: (1) prayer and (2) casting lots. The lot fell to Matthias, so he was added to the eleven. By the way, this was the last time lots were cast in the Bible and no further mention of Matthias. But the scriptures HAD to be fulfilled.

Because of your faithfulness to Jesus, would you have been a likely replacement?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Making Wise Decisions
And they prayed, and said, You Lord, who knows the hearts of all, show whether of these two men you have chosen. (Acts 1:24)

In the above scriptures, the apostles had to choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot. They outlined specific criteria for making the choice. When the "finalists" had been chosed, the apostles prayed, asking God to guide the selection process. This gives us a good example of how to proceed when we are making important decisions.

First, we need to set up criteria consistent with biblical principles. Second, examine the alternatives. Third, pray for wisdom and guidance to rech a wise decision.  Then, go for it with confidence that you have done the right thing.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 
Forty Years in the Wilderness vs. Ten Days in the Upper Room
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron" (Exodus 16:2).
Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1).

Have you ever wondered why the wandering in the wilderness was so long and the stay in the upper room was so short? While in the wilderness, the Israelites murmured and complained so much that an eleven day trip was lengthened to a forty year journey. On the other hand, the early Christian believers were gathered together with one accord in the upper room as instructed by Jesus. They did not complain and murmur as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Instead "these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14). Their stay was only ten days before the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost.

When we murmur and complain concerning a situation, the time is indeed extended far beyond measure. However, when we are all together with one accord praying and supplicating, the time is shortened by a substantial proportion.

If you are waiting to see the hand of God on your life, you may either complain in the wilderness or pray in the upper room. The choice is yours. Which will you choose?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Drunken Christians
"As she kept praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine." (1 Samuel 1:12-14)  "These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!" (Acts 2:15)

What do these two incidents have in common? Hannah prayed so fervently that Eli thought she was drunk, but she wasn't. The apostles on the Day of Pentecost were so caught up in praise and worship that others thought they were drunk, but they weren't. How then can praying, praising and worshipping God be mistaken for drunkenness?

When a person become drunk by alcohol or drugs, all inhibitions are eliminated and the person does what he or she would not ordinarily be bold enough to do. When the Spirit of God has been poured out, as spoken by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28), one becomes intoxicated and loses all consciousness of self while being moved by the Holy Spirit. With the surrender of self, the Holy Spirit takes over completely. To some this might look like the person is drunk.

Alcohol and drugs are not needed for Christians to get drunk. They can get drunk from praying, praising and worshipping God. "Devoted Christians" are usually "Drunken Christians," without the headaches or hangovers.
________________________________________________________________________________________________

Miracle? Sign? Or Wonder?
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." (Acts 2:22)

Miracles, signs and wonders happen around us all the time.  Do you know the difference?

A miracle is whatever goes against the laws of nature. For example, Jesus walking on water was a miracle. The law of nature says that if you try to walk on water, you will sink. Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding of Cana when he changed water into wine (John 2:1-11). The law of nature says water is not wine until it is processed into such. Recognize the miracles God performs in your life because of His grace and His love for you.

A sign is whatever points to a deeper revelation. The sign is not the revelation itself. A sign indicates that something greater will soon develop. John the Baptist's death was a sign that Jesus' death was approaching. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus in birth, baptizing, and preaching. Therefore, it is not hard to see John's death as a sign that Jesus' death would soon follow.  

A wonder is anything that causes us to be in awe. It evokes amazement and most times joy. It is something wonderful that makes us wonder.

Now that you know the difference, recognize the many miracles, signs and wonders that often show up in your own life.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Preaching That Kills; Preaching That Saves
The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand people died. (Exodus 32:28)  Those who heard Peter's message were saved and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)

When Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the tablets from God, Aaron and the people below were "carrying on their sensual, idolatrous feast." In righteous anger, Moses broke the tablets of the law as a witness of what the people had already done (broken the law). Some of the people never stopped carrying on in Moses' presence as he related to them what God said. The Bible says they were "out of control." God commanded Moses to have loyal followers slay those who refused to stop partying. The tribe of Levi responded and slayed the party animals with swords. Even close relatives were not spared.  Here the Law brought death to three thousand people.

The first time the Law was preached 3,000 people were killed (Ex. 32:28).  The first sermon preached after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 3,000 were saved (Acts 2:41). At Sinai, 3,000 people died. At Pentecost the gospel of grace brought salvation to 3,000 people.  What a contrast!
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

What is True Fellowship?
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

Fellowship is the act of sharing things in common with others.  That includes any interest, activity, feeling or experience.
 
Fellowship is a gift from God. If believers share God and the things of God, fellowship should come easy. All believers can grow in grace by having a personal relationship with God and by fellowshipping with others. That includes praying together, singing together, studying the Word of God together, praising God together and worshipping together.
 
Fellowship is a gift to others. Everybody benefits when believers gather together to share their faith and to give testimonies about God's love.
 
In each of the above examples, the focus is on God. Therefore, unless God is involved, there is NO fellowship. If a group of people go bowling and leave God behind, it is not fellowship. It is just a group of people going bowling. If a group of people go on a bus trip and call it fellowship, unless God has been invited to go along, it is just a bus trip no matter what they call it.
 
When church people go into their "Fellowship Hall" to have meetings or to share a meal, unless God has been invited, it is not fellowship. Going into the Fellowship Hall doesn't automatically turn the activity into fellowship just as going on a train track doesn't automatically turn someone into a train.
 
If you want your gatherings to be true fellowship, then God MUST be invited to the sessions. God and only God can change any ordinary activity into true fellowship.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Excerpt from The Spiritual Significance of Eating
(A book by Rev. Margaret Minnicks)

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Eating, as a universal daily requirement, becomes a medium for social relationships that creates and maintains community. When we come together to eat in table fellowship, we come together to feast not only with one another but also with God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift — including food.

People are social beings and like to belong. When we share a common meal we symbolically demonstrate the spiritual truth that we are most complete when we are together. In essence, an invitation communicates a need to belong, at least for the duration of the meal. 

When you invite someone to share a meal with you, you are saying, "I care about you." When people break bread together, barriers of all kinds disappear, and bonds are made. That is one of the reasons most dates include the sharing of a meal quite early in the relationship. Business deals are made while eating. Church activities end with a meal of some kind. And we know Jesus sat and ate with many in the New Testament, including eating with his disciples during the Last Supper in the upper room.

Why not share a meal with someone today?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Making Eye Contact
Peter fastening his eyes on him with John, said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention. (Acts 3:4-5a)

Peter and John went to the temple at three o'clock to pray. A beggar asked them for money. Peter surprised the beggar by saying, "Look at us!"  The beggar was accustomed to people putting money in his tin cup and keep walking without looking at him.

How many times have you spoken to a person without making eye contact? Some people speak and ask the usual question, "How are you?" but do they really care? If so, they don't show it unless they make eye contact. Your eyes are the windows of your soul, and they do express what's in your heart. Unless you make eye contact, you are implying that you have no compassion and you merely asked, "How are you?" out of habit. Also, it is believed that when you don't make eye contact, you have something to hide.

It is unlawful to make eye contact in some countries because if a man makes eye contact with a woman, it is to admit that she exists. And women are non-existent without rights. We are free to make eye contact, so let's do it!

Make eye contact (1) to let people know you care; (2) to express the compassion in your heart; (3) to be exposed and not give the impression you are hiding something; and (4) to let people know you do not deny their existence.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Making An Impression or Making An Impact?
But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)

It is true that all of us want to make a good impression when we do a presentation, teach, or preach. We want to do what is pleasing in the sight of those who see and hear us. It is part of our nature to prepare ourselves so that we can make a good impression. However, there is something more important than making a good impression. We should strive to make an impact.  So, what's the difference? Thanks for asking.

An impression is anything that gives only a vague, temporary bird's eye view of a subject. That's why the painters, writers, and other artists of the Impressionism Period provided works of arts and literature that captured a momentary glimpse of reality. Impressions don't last. They are valid for a short time only. If you are not sure about that, with your finger press hard on your arm to make an impression. By the time you have finished reading this message, the impression would have disappeared.

An impact, on the other hand, is the power of something or someone that moves the feelings of others and produces change in their lives. There is force behind an impact. Impressions don't change lives; impacts do! And that's the major difference. Anybody can make an impression; only godly people can make a positive impact. Ask yourself: "Am I making an impression or an impact?" "Am I merely making an impression on people or am I impacting their lives because of what I do and what I say?"
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dealing With Problems
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  (Acts 4:29)

The Apostles were forbidden to teach in the name of Jesus.  But we see from this scripture how these believers prayed.  They did not pray for the threats to stop.  Instead, they prayed that they may be empowered to deal with them.  First, they praised God. Then they told God their specific problem and asked for help.  Notice they did not ask God to remove the problem, but to help them deal with it. This is a model for us to follow when we pray. We may ask God to remove our problems, and He may choose to do so. But we must recognize that often God will leave the problem in place and give us the strength to deal with it.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Stretching the Truth
Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?" When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. About three hours later his wife came in, and Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. (Acts 5:1-11)

Did Ananias and Sapphira deserve to die for one lie? If all who lied were struck down today, who would be left on earth? Perhaps this happened to Ananias and Sapphira because they voluntarily sold land after Barnabas had been guided by the Holy Spirit to do so, and he was highly recognized. Ananias and Sapphira did it on their own for selfish reasons; for recognition and accolades. Therefore, after selling the land, their hearts were not in it to give all the money to the church as promised. So, they kept back some of the money for themselves. In order to root out the lies, deception and hypocrisy in the young church, they both were struck down dead. Great fear seized the whole church, and this was never reported to have happened again.

What about our lies? What happens when we "stretch the truth"? Lying is sin no matter what form it comes in. There is no such thing as "a little white lie." A lie is a lie even when complimenting people just to make them feel better. For instance, if that hairstyle or tie is weird, don't lie and say it looks nice. Why sin against God for something so unnecessary? You really don't have to say anything at all, but if you MUST say something, you could politely describe what you see, "Your hairstyle/tie really is different...unique...colorful...etc." You have NOT lied (even if you don't like it). Actually, when you say, "I like it" you have NOT complimented the other person anyway. You are merely describing your own taste.

Whenever you have the urge to lie, stop minimizing it by saying you are just "stretching the truth." Lying is condemned by the Bible (Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25). It is wrong because it is contrary to the nature of God (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) and because it shows a person is not in touch with reality (Romans 1:25; I John 1:6).

Tell the truth or don't say anything at all.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our Shadow
 . . . so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5:15)

A shadow is what is seen when the sun is shining on a person or an object.  Therefore, a shadow is that which the light has cast.  We should walk in such a way that others will want to walk in our shadow.  We should be the example that others want to follow. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in the process of "shadowing."   People do watch us. Sometimes they want to imitate us.  Daughters take on the characteristics of their mothers. Sons sometimes imitate their fathers.  People at work notice your reactions to all kinds of situations.  And sometimes they want to be like you.  In our community, our neighbors observe us and some want to be like us.

Is your life worthy of shadowing? Does your example lead others in the right direction? If you really want to be a worthy example for others, then you need to shadow the Savior.  In order to cast a good shadow, you must walk in God's light.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do You Cast A Good Shadow?
 . . . so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5:15)

A shadow is what is seen when the sun is shining on a person or an object.  Therefore, a shadow is that which the light has cast.  We should walk in such a way that others will want to walk in our shadow.  We should be the example that others want to follow. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in the process of "shadowing."  People do watch us. Sometimes they want to imitate us.  Daughters take on the characteristics of their mothers. Sons sometimes imitate their fathers.  People at work notice your reactions to all kinds of situations.  And sometimes they want to be like you.  In our community, our neighbors observe us and some want to be like us.

Is your life worthy of shadowing? Does your example lead others in the right direction? If you really want to be a worthy example for others, then you need to shadow the Savior.  In order to cast a good shadow, you must walk in God's light.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dying to Tell
Then someone came and said, "Look!" The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people." (Acts 5:25)

Has someone ever come to you with really good news and said, "I am dying to tell you this"? Have you ever said, "I am dying to know what happened"?

Throughout the Bible we find people who were dying to tell about the saving power of Jesus Christ. The Book of Acts records how Peter, Paul and others were imprisoned for sharing the gospel because they were willing to die to tell the story. Because they could not keep their mouths shut and were dying to tell, many of them did die. Stephen was stoned. Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded. Jesus Himself was dying to tell, and He proved it when He was crucified on the cross.

Think about this statement whenever you say, "I am dying to tell."
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Limited Favor
Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:29)

A sure way to miss God's blessings is to be caught up in receiving approval and pats on the back from men. If you are ever in the situation where you have a choice of choosing between God and men, CHOOSE GOD!

Choosing is not always easy. Supposed you have always dreamed of becoming an actor/actress? After all your hard work and waiting, you finally got the chance to go to Hollywood to be in a movie that is sure to be a success. The movie is rated X and you will have to do things that are definitely immoral. What choice would you make? Supposed you had been struggling all your life to make ends meet, and finally you had an opportunity to be the recipient of $50,000 for doing something against God? What choice would you make? Would you rationalize or compromise just this once?

Like the apostles of the early church, do not hesitate to make the right choice; to do what God is telling you to do. Make a commitment to always follow God. If you obey men, you will have limited favor. When you obey God, you have God's favor and He will cause men to have favor with you. Want limited favor: choose men! Want unlimited favor? Choose God.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dying to Tell
This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. (Acts 6:13)

Have you ever heard the expressions, "I'm dying to tell this" or I'm going to explode (burst) unless I tell this"? Well, Stephen had such a story.  He had a story he had to tell. In fact, it cost him his life. The story Stephen told before his death was no new story, no made-up story. It was one that was well known to his audience. Stephen went back to the beginning of time and recounted everything that had happened in Jewish history up to the present time.

Stephen was stoned to death because the Jews were tired of hearing the same story. They had heard it over and over again, but they were not living by the principles of the story. Stephen understood the story and lineage of Jesus including his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. He wanted others to know and understand that story as well. Stephen had a story he was dying to tell. And died, he did! But the story continues. Has Stephen died in vain? Are you willing to continue telling the same story about the saving power of Jesus? Be willing to die telling the story!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

What to Do While Standing in Line
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55-56)

Every place we go we have to stand in line for service...at the grocery checkout, in the department store, in the post office, at the bank, and even at the toll booth. Standing in line is a way of life for us, and some of us take it in stride. However, some people don't. They become fidgeted and constantly look at their watches. They should know it is only 30 seconds later than the last time they checked them.

Some good exercises to do while standing in line are: (1) Pray for all the people around you. They will feel the power of your prayers and will become calm. (2) See how many times you can recite Psalms 23 or the Lord's Prayer before it is your turn to be checked out. (3) Watch the countenance of people and when you see a frown, ask God to bless that person so that the frown will become a smile. (4) Recite spiritual warfare scriptures or any of your favorite scriptures.
And when you have done all these things, you will be surprised to note how soon the cashier will say to you, "Next."

We have to stand in line for services on earth, but here is some good news. For those who belong to God, there is no standing in line to get into heaven. Accept Jesus Christ as Savior of your soul and Lord of your life. Instead of your having to stand in line, Jesus will stand to welcome you into heaven just as he welcomed Stephen (Acts 7:55-56).
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Go Where God Sends You!
But as for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, "Go over to the road that runs from Jerusalem through the Gaza Desert, arriving around noon." (Acts 8:26)

Sometimes God leads us out of our current situation to take us to places that would serve His purpose more effectively.  We might not understand it at first, but we must trust God that His plan is better.  We could be succeeding where we are, but God might take us in a different direction; even into the desert as was the case with Philip.

Philip was having a successful preaching ministry leading the despised people of Samaria (Acts 8:5-8), but he obediently left that ministry to follow God's direction to a desert road where he met the Ethiopian eunuch. Because Philip went where God sent him, Ethiopia was opened up to the gospel. Follow God's leading, even if it seems like a demotion. At first you may not understand His plans, but the results will prove that God's way is right. After all, He is God!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

What Is Required Of Us
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.  Then Philip opened his mouth, and began preaching Jesus to him. (Acts 8:30-31; 35)

As an Old Testament professor at one of the local community colleges, I have to send out my syllabus to the students at least two weeks prior to the beginning of class.  When they read it and see what their requirements are, they panic.  The telephone calls and e-mails begin to pour in.  They are overwhelmed so much about what their requirements are that they misread and embellish what is actually there.

The first night of class I ask them to trust me that the requirements are not as monumental as they think.  I go over the syllabus with them explaining every bit of it in detail.  Then they begin to feel a little at ease.  When the first test comes and after they pass it, they feel even better and more confident about their requirements.

When you pick up the Bible to read, you might think the same things. You might think the requirements set by God are too much for you to handle.  The tests are too much for you to pass.  The living according to His Word is impossible.  If you are thinking like that, perhaps you would feel better after you started attending a local Bible Study.  Some things must be explained to you before you can understand them. After they are explained by an anointed Bible teacher, you will begin to see that understanding the Bible is not that difficult after all, and living it is much easier than you could have ever imagined. Try it and find out for yourself!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Redirect Your Energy
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1)

Energy is a gift from God. Some of us use that gift for things other than to promote the kingdom of God. Some of us use all our energy on worldly things and are too tired to serve God by worshipping Him in our local churches on the Sabbath. Some of us use precious energy being negative when that same energy could be redirected to being positive.

Saul used negative energy to persecute the Christians before he had his conversion experience on the Demascus Road. After meeting the risen Lord, he redirected his energy into preaching to Christians, the same group he had formerly persecuted.

We should learn take a lesson from Saul who became Paul and wrote 13 books of the New Testament because of his redirected energy. Let us remember to redirect our energy to the things of God that will give us eternal rewards rather than continuing to use energy to promote those things that are negative and temporal.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Your Damascus Road Experience
Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:3-5)

Saul was converted as he was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians who had scattered there. He thought what he was doing was a good thing. At that time he thought it was blasphemous to follow Jesus who had proclaimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God.

Saul's Damascus Road experience was dramatic and traumatic. Yet, he recounted it three times in the Book of Acts. God blinded him for three days in order for him to be   purged of all his wrong beliefs so that he could see spiritually. Saul's name was changed to Paul, and he went on to write over half of the New Testament proclaiming Jesus is Lord.

Your Damascus Road experience might not have been as dramatic or traumatic as Saul's, but from time to time go back and reflect on your own conversion experience. Thank God  that He saved you from your sinful ways and cancelled your ticket to hell.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Saulness" Exchanged to "Paulness"
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4)

When considering who made the most drastic change in the Bible, most people immediately think of Saul of Tarsus. Saul is known for having persecuted the church. He met the risen Lord on the Damascus Road and became Paul, an apostle of Christ and a missionary of the early church.

Every one of us has some "Saulness" within us. Saul is first heard of in the Bible in Acts 7:58 when Stephen was stoned. Saul did not take part in that act, but "the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul." Thus the seed was planted. Our "Saulness" begins when an evil seed is planted within us.

Paul later says in his own words in Acts 22:20: "I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him." Saul becomes involves in a passive way. Our involvement in wickedness might start by giving approval to someone else's sin.

Acts 9 illustrates the major turning point in Saul's life. Because Saul was so focused and thorough in his missions, "he asked for letters to the synagogue in Damascus so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or woman, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem" (Acts 9:2). Here we have a mixture of right and wrong. Our "Saulness" is like that. In the midst of our wrongness, we try to substantiate it by "going about a wrong thing in the right way."

Paul says in Galatians 1:13, "I persecuted the church beyond measure and tried to destroy it."  At the height of Saul's campaign of persecuting the church, he was confronted on the road to Damascus by the risen Lord.  In an instant his life was changed. God blinded Saul for three days. That was enough time for Saul to be purged from his "Saulness." "Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized" (Acts 9:18).  We cannot exchange our "Saulness" to "Paulness" on our own. Notice Saul became helpless before he could become helpful. He went from Saul persecuting the church to Paul preaching to the church.

There is noticeable evidence after God exchanges our "Saulness" to "Paulness." Like Saul, we must first meet and have an encounter with Jesus.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

No Need to Kick Against the Pricks
And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." (Some Bibles say, "It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.") (Acts 9:5; 26:14)

A goad or prick is a sharpened metal point on the end of a long pole used by farmers to prod and force stubborn animals, especially oxen, to move ahead. On the Damascus Road when Saul was converted, God warned him about the danger of kicking against the pricks. This metaphor suggested there was no need for Saul to resist God. He would not continue persecuting the Christians because God had other plans for him even though Saul did not know the whole story at the time. Later, we discover Saul was most influential in spreading the gospel. Saul knew what the expression meant because he was a learned man. This familiar proverb means a person's stubbornness will hinder rather than help him. In other words, Saul was not to resist God. After his encounter, it would be difficult for Saul to ever kick against the pricks again.

There is no need for us to kick against the pricks either. Those who have had an encounter with God and kick against the pricks will forever struggle.

To resist God will cause more damage than to submit to Him. If you have been kicking against the pricks, it's time to stop. If you have never kicked against the pricks, there is no need to start.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Your Straight Street Experience
The Lord told him [Ananias], "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. (Acts 9:11)

After the crooked Saul had his Damascus Road experience, he was blinded and led to Straight Street to be "straightened" out.  In a vision, Saul saw a man named Ananias coming to lay hands on him.  God show Ananias the same vision. Since Ananias knew about Saul's activities of killing and persecuting the Christians, he was reluctant to go to lay hands on Saul. God assured Ananias that Saul was a changed man. He was a praying man. He has been "straightened" out so "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15).

Then Ananias went and laid hands on Saul as commanded by God. Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and began to see so clearly that he went on to write about half of the New Testament.

God had changed Saul. The laying on of hands by Ananias was God's way of ordaining Saul for his changed ministry and new identity as Paul. God sent him to Straight Street for this to happen.

Be willing to go to your "Straight Street" when God sends you there.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Antioch: Where We Were First Called Christians
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians." (Acts 11:25-26)

It is good to remember "firsts," "lasts," and "onlys" in the Bible. From the above passage you can see where we were first called Christians. The gospel had been spread throughout the region but only to Jews. But some had heard the gospel, and they scattered and spread the word. There is something about the gospel that makes you want to share it with others. That's what happened at Antioch. For an entire year they met and taught a great many people, and because they began to follow Christ, the logical name was "Christians."

It was at Antioch that we were first called Christians. Let us act like Christians not only at Antioch but every place we go. Make sure our behavior matches up with our name.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Go On, Let It Happen!
After arresting Peter, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. (Acts 12:4)

It happened to Peter. It happened to John. It happened to Paul. It happened to Jesus. Even though these men were innocent and did not deserve to be imprisoned, they did not resist. Instead, they let it happen. There is not one recorded instance in the Bible where they resisted. Why did these innocent men let it happen?

Each one of the aforementioned men let it happen because they knew they were innocent. They knew that God would fight their battle for them. They knew the truth would be revealed in God's own way and in God's own time. Not one of these men received a life sentence. Either they were miraculously set free or their destiny included being imprisoned for a short time before their death.

Go on, let it happen when you find yourself in an unpleasant situation. It won't last forever. And besides, it might be part of God's plan for you to fulfill your destiny.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Who is Rhoda?
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" (Acts 12:13-14)

It is amazing that we remember big names of the Bible such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Esther, Deborah and Mary Magdalene, but there are many unknown people in the Bible who did great things. Some of these people are not even named. The Bible simply says, "a certain man" or "a certain woman." In the above scripture, the servant girl is named Rhoda.

Peter had been put in prison for speaking in the name of Jesus. While he was in prison, the church was praying for him. Peter was freed from prison by an angel of the Lord. However, the people kept praying because they did not know about the miraculous release. When Peter knocked on the door, the servant girl did not open the door even though she recognized Peter's voice. It is a custom even today that servants do not open the door until the master of the house gives the word to do so. When Rhoda insisted Peter was at the door, she was told "You are out of your mind."

What is the life application concerning Rhoda?  The answer to your prayer might be validated by someone of a lesser status. Be careful not to tell that person, "You are out of your mind." Pay attention to what servants have to say.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

What Happened at Lycaonia?
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. (Acts 14:11-12)

Be very careful when you travel through Lycaonia. Try not to let happen to you what happened to Paul and Barnabas. When Paul healed a crippled man in Lycaonia, the people called them gods. But Paul and Barnabas were deeply grieved that they were given credit for God's work. They let the
Lycaonians know they were mere men, humans just like they were. Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Be careful that you do not take the credit for God's doing. Who do people praise and glorify when God uses you to do something? Do not risk losing your rewards in heaven because of fleeting accolades of men. Make sure all that you do is done for the praise and honor of God's holy name and not your own.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Amazing Grace
We believe it through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved . . . (Acts 15:11)

Why did the songwriter call grace "amazing"?  Grace is one of the key attributes of God. Grace is given in spite of what we deserve. Grace is kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it.  Grace is similar to mercy, love, compassion and deliverance.  In the Old Testament the supreme example of grace was the redemption of the Hebrew people from Egypt and their establishment in the Promised Land.  In the New Testament and today the grace of God is supremely revealed and given in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We are saved by grace through faith. 

Grave is amazing because it is a mystery that we don't understand.  Grace is amazing because it has much awe.  Grace is amazing because we don't deserve it; yet God gave his only begotten Son in order that we might have it. Grace.....It is so amazing!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Go, But You Must Come Back
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . (John 1:14)  Now I am going to him who sent me...It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (Acts 16:5-7)

One of the most rewarding pieces of knowledge learned from the Bible is the fact that God sent Jesus to earth to be one of us to save all of us. We needed a Savior that we could identify with and relate to. So God sent His only begotten son (John 3:16). When God sent Jesus onto the earth, He said in essence, "Go, but you must come back."

It was God's design to get His Son upon the earth to do His work, then to get Him off the earth and back to His right hand, and then to send Him back permanently through the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit is like having Jesus with us in the flesh in all places at all times without being limited to time, space and death. Therefore, it was just as important for God to get Jesus off the earth as it was to bring Him onto the earth.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Let the Spirit Lead You
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)
Having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia...During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." (Acts 16: 6, 9)
 As soon as Jesus was baptized and just before He started His ministry, He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted. Jesus did not give in to the temptation and went on to enjoy a ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing with signs and wonders following Him.
 
In the second scripture, we see the Holy Spirit changing Paul's plans. Paul had his schedule set, but the Holy Spirit had something else in mind for him.
 
There will be times when the Holy Spirit will lead us into situations when we will be tempted and tested. Like Jesus, let's pass the test! There will be times when the Holy Spirit will circumvent our plans. Like Paul, let's be willing to give up our agendas and be led by the Spirit.
 
Something is very clear: The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us where He Himself will not go. He goes in front of us to prepare the way. He goes beside us to comfort us. He goes behind us to protect us. He goes above us to guide us. He goes beneath us to lift us up. He goes within us to empower us.
 
So would you rather do it alone or be led by the Holy Spirit?
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

Let the Lord Lead You
When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."  (Acts 16:7-9)

Sometimes we are so eager to make a name for ourselves that we do not wait for God to lead us. We do things on our own and eventually fall flat on our faces. Some of us are so eager to do things our own way that when God leads us in a better way, we refuse to follow. Some people take great pride in saying, "I did it my way."

In the above scripture, Paul, Silas and Timothy had planned to go to one place to preach the gospel to a vast number of people. However, the Holy Spirit led them to a place of very few people; a place where Paul would not have chosen to go on his own. However, since Paul was immersed in God's word and was empowered by the Holy Spirit, he knew that it was God's will for him to go. Paul understood what was revealed to him in the vision.

Let's not ignore our dreams and visions. God speaks to us through them. Then let the Lord lead you to those places you wouldn't otherwise go on your own.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayers That Cause Earthquakes
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake... (Acts 16:25-26)

When is the last time you prayed a prayer that resulted in an earthquake? When is the last time you had to PUSH (pray until something happen)? Have you ever cried out to God in supplication until results happened even before you said, "Amen"?

That's the type of prayer Paul and Silas prayed while in jail. They not only prayed, but they sang praises to God as well. I just don't believe they prayed, "Bless me, Lord! O bless me Lord, you know what I'm been going through." I believe they said what God said about them. I believe they gave God His own words back to Him. "O Merciful God, you said in your word that I shall live and not die and proclaim the word of the Lord." It is written, "God will never leave me nor forsake me." God you said, "You will be with me til the end of the age."

The best way to come into God's presence is to call upon His name, pray to Him until your prayers turn to praise. Do you want your prayers to cause an earthquake? Do you want to shake the enemy up?

Pray until you Praise! An earthquake is bound to happen.


Gung-ho For the Gospel
These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. (Acts 17:6)

Yes, "gung-ho" is a word!  It means being enthusiastic with a determination to make things happen. When Saul was persecuting the Christians, he was gung-ho about it. He did it with fervor because He thought it was right.  After he met the risen Lord on that Damascus Road, he because a changed man.  He discovered he had been gung-ho in the wrong direction.  Saul became Paul, and from that time on, he was gung-ho for the gospel.

The gospel means "good news."  Specifically, it means good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ. Good news is meant to be shared. Knowing about Jesus and keeping it to yourself is not being gung-ho about it.  We need to share our faith.  We need to be witnesses for God. We do this by living a lifestyle that is pleasing in His sight. We "let our light so shine before men, that they might see our good works and glorify God in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

The gospel is too good for us to be nonchalant about it.  The gospel is too good for us to sit down on it.  Be like the apostles, turn the world upside down. Go on . . . be excited . . . be gung-ho for the gospel.

Giving: A Kingdom Principle
It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

Giving means granting, allowing, bestowing, imparting, permitting, placing, offering, presenting, yielding, and paying.  Giving implies offering something of value. It is offered freely and unforced. The giver takes on the character of Jesus, whose nature is to give. This scripture did not say it would be more natural or easier to give than to receive, but it is would be more blessed. This is because God's economy is based on blessing and giving to others, while the world's economy is based on hoarding and accumulating. This kingdom principle illustrates that giving is the kingdom key to releasing increase.  Do you need something?  Then, give something!

From Sin-Centeredness to God-Centeredness
First to those in Demascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)

To "repent" means to consciously turn from sin to God. It means to be sorry for the evil you have done and to resolve not to do it again. "Repentance" is a profound change of mind from sin-centeredness to God-centeredness. Though repentance may represent only regret or remorse over a past thought or action, in its fullest sense it means a change involving a deliberate redirection of your life. It means making a 360 degree turn and going in the opposite direction. Your life will be no longer sin-centeredness. Instead it will be God-centeredness.

According to the above scripture, one should repent and then prove it by a changed lifestyle. This is accomplished by putting away those things that are not pleasing to God and doing things that bring Him pleasure. True repentance is more than saying, "I'm sorry." True repentance is evidenced by a consecrated life . . . one that is God-centered!

Safe on Malta
Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.  (Acts 28:1)

When Paul and his shipmates were sailing to Rome, they were shipwrecked. Some jumped overboard and swam to shore. Others held onto broken pieces of the ship and everyone reached land in safety  (Acts 27:44)

Malta means “refuge.” It is a small village in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Africa. With its fine natural harbors, Malta was a convenient haven for ships.

After the shipwreck, Paul stayed on the island of Malta three months before he was able to board another ship to Rome. During that time he shared the gospel with the inhabitants of the island and started a church on Malta.

Like Paul, you can use your shipwrecked situations to lead to the expansion of the kingdom of God.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Under House Arrest   
When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. (Acts 28:16)

Paul was imprisoned for proclaiming the word of God, but he was not in a prison as we know a prison to be. Paul was under house arrest chained to Roman guards. But this did not stop him from using his time wisely. He wrote four epistles while under house arrest...Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. In fact, Philippians is called the joy book because Paul told the church at Philipi to rejoice as he rejoiced. Paul was imprisoned; yet, he was joyful. How much more should we be who are not imprisoned.

Paul witnessed to those who visited him. Hearing these conversations, the guards to whom Paul was chained became saved. Therefore, about 500 guards became converted as they heard Paul proclaim the gospel. Can you imagine the guards shouting and praising the Lord while being chained to Paul? It is no wonder they lost their Roman soldier position while gaining a higher position in Jesus.

When you are under adverse conditions, can you say you put that time to good use as Paul did? Paul let nothing stop him from proclaiming Jesus Christ. We must go and do likewise.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Almost Persuaded" . . . "Fully Persuaded"
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian. (Acts 26:28) 
. . . and Abraham being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was also able to perform. (Romans 4:21) 


The above scriptures illustrate two different degrees of faith and commitment to Christianity.  The words of Agrippa are sad words because they indicate that he was on the verge of becoming a Christian.  He was on the border line, but for some reason he did not accept the gift of salvation at that time.  The Bible does not indicate whether he did later.  We know that today is the day of salvation because tomorrow is not promised to us.

On the other hand, Abraham did not waver in his faith.  He did not stagger at the promise made by God that he would become the father of many nations.  Abraham is noted for his faith and his commitment to God's covenant.

Which category do you fit into?  Do you have the Agrippa syndrome of being "almost persuaded" or do you have the faith of Abraham to be "fully persuaded"? Be fully persuaded knowing that God can do everything; that God will do what He promised; that God's words will not return to Him void; that what He says will come to pass!
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Shake It Off
Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.  He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.  (Acts 27:3, 5)

Paul had just arrived on the island of Malta after having survived a shipwreck while on his way to Rome.  When Paul had made a fire, a viper came from the bundle and fastened itself on Paul's hand.  Without hesitating, Paul immediately shook the viper off that was hanging from his hand. 

When sin grips us, we should do exactly as Paul did.  We should shake it off immediately.  When anything that is poisonous, dangerous or sinful grabs hold of us, let's shake it off quickly.  Let's shake it off and get it out of our lives, away from us. Let no negative idea or sinful thought grow into a full-blown sin.  Let's shake, shake, shake it off.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Doing As We Are Able
He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. (Acts 27:43-44)

We are not all equipped to handle the same things. We are not all equipped to handle things in the same manner. In the above scripture, Paul gives sound advice during a shipwreck. Knowing that everyone could do something to help all come to safety, he outlined what each person was to do as he was able. Those who could swim were to jump overboard and lead the others who couldn't. The next group was to follow by any means necessary; on planks or broken pieces of the ship.

This is the way it should be with God's children. Those who can sustain the storms of life ought to jump overboard and lead those who can't. They are to help the weak. Those who don't have anything to hold on to should be given instructions by those who know where to find the planks and broken pieces.

The important thing is that God wants us all to be brought to safety even during our shipwrecks. We can do that when we all do as we are able. What are you doing to help others to be brought safely to land?


 

Custom Search

ACTS
The Disciples Were Grounded
While staying with them, he ORDERED them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. (Acts 1:4)

Stay where you are. Stay put. Don't leave. But wait! And you will receive the promise of the Father. And all of God's promises are Yea and Amen! Jesus knew what would happen if His disciples scattered and went their separate ways, so He grounded them! He ordered them to stay confined to one place - Jerusalem. Jesus knew how powerful prayers would be if all were together on one accord.

Being grounded isn't all bad. When we are grounded, we have time to think, to meditate, to be still and know that God is Lord (Psalm 46:10). In our hectic lives, we should remember what Jesus ordered His disciples to do: to stay put. Sometimes we need to just stay put and reflect on the goodness of God. If we run out of things to think about, consider (1) Who God is; (2) What God has done; (3) What God will do.

Being grounded has value. Rather than sending your children to their rooms, why do you go to yours instead?

Final Instructions
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 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 Samara, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:4, 8)

When a boss goes on vacation, he leaves instructions for those who will run the company in his absence. When a parent leaves home, she gives instructions to the children so the house will still be intact when she returns.  In the first chapter of Acts, our Lord and Savior gives the disciples final instructions before He ascends to heaven. His final instructions are unlike those we give. However, we can learn the principles and use them the next time we give instructions.
 
The final instructions of Jesus are given THROUGH the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:2) Make sure what you tell people to do is through the power of the Holy Spirit and not through your own flesh.

The final instructions of Jesus start out with something NOT to do. "Do not leave Jerusalem." Make sure your instructions include what not to do.

The final instructions of Jesus include what to do. "Wait for the gift My Father promised." Your instructions telling someone what to do should be related to what you have told them not to do. Refrain from giving a list of unrelated do's and don'ts.

The final instructions of Jesus give a promise. "In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Give people something to look forward to. This will motivate them.

The final instructions of Jesus give a result. "But you will receive power." Most people want to know "What's in it for me?" Make sure you remind them of personal benefits.

The final instructions of Jesus give an orderly procedure. "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

You must admit these instructions are specific, concise, orderly, to the point, with a promise, and personal benefits.  If those under your authority are not following your instructions, could it be that your method needs improvement? Follow the above example, and you are guaranteed to get better results immediately from your employees, children, spouses, and parishioners. Try it and see.

Power to Do God's Work
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. (Acts 1:8)

Do you try to do things on your own without hearing from God? If so, you will discover that the task becomes challenging and difficult. It is better to wait to be empowered to do God's work. There is no power in that which God does not permit.

Case in point: In 1998, I asked God to show me how to reach the masses to teach His word. I heard one word: E-MESSAGES! That was 1800 messages ago. God prepared me to serve Him through E-Messages that are read around the world by people I know and by some people I will not meet until we get to heaven. The ministry would not have survived had it not been ordained and empowered by God.

Because it was God who gave the permission and the power, an E-Message is written and is sent to thousands of subscribers every weekday without fail. What has kept this E-Message Ministry alive when similar ministries have failed? The answer is in Acts 1:8. The power to do God's work came from God Himself.

There is absolutely no way you can serve God's people without God's power to do so. If you are thinking about starting a ministry or working in any capacity for God, consider first doing the following:  #1 Seek God's face and ask Him what He would have you to do. Don't step out into anything until God has given you the green light. Remember, God gives power to that which He permits. #2 When God gives you a specific assignment, do not modify it. Follow the instructions to the letter. God is an orderly God. #3 Be a good steward over that which God has entrusted into your care. Be dedicated, faithful, committed and consistent.

When you follow the above advice for your own ministry, you will understand why the power of God has been in each E-Message from  #1 "Seize the Day" (September 1998) to #1800 "Power to Do God's Work" (April 22, 2005). Had these been sermons from the pulpit, it would have been 35 years of preaching.

Again, God is not obligated to empower that which He does not permit!

 
 Silent Witness Week
And you shall be witnesses unto me . . . (Acts 1:8)


Christians are asked to participate in a national witnessing event during Holy Week, April 1-8. “Silent Witness Week” will be an opportunity for Christians to share the meaning of the resurrection with friends, family and even total strangers. Christians are asked to wear a lapel button next week that reads, “Easter: He Lives!”

The outreach is called "Silent Witness Week" because many Christians are nervous about initiating a conversation about the Gospel. This way, even if nothing is said verbally, the message on the lapel pin will speak volumes. And if someone asks about the message of the resurrection, the Christian will have an open door through which to share his or her faith.

Imagine thousands of Christians wearing this testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a non-intrusive manner. This button will lead to countless opportunities to share the Gospel. When you see others wearing the button just like the one you are wearing, you will know that the two of you have more in common than the button. You both serve the risen Lord!


How Are You Wired?
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . . (Acts 1:8a)

We are all made in God's own image, but we all have different personalities and passions. Why does one person have a deep passion for preaching, another for teaching and yet another for missions? While God has commanded us all to spread His word, some find it easy and comforting to do; yet others find it to be a chore. In other words, we are wired for specific tasks. When we try to perform a task we are not wired to do, there is no electricity; there is absolutely no power. A special wire must be connected to our likes and dislikes, attitudes and personalities that makes us passionate about the task we are to perform.

Some people go years and year without fulfilling their God-given mission. Then they give up everything to go into ministry full time. That's why attorneys, doctors and executives leave lucrative jobs to go into ministry. It is because a certain wire has finally slipped into place. A connection is made, sparks fly, and they can teach, preach and witness with power!

How are you wired? What do you have a passion to do? Hopefully, your wire will soon connect with God and you will go full force with a ministry using your gifts in a passionate way.



Unfinished Business
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The mission of spreading the gospel has already taken place in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, but it has not spread to the uttermost parts of the earth. The gospel of the saving power of Jesus Christ has not reached its final destination if someone in your family, your workplace, your school, or your community has not heard about Jesus Christ. The task of spreading the gospel is still to be done. That task, started by Paul and the apostles, is still the unfinished business of the church. 

We may attend church services, worship, praise and pray, but if we are not witnesses to the gospel of Jesus, then we have unfinished business to do.  When is the last time you led someone to Christ?  When is the last time you prayed with a co-worker and told him/her about the goodness of God?  Have you ever witnessed to a stranger?  If not, you have unfinished business to do.

Stop waiting for others to spread the gospel.  This mandate is for ALL of us.  So, let's get up off the pews and out into the vineyards because "the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37).

Experience the Power of God
But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection. (Acts 1:8)

How do we experience the power of God? We experience the power of God through the Holy Spirit. God in His orderly wisdom ordained it that way. The first step is to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior to come to God the Father (John 14:6). When Jesus ascended to heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit that would be with us to empower us and guide us into all truths. Jesus kept His promise. At Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), the Holy Spirit was made available to all who believe in Jesus. When we receive Christ by faith, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within us at that very moment. Instantly, the Holy Spirit begins a lifelong process of change, drawing us into a close personal relationship with God and making us more like Christ (Philippians 1:6).

How do you experience the power of God? Through God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

A Dramatic Exit
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus had talked about His departure, but He never told His disciples exactly how He would go back home. His disciples still had not grasped the significance of all He had taught them. Jesus' ascension may have been a final vivid object lesson that He was leaving the physical world and returning to spiritual realms. His extraordinary departure helped the disciples proclaim Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of heaven.

The disciples stood gazing up at the sky as Jesus disappeared, but two angels assured them that Jesus would one day return in the same manner in which He had departed; in the same resurrected body and in clouds and "great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

We were not there when Jesus made His dramatic exit. By faith we believe we will witness and be part of His dramatic return. We can be assured of this because of our righteous living.


A Cloud; Not Clouds
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)

Why was it important for the disciples to have seen with their own eyes that Jesus was taken into heaven? They would know without a doubt that Jesus was who He said He was. They would know what He had taught them was exactly as He had said. They would have no doubt that He was God, and He was returning home to heaven. Also, seeing the ascension with their own eyes was like a down-payment on the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit sent by God after Jesus' arrival in heaven.

Why, then, did a cloud instead of clouds hide Him from their sight? The answer is quite simple. They could see Him longer as He ascended farther into the sky though one cloud versus many clouds obstructing their view. This was Jesus' final lesson for them -- a vivid object lesson that He was leaving the physical world and returning to a spiritual realm. His demonstrative departure helped the disciples to see Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of heaven.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, witnessed the ascension. She was with the disciples as they waited for the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit in the upper room. Mary is not mentioned any more in the Bible because her purpose had been fulfilled. Notice, when Jesus came as a human, He came through a human agent. When He ascended, He needed no assistance from anyone. And He was not hidden by clouds ... only a cloud!

How will He return? "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) Hallelujah!


Going Home Again
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.  (Acts 1:9-10)

Thomas Wolfe's classic "You Can't Go Home Again" is based on the concept that after a person leaves home, he or she can never return and find things the same again. His logic was that once you leave home to go away to college, to get married, to go into the armed forces, or to move out of the house for other reasons that you can never go back to the things the way they were before. For instance, your room has probably been given to a younger sibling. Your place at the table is now being occupied by someone else. Even your chores have been divided up among the rest of the family. Not only that, but your old friends have moved away so you can't even get together with them as you have done so many times before. Everything has changed. Things aren't like they used to be. In that sense, you can never go home again.

In another sense, you can go home again. Robert Frost wrote in his poem "The Death of the Hired Man" that home is where when you go they have to take you in.  After spending 33 years on earth in human form, Jesus went home again after His work on earth was completed. In His final address to His disciples, He said He had finished the work He had come to do.  He went home again, and His Father received Him. He now sits on the right hand of His Father, but He will return again to gather up all those who have steadfastly followed His commandments.

When Jesus returns, He will take the faithful ones home with Him. Are you included in that number?

Waiting For His Return
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. (Luke 24:51) "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going . . . This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:10-11)

Do you remember when you were young and your parents went into town to shop? They would say, "You all behave yourselves until I get back." While they were gone, you did everything you were big enough to do, and then when you thought it was time for them to return, you straightened up the mess you had made of the house and tried to put everything back in order before they returned. Then you started looking up and down the road, listening for the sound of their car as you pressed your nose against the window pane. So many times you thought it was them, but the car kept past your house. You waited and waited for what seems to be an eternity.  Then you and your sisters and brothers began to play games to make the time go faster.  You counted the cars as they passed by, or you looked to see how many white cars, or red cars, or black cars passed . . . anything to occupy yourselves until your parents arrived. And then, they did.  Just as they said they would. And they brought you that bag of popcorn or that "Sugar Daddy" or that "Tootsie Roll" just as they promised.

Well, Jesus is coming back. Before He left, He told us to behave ourselves.  But if you are acting up and misbehaving and playing games, it is time to get right for His return.  Because He will come back just as He left.  And when He goes, he will bring us much more than popcorn and candy.  He will bring us HIMSELF. "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).


One Hundred and Twenty
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said . . . (Acts 1:15)

The number one hundred and twenty is made up of three forties (3x40=120). Since forty is the period of probation, one hundred and twenty signifies a divinely appointed period of probation as in Genesis 6:3, "Then the Lord said, 'My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.'"

Applied to persons, it is a divinely appointed number during a period of waiting as in the above scripture (Acts 1:15). Just before Jesus ascended to His Father, He told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem on one accord and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Because the believers were all together on one accord, the waiting period was a short one of only ten days.  All one hundred and twenty believers had gathered together in unity.

The life application here is that blessings happen to and for us when we gather together on one accord. Let's assemble ourselves together on one accord serving and honoring our God.


Who Was Matthias?
 May another take his place of leadership. (Acts 1:20b)

While Jesus was alive he had twelve disciples to learn from him and to follow him. Question: After the death of Jesus, why was it necessary for a replacement for Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and later died himself? Originally Jesus chose twelve disciples to parallel the twelve tribes of Israel. One would think after Jesus' death it would not have mattered any longer.

After Jesus' death a replacement was necessary for one main reason: to fulfill the scriptures. It had been prophesied that one would desert Jesus and another would take his place of leadership (Psalm 109:8). All scriptures will be fulfilled.

Matthias had all the qualifications to be a disciple: (1) He had been a follower of Jesus from the beginning of Jesus' ministry; and (2) He had witnessed the resurrection. Another person, Justus, also was qualified. The decision came through two means: (1) prayer and (2) casting lots. The lot fell to Matthias, so he was added to the eleven. By the way, this was the last time lots were cast in the Bible and no further mention of Matthias. But the scriptures HAD to be fulfilled.

Because of your faithfulness to Jesus, would you have been a likely replacement?


Making Wise Decisions
And they prayed, and said, You Lord, who knows the hearts of all, show whether of these two men you have chosen. (Acts 1:24)

In the above scriptures, the apostles had to choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot. They outlined specific criteria for making the choice. When the "finalists" had been chosed, the apostles prayed, asking God to guide the selection process. This gives us a good example of how to proceed when we are making important decisions.

First, we need to set up criteria consistent with biblical principles. Second, examine the alternatives. Third, pray for wisdom and guidance to rech a wise decision.  Then, go for it with confidence that you have done the right thing.


Eleven
And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)

The number eleven is the number of disorder, imperfection and incompleteness. Eleven signifies a state not yet full. After Judas betrayed Jesus, he committed suicide. One might ask why replace Judas since Jesus had been crucified. Since the twelve disciples represented the twelve tribes of Israel, Judas' replacement was necessary to bring the number back to the governmental number of twelve. Having only eleven disciples speaks of incompleteness.
 
Eleven also represents disorder. The parable about the workers coming to work in the eleventh hour is in contrast to what we believe to be right in order and arrangement (Matthew 20:6,9). Disorder arose when the earlier workers found out the eleventh hour workers got paid just as much as those who had worked all day. 
 
The journey of the Israelites through the wilderness should have taken only eleven days (Deuteronomy 1:2). It turned into a 40 years journey because of disorder, disorganization, imperfection, and disintegration.

The number eleven can be traced throughout Jacob's life illustrating incompleteness. According to Genesis 32:22, Jacob took his two wives, and his two women-servants, and his eleven sons, and headed back home to confront his estranged brother Esau. At the time Jacob had only eleven sons because Benjamin had not yet been born. Benjamin's birth brought the total of Jacob's sons to twelve. But then Joseph (the eleventh son) was sold into slavery, and Jacob thought Joseph was dead. This took the total back to eleven. During that period, much disorder and confusion characterized Jacob's household. Joseph spent eleven years in Potiphar's household where disorder caused by Potiphar's wife resulted in Joseph going to prison.

When your life seems to be disorderly, disorganized, imperfect and incomplete, check to see if an eleven is somehow involved.


Forty Years in the Wilderness vs. Ten Days in the Upper Room
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron" (Exodus 16:2).
Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1).

Have you ever wondered why the wandering in the wilderness was so long and the stay in the upper room was so short? While in the wilderness, the Israelites murmured and complained so much that an eleven day trip was lengthened to a forty year journey. On the other hand, the early Christian believers were gathered together with one accord in the upper room as instructed by Jesus. They did not complain and murmur as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Instead "these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14). Their stay was only ten days before the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost.

When we murmur and complain concerning a situation, the time is indeed extended far beyond measure. However, when we are all together with one accord praying and supplicating, the time is shortened by a substantial proportion.

If you are waiting to see the hand of God on your life, you may either complain in the wilderness or pray in the upper room. The choice is yours. Which will you choose?


Drunken Christians
"As she kept praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine." (1 Samuel 1:12-14)

"These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!" (Acts 2:15)

What do these two incidents have in common? Hannah prayed so fervently that Eli thought she was drunk, but she wasn't. The apostles on the Day of Pentecost were so caught up in praise and worship that others thought they were drunk, but they weren't. How then can praying, praising and worshipping God be mistaken for drunkenness?

When a person become drunk by alcohol or drugs, all inhibitions are eliminated and the person does what he or she would not ordinarily be bold enough to do. When the Spirit of God has been poured out, as spoken by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28), one becomes intoxicated and loses all consciousness of self while being moved by the Holy Spirit. With the surrender of self, the Holy Spirit takes over completely. To some this might look like the person is drunk.

Alcohol and drugs are not needed for Christians to get drunk. They can get drunk from praying, praising and worshipping God. "Devoted Christians" are usually "Drunken Christians," without the headaches or hangovers.


Miracle? Sign? Or Wonder?
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." (Acts 2:22)

Miracles, signs and wonders happen around us all the time.  Do you know the difference?

A miracle is whatever goes against the laws of nature. For example, Jesus walking on water was a miracle. The law of nature says that if you try to walk on water, you will sink. Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding of Cana when he changed water into wine (John 2:1-11). The law of nature says water is not wine until it is processed into such. Recognize the miracles God performs in your life because of His grace and His love for you.

A sign is whatever points to a deeper revelation. The sign is not the revelation itself. A sign indicates that something greater will soon develop. John the Baptist's death was a sign that Jesus' death was approaching. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus in birth, baptizing, and preaching. Therefore, it is not hard to see John's death as a sign that Jesus' death would soon follow.  

A wonder is anything that causes us to be in awe. It evokes amazement and most times joy. It is something wonderful that makes us wonder.

Now that you know the difference, recognize the many miracles, signs and wonders that often show up in your own life.

Preaching That Kills; Preaching That Saves
The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand people died. (Exodus 32:28)  Those who heard Peter's message were saved and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)

When Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the tablets from God, Aaron and the people below were "carrying on their sensual, idolatrous feast." In righteous anger, Moses broke the tablets of the law as a witness of what the people had already done (broken the law). Some of the people never stopped carrying on in Moses' presence as he related to them what God said. The Bible says they were "out of control." God commanded Moses to have loyal followers slay those who refused to stop partying. The tribe of Levi responded and slayed the party animals with swords. Even close relatives were not spared.  Here the Law brought death to three thousand people.

The first time the Law was preached 3,000 people were killed (Ex. 32:28).  The first sermon preached after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 3,000 were saved (Acts 2:41). At Sinai, 3,000 people died. At Pentecost the gospel of grace brought salvation to 3,000 people.  What a contrast!

What is True Fellowship?
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

Fellowship is the act of sharing things in common with others.  That includes any interest, activity, feeling or experience.
 
Fellowship is a gift from God. If believers share God and the things of God, fellowship should come easy. All believers can grow in grace by having a personal relationship with God and by fellowshipping with others. That includes praying together, singing together, studying the Word of God together, praising God together and worshipping together.
 
Fellowship is a gift to others. Everybody benefits when believers gather together to share their faith and to give testimonies about God's love.
 
In each of the above examples, the focus is on God. Therefore, unless God is involved, there is NO fellowship. If a group of people go bowling and leave God behind, it is not fellowship. It is just a group of people going bowling. If a group of people go on a bus trip and call it fellowship, unless God has been invited to go along, it is just a bus trip no matter what they call it.
 
When church people go into their "Fellowship Hall" to have meetings or to share a meal, unless God has been invited, it is not fellowship. Going into the Fellowship Hall doesn't automatically turn the activity into fellowship just as going on a train track doesn't automatically turn someone into a train.
 
If you want your gatherings to be true fellowship, then God MUST be invited to the sessions. God and only God can change any ordinary activity into true fellowship.

 


Excerpt from The Spiritual Significance of Eating
(A book by Rev. Margaret Minnicks)
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Eating, as a universal daily requirement, becomes a medium for social relationships that creates and maintains community. When we come together to eat in table fellowship, we come together to feast not only with one another but also with God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift — including food.

People are social beings and like to belong. When we share a common meal we symbolically demonstrate the spiritual truth that we are most complete when we are together. In essence, an invitation communicates a need to belong, at least for the duration of the meal. 

When you invite someone to share a meal with you, you are saying, "I care about you." When people break bread together, barriers of all kinds disappear, and bonds are made. That is one of the reasons most dates include the sharing of a meal quite early in the relationship. Business deals are made while eating. Church activities end with a meal of some kind. And we know Jesus sat and ate with many in the New Testament, including eating with his disciples during the Last Supper in the upper room.

Why not share a meal with someone today?

Making Eye Contact
Peter fastening his eyes on him with John, said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention. (Acts 3:4-5a)

Peter and John went to the temple at three o'clock to pray. A beggar asked them for money. Peter surprised the beggar by saying, "Look at us!"  The beggar was accustomed to people putting money in his tin cup and keep walking without looking at him.

How many times have you spoken to a person without making eye contact? Some people speak and ask the usual question, "How are you?" but do they really care? If so, they don't show it unless they make eye contact. Your eyes are the windows of your soul, and they do express what's in your heart. Unless you make eye contact, you are implying that you have no compassion and you merely asked, "How are you?" out of habit. Also, it is believed that when you don't make eye contact, you have something to hide.

It is unlawful to make eye contact in some countries because if a man makes eye contact with a woman, it is to admit that she exists. And women are non-existent without rights. We are free to make eye contact, so let's do it!

Make eye contact (1) to let people know you care; (2) to express the compassion in your heart; (3) to be exposed and not give the impression you are hiding something; and (4) to let people know you do not deny their existence.

Making An Impression or Making An Impact?
But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)

It is true that all of us want to make a good impression when we do a presentation, teach, or preach. We want to do what is pleasing in the sight of those who see and hear us. It is part of our nature to prepare ourselves so that we can make a good impression. However, there is something more important than making a good impression. We should strive to make an impact.  So, what's the difference? Thanks for asking.

An impression is anything that give only a vague, temporary bird's eye view of a subject. That's why the painters, writers, and other artists of the Impressionism Period provided works of arts and literature that capture a momentary glimpse of reality. Impressions don't last. They are valid for a short time only. If you are not sure about that, with your finger press hard on your arm to make an impression. By the time you have finished reading this message, the impression would have disappeared.

An impact, on the other hand, is the power of something or someone that moves the feelings of others and produces change in their lives. There is force behind an impact. Impressions don't change lives; impacts do! And that's the major difference. Anybody can make an impression; only godly people can make a positive impact. Ask yourself: "Am I making an impression or an impact?" "Am I merely making an impression on people or am I impacting their lives because of what I do and what I say?"

Dealing With Problems
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  (Acts 4:29)

The Apostles were forbidden to teach in the name of Jesus.  But we see from this scripture how these believers prayed.  They did not pray for the threats to stop.  Instead, they prayed that they may be empowered to deal with them.  First, they praised God. Then they told God their specific problem and asked for help.  Notice they did not ask God to remove the problem, but to help them deal with it. This is a model for us to follow when we pray. We may ask God to remove our problems, and He may choose to do so. But we must recognize that often God will leave the problem in place and give us the strength to deal with it.

Stretching the Truth
Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?" When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. About three hours later his wife came in, and Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. (Acts 5:1-11)

Did Ananias and Sapphira deserve to die for one lie? If all who lied were struck down today, who would be left on earth? Perhaps this happened to Ananias and Sapphira because they voluntarily sold land after Barnabas had been guided by the Holy Spirit to do so, and he was highly recognized. Ananias and Sapphira did it on their own for selfish reasons; for recognition and accolades. Therefore, after selling the land, their hearts were not in it to give all the money to the church as promised. So, they kept back some of the money for themselves. In order to root out the lies, deception and hypocrisy in the young church, they both were struck down dead. Great fear seized the whole church, and this was never reported to have happened again.

What about our lies? What happens when we "stretch the truth"? Lying is sin no matter what form it comes in. There is no such thing as "a little white lie." A lie is a lie even when complimenting people just to make them feel better. For instance, if that hairstyle or tie is weird, don't lie and say it looks nice. Why sin against God for something so unnecessary? You really don't have to say anything at all, but if you MUST say something, you could politely describe what you see, "Your hairstyle/tie really is different...unique...colorful...etc." You have NOT lied (even if you don't like it). Actually, when you say, "I like it" you have NOT complimented the other person anyway. You are merely describing your own taste.

Whenever you have the urge to lie, stop minimizing it by saying you are just "stretching the truth." Lying is condemned by the Bible (Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25). It is wrong because it is contrary to the nature of God (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) and because it shows a person is not in touch with reality (Romans 1:25; I John 1:6).

Tell the truth or don't say anything at all.

Our Shadow
 . . . so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5:15)

A shadow is what is seen when the sun is shining on a person or an object.  Therefore, a shadow is that which the light has cast.  We should walk in such a way that others will want to walk in our shadow.  We should be the example that others want to follow. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in the process of "shadowing."   People do watch us. Sometimes they want to imitate us.  Daughters take on the characteristics of their mothers. Sons sometimes imitate their fathers.  People at work notice your reactions to all kinds of situations.  And sometimes they want to be like you.  In our community, our neighbors observe us and some want to be like us.

Is your life worthy of shadowing? Does your example lead others in the right direction? If you really want to be a worthy example for others, then you need to shadow the Savior.  In order to cast a good shadow, you must walk in God's light.

Do You Cast A Good Shadow?
 . . . so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5:15)

A shadow is what is seen when the sun is shining on a person or an object.  Therefore, a shadow is that which the light has cast.  We should walk in such a way that others will want to walk in our shadow.  We should be the example that others want to follow. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in the process of "shadowing."  People do watch us. Sometimes they want to imitate us.  Daughters take on the characteristics of their mothers. Sons sometimes imitate their fathers.  People at work notice your reactions to all kinds of situations.  And sometimes they want to be like you.  In our community, our neighbors observe us and some want to be like us.

Is your life worthy of shadowing? Does your example lead others in the right direction? If you really want to be a worthy example for others, then you need to shadow the Savior.  In order to cast a good shadow, you must walk in God's light.

 

Dying to Tell
Then someone came and said, "Look!" The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people." (Acts 5:25)

Has someone ever come to you with really good news and said, "I am dying to tell you this"? Have you ever said, "I am dying to know what happened"?

Throughout the Bible we find people who were dying to tell about the saving power of Jesus Christ. The Book of Acts records how Peter, Paul and others were imprisoned for sharing the gospel because they were willing to die to tell the story. Because they could not keep their mouths shut and were dying to tell, many of them did die. Stephen was stoned. Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded. Jesus Himself was dying to tell, and He proved it when He was crucified on the cross.

Think about this statement whenever you say, "I am dying to tell."


Limited Favor
Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:29)

A sure way to miss God's blessings is to be caught up in receiving approval and pats on the back from men. If you are ever in the situation where you have a choice of choosing between God and men, CHOOSE GOD!

Choosing is not always easy. Supposed you have always dreamed of becoming an actor/actress? After all your hard work and waiting, you finally got the chance to go to Hollywood to be in a movie that is sure to be a success. The movie is rated X and you will have to do things that are definitely immoral. What choice would you make? Supposed you had been struggling all your life to make ends meet, and finally you had an opportunity to be the recipient of $50,000 for doing something against God? What choice would you make? Would you rationalize or compromise just this once?

Like the apostles of the early church, do not hesitate to make the right choice; to do what God is telling you to do. Make a commitment to always follow God. If you obey men, you will have limited favor. When you obey God, you have God's favor and He will cause men to have favor with you. Want limited favor: choose men! Want unlimited favor? Choose God.

Dying to Tell
This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. (Acts 6:13)

Have you ever heard the expressions, "I'm dying to tell this" or I'm going to explode (burst) unless I tell this"? Well, Stephen had such a story.  He had a story he had to tell. In fact, it cost him his life. The story Stephen told before his death was no new story, no made-up story. It was one that was well known to his audience. Stephen went back to the beginning of time and recounted everything that had happened in Jewish history up to the present time.

Stephen was stoned to death because the Jews were tired of hearing the same story. They had heard it over and over again, but they were not living by the principles of the story. Stephen understood the story and lineage of Jesus including his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. He wanted others to know and understand that story as well. Stephen had a story he was dying to tell. And died, he did! But the story continues. Has Stephen died in vain? Are you willing to continue telling the same story about the saving power of Jesus? Be willing to die telling the story!

 What to Do While Standing in Line
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55-56)

Every place we go we have to stand in line for service...at the grocery checkout, in the department store, in the post office, at the bank, and even at the toll booth. Standing in line is a way of life for us, and some of us take it in stride. However, some people don't. They become fidgeted and constantly look at their watches. They should know it is only 30 seconds later than the last time they checked them.

Some good exercises to do while standing in line are: (1) Pray for all the people around you. They will feel the power of your prayers and will become calm. (2) See how many times you can recite Psalms 23 or the Lord's Prayer before it is your turn to be checked out. (3) Watch the countenance of people and when you see a frown, ask God to bless that person so that the frown will become a smile. (4) Recite spiritual warfare scriptures or any of your favorite scriptures.
And when you have done all these things, you will be surprised to note how soon the cashier will say to you, "Next."

We have to stand in line for services on earth, but here is some good news. For those who belong to God, there is no standing in line to get into heaven. Accept Jesus Christ as Savior of your soul and Lord of your life. Instead of your having to stand in line, Jesus will stand to welcome you into heaven just as he welcomed Stephen (Acts 7:55-56).

Go Where God Sends You!
But as for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, "Go over to the road that runs from Jerusalem through the Gaza Desert, arriving around noon." (Acts 8:26)

Sometimes God leads us out of our current situation to take us to places that would serve His purpose more effectively.  We might not understand it at first, but we must trust God that His plan is better.  We could be succeeding where we are, but God might take us in a different direction; even into the desert as was the case with Philip.

Philip was having a successful preaching ministry leading the despised people of Samaria (Acts 8:5-8), but he obediently left that ministry to follow God's direction to a desert road where he met the Ethiopian eunuch. Because Philip went where God sent him, Ethiopia was opened up to the gospel. Follow God's leading, even if it seems like a demotion. At first you may not understand His plans, but the results will prove that God's way is right. After all, He is God!

What Is Required Of Us
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.  Then Philip opened his mouth, and began preaching Jesus to him. (Acts 8:30-31; 35)

As an Old Testament professor at one of the local community colleges, I have to send out my syllabus to the students at least two weeks prior to the beginning of class.  When they read it and see what their requirements are, they panic.  The telephone calls and e-mails begin to pour in.  They are overwhelmed so much about what their requirements are that they misread and embellish what is actually there.

The first night of class I ask them to trust me that the requirements are not as monumental as they think.  I go over the syllabus with them explaining every bit of it in detail.  Then they begin to feel a little at ease.  When the first test comes and after they pass it, they feel even better and more confident about their requirements.

When you pick up the Bible to read, you might think the same things. You might think the requirements set by God are too much for you to handle.  The tests are too much for you to pass.  The living according to His Word is impossible.  If you are thinking like that, perhaps you would feel better after you started attending a local Bible Study.  Some things must be explained to you before you can understand them. After they are explained by an anointed Bible teacher, you will begin to see that understanding the Bible is not that difficult after all, and living it is much easier than you could have ever imagined. Try it and find out for yourself!

Redirect Your Energy
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1)

Energy is a gift from God. Some of us use that gift for things other than to promote the kingdom of God. Some of us use all our energy on worldly things and are too tired to serve God by worshipping Him in our local churches on the Sabbath. Some of us use precious energy being negative when that same energy could be redirected to being positive.

Saul used negative energy to persecute the Christians before he had his conversion experience on the Demascus Road. After meeting the risen Lord, he redirected his energy into preaching to Christians, the same group he had formerly persecuted.

We should learn take a lesson from Saul who became Paul and wrote 13 books of the New Testament because of his redirected energy. Let us remember to redirect our energy to the things of God that will give us eternal rewards rather than continuing to use energy to promote those things that are negative and temporal.

Your Damascus Road Experience
Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:3-5)

Saul was converted as he was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians who had scattered there. He thought what he was doing was a good thing. At that time he thought it was blasphemous to follow Jesus who had proclaimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God.

Saul's Damascus Road experience was dramatic and traumatic. Yet, he recounted it three times in the Book of Acts. God blinded him for three days in order for him to be   purged of all his wrong beliefs so that he could see spiritually. Saul's name was changed to Paul, and he went on to write over half of the New Testament proclaiming Jesus is Lord.

Your Damascus Road experience might not have been as dramatic or traumatic as Saul's, but from time to time go back and reflect on your own conversion experience. Thank God  that He saved you from your sinful ways and cancelled your ticket to hell.

"Saulness" Exchanged to "Paulness"
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4)

When considering who made the most drastic change in the Bible, most people immediately think of Saul of Tarsus. Saul is known for having persecuted the church. He met the risen Lord on the Damascus Road and became Paul, an apostle of Christ and a missionary of the early church.

Every one of us has some "Saulness" within us. Saul is first heard of in the Bible in Acts 7:58 when Stephen was stoned. Saul did not take part in that act, but "the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul." Thus the seed was planted. Our "Saulness" begins when an evil seed is planted within us.

Paul later says in his own words in Acts 22:20: "I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him." Saul becomes involves in a passive way. Our involvement in wickedness might start by giving approval to someone else's sin.

Acts 9 illustrates the major turning point in Saul's life. Because Saul was so focused and thorough in his missions, "he asked for letters to the synagogue in Damascus so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or woman, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem" (Acts 9:2). Here we have a mixture of right and wrong. Our "Saulness" is like that. In the midst of our wrongness, we try to substantiate it by "going about a wrong thing in the right way."

Paul says in Galatians 1:13, "I persecuted the church beyond measure and tried to destroy it."  At the height of Saul's campaign of persecuting the church, he was confronted on the road to Damascus by the risen Lord.  In an instant his life was changed. God blinded Saul for three days. That was enough time for Saul to be purged from his "Saulness." "Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized" (Acts 9:18).  We cannot exchange our "Saulness" to "Paulness" on our own. Notice Saul became helpless before he could become helpful. He went from Saul persecuting the church to Paul preaching to the church.

There is noticeable evidence after God exchanges our "Saulness" to "Paulness." Like Saul, we must first meet and have an encounter with Jesus.

No Need to Kick Against the Pricks
And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." (Some Bibles say, "It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.") (Acts 9:5; 26:14)

A goad or prick is a sharpened metal point on the end of a long pole used by farmers to prod and force stubborn animals, especially oxen, to move ahead. On the Damascus Road when Saul was converted, God warned him about the danger of kicking against the pricks. This metaphor suggested there was no need for Saul to resist God. He would not continue persecuting the Christians because God had other plans for him even though Saul did not know the whole story at the time. Later, we discover Saul was most influential in spreading the gospel. Saul knew what the expression meant because he was a learned man. This familiar proverb means a person's stubbornness will hinder rather than help him. In other words, Saul was not to resist God. After his encounter, it would be difficult for Saul to ever kick against the pricks again.

There is no need for us to kick against the pricks either. Those who have had an encounter with God and kick against the pricks will forever struggle.

To resist God will cause more damage than to submit to Him. If you have been kicking against the pricks, it's time to stop. If you have never kicked against the pricks, there is no need to start.

Your Straight Street Experience
The Lord told him [Ananias], "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. (Acts 9:11)

After the crooked Saul had his Damascus Road experience, he was blinded and led to Straight Street to be "straightened" out.  In a vision, Saul saw a man named Ananias coming to lay hands on him.  God show Ananias the same vision. Since Ananias knew about Saul's activities of killing and persecuting the Christians, he was reluctant to go to lay hands on Saul. God assured Ananias that Saul was a changed man. He was a praying man. He has been "straightened" out so "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15).

Then Ananias went and laid hands on Saul as commanded by God. Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and began to see so clearly that he went on to write about half of the New Testament.

God had changed Saul. The laying on of hands by Ananias was God's way of ordaining Saul for his changed ministry and new identity as Paul. God sent him to Straight Street for this to happen.

Be willing to go to your "Straight Street" when God sends you there.

Antioch: Where We Were First Called Christians
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians." (Acts 11:25-26)

It is good to remember "firsts," "lasts," and "onlys" in the Bible. From the above passage you can see where we were first called Christians. The gospel had been spread throughout the region but only to Jews. But some had heard the gospel, and they scattered and spread the word. There is something about the gospel that makes you want to share it with others. That's what happened at Antioch. For an entire year they met and taught a great many people, and because they began to follow Christ, the logical name was "Christians."

It was at Antioch that we were first called Christians. Let us act like Christians not only at Antioch but every place we go. Make sure our behavior matches up with our name.

Go On, Let It Happen!
After arresting Peter, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. (Acts 12:4)

It happened to Peter. It happened to John. It happened to Paul. It happened to Jesus. Even though these men were innocent and did not deserve to be imprisoned, they did not resist. Instead, they let it happen. There is not one recorded instance in the Bible where they resisted. Why did these innocent men let it happen?

Each one of the aforementioned men let it happen because they knew they were innocent. They knew that God would fight their battle for them. They knew the truth would be revealed in God's own way and in God's own time. Not one of these men received a life sentence. Either they were miraculously set free or their destiny included being imprisoned for a short time before their death.

Go on, let it happen when you find yourself in an unpleasant situation. It won't last forever. And besides, it might be part of God's plan for you to fulfill your destiny.


Who is Rhoda?
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" (Acts 12:13-14)

It is amazing that we remember big names of the Bible such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Esther, Deborah and Mary Magdalene, but there are many unknown people in the Bible who did great things. Some of these people are not even named. The Bible simply says, "a certain man" or "a certain woman." In the above scripture, the servant girl is named Rhoda.

Peter had been put in prison for speaking in the name of Jesus. While he was in prison, the church was praying for him. Peter was freed from prison by an angel of the Lord. However, the people kept praying because they did not know about the miraculous release. When Peter knocked on the door, the servant girl did not open the door even though she recognized Peter's voice. It is a custom even today that servants do not open the door until the master of the house gives the word to do so. When Rhoda insisted Peter was at the door, she was told "You are out of your mind."

What is the life application concerning Rhoda?  The answer to your prayer might be validated by someone of a lesser status. Be careful not to tell that person, "You are out of your mind." Pay attention to what servants have to say.

What Happened at Lycaonia?
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. (Acts 14:11-12)

Be very careful when you travel through Lycaonia. Try not to let happen to you what happened to Paul and Barnabas. When Paul healed a crippled man in Lycaonia, the people called them gods. But Paul and Barnabas were deeply grieved that they were given credit for God's work. They let the
Lycaonians know they were mere men, humans just like they were. Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Be careful that you do not take the credit for God's doing. Who do people praise and glorify when God uses you to do something? Do not risk losing your rewards in heaven because of fleeting accolades of men. Make sure all that you do is done for the praise and honor of God's holy name and not your own.

Amazing Grace
We believe it through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved . . . (Acts 15:11)

Why did the songwriter call grace "amazing"?  Grace is one of the key attributes of God. Grace is given in spite of what we deserve. Grace is kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it.  Grace is similar to mercy, love, compassion and deliverance.  In the Old Testament the supreme example of grace was the redemption of the Hebrew people from Egypt and their establishment in the Promised Land.  In the New Testament and today the grace of God is supremely revealed and given in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We are saved by grace through faith. 

Grace is amazing because it is a mystery that we don't understand.  Grace is amazing because it has much awe.  Grace is amazing because we don't deserve it; yet God gave his only begotten Son in order that we might have it. Grace.....It is so amazing!

When In Rome Do as the Romans Do
This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further plans for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. (Romans 15:22-24)

Paul longed to visit Rome. He had many friends there. The entire chapter of Romans 16 consists of Paul's personal greetings to his Christian friends scattered throughout Rome. Paul had planned to visit Rome many times before, but each time his trip was hindered.

Paul's letter to the Romans was written to prepare them for his visit. He did not want to barge in on them. He planned to visit them "in the fullness of the blessing of Christ" (Romans 15:29) so he asked them to "pray that he could come to them with joy and be refreshed in their company" (Romans 15:32). In other words, when Paul visited Rome he wanted to do what the Romans did as long as it was pleasing to God.

What lessons do we learn from Paul in this matter? Paul was praying on his end for his journey. He wanted the Romans to pray on their end to receive him and what he had to say about the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wanted his long awaited arrival to be all that it could be to glorify God. Let us not only pray when we take a trip, but let us also remind those at our destination to receive us well.

Another lesson we learn from this passage is one about timing. Paul desired to get to Rome long before he finally did arrive. Let us not be discouraged if it is taking a long time to get to the place or position we desire.  In due season, we like Paul will finally arrive in Rome.

Go, But You Must Come Back
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . (John 1:14)  Now I am going to him who sent me...It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (Acts 16:5-7)

One of the most rewarding pieces of knowledge learned from the Bible is the fact that God sent Jesus to earth to be one of us to save all of us. We needed a Savior that we could identify with and relate to. So God sent His only begotten son (John 3:16). When God sent Jesus onto the earth, He said in essence, "Go, but you must come back."

It was God's design to get His Son upon the earth to do His work, then to get Him off the earth and back to His right hand, and then to send Him back permanently through the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit is like having Jesus with us in the flesh in all places at all times without being limited to time, space and death. Therefore, it was just as important for God to get Jesus off the earth as it was to bring Him onto the earth.

Let the Lord Lead You
When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."  (Acts 16:7-9)

Sometimes we are so eager to make a name for ourselves that we do not wait for God to lead us. We do things on our own and eventually fall flat on our faces. Some of us are so eager to do things our own way that when God leads us in a better way, we refuse to follow. Some people take great pride in saying, "I did it my way."

In the above scripture, Paul, Silas and Timothy had planned to go to one place to preach the gospel to a vast number of people. However, the Holy Spirit led them to a place of very few people; a place where Paul would not have chosen to go on his own. However, since Paul was immersed in God's word and was empowered by the Holy Spirit, he knew that it was God's will for him to go. Paul understood what was revealed to him in the vision.

Let's not ignore our dreams and visions. God speaks to us through them. Then let the Lord lead you to those places you wouldn't otherwise go on your own.

Prayers That Cause Earthquakes
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake... (Acts 16:25-26)

When is the last time you prayed a prayer that resulted in an earthquake? When is the last time you had to PUSH (pray until something happen)? Have you ever cried out to God in supplication until results happened even before you said, "Amen"?

That's the type of prayer Paul and Silas prayed while in jail. They not only prayed, but they sang praises to God as well. I just don't believe they prayed, "Bless me, Lord! O bless me Lord, you know what I'm been going through." I believe they said what God said about them. I believe they gave God His own words back to Him. "O Merciful God, you said in your word that I shall live and not die and proclaim the word of the Lord." It is written, "God will never leave me nor forsake me." God you said, "You will be with me til the end of the age."

The best way to come into God's presence is to call upon His name, pray to Him until your prayers turn to praise. Do you want your prayers to cause an earthquake? Do you want to shake the enemy up?
Pray until you Praise! An earthquake is bound to happen.


Gung-ho For the Gospel
These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. (Acts 17:6)

Yes, "gung-ho" is a word!  It means being enthusiastic with a determination to make things happen. When Saul was persecuting the Christians, he was gung-ho about it. He did it with fervor because He thought it was right.  After he met the risen Lord on that Damascus Road, he because a changed man.  He discovered he had been gung-ho in the wrong direction.  Saul became Paul, and from that time on, he was gung-ho for the gospel.

The gospel means "good news."  Specifically, it means good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ. Good news is meant to be shared. Knowing about Jesus and keeping it to yourself is not being gung-ho about it.  We need to share our faith.  We need to be witnesses for God. We do this by living a lifestyle that is pleasing in His sight. We "let our light so shine before men, that they might see our good works and glorify God in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

The gospel is too good for us to be nonchalant about it.  The gospel is too good for us to sit down on it.  Be like the apostles, turn the world upside down. Go on . . . be excited . . . be gung-ho for the gospel.

Giving: A Kingdom Principle
It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

Giving means granting, allowing, bestowing, imparting, permitting, placing, offering, presenting, yielding, and paying.  Giving implies offering something of value. It is offered freely and unforced. The giver takes on the character of Jesus, whose nature is to give. This scripture did not say it would be more natural or easier to give than to receive, but it is would be more blessed. This is because God's economy is based on blessing and giving to others, while the world's economy is based on hoarding and accumulating. This kingdom principle illustrates that giving is the kingdom key to releasing increase.  Do you need something?  Then, give something!

From Sin-Centeredness to God-Centeredness
First to those in Demascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)

To "repent" means to consciously turn from sin to God. It means to be sorry for the evil you have done and to resolve not to do it again. "Repentance" is a profound change of mind from sin-centeredness to God-centeredness. Though repentance may represent only regret or remorse over a past thought or action, in its fullest sense it means a change involving a deliberate redirection of your life. It means making a 360 degree turn and going in the opposite direction. Your life will be no longer sin-centeredness. Instead it will be God-centeredness.

According to the above scripture, one should repent and then prove it by a changed lifestyle. This is accomplished by putting away those things that are not pleasing to God and doing things that bring Him pleasure. True repentance is more than saying, "I'm sorry." True repentance is evidenced by a consecrated life . . . one that is God-centered!

Safe on Malta
Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.  (Acts 28:1)

When Paul and his shipmates were sailing to Rome, they were shipwrecked. Some jumped overboard and swam to shore. Others held onto broken pieces of the ship and everyone reached land in safety  (Acts 27:44)

Malta means “refuge.” It is a small village in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Africa. With its fine natural harbors, Malta was a convenient haven for ships.

After the shipwreck, Paul stayed on the island of Malta three months before he was able to board another ship to Rome. During that time he shared the gospel with the inhabitants of the island and started a church on Malta.

Like Paul, you can use your shipwrecked situations to lead to the expansion of the kingdom of God.

Under House Arrest   
When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. (Acts 28:16)

Paul was imprisoned for proclaiming the word of God, but he was not in a prison as we know a prison to be. Paul was under house arrest chained to Roman guards. But this did not stop him from using his time wisely. He wrote four epistles while under house arrest...Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. In fact, Philippians is called the joy book because Paul told the church at Philipi to rejoice as he rejoiced. Paul was imprisoned; yet, he was joyful. How much more should we be who are not imprisoned.

Paul witnessed to those who visited him. Hearing these conversations, the guards to whom Paul was chained became saved. Therefore, about 500 guards became converted as they heard Paul proclaim the gospel. Can you imagine the guards shouting and praising the Lord while being chained to Paul? It is no wonder they lost their Roman soldier position while gaining a higher position in Jesus.

When you are under adverse conditions, can you say you put that time to good use as Paul did? Paul let nothing stop him from proclaiming Jesus Christ. We must go and do likewise.

"Almost Persuaded" . . . "Fully Persuaded"
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian. (Acts 26:28)  . . . and Abraham being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was also able to perform. (Romans 4:21) 

The above scriptures illustrate two different degrees of faith and commitment to Christianity.  The words of Agrippa are sad words because they indicate that he was on the verge of becoming a Christian.  He was on the border line, but for some reason he did not accept the gift of salvation at that time.  The Bible does not indicate whether he did later.  We know that today is the day of salvation because tomorrow is not promised to us.

On the other hand, Abraham did not waver in his faith.  He did not stagger at the promise made by God that he would become the father of many nations.  Abraham is noted for his faith and his commitment to God's covenant.

Which category do you fit into?  Do you have the Agrippa syndrome of being "almost persuaded" or do you have the faith of Abraham to be "fully persuaded"? Be fully persuaded knowing that God can do everything; that God will do what He promised; that God's words will not return to Him void; that what He says will come to pass!

Shake It Off
Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.  He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.  (Acts 27:3, 5)

Paul had just arrived on the island of Malta after having survived a shipwreck while on his way to Rome.  When Paul had made a fire, a viper came from the bundle and fastened itself on Paul's hand.  Without hesitating, Paul immediately shook the viper off that was hanging from his hand. 

When sin grips us, we should do exactly as Paul did.  We should shake it off immediately.  When anything that is poisonous, dangerous or sinful grabs hold of us, let's shake it off quickly.  Let's shake it off and get it out of our lives, away from us. Let no negative idea or sinful thought grow into a full-blown sin.  Let's shake, shake, shake it off.


Doing As We Are Able
He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. (Acts 27:43-44)

We are not all equipped to handle the same things. We are not all equipped to handle things in the same manner. In the above scripture, Paul gives sound advice during a shipwreck. Knowing that everyone could do something to help all come to safety, he outlined what each person was to do as he was able. Those who could swim were to jump overboard and lead the others who couldn't. The next group was to follow by any means necessary; on planks or broken pieces of the ship.

This is the way it should be with God's children. Those who can sustain the storms of life ought to jump overboard and lead those who can't. They are to help the weak. Those who don't have anything to hold on to should be given instructions by those who know where to find the planks and broken pieces.

The important thing is that God wants us all to be brought to safety even during our shipwrecks. We can do that when we all do as we are able. What are you doing to help others to be brought safely to land?


 

Custom Search