Posted in 1Corinthians, Acts, John, Matthew

A Sign to Examine

“He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:31

Usually in church we are called to believe in our hearts something that we can’t see with our eyes. But there is one case where God encourages us to examine something we can see with the logic of our minds – the resurrection. God has “furnished proof” that Jesus is the judge of all mankind by raising Him from the dead.

In John 2 Jesus clears the temple and the religious leaders ask, “What sign do you show us as your authority for doing these things?” (John 2:18) The only person on earth that might have authority to move temple furniture around was the high priest. Outside of him, only God himself would have that kind of authority. “Who do you think you are?” is what they’re asking. Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) The sign He gave of His authority was the resurrection. In Matthew 12 again He is asked for a sign but replies that no sign will be given except the sign of His death and resurrection as prefigured in the story of Jonah. (Matthew 12:39-40)

Paul says that all of Christianity hinges on the actual, historical resurrection of Jesus. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins… if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1Corinthians 15:17-19) I’ve heard people say that they’d be a Christian “even if it wasn’t true.” Paul wouldn’t be. He’s only in if it’s true and to him it’s true because of a historical proof that God gave. Paul didn’t believe in Jesus because he was afraid he’d go to hell if he didn’t, and he didn’t ultimately believe because of the subjective encounter he had on the road to Damascus. He believed because it was the truth; not just his truth, but everyone’s. The evidence is the resurrection.

Posted in Acts, Ecclesiastes, Philippians

Emotionally Content

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11 NIV

I want to learn how to enjoy the season that I am currently experiencing instead of fighting it. Why is it so easy to pine over what once was, or to long for a future that is different than my life right now? God has made right now beautiful if I’m willing to see it. He has you and me where we are right now.  Can we agree with Him in our emotions and even learn to enjoy this season? Or do we fight with God, advise God, disagree with God, and basically go against the grain of the season we’re in with the slivers to prove it? Jesus said to Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14)

We can’t fathom the whole of what God is doing in our lives and because of that we aren’t capable of judging how the present season fits. Why not trust God and get into the flow of what He is doing? Maybe you’re like me, frustrated by your seeming lack of control over what happens in your circumstances. If we surrender our need for control we are free to trust the One who really is in control. Easier said than done, but it’s only when we truly let go that we experience His peace. Here’s His promise to us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Whether you are old or young, married or single, employed or unemployed, in school or out of school, happy or sad, on the top or on the bottom… whatever your life is like right now, I challenge you to find God’s beauty in it and to be at peace.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Exodus, John, Revelation

Thinking Right

“But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” Acts 14:2

Belize and Mexico are two places I regularly go for missions trips and in both places you can’t drink the tap water. It looks fine but is contaminated, so you can’t drink it or you become sick. A few years ago our whole team got sick and it was traced back to a restaurant where they had cooked the chicken we ate in contaminated water. You only have to get sick once to become very careful about what you drink!

Are we as careful about our thoughts? In our text we have a group of Jews who “refused to believe” the good news of God’s love and redemption through Christ and then poisoned others with their judgments. When we stop seeing ourselves and others as loved and worth redeeming, we tend to take up the enemy’s accusations instead. (Revelation 12:10) This is poison. Satan sows suspicion and bitterness toward others in our minds if we let him, and he can even use us to divide homes, friends and churches. He knows that a kingdom divided will not stand and is the master at using poisonous thoughts to bring offense, isolation, envy, and jealousy.

The judgments we make appear to be “the truth,” so we justify ourselves in thinking them and even speaking them, but judgment isn’t the whole truth. God loves people and sent His Son into the world to save us, not to condemn us. (John 3:17) We overcome the accuser by testifying about the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11) which was shed for us and for everyone we know. The whole truth, therefore, is not just what is wrong with people, but must include what God has done through His Son to make them right. (2Corinthians 5:19)

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they drank from a water source that was poisonous. Moses cried out to God, and God showed him a tree. (Exodus 15:25) He cut it down, threw it in the water, and it became sweet. God didn’t show him a different place to drink that had pure water; He redeemed that which was bitter and made it sweet. He wants to do the same thing with our thinking. Why don’t we identify our poison, bring it to the cross, and allow God to sweeten our thoughts toward even the most difficult sinners in our lives.

Posted in 1Peter, Acts, Galatians, John, Mark

God’s Timing

“It is not for you to know the times (chronos) or dates (kairos) which the Father has set by His own authority.” Acts 1:7

Two of the Greek words for time in the New Testament are “chronos” and “kairos.” Chronos is the word for sequential time which is how mankind usually thinks about time. There are twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and fifty two weeks in a year. We make plans and appointments in sequential time and live our lives trying to fulfill them.

Kairos is a word we don’t have one English word to describe. It is not sequential time, but rather, God’s time for something to happen. 

Vine’s Expository dictionary gives this distinction: “Chronos marks quantity (of time), kairos, marks quality.” (554) So how does recognizing God’s kairos time practically make a difference in our lives? Let me give a number of ways.

  1. Although we live in sequential time our priority should be kairos time. Jesus waited for God’s time to go to the feast while his unbelieving brothers had no such concern. “The right time (kairos) for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right.” (John 7:1-2) 
  2. We should not be frustrated by our present difficulties but can have confidence that if we keep doing what’s right, the time (kairos) will come when we will see God’s deliverance. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God and in due time (kairos) He will exalt you.” (1Peter 5:6) “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (kairos) we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
  3. History has a purpose and a direction way bigger than us, so we should be able to put all of our minor irritations in perspective.  Jesus died at the “right time” (kairos) for us (Romans 5:6); and we can be assured that Jesus will come back in God’s “appointed time” (kairos – Mark 13:33).
  4. As we respond to God’s dealings with us with a spirit of repentance, He desires “times” (kairos) of refreshing to come to us from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Posted in 1Corinthians, Acts

To Speak or not to Speak?

“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” 1Corinthians 14:34

Why would Paul, who insisted that we are free from the law in the New Covenant, reference the law as the reason why women should be silent in the church? The motivation of all his ministry is explained to us just a few chapters earlier: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those under the Law, … so that I might win those who are under the Law; … I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1Corinthians 9:19-23)

The church in Corinth is reaching out to Jewish unbelievers. It is already difficult for unbelieving Jews to have women sitting alongside men in the same meeting; but to have them speaking would be so offensive to them they would have no chance to respond to Christ. Because Paul is concerned about reaching these people who are under the law, he puts the churches reaching them under the law, even though they aren’t under the law, so that they might win those under the law.

Acts 2 is about the freedom God has brought to both men and women through the gospel. (Acts 2:17-18)  1Corinthians 14 is a reminder that we live in culture and we need to honor culture so that we can win people to Christ. A few years ago one of my daughters went to Oman on a missions trip. While there, she always wore a dress in public with a head covering. Why? It wouldn’t have been illegal in that country to wear whatever she wanted, but her team was trying to reach unbelievers for Christ. Dishonoring the Muslim culture in Oman would have made it very difficult for the team to share Jesus. Once you offend someone, it’s hard for them to hear anything else you are saying.

Paul goes on to say in 1Corinthians 9 by saying, “to those without the law I become like those who do not have the law… so that I may win some.”  Do you think Paul would allow women to speak in church if he lived in 21st century America?

Posted in Acts, Hebrews

Continual Devotion

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

God is wholehearted toward you. He gave everything on the cross before we gave anything to Him, just because He loves us. The goal of the Christian is to have the same wholehearted love for God that He has for us. When we do we will have energy and joy to do whatever God wants us to do without even noticing the sacrifices we make. As Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), even so, our burning love for Him will make any difficulty just one more chance to embrace the cross for His sake. 

Continual devotion is a great definition of being wholehearted. Continual means a 24/7 relationship instead of a religion that puts God in a box that you only bring out once or twice a week.

When you are devoted to something it is of the highest value to you and you will pay any price to protect it. God wants this fire for Him in our hearts. Our text then gives four things they were continually devoted to that produce an atmosphere of being wholehearted lovers.

  1. The apostle’s teaching – they weren’t devoted to the apostles but to their teaching which we have today in the New Testament. We must not be devoted to our favorite preacher but to the Word of God. Men are like the grass of the field but the Word of God abides forever. Do you read His word daily? I encourage you to start if you don’t. 
  2.  Fellowship – we must make some Christian friends that are seeking to be wholehearted as well. Go to church, get in a small group, and look for opportunities to grow.
  3. The breaking of bread – this is a reference to communion and the centrality of the cross. Christianity is not about how good we are but about how good Jesus was on our behalf. It is not about our great love, but that He loved us first. 
  4.  Prayer – spending time listening and talking to God. Allow His presence to be your breath and make prayer a moment by moment conversation as well as a special time set aside each day. 

Through these four disciplines God will ignite a fire in us and grow it until our hearts are completely healed and completely His.

Posted in 1Samuel, 2Timothy, Acts

Breaking Intimidation

“Then the Philistine (Goliath) said, ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ On hearing this, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” 1Samuel 17:10-11

I believe there was a spirit of intimidation behind Goliath’s threats that still seeks to paralyze the people of God today. If we listen to our fears we will do little to advance the kingdom of God in our lives. The Bible tells us that David, “served the purpose of God in his own generation.” (Acts 13:36) He didn’t live a sinless life, but God was able to accomplish what He wanted through him. If we fulfill our purpose, it will be because we broke intimidation the same way David did. Consider with me three common sources of intimidation:

  1. The opinions of family. “When Eliab, David’s brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.’” (1Samuel 17:28) We love our families but we dare not allow their expectations to determine our destinies. It’s hard for them to see us beyond the role we played in the family growing up.
  2. The way others have done it. “‘I cannot go in these,’ David said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off.” (1Samuel 17:39) Saul put his own armor on David because that’s what Saul would have worn if he was fighting. Others have an opinion about us but it’s often based more on who they are then on who we are. We will never fulfill God’s purpose trying to be someone we’re not.
  3. The taunts of the enemy. How did David boldly confront the same enemy who had paralyzed the entire Israelite army for forty days? I believe the key is found in the previous chapter: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (1Samuel 16:13) The key to breaking intimidation is being filled with the Holy Spirit. We have nothing to fear, God has given us the Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. (2Timothy 1:7)  Be yourself, filled with the Holy Spirit, and know with confidence that you and God can accomplish anything together.
Posted in 2Samuel, Acts, Psalms

What’s Your Dream?

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” Psalm 27:4

David’s dream was that he would know the intimacy of God’s presence which is why he was called the man after God’s own heart.  His dream was to know God Himself. What’s yours?

David also had an assignment, in fact, it was a big one. He was appointed by God to be king in Israel which meant that he was responsible to lead and shepherd them, which he did with integrity and diligence (Psalm 78:72), but his assignment was never his dream.

This became evident when he sinned against God and was in danger of losing everything. In his prayer recorded in Psalm 51, he pleaded with God about his dream but never even mentioned his assignment: “Do not cast me from Your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me…” (Psalm 51:11) When Absalom was seeking to overthrow the kingdom, David fled, but made Zadok keep the ark in Jerusalem: “If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, He will bring me back…”, but if not, “I am ready; let Him do whatever seems good to Him.” (2Samuel 15:26) David’s identity wasn’t in being king but in being God’s child. He didn’t have to fight to be or do something, He just wanted to be where God wanted him.

Acts tells us that David completed his assignment while on earth (Acts 13:36) and you should aim to fulfill yours as well, but I hope you don’t make it your dream. Making your assignment your dream will burn you out and all those who are around you because burn out is always the end result of putting the second commandment (Love your neighbor) before the first (Love God). But if we seek God Himself as our dream, like David did, we will find an abundance of grace to complete His assignment and all the glory will belong to Him.

Posted in Acts, John

What’s Your Assignment?

“I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.” John 17:4

The Message brings out the truth that our “work” is simply the assignment God has given us. The way we bring glory to God on this earth is by working on the assignment He’s given us to do. When my daughter was in high school it was amazing how many different things she could occupy herself with instead of the homework that was assigned by her teacher.  I think we are often the same way in life.

God has assigned us to be His witnesses wherever we are. Not to “do” witnessing, but to “be” witnesses. He tells us that before this can happen we must be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), so part of our assignment is cultivating a relationship where we stay filled with Him. Being His witness is going to look different in different spheres, but it always involves bringing a sense of God’s presence, love, and beauty to whatever setting we are in.

There is a fresh anointing of the Spirit for every new assignment God might ask of you. Sometimes it’s a new person He wants you to love, sometimes it’s a new stage of life He wants you to embrace, and sometimes it’s a new job or responsibility He’s given you to do. Let’s not waste our time feeling sorry for ourselves or worrying about future scenarios that may never happen. Let’s be about the work He’s given us to do, in the strength He has supplied, so He is glorified. We don’t ever have to out-produce or impress anyone else. It’s enough that we work on our assignment.

Posted in Acts, Luke

The God of Midnight

“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” Acts 16:25-26

In Luke 11  a friend comes to a friend at midnight because he has no bread. Even though he has nothing to give his midnight visitor he knows someone who does. He goes to this rich friend and after shamelessly, persistently knocking on his door, he secures provision for his other friend. Jesus said that this was how prayer worked and said that if we keep on knocking, seeking, and asking, the Father will give the Holy Spirit to us in a way that will reach our friends who have no bread in their hour of need. The point is to stay connected in friendship with unbelievers and don’t be discouraged if they don’t seem to be responding right now because midnight, the darkest hour, will come to their lives at some point, and then they will seek someone who they think might be able to help.

In our text Paul and Silas could easily have been despairing. While they were evangelizing, doing the very work God had told them to do, they were thrown into prison and chained up. They could have easily fallen into doubt and asked the question: “Why did God let this happen?” The Scripture mentions that it was “about midnight.” Maybe you’re in the middle of some dark circumstance right now and at the end of yourself. You have a choice just like Paul and Silas did.

They decided to trust God in the midst of their circumstances and began to pray and worship instead of grumble and complain. God’s response is astounding. There was a supernatural earthquake whereby the prison doors all opened and everyone’s chains fell off, yet no one got hurt. He is the God of midnight. When man is at the end of himself and there seems to be no hope, God is there, waiting to set people free and bring them to Himself.