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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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Conviction, Rejection & Comfort

Father, help us to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the conviction on our hearts that comes from encountering You. Let us see Your love in the discomfort that comes with correction. Father, help us also to see that this same conviction that brings us life stirs up anger in those who do not follow You. May we stand firm in the truth of Your Word & Spirit. Amen.

John 16:1-15
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.
They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

I know I have felt this before, experienced the anger and frustration of others who do not walk with God and who do not share the convictions He builds up within us. Some people get prideful over stirring up anger from people they would call ‘heathens,’ the irreligious, or the stagnant, nominal “Christians” who just want to be pandered to rather than actually follow Jesus.

And while both are walking in delusion, you and I who follow Christ are never going to be the ones who bring conviction into the heart of another person.We may have well crafted discussion points, and a well thought out apologetic in regards to the life of a Christ follower, but unless the Holy Spirit intercedes, conviction will not come.

Human beings are not the vehicle for conviction, simply for the truth of God. He sees conviction come. Our anger or frustration will not convince them of the truth. We cannot bludgeon people with the Gospel, or pound right thinking into their heads. We are never told to share the truth in this way. Listen to Peter & consider our role:

1 Peter 3:14-16
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect*, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
*accent mine

We deliver the Gospel & the truth, ready in season and out of season with gentleness & respect. We stand as witnesses for Christ, wherever God may place us, and we trust in Him to reach hearts with what is said. For those who know, love & follow Him, it will be a comfort, for those who do not, a point of agitation. We will be walking in the footsteps of Jesus, in the rhythms of His grace.

Matthew 10:16-25
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. *accent mine

May we be counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ & the Gospel. Be faithful in conviction, stand firm in the face of rejection & be generous in comfort. God has given us what is ours to do, trust Him to do what is His. Be faithful & do not waiver. Be gentle & do not lash out in anger. Walk in the rhythms of grace.

Father, help us to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the conviction on our hearts that comes from encountering You. Let us see Your love in the discomfort that comes with correction. Father, help us also to see that this same conviction that brings us life stirs up anger in those who do not follow You. May we stand firm in the truth of Your Word & Spirit. Amen.

Never Alone

Lord, though each of us rises alone to start this new day, bind us to the faith of the saints who have gone before us, and guide us to walk with our brothers and sisters in community. Amen.

John 14:18-31
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

And we hear Jesus continuing on in this truth of His intimate community with God the Father, and our community with Him. This is a great comfort to us, and it is meant to be one. Even people who have full homes, and loving family experience times of loneliness. We all have moments where we feel like it really is just us against the world. And as difficult as it is to think about, even our closest friends and family members will let us down from time to time, even if that was the farthest thing from their heart or intention. This is why our community with Christ and His with the Father is so important. listen to His words again:

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Our love is exhibited by our obedience, His love is exhibited by His presence with us. Sin should divide us, but Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. His holiness and our sin should have nothing to do with one another, but He has provided the way for us to dwell with Him, and the Father with us through the Holy Spirit. And because of this great act of love, like Jesus says, we obey Him in our love for Him.

This community with God is what brings us peace. Just like Isaiah was given when he stood before the altar of God, we receive the same peace. Just like John was given as he was being shown the new heavens and the new earth. Just like Moses, Elijah and so many other messengers of God were sustained in their hardship by the presence of God, we are given that same peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Rest in this knowledge, in this truth of faith, when you are in Christ, you are never alone. Fear is not your master, Jesus will never let you down. Simply trust. Simply rest. Simply know that you are precious to Him, and that He is glorified in you as you walking in that loving obedience to Him, powered by the gift of grace through Christ Jesus.  We are blessed by this hope, and blessed to be a blessing to others as we live in this truth. This is how we walk in confidence in the rhythms of grace, knowing we are never alone.

He’s got the whole world in His hands

Hubble Photos

Psalm 33:1-6

1Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

When was the last time you made something with your hands? Maybe it was your breakfast today, maybe you’ve been working on a home improvement project. When was the last time you made something, looked at it, and got that feeling that made you say, “Hey, that’s not half bad.”? Have you ever surprised yourself with the outcome? Put something together that you weren’t sure you could finish? That sens of accomplishment is part of what drives us forward, it’s what compels us to try the next thing, and the next thing. Finishing things is definitely good for us. Completion builds us up.

Here in Psalm 33, the psalmist reminds us that God made everything good that you and I experience by speaking it into being. He willed it, declared it, and it was so. That’s -real- creative power. It’s not a ham sandwich made from Christmas leftovers, it’s real, raw substance. Louie Giglio calls God “The Great Star-Breather” and I think that’s a wonderful description. That phrasing invokes a mental image of the power of God. As easily as you and I inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, God spoke and stars were formed, galaxies swirled and beautiful nebulae came into existence.

There’s comfort in His power. There’s a reassurance that comes from remembering just how big our God really is. Listen again to another reminder:

Psalm 95:1-7a

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.

The deepest deeps we have on earth, and the highest highs are all contained within His hand. Do you ever picture God holding you like that? Not just you but your whole world? Every bit of you existence. All you joys, all your sorrows, everything that happens in you, near you, around you, and around everyone ad everything you care about…it all rests in the palm of His hand. The universe spins and sings, all right there in the palm of His hand. Everything is in His hand, and then also must rest under His watchful gaze. He is here, present. Not watching from afar, but close, holding us, concerned for us and always working for His glory.

Matthew 10:29-31

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Be comforted. He knows your name. He knows your heart, and He loves you just the same.
He knows our pains, and He discerns our needs. Be comforted, you are always in good hands if you are in God’s hands. Draw near to Him. He is near to us.

You _are_ an example.

George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends wrote, “People must be led out of captivity up to God. Be patterns, be examples that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.”

In Genesis 12, Abraham has his encounter with God that sets the course and pace of his life and radiates forward through time through the lineage of his children in faith. We have been blessed to be a blessing. Just as God called Abraham, He calls out to us. Listen:

“Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,
“To your offspring I will give this land.”
So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
Genesis 12:1-7

We have to leave behind what is comfortable, what we know and have feelings of control over and fall in step behind Jesus. Where God directed Abraham to Canaan, Jesus guides us today to live and serve outside of what is comfortable and brings us to places where others hurt, where others struggle and where others have need. Because God, in His infinite wisdom and compassion, knows that if we take the focus off of ourselves and point our hearts toward the need of another, we will be filled in the process.

Abraham could have stayed on the family land, Terah could have remained where he knew everyone and understood how everything worked, and where he had respect. But God took them to a new place where their reputation would be built on the activity of God in their midst. Where people wouldn’t see Abram the shrewd herdsman, but they would see God’s blessing on the life of this man who just moved into the countryside, they watched his blessing increase and so Abram’s business with them brought prosperity to those around him. But God isn’t just some initiator of an economic engine. No, God worked this way through Abram so he could build positive relationships with the people in this new land, so they could see his life and his example, and with the handiwork of the Lord in their sight, they would receive a testimony about the goodness and provision of God.

Abram’s life and relocation and business and family all made up the components of the sermon of his life. When you and I look at what God is doing in our life, at all of the components that He has seen fit to incorporate in our life, then we will begin to see the story of His glory at work in us, and we will understand a little bit more of what it means to submit our lives to Him so that He can do it more and more, making an impact on the world and communities around us by His good blessing. And when we see that, we, like Abram, will want to build a point of praise into that moment, and give up even greater offerings to the Lord our God.

Whether or not we are looking to be one, we are an example to the world around us.
What would our world look like, what would our church look like, if everyone followed and was devoted as we are? We have one life to live, one Lord to serve. Find your joy in submitting to Him and bringing others to Him as worship and a sharing of blessing.

Psalm 119:161-168 // ש Shin // Peace in His Word

“161 Princes have persecuted me without cause,
but my heart fears only Your word.
162 I rejoice over Your promise
like one who finds vast treasure.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love Your instruction.
164 I praise You seven times a day
for Your righteous judgments.
165 Abundant peace belongs to those
who love Your instruction;
nothing makes them stumble.
166 Lord, I hope for Your salvation
and carry out Your commands.
167 I obey Your decrees
and love them greatly.
168 I obey Your precepts and decrees,
for all my ways are before You.”

Psalm 119:161-168
==

Read this passage from Psalm 119 again. Listen to the confidence David has because of God’s presence in His Word.

Read it a third time, remembering how God’s Word has brought you peace.

Read it a fourth time, slowly, resting in the promise of peace that God offers to those who are faithful to Him, those who walk according to His Word and who have found their peace in Christ. Let this be a prayer of contented thanksgiving & praise. 

Psalm 119:145-152 // ק Qof // Knowing He’s Near

“145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord.I will obey Your statutes.
146 I call to You; save me,
and I will keep Your decrees.
147 I rise before dawn and cry out for help;
I put my hope in Your word.
148 I am awake through each watch of the night
to meditate on Your promise.
149 In keeping with Your faithful love, hear my voice.
Lord, give me life in keeping with Your justice.
150 Those who pursue evil plans come near;
they are far from Your instruction.
151 You are near, Lord,
and all Your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from Your decrees
that You have established them forever.”

Psalm 119:145-152

==

Read that passage from Psalm 119 again, listening to David’s struggle, desire & his understanding of the reality of God’s presence.

Read it a third time, thinking about the times where you want so badly to know that God is near, what seems to separate you from Him and how He reveals His nearness.

Read it a fourth and final time and make it your own prayer to Him this morning. 

Acts 16:25-34 // Hope in all cirtcumstances

“25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped.

28 But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because all of us are here!”

29 Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. 33 He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. 34 He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had believed God with his entire household.”

Acts 16:25-34

Have you ever just escaped one bad situation to then find yourself helping someone else with theirs? Kind of a back-to-back ‘getting through the hard times’ sessions? That’s what we find here in Acts 16. Paul and Silas have been flogged without a trial and are now sitting in jail, chained up unlawfully. And just as their release comes, they find themselves confronted with the jailer’s brand new set of supposed problems. But as we see in both situations, Jesus winds up being the answer on both counts. Paul and Silas found comfort in their affliction when they spoke of Jesus and when they were singing hymns together. When the jailer thought all was lost, Paul was able to then comfort him with the good news that everyone was still present, and then address his deeper need with the Gospel message. In both cases, He brought comfort and changed a bad situation over to good, bringin glory to God.

The human tendency is to dwell in the hardship, to linger in the pain. We get preoccupied by it, engulfed in it, and it becomes almost impossible to see anything else but the darkness of the situation. Paul and Silas had every right to be angry, upset and forlorn. They had been wrongfully jailed, beaten and left to suffer. There had been no trial, no chance to speak their part. They had been dehumanized and their voice had been negated. Any one of us would have felt horrible if we were in their shoes. But instead, we find them singing hymns and talking about Jesus. He was  their point of joy in the midst of suffering. They realized that they were sharing in something that Christ Himself had undergone: beatings, jail and the lack of a real trial. They were suffering for His sake as He suffered, and that produced joy in their hearts. That is definitely contrary to what they world would see or understand. 

That’s why we as Christians should continue to perplex them. As we suffer, as we experience things that the world would say we have every right to dwell on, we live a different reality, one based in truth and hope: that Jesus Christ suffered and bled for us, that He has already conquered this world and all its troubles. This is our point of celebration in the midst of suffering! We are not left bereft of options, purpose or a voice when we suffer. We have a voice in heaven that speaks for us, we have the Creator of all things who can make a way for us and our hearts, we have the One who gives meaning where there seems to be none. He is our Great Comfort. Paul and Silas knew it, and the Jailer found Him through them.

So, as you GoLove people in Jesus Name, make sure to make every opportunity to let Christ shine in you, even at times when the world would say that dwelling in the valley of shadow is fine. When we find oursleves there, we know that His perfect love casts out fear, we will fear no evil, and we find our comfort from His rod and His staff. We know that He has plans to lead us by still waters, and that He will restore our souls. SImply knowing that God loves us, that He is concerned for us, working to see us through anything and everything for His glory, will provide a wonderful encouragement that will draw the heart of the non-believer to the joy we have in those seemingly dark and dismal moments. Christ is our Great Joy! Let the world see Him. They need Him so badly!

  

Acts 11:19-26 // A Heart for others

“19 Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

22 Then the report about them was heard by the church that was at Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of the heart, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord. 25 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, 26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”

Acts 11:19-26

And so we see the heart of the church shift, from skepticism and hesitancy to joy and gladness. This spread of the Gospel wasn’t something that needed to be micro-managed but encouraged and nurtured. And so they sent Barnabas, known as the ‘son of encouragement,’ to go and see things along and to help in any way possible. There was a measure of accountability that went with him, for certain, but more than anything they wanted to fan to flame this spark that was growing all over the region. They would do this through prayer, through solid, Biblical teaching and through the fellowship of believers with one another. Simply sending a ‘good for you’ letter would have been insufficient and cold. And so they determined that a personal visit was in order. 

Whenever we start to see that someone’s heart is being inclined toward Christ, we need to try our best to encourage them in their walk and in their search for Him. It is a joy to see people come to Him, to find relief from sin & shame in Him and to then see them share their new found faith with others. If you really want to be encouraged in your faith, get involved with new Christians. If you want to rekindle that spark in your own heart, find a way to encourage them, get involved with them, teach them and see what God is doing in their heart as a reminder of all that He has done in yours. 

This world offers us plenty of opportunity to grow cold and cynical. We aren’t encouraged toward encouraging others, but rather toward isolation and withdrawl. But the joy of God within us cannot stay silent and inwardly focused. Instead, we see that it presses us outward, to live an others-centered life and toward the encouragement of the faith, just like we see here in Acts 11. If you find yourself more concerned about your own feelings, your own fears or your own comfort…then it’s certainly time to shake things up and get involved with the joyful encouragement that comes with the spread of the gospel. See lives  changed, watch others find relief & GoLove them in the process. Not everyone is an extrovert or an evangelist, but we all have the responsibility to encourage and help others grow through the gifts and talents that God has placed in us through His Holy Spirit. 

Jesus carried the weight of our sins so that we could walk with the lightness of freedom and with the spring of joy in our footsteps. Don’t let the world’s troubles bog you down. Instead, be encouraged by the freedom that comes with Christ. We have the solution to the world’s ills and to the problem of sin! Rejoice and be glad!

  

Acts 2:14-21 // Outpourings in the Last Days

“14 But Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Men of Judah and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since its only nine in the morning. 16 On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“17 ‘And it will be in the last days,’ says God,

that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;

then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

and your old men will dream dreams.

18 I will even pour out My Spirit

on My male and female slaves in those days,

and they will prophesy.

19 I will display wonders in the heaven above

and signs on the earth below:

blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.

20 The sun will be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood

before the great and remarkable Day of the Lord comes.

21 Then everyone who calls

on the name of the Lord will be saved.'”

Acts 2:14-21

On the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the Passover celebration and the resurrection of Jesus, we see the arrival of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has enabled the Apostles and disciples to speak in different languages that they had never learned, testifying to the power of God and drawing the crowd that Peter now addresses. 

Not a moment of what is going on is meant to elevate or glorify a human individual. This isn’t done so that Peter becomes famous, or so Andrew gains a following or that Thaddaeus gets a book deal. No. This is all done for the glory of God, to draw the hearts of men toward Him. This is so that His truth is proclaimed, and His will accomplished. 

Peter begins preaching to the crowd, filled with the Holy Spirit, as a willing vessel. He is used by God in this place, in this moment, so that hearts are drawn to Him, so that the truth is planted in the hearts of men. Again, this is not for Peter’s glorification and fame. This is all about God. Peter’s glory comes from Christ being glorified in Him above himself.

And this is all so that people might be saved, turning to God, calling on His Name. God’s compassion, mercy and grace are on display for all to see, for all to hear. This is the blessing of Penetecost, that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be shared, spread and passed along. No more gathering at the temple to have a single man stand as mediator once a year, but the constant, daily presence of God with His people, not just with them, but in them. This should still amaze us. This should still humble us and point our hearts toward Him. This is amazing love! This is wonderful, beautiful and intimate beyond our full understanding. 

As we continue the work that Peter began, we GoLove in Jesus’ Name with the same Holy Spirt within us that emboldened & inspired him. And it is still for God’s glory and the advancement of His Kingdom. We are baptized in the water and in the Spirit, and so we identify with Christ and are upheld by Him as we do His work.

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