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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Arrogant Response

Acts 12:18 – 23 documents Herod’s response to God’s miraculous release of Peter from Herod’s maximum security lock up.  He pitched a fit.  He executed the 16 guard.  When the world and its systems do not get their way, they lash out violently.

Herod was arrogant.  He thought that God was not a real issue.  He saw himself as a god.  In his case, God took him out in mid-sentence.  Herod suffered the same fate as those whom he used to stand against God, the guards he executed.  Those who place themselves over God are destroyed unless God draws them.  All who reject the relationship God offers, are placing themselves over God in that they are saying that He is irrelevant and not needed in their life.  They are autonomous, the poem Invictus, which I really like, is a prime example of that attitude.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Henley, William Ernest (1888). A book of verses. London: D. Nutt. pp. 56–57. OCLC 13897970

As good as this is, it describes a life committed to self and self-determination as opposed to trust and dependence on God.  It is our nature to live this way.  It appeals to us.  2 Chronicles 36:16 reminds us that while God is one of patience, grace, and mercy; there is a limit to the latitude He gives us.  We do well to respond to Him before the last clause of that passage… “until there is no remedy.”

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Contrasting “Powers”

Acts 12:3 – 17 is an interesting contrast in purpose, instrumentation, and power.  Herod’s purpose was to execute Peter to please the religious, which was his end, his purpose.  Herod’s means were a jail and four squads of soldiers.
Contrasting “Powers”
In contrast the purpose of the church, their end, was to have Peter released, delivered.  Their means was prayer, fervent prayer.

Herod threw all he had to contain one man.  A jail and four squads of soldiers.  A squad had 4 soldiers; so sixteen men.  Sixteen men and a jail vs prayer.  The people praying did not really believe it would work, when Peter showed up, they did not believe it.  By the way their halting faith and the result of their prayer gives me hope.  Because in reality they in large part reflect much of my attitude in prayer.

The outcome of the contrast between the ends and means of Herod and religion vs the church is stunning.  All of the means that the tetrarch had at his disposal could not prevail against the prayer, the halting, unbelieving prayer of the saints.  It was not a matter of the faith of those who prayed rather it was a matter of to whom those prayers were directed.  This was about God’s purpose, His control, His sovereignty over one who thought himself important and one who was committed to the world’s system.  He thought himself as one who could stand against what God was doing.  We find in the next couple of paragraphs the end result of his delusion.  We will leave that for tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hostile Environments

Acts 12:1 – 3 is an interesting read.  In there we see two systems or entities that resist Christ and by extension Christianity.  The first is the government.  Herod rounds up believers including apostles and kills them.  He kills John’s brother James, and then makes a move on Peter.  The believers were not functioning as the government wanted.  So they used power and force to attempt to stop the spread of their influence
Hostile Environments
The other entity that rejects here Christ and Christians is religion.  John 16:1 – 4 also speaks to this.  The alignment of the world and religion is close.  All forms of religion including “Christian” religion is hostile toward Christianity.  Religion by definition is a system of trying to please God through performance or standards.  It is man’s, the flesh, the world’s choice.  On the other hand, Christianity, discipleship, is God’s choice.  He chooses to relate through His Son’s sacrifice to those whom He has chosen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Including

Yesterday I started sharing some observations on Acts 11:19 – 26, here is the second…
Including
Antioch was hopping.  Barnabus was thrilled with what he saw.  As we saw yesterday he encouraged the new believers and many more trusted Christ.

It would have been easy for Barnabus to assert his position as emissary of the apostles.  Barnabus could have done as many do today and take the ministry over.  Instead he knew that he needed a team.

He went for the one he knew could teach well.  Saul had demonstrated in Damascus that he was a capable teacher.  Barnabus was one who was a peace maker a connector.  He ran interference for Saul with the Apostles in Jerusalem.

The combination of gifts and personalities was powerful in this community of new believers.  The application for us is huge.  We need a team.  We cannot minister on our own.  It takes a team of gifts in order to build up the Body of Christ.  Isn’t that what all of the passages on gifts tell us, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11 – 16.

One error to avoid is that of taking on the role of leader when we need to have others involved in the battle with us.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Inclusion

In Acts 11:19 – 26, we read about one of the first of the churches outside of Jerusalem.  Some of the scattered disciples (scattered because of the persecution with which Saul was involved), traveled north to Antioch.  When they got there, they shared the good news of Jesus.
Inclusion

Many believed.

When that word reach Jerusalem, rather than have them come to Jerusalem to validate their conversion, the apostles sent Barnabus.  This was the first instance of one being sent who was not an apostle.

We read that Barnabus encouraged the believers in Antioch and many were brought to the Lord.  There is no record of Barnabus instituting the same things that were in Jerusalem.  He simply encouraged the believers.

He was not concerned with anything other than their remaining true to the Lord.

What is the lesson for us there?

But that is not all that he did…  More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

On this day that we celebrate the birth of our savior, we wanted to wish you and your family a Blessed Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Immediate Zeal

Still working through Acts, look at Acts 9:19 – 22.  Paul immediately after regaining his sight began to proclaim the gospel in Damascus to the point that he confounded the Jews who were trying to refute him.
Immediate Zeal
God took Paul’s zeal to persecute the Church and repurposed it.  It is the case that God is sovereign over all of our lives including the period of time that we were not in relationship with Him.  In the case of Paul he was trained by the best Pharisaic legal minds.  He was a scholar.  He was devout.  He was committed to the cause.  All of that zeal, all of that knowledge was immediately channeled into a passion to share the gospel.

All of us who have come to the Lord have training and experiences prior to that decision.  It is the case that like Paul, God was sovereign over and intentional about those experiences.  He uses them to prepare us for the role that He has for us in His kingdom.

We need to celebrate the new convert’s zeal to share.  God has prepared him to do just that.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lessons from the Road

This week I was working on a summary of Acts.  Typically, when I study a book, I do an overview, study the parts, and then do a summary – the movement is from the whole to the parts and back to the whole…
Lessons from the Road
I was going back over my study looking at some of the things I wrote in response to the text.  Acts 9 was one of the places that the Lord really spoke to me.

Look at Acts 9:1 – 19, it is the account of Paul’s conversion through his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and the subsequent visit by Ananias.  I thought through what those men might have learned from those events.

Paul’s learning:
  • The call of God for redemption is through the Body of Christ.  Individual believers are instrumental in the propagation of the Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:14ff.
  • Forgiveness is not dependent on the heinous nature of an offense, 1 Timothy 1:15.
  • God will sometimes intervene and stop persecution, thus if He allows it, it is part of His plan and has purpose.  (see further note below)
What was the lesson for Ananias?
  • He was useful to the Lord.
  • The Lord’s assignments do not align always with logic.
  • He cannot prejudge a person’s usefulness to the Lord.
  • God allows us to question Him without retaliation, He is gracious.
But the most important part of any study is what can I apply…
  • A person’s known behavior past or present is not an indication of their value to the Lord in the administration of His Kingdom.
  • I can know that even in the midst of a group of very bad people God may have His hand on someone.
  • God is sovereign over the events in my life.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hand or Face

My wife and I were called to the hospital.  There we were informed that two in our family were threatened by an aggressive cancer.
Hand or Face
That Sunday during church I felt like I should spend some extended time in prayer about what those two were facing.

Extended time in prayer is not a strength of mine.  Extended time in the Bible – I am all in.  Prayer – I run out of things to pray fairly quickly.  I struggled praying for four hours over the specifics that I knew, asking the Lord to intervene and heal.

The next morning I opened my journal for my devotional time with the Lord.  I wrote down the passages from the reading plan that I have been using this year and began to turn to read the first one – I do not hear the Lord audibly.  But from time to time He impresses on me passages that I should read.  Turning to the first passage I was redirected to Matthew 5:6.

It was as if the Lord was saying to me, “You spent four hours yesterday praying the lives of those in your family would be spared from this cancer.  When is the last time you have pursued Me with that much fervor?”  I was filleted.

I was hard at seeking what God could do for my family, His hand.  I was not as hard after seeking His face, to know Him.

It was a hard lesson.  One that I am still processing and still weakly attempting to apply…

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Surprise Answers to Prayer…

Today my reading took me back to John 11.  You know the story.  Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that their brother, Jesus’ good friend Lazarus, is sick.
Surprise Answers to Prayer…
Essentially, they are praying that Jesus will come and heal their brother.

Jesus delays.

When He finally arrives Lazarus is not only dead he has been in the tomb for four days.  Jesus brings him out.

My takeaway today?  When I pray, I normally have in mind how and when God will answer.  Matter of fact my prayers are many times couched in those terms, almost, similar to Martha and Mary, a demand.

God may answer in the affirmative – by the way “no” is an answer – but as with the sister’s request, He may choose a different time and a different means.  They expected a timely healing.  Jesus brought their brother back from the dead.

My family has been facing four life and death situations for the past several weeks.  That has been the reason there is such a gap in these posts here.  I will be sharing some of what I have been learning through this in the next weeks.  I am constrained by what I can share for I am honoring requests not to share details.  But there are some lessons, especially in the area of prayer, that I am compelled to share…