Sunday, 30 September 2007

Brother Saul

“And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." - Acts 9v17

There are certain little phrases in scripture that just amaze me. The term “Brother Saul” is one of them. In Acts 8 Saul actually took part in the stoning of Stephen, the first recorded martyr in the Bible. As chapter 9 opens he is on a rampage against the church. He is threatening them, wanting them killed, and even asks for permission to go to Damascus to find the ones who had scattered.

But something happened along the way – Saul got saved. He himself tells the story in detail later, but suffice it to say for now that God intervened and Saul accepted Christ as Saviour.

Up in Damascus there was a Christian named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him and told him to go talk to Saul. Of course Ananias was afraid – he knew who Saul was after all! But the Lord told Ananias that He was going to use Saul, so Ananias went.

I love his words when the meets Saul. Ananias walked up, put his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul.” Only one thing could change an enemy into a brother in a matter of moments – salvation through Christ! It would be kind of like us today saying, “Brother Osama,” “Brother Kim Jong-il,” or “Brother Fidel.” God’s love through his people is an amazing thing. Think about how we would see the world if we saw our enemies as potential brothers.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

I believe

“Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” - Acts 8v37

I love the simplicity of the gospel. The eunuch was trying to figure out a passage from Isaiah. Philip cut right to the chase and simply preached Jesus. He must have talked about baptism, because when they approached the water in the oasis the eunuch said, “Here is some water, can I be baptised?” Philip’s response was simple enough – “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” No works, no religion, nothing – just “if you believe with all your heart you may.” An interested note is that belief had to precede his baptism, but that is for a later time.

The key here is the simplicity – believe with all your heart. The eunuch’s words were the most precious that he could have said, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Simple words of simple heart felt faith.

God’s love is so amazing. All He wants is simple faith in Him. Praise God it is so easy that a famous Ethiopian leader and a poor blind beggar can both me saved my simple faith in Christ.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Philip opened his mouth, and … preached Jesus

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” - Acts 8v35

Philip really challenges me. He was open to the Holy Spirit’s direction, heading out in the desert to preach the gospel to this high official. The eunuch was reading from the scroll of Isaiah 53v7-8. He, like the Jewish rulers and teachers, could not figure out what he read.

If Philip were like most of us, especially the preachers, he would have launched into some great theological teaching to try and show how much he knew. Instead, he did it right – he opened his mouth, he started in Isaiah, and he simply preached Jesus.

I can’t really think of much to say about that. It was simple enough – he just spoke up and preached Jesus!

Sometimes the old phrase KISS (keep it simple stupid) is practical even in serving the Lord!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

How can I unless someone guides me?

“And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.” - Acts 8v31

I am amazed at how much God cares about “the one.” The shepherd left 99 sheep to go after the one. The father apparently spent much of his time looking at for his one prodigal son. Here we find another instance of how important “one” is to God.

Somewhere in the desert there was a single chariot. In that chariot was a government official, a eunuch from the queen of Ethiopia’s court. Somewhere along the way, perhaps on an embassage of some sort he had acquired a scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He just couldn’t make sense of what he was saying.

The picture can almost be humorous. I can almost see this big black government official, somewhere in the desert near an oasis, stopped in his official chariot. As he stands there, sweat pouring off his face, dressed in expensive gear, fully kitted out, he holds a scroll. He peers over it, scratching his head in confusion.

Amazingly, God didn’t miss this scene. This one man was worth something to God. Some might say, “Its only one man. What a waste, lets go to a big city, or at least a town, or maybe even a small village, but one man? Surely we can make better use of God’s time than to go after one man!: God saw it differently – here was one precious soul, searching for God.

It was so important that the Holy Spirit moved Philip to go to him. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I, unless someone shows me?” the man replied, “Please join me and explain it to me.”

How many individuals are out there in their homes, classrooms, offices, and work cubicles waiting for some one to come and explain God to them. Every single one is of value – one soul is surely worth it to God.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching

“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” - Acts 8v4

Way back in the book of Exodus it should have been evident that persecution was not the way to deal with God’s people. Way back then we read that, “The more they afflicted them the more then multiplied and grew.”

However, after Stephen the authorities thought the best thing to do was to try and wipe out the Christians so they began a severe regimen of persecution. It got so bad that they began to scatter to other areas. This must have pleases the authorities at first because all they wanted was the Christians gone, by death or my moving elsewhere.

They did not, however, get rid of the problem. Sure they scattered, but as they scattered they preached. Pure and simple, no fanfare – as they went out from the persecution they kept preaching.

This really challenges my heart. I fear that if persecuted I would run and hide instead of run and preach.

My God give us the courage and faith of these early believers.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Lord, do not charge them with this sin

“Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” - Acts 7v60

We don’t get to know a whole lot about Stephen, but we do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was a man, as the scripture says, who was “full of faith.”

As he sat before the council with the face of an angel while false charges were being thrown at them he did so because he knew the end result. They gave him a chance to answer the charges and he preached an amazing sermon outlining the Old Testament. At the very end he boldly asserted that these were the men who are killed the God sent Messiah.

Enraged, they took Stephen and stoned him to death. As he lay beaten, bruised and bleeding he echoed his Saviour’s word with his dying breath – “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

To the very end he was a man of courage and compassion, boldness and blessing. When we are attacked we tend to think things like, “they can’t treat me that way.” Stephen thought, “Lord, forgive them.”

Which response shows faith and confidence in the Lord?

Monday, 24 September 2007

The face of an angel

“And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.” - Acts 6v15

I am afraid I don’t have a whole lot to comment on today, these words speak for themselves. The “Freedmen” bribed people to say that they had heard Stephen committing blaspheme. They had further convinced people to lie saying that Jesus’ followers were undermining the Law and desired to destroy Judaism. Not a glimmer of truth to what they said.

How did Stephen respond? One can almost imagine one of those cartoons where the character’s face is all red, steam is pouring out his ears, and a train whistle is going off. Surely these blatant lies could not be taken quietly!

But no, Stephen sat there with the face of an angel.

Maybe we should keep this in mind the next time we are mistreated and lies are being told about us.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

They could not resist his wisdom and spirit

“And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” - Acts 6v10

Among the first deacons chosen to assist the apostles was a man named Stephen who was “full of wisdom and the spirit,” and “full of power.” Through him the Lord did many signs and wonders which caught the attention of a group called “The Synagogue of the Freedmen (Libertines)” from all over the area. It appears that they called a meeting with Stephen to discuss his teaching and try to silence him.

It is obvious they were trying to shut him up. He was preaching stuff that did not agree with them and despite their name, the need not really believe in liberty or freedom. (There is a story there, but that may be for another time and place J.)

They had a problem with Stephen – they didn’t have any answers for his “wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.” What do you do when you can’t properly win a debate? You attack the person’s character ad hominem. You see it all the time. This group of so called “libertines” went around bribing people to lie about Stephen to get him arrested.

What a challenge – my I have the kind of character, speech, and walk with the Lord that men would need to lie about me in order to find fault with my life!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Prayer and the ministry of the word

“…but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." - Acts 6v4

Perhaps today’s thoughts are more for me than anyone else, but I think there is a lesson for us all.

Things were marvellous in the church. In spite of the trials and persecutions the church was growing and multiplying. Because of the sheer numbers the apostles soon realised that they could not do everything so they suggested, and the rest of the church agreed that men should be appointed to carry out the every day tasks of the church.

The reason was so that they would not be so weighed down that they could not do their primary tasks, which were to pray and minister the word to the people. Like everyone else in the church, the twelve had a role to play – pray and preach – and this would allow them to focus on that. Of course this does not mean that they were not to do anything else, but it would free them up to so what they needed to do.

The lesson for all of us is clear. God has called certain men to the role of praying and preaching. When a church gets to the point where their task is hindered by the everyday task men need to be appointed to help do those things. We need to respect and honour the primary role of the leaders, and do all we can to help them

Now I have to face the convicting part. Am I doing what God wants me to do? As a pastor I need to make sure that I keep my priorities straight. There is a temptation to get involved in everything, but I need to make sure that I first am doing the task God has given me.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Rejoicing that they were counted worthy…they did not cease

“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” - Acts 5v41-42

If you ever want to find some worthy heroes for your children you need look no further than the first few chapters of the book of Acts. The disciples, led primarily by Peter and John, set a pattern for true men of God that we rarely see today.

The council decided not to kill them, so they had them beaten and warned them not ot preach about Jesus any more. Pretty stern stuff since their beating was probably the standard 39 lashes which could easily kill a man. I wonder what I would have done if I were beaten like this and released. Held a pity party, crawled home and whinged about how hard it was to be a Christian, or maybe I would have just given up thinking it was hopeless.

Not these guys – they went home rejoicing that that had been counted worthy to suffer shame for the cause of Christ. If that were not enough they went out daily preaching and teaching Jesus every place they went! In the temple and in every home they visited they kept talking about Jesus!

I find this amazing, convicting, and shaming. We talk about sports, the weather, the hobbies we enjoy, our church, current events, trends and movements in Christianity, politics, and just about anything else that comes to mind. The sad thing is that no one is going to arrest and beat me if I do talk about Jesus. The worst that is going to happen to me is something like what happened yesterday when a few lads recognised me from Kid’s Klub or Teen Time and mocked me for my faith.

Mocking or a beating – which would I really prefer. Unfortunately it is not just me. It seems like if we are looking for examples of Peter and John like faith and commitment we need to go someplace where lives and fortunes are threatened for standing for Christ.

Why is it that it seems that only persecuted Christians have the courage to take a bold, unwavering stand? Perhaps it is because only they know the joy of being counted worthy to suffer shame for the cause of Christ. I hated being taunted yesterday – but if I had the character shown by these men perhaps I would have walked over and spoke to them of Chris instead of taking it and walking away.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

If it is of God you cannot overthrow it

….”but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it lest you even be found to fight against God." - Acts 5v39

You almost can feel sorry for the Jewish authorities. The more they told the disciples to stop preaching the bolder they got. They couldn’t keep them in jail and the disciples kept blaming them for Jesus’ death. Finally they discussed a plot to just kill them and be rid of them.

A wise member of the council named Gamaliel addressed he council. He listed a couple of false who had arisen and they movements died on their own. He said that if Jesus were just another false prophet his movement would die as well so they didn’t have to worry about it.

There was another possibility. Perhaps this movement was from God. If that is the case, Gamaliel said, nothing was going to stop it for they would not be battling another cult, but God Himself. In other words, if this is a false prophet then it won’t last, but if it is from God nothing can stop it.”

And so it is 2000 years later. It clearly was not another cult leader. Christ is and was of God. Men and governments have not heeded Gamliel advice but instead have tried to wipe out the movement. Yet, here it stands today, undaunted and unshaken.

What a joy in serving God today – if it is of God nothing can shake it, so lets keep on serving!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

We ought to obey God

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.” - Acts 5v29

It is almost humorous to see the interaction between the disciples and the authorities. They just can’t seem to keep the disciples in jail. It is like an episode of the Andy Griffith Show where the sheriff and deputy can’t keep a miscreant in the local small prison. I would love to have seen their reaction when they went to get them and they weren’t in prison where they left them!

Here the disciples left prison, where they were freed by an angel, to go back to the temple to preach. The authorities came bristling with anger. “We told you to stop preaching!” The disciple’s response was brilliant – a simple, “We ought to obey God rather than man.”

These guys were not interested in leading a rebellion. The Bible makes it clear that we are supposed to submit to governing authorities. However there are times when man’s rules or expectations come into conflict with God’s. At times like this we have no choice – we have to obey God instead of man.

The sad thing is that we can often choose to obey man’s whims and expectations instead of God’s wished for us. It doesn’t even take man’s rules and regulations, but fear of man’s response that motivates our actions.

No matter what, laws, rules, peer pressure, or expectations we truly ought to obey God rather than man.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

None of them lacked

“Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” - Acts 4v34-35

The 20th century saw a great experiment in countries all over the world as the tried to implement Marx’ and Engels’ philosophy of communism. Edward Bellamy wrote a book in the late 19th century called Looking Backward in which he saw a 21st century at total peace and harmony because everyone shared everything in common. The movement caught fire and by the mid-century communism was a reality for about half of the world. Why did it not last? Because man has a sin nature and is ultimately selfish.

The early church, because they were believers committed to serve the Lord and allowed the Holy Spirit to control them, practiced what we might call “perfect communism.” They did not consider anything their own. When there was a need the sold off what they had to meet the needs of others. What impresses me here is their absolute disregard to have their own possessions. Why is it that our “stuff” is so important to us? Perhaps we need to re-evaluate our own concept of possessions. Could it be that the same sin nature which makes communism fail is keeping the body of Christ from doing what it could do?

One thing is clear – there should never be a need in the body of Christ!.

Monday, 17 September 2007

We cannot but speak

“For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." - Acts 4v20

We have been watching a video series on Sunday nights. It is produced by Voice of the Martyrs and tells the story of eight teens taking a mission trip to Vietnam. Their task was to carry in Bibles for the believers there. While in Vietnam they had the opportunity to visit Christians in several settings. In last night’s video they visited an underground Bible college. One of the pastors lived there, literally underground. He spoke of the dangers of speaking of Jesus. He had been arrested and beaten. His possessions had been confiscate. Yet still he carried on teaching, preaching, and training. He even tried to get the authorities to sign a paper that he would not be responsible if God struck them dead for interfering with the church. Nothing could deter him from speaking of Jesus.

This pastor is the living embodiment of a modern day Peter and John. The authorities had to let them go for lack of evidence and lack of a real crime. They harshly warned them to stop preaching and teaching. Peter and John refused to be cowed. Why? Because they could do nothing but continue to speak of what they had seen and heard. This was the same Peter who had denied Jesus! “Do what you need to do,” they said, “but we can’t stop talking about Jesus.”

Ouch! My heart is smitten by these examples. What makes us so afraid to speak of Jesus that we fail to do so? Fear of rejection? Being laughed at? Being mocked for being “Bible basher”? What is this compared to being beaten and imprisoned? What is this compared to endangering my family for the sake of the gospel? Shame on us for our fear. Maybe it is not us, maybe I need to personalise it even more – shame on ME for my fear.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

They had been with Jesus

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” - Acts 4v13-14

How did Peter and John do it? How did these uneducated and untrained fishermen put to silence the most learned Bible scholars of the day? First the authorities were amazed that these men were so bold and clear in their stand for Christ. They realised that there was only one explanation – these men had been with Jesus. That had to be the reason!

Then there were confronted with the very real fact of the healed man. They had no answer; they could say nothing.

Two things stick out here that I think we can apply. First and foremost is that these men had their lives changed because they had been with Jesus. I have to ask myself, is my life is always a reflection of the fact that I have been with Jesus? When people see them me do they think, “Oh, he has been with Jesus?”

God used these men to heal the man with them. God gave the apostles signs and wonders that He may never give us in order to confirm their message. Today God gives is His word to do the same. I think we can make another application here. Does my life have a life changing impact on others around me? Are others impacted because I have been with Jesus?

Some things just can’t be answered potential critics – spending time with Jesus brings those things to fruition.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

There is no other salvation

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4v12

I wonder what we would do if we were arrested for preaching the gospel? After more than 5000 people were saved as a result of the sermon on Solomon’s Porch he and John were arrested. The next day they were asked what power allowed them to eal the man and see that kind of results. Many of us might have tempted, considering who we were dealing with, to have come up with some kind of answer to protect ourselves. Something like, “I don’t know fellas, we just preached and it happened!”

Not Peter. Even though he faced the very real possibility of a lengthy jail term he immediately began preaching to the authorities. “"If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.”

Here in Ireland we might say, “The sheer cheek of your man!” He told the authorities that they were punishing them for doing a good work while they themselves had executed the one who made the healing possible! Then he drove the message home – “There is no other salvation” apart from Christ! Look at the chance he took, and yet he had the boldness to give the gospel.

I look at my own life – far to often it takes far less than this to keep me from “having the cheek” to share the gospel – the only way of salvation.

Friday, 14 September 2007

God sent Him to bless you

“To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities." - Acts 3v26

At the conclusion of Peter’s sermon on Solomon’s Porch he spoke to his own people, the Jews. He told them that despite all their sin, despite all their failures, despite not living up to the law, and despite crucifying Jesus God still was sending His Son to be a blessing to them first. This is amazing love as we saw in the last couple of days.

There is a key word in there though. Right in the middle, so small we might miss out on it, is the word “first.” All through the Old Testament God made it clear that one day all the nation of the world would be blessed. Galatians 3v8 refers all the way back to Genesis when it say, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, [saying], "In you all the nations shall be blessed..”

It was always God’s plan to bless all men through Christ. Previously He laid out the simple conditions – repent and have your sins forgiven. The Jews had it first and foremost, but God sent Jesus to be a blessing to all as He turns us from our sin.

I am overwhelmed that God would choose to bless us when we hated Him. I just don’t get it. I don’t like people who hate me, do you? It’s a great thing that God isn’t you or me, isn’t it?

Thursday, 13 September 2007

That your sins may be blotted out

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” - Acts 3v19

Peter certainly had a change of heart and behaviour after the resurrection, his conversation on the beach with Jesus, and the ascension. He and John we active at the temple and one day they healed a lame beggar who went and told everyone what had happened. Obviously this stirred up interest and a crowd gathered to see who these guys were.

The old Peter might have been afraid to say anything and quietly melded into the crowd. Instead he minced no words as He addressed the assembled crowd. He told them that they were the ones who had killed Jesus. It was their fault. I can’t even imagine the response of the crowd; anger, resentment, anxiety, and even some fear must have rustled through the crowd.

I wish I could have heard Peter speak. He had a real way with words. After he told them that they were to blame for Jesus’ death He told them that though they were at fault, they did so in ignorance of what they were doing. He told them that though they killed Jesus it was all part of God’s plan.

Then we read the account of his next words to the crowd, “Repent and be converted so that your sins may be blotted out.” Peter shared with this crowd, who had part in killing His Son, that God still offered them forgiveness of sins and the refreshing that only He can offer.

Think about that for a second. The Holy, Perfect, and Righteous God sent His Son to the world to die for the sins if that world. They very crowd that sent Him to the cross was no given a chance to partake of His Love and enter in a relationship with Him. God’s enemies had a chance to be His friends!

What’s even more amazing is that the offer is still open today! We were no better than that crowd. Our sins sent Jesus to His death as surely as their actions. Praise God for Him marvellous love that offers salvation and forgiveness to His enemies!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

They continued daily

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” - Acts 2v46-47

I just googled the words “church growth” and came up with “about 9,270,000 hits. I quickly looked through and on page 50 of Google’s search the hits were still relevant to the topic of helping churches grow. There were books, CDs, DVDs, seminars, conferences, software, and on and on. What of my favourite was a parody titled, “Popular Pastor Cloned In Church Growth Experiment.”

I guess we all want to see our churches grow. Think of the first church after Pentecost. There could not google to see how to see how to grow their church. How did the grow their church? How did they see the Lord add to the church? Well, let’s just go to the source and find out. (I didn’t even need Google to find this one).

  • They were steadfast in doctrine
  • They were steadfast in fellowship
  • They were steadfast in observing the Lord’s Table
  • They were steadfast in prayer
  • The feared the Lord
  • They watched God do mighty works and wonders
  • They were together
  • They shared everything
  • They met each other’s needs
  • They continued in worship together
  • They continued in eating meals in each other’s homes
  • They were joyful
  • They has a simple and singular purpose
  • They praised God
  • They had favour with all

As a result they saw the Lord add to the church daily. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Maybe I should do a seminar called “Roger’s Sure Fire Fifteen Step Programme For Church Growth in the 21st Century.”

Or maybe we can just follow the pattern God laid down through the first church?

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

And they continued steadfastly

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” - Acts 2v42

What a marvellous day that must have been as Peter finished preaching and some three thousand people were saved and followed the Lord in baptism. We can only imagine the buzz about the place as these numbers turned to Christ and joined the 120 believers who were already there.

What do you do when three thousand people get saved? Where do you put them? How do you handle the crowds and the logistics? We don’t know the answers to all this, but we do know what was important – we know that they continued on steadfastly. They stuck to the stuff. They were consistent. They were not quitters. They showed stick-to-itevness.

What did they stick to? There are a lot of specifics in the next few verse, but the first little phrase is foundational. There are a lot of things to talk about here, but I think it interesting that the first thing mentioned is that they stayed faithful in following the disciples teaching, their doctrine as it was given by God.

Sadly doctrine is often one of the first things sacrificed in a church in order to have all the rest of the things listed. All the rest hinges on proper doctrine. If the doctrine in wrong what will happen to all the rest?

All of the things to follow in this list are great and important, but it all must be built on being steadfast in doctrine.

Monday, 10 September 2007

What do we do?

“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” - Acts 2v37

As a preacher I can’t imagine how Peter felt when he stood up to preach his sermon on the day of Pentecost. As Peter depended on the Holy Spirit he stood and delivered a powerful message to the gathered listeners from all over the known world. The key to his message, and the one that had impact was the fact that he used scripture over and over again.

Peter did not use his own words. It was the proclamation of God’s word to the hearers that brought them to the point where they said, “What do we do?” None of us will probably ever be called upon to preach to thousands of first time hearers like Peter did. However we are called upon daily to speak up for Christ. What do we do? How do we get people to respond with, “What shall we do?” It is certainly not going to be with our words of wisdom – it will be by following Peter’s example and sharing God’s word with them.

God’s word has the power, not ours. May we make sure that our words and conversation are based on, “What saith the scripture?”

Sunday, 9 September 2007

They all continued in one accord

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” - Acts 1v14

We all know what it is like experience those days after hype and excitement. We have worked and prayed and seen great things happen. Perhaps it has been a big day at church, a wedding, or some other major event in our lives. What happens when it is over? Well, we go home.

This was something like what faced these first few believers. Over three years of walking with Jesus were over. He had preached, loved, healed, and taught thousands. He had been arrested for nothing, tried in a kangaroo court, sentenced to the cross, and executed. Then He had been raised from the dead, taught them more, told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, and then be witnesses for Him. After that He had ascended to heaven. What do you do next? Well, it looks like they went home and waited. A couple of verses later we find that there were about 120 believers at this stage. Amongst them were the disciples, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.

What did this group of believers do? They continued unified in prayer and supplication. The group who would be the foundation of the first church started their ministry with prayer and supplication. They knew the import of their task. Jesus had just told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, but they took that waiting to include continued on in prayerful unity. What a pattern for our in our groups of believers. Faithful unified praying should always follow the great events when we go back home.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

What are you looking at?

“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." - Acts 1v10-11

Sometimes I like to try and put myself in the shoes (or sandals) of the Bible characters. Imagine just for a moment that you are standing there listening to Jesus give His last instructions. Your homes for your place in the earthly kingdom have just been ended and Jesus has just told you to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and be witnesses for Jesus. Then Jesus begins to slowly rise toward heaven where He is received into a cloud and disappears.

What would you have done? My guess is that you would have done the same thing I did and the same thing that the disciples did – stood their with your mouth agape staring into heaven.

Like the disciples we too can be so caught up with the spectacular that we forget about the mundane. Two angels appeared and said, “Why are you standing here staring, He is coming back in the same way He left.” He angels were telling them to get out and do what they were told to do.

What do we do with Jesus’ instructions? At least the disciples had the excuse of seeing the spectacular occasion of Jesus’ ascension. What diverts our attention today?

Friday, 7 September 2007

You shall receive power

And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

- Acts v7-8

You have to love the disciples. They were so normal. At the beginning of Acts we have Jesus wrapping things up and giving them some last minute instructions. He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. Their minds seem to be where they had been all the way through His ministry. Any idea what they asked Him? “Lord, NOW are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” After all they had seen they were still looking for that elusive kingdom and the overthrow of Rome’s occupying forces. The one thing they kept going back to the whole time they served with Jesus was still on their minds. Even at this stage they had not copped on to what He was doing. They still though it was all about that earthly kingdom!

Jesus told them that the kingdom was not what it was all about. “You don’t need to know when the kingdom is coming – you are going to have the power of the Holy Spirit. Use that power to be witnesses of me wherever you go: here in Jerusalem, around you in Judea, to the Samaritans you despise, and to the uttermost parts of the earth!”

What was Jesus saying? Obviously He was giving His final Great Commission for the disciples and us to use the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses by our words and lives no matter where we go, and to go while we are doing. This would be enough of a challenge in and of itself. Are any of us being the witness the Holy Spirit empowers us to be?

I think there is another message for us as well. Jesus is saying, “don’t be so concerned over these earthly issue. Get out and do the work.” I wonder if we cop on any better than the disciples did?

Lets look at a parrowphrase of this event: “Okay Lord, we have waited three years to be a part of this kingdom you were promising. Now is it time?” Jesus replied, “Sorry fellas. Don’t worry about the time, get out there and fill it first!”

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Don’t worry about him – you follow me

“Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’”- John 21v21-22

Peter is an enigma. After all that had happened we find the disciples back out in their fishing boats. We can’t blame them – they had to earn a living. They had a rough night of fishing they caught nothing. In the semi-darkness of dawn a figure on the shore told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. When they did so they caught 153 fish!

John realised that it was Jesus and Peter threw off his robe and swam to Jesus. Jesus then singled Peter out in a discussion. After trying make clear to Peter what true love was Jesus instructed him to feed Jesus’ sheep. That wasn’t too bad, but then Jesus talked about death and told Peter to follow Him. Feeding sheep was one thing, but following Jesus to death was quite another.

So what did Peter do? “What about John?” he said. “What difference does it make Peter if I want John to stay alive till I return? You follow me!”

There is no doubt about the message for us. We can get so focused on what others are doing or not doing for the Lord that we can forget to simply follow Jesus.. Tragically even jealousy and envy can creep in when we see others seeming to prosper while we work hard a struggle along. “Why do I have to struggle along in this little two-bit ministry while so and so gets to prosper, grow, and thrive in his ministry?” Surely, no one is so unspiritual that they would think that way? In a perfect world, maybe it would not happen. But in the real world it happens far too often.

What’s the message? Simple enough – “Don’t worry about so and so – YOU follow me.”

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Blessed are those who believe without seeing

“Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” - John 20v29

Everyone has heard of Thomas. There is one word that clicks in people’s minds when they hear his name and that word is not a nice one – doubting. How would you like to go down in history as “The Doubter”?

We forget a couple of things when we do that. First of all he was not different that the rest of the disciples, they didn’t really believe until they saw Jesus. Thomas just wasn’t there when He first appeared. Maybe they should be called the “Doubting Eleven.”

The other thing is more personal. People who join in calling Thomas “doubting” are at the same time doubters themselves. Some doubt the truth and never accept His as Saviour. What a tragedy to the point of death.

Before those of us who are Christians feel to high and mighty lets look at ourselves. How often, even after knowing that Christ provided salvation, are we doubters as well. We doubt if God can really sort out this dilemma. We doubt if we can overcome this trial or temptation. We doubt if He can pay this bill, bring the erring child home, or so many other things.

If people knew the real me would I be known as “Doubting Roger”?

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.” - John 20v16

Perhaps this little phrase only caught my eye because I am a teacher, and have been most of my life. I love the concept of a teacher/student relationship. I can think back, and may not remember the names, but remember the impact that so many teachers have had in my life. I remember as a child, and later as an adult reading the book and seeing the film, “Good Morning Miss Dove.” Miss Dove is a teacher in a small town who had taught generations of the townsfolk. When she became ill her impact on the town became clear. As teacher she had impacted the town in so very many ways. Her life affected everyone in Liberty Hill.

I thought of this when I read the passage today and saw the very first thing that Mary called Jesus when she realised Who He was. There were many wonderful title she could have used; Master, Saviour, Messiah. Lord, etc. and all of these are real important and worthy titles. But, she called Him, “Teacher.”

Miss Dove was a fictional character in a fictional town in a fictional story. Jesus is real, He is the Teachers amongst teachers. Human teachers impact lives and society, but Jesus was the one Teacher who can change the world. He not only taught, but He paid the price for all our sins. Miss Dove made a personal sacrifice to pay her father’s debts. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice to pay for all of our sin debts. Students came from all over the show their respect for Miss Dove. Do I live my life in such a way that I show honour and respect for my Teacher?

Monday, 3 September 2007

The disciples went home

“Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping…” - John 20v10-11

I don’t exactly know why this stuck out in my mind. Peter and John, who had not believed Mary when she said the tomb was empty, came themselves and then they believed what she said. The saw the stone rolled away, the saw the empty grave clothes, then the men went home and Mary stood there crying.

This seems like the ultimate Mars/Venus moment. The guys went home and the woman stood there crying. Being guys perhaps they thought, “Well, He’s gone, time to get back to life.” Mary, being a woman, was all emotional and didn’t know what to do with herself. Maybe the men went home in fear of being arrested for stealing the body. Maybe they went back to tell the others, which we know they eventually did, for they meet together in the evening.

One thing is certain, by being “guys” they missed the blessing of seeing the risen Saviour when Mary did. Perhaps we should consider being more like Mary and giving God a chance to work before we act.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

They did not know the Scripture

“For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” - John 20v9

When I first read this I was very critical of John and Peter. How could they possibly not know the Scripture that Jesus would rise from the dead? Jesus had told them numerous times. One would think that once His prophecy of His death came true that the other shoe would fall and they would know that the rest would come true as well. It seems that no one in the entire group over that dark weekend reminded them of Hi words, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” After all, even the Pharisees remembered this (Matthew 27v62). Somehow, they really missed the boat.

Then I think of how often I don’t really “know” the Scriptures I say I do. For example, the Bible, “Be careful for nothing…’ and yet I am full of cares and concerns. The Bible says, “casting all your cares on Him for He cares for you,” and I keep all my cares on me. I say I know the Scripture, but when I act like this am I any better that John and Peter?

Saturday, 1 September 2007

It is finished

“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” - John 19v30

I wonder what the disciples and those around thought when they heard the words, “It is finished”? A lot of things could have crossed their minds. The pain, suffering, shame, humiliation, and agony of the crucifixion was all over. It was done, no more agony.

Perhaps they thought that the earthly ministry was over. They were done, there was nothing more to do. The three years together we all said and done.

Of course both if these were true. The crucifixion was over. The ministry was over. But more was finished. It was all done, everything that had to be done to solve mankind’s greatest dilemma was finished. From the time of the Fall man had one major problem – his eternity was sealed, the wages of sin was death and a price had to be paid.

Now it was paid – the perfect sacrifice had been made. There was no more that could be done to pay the price for sin. Sin’s mastery over us was defeated. There was more to come to make it clear and evidence the victory, but “it” was indeed finished.

There is nothing we can “do” today because it was all “done” at that moment. Praise God for “it is finished!”