Category Archives: Acts

Equipped to Witness

Quite some time ago, my employer at the time conducted an investigation that involved me and several other employees. Outside attorneys were brought in, and we were called before them multiple times. The process was a tough ordeal, but through it all, I had no sense of worry; no sense of fear. One morning, as the interviews were approaching their  conclusion, a non-believing coworker came into my office and closed the door. He told me that he was impressed that I had maintained such a calm demeanor through the investigative process while others were short-tempered, lashing out at coworkers and visibly concerned. He asked me what it was that enabled me to maintain my calm. I told him that I trusted God for the outcome, and that I prayed every morning that He would see me through. My faith in Jesus Christ would not allow me to despair. He simply said, “oh” and left my office. We didn’t speak of it again.

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Acts 1:8 NIV

We Christians are commanded to share the Gospel with the world around us. This can seem quite daunting, and even rather intimidating. The world has thrown up barriers to witness in the very places we spend most of our time: our schools and our workplaces. But one thing the world cannot do is forbid us from leading godly lives that catch the world’s attention. Our actions and behaviors are, themselves, witnesses to something, and I pray each morning that every aspect of my life will point straight to Christ. I don’t always get it right, but my hope and prayer is that the Lord will open doors for me to share the Gospel with somebody who hasn’t heard it, or has heard it and rejected it just as He did with this coworker. And when God opens that door, we need not fear for Jesus promised in this passage that the Holy Spirit Himself will equip us to respond.

As we seek and await opportunities to witness, what should we be doing in preparation? Awhile back, Pastor Keith Sanders of First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas shared three ways to witness that I have sought to put into practice:

  1. Seek to become an expert witness by reading and studying God’s Word.
  2. Seek to become a character witness in the way I live my daily life.
  3. Seek to be an eyewitness by sharing what I have seen and heard.

As promised, the Holy Spirit will equip us to do these things if we simply make ourselves available and ask Him to do so. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that this is unequivocally true.

We are in the process of relocating to Houston, Texas. We plan to join Grace Presbyterian Church, whose mission statement is “Making disciples by encouraging people to make Jesus visible in their daily lives.” You see, this is where the rubber meets the road. Our daily lives are where witness happens. This past Sunday, each of us were given a tag to place on our key chain reminding us that “We are Here” and this is where we are to start living to make Jesus visible. “Here” is wherever we happen to find ourselves at any given time.

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“You Are Here”gpch.org

I intend to honor God by seeking to follow Jesus’ commandment to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit has used faithful pastors like Keith Sanders, Trey Hill and others to equip me to do so. He also equips me through my morning reading and study time. I am convinced that, by living my daily life in a manner pleasing to God, people will notice and some will ask what it is that I’ve “got”. God will give me the opportunities to speak and the words to say. I just have to be available and ready.

What about you? Are you prepared? Are you available? Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Friends, we live in the harvest field. It’s time to get to work.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Where Are We Headed?

United States Capitol

United States Capitol (Photo credit: Jack in DC)

We are living in a very interesting point in history. This great American experiment called Democracy is, I believe, on the brink of failure. Sound cynical? Consider: We Americans seem completely willing to surrender our personal liberties to an uber-powerful government that is increasingly disconnected from the people it is supposed to serve. Our national debt is growing at an alarming pace as those in leadership do nothing to stop it. Our moral values as a nation are eroding away day after day.

As I consider these things, I am reminded that I trust and serve the God of the universe. He who made all things is bigger than government, and His plan is perfect. I’ve completed my study of the book of Jeremiah. God spoke through Jeremiah to a nation, much like the United States, that had abandoned His truth and His ways. Israel was serving false gods and seeking after worldly wisdom just like we are today. We can read the Bible and see the consequences of Israel’s sin; the future of the United States is yet to be written, although our omnipotent God already knows our fate as a nation.

faith

faith (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

I am so thankful for the gift of faith. Through faith, I can see past the sin of this world into the eternity that awaits all believers in Christ; an eternity in the presence of Almighty God. I pray for a revival in our nation. I pray that we the people will look to God through study of His Word and through prayer for our nation’s well-being. I pray that God would open the hearts and the minds of the American people to His eternal truth. That eternal truth is available, right at our fingertips. And as American history unfolds before our eyes, we can seek wisdom and comfort in God’s book called the Bible.

“All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” ~ Acts 10:43

The Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is all about Jesus. It reveals God’s plan of redemption for His creation. There is no book in the Bible that is not relevant to today. It is wholly and universally true. It is without error. The wisdom of the world wants us to view the Bible as a spiritual guidebook or, worse, a collection of human writings assembled by men in a conspiracy to mislead us. That is the world’s wisdom at work, and it is a dangerous supposition. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us; it is what He wants us to know about Him.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

“What we have received is not from the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

A life and a nation built on the foundation of human wisdom is doomed to failure. On the other hand, a life and a nation build on the foundation of God’s Word will be blessed. As a believer, I will engage in the political process. I will share God’s truth. I will align my political positions with God’s Word as He gives me the wisdom and ability to do so, and I will communicate my positions out of love and respect for my fellow man. I will not despair over the state of our nation, nor will I worry about the future. Through Christ, my future is sealed for eternity. That reality frees me to engage absent any fear for what may lie ahead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, as I consider the state of our nation I am tempted to worry. This morning I lift up all in positions of authority in our government. I pray that You would grant them wisdom and clarity of thought. I pray that You would compel them to seek Your will in all things. And, Father, I pray for a revival in this land; a revival that would reach from sea to shining sea, causing all of us to realize our sins, confess and repent, and trust completely in You through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Help me to be a faithful witness to Your Truth according to Your will. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.

Standing Firmly in Faith ~ Jeremiah 26:1-24

“But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight. ~ Jeremiah 26:14

I wonder sometimes how I would react if my life were in danger because of my faith. Would I stand firm, trusting God that His will is as good and perfect as I believe it is, or would I turn against Him to spare my life?

This passage presents an interesting turn of events. As Jeremiah continues to faithfully prophesy in the Lord’s name about the disasters to come if Judah does not repent of her sin, the priests and prophets seize him and, with all the people, declare he must die. Jeremiah warns them that they are about to spill innocent blood; if they do, disaster will befall them. Then, exhibiting complete trust in God, he tells them to do with him as they will. People begin to listen, beginning with some officials and then some of the elders of the land, who remember that Micah, a prophet before Jeremiah, prophesied the same things from the Lord that Jeremiah was prophesying. As they consider Micah and other past prophets who proclaimed similar messages they begin to realize that Jeremiah truly is a prophet from God and they wisely spare his life.

As I read about God’s heroes of faith, including people like Jeremiah, Noah, Stephen, Paul and many others, I am humbled when I realize how much growing I have yet to do. Looking back over my life I see a long road of maturation leading me to where I stand today and for that I am truly thankful. However, I also realize that I still have much growing to do. As I look ahead, I am eager to walk with my Lord wherever He may lead me.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:19-20

Ponder this: When I consider the faith with which God has gifted me I am truly thankful. I wonder, sometimes, if I am doing enough to share it with the world.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank You for those who have come before me and trusted completely in You even when their very lives were threatened for doing so. Teach me through their example, and equip me to be Your witness, even in situations in which the easy way out is to remain silent. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.

Learning from History ~ Acts 28:11-31

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Acts 28:30-31

English: page of the Acts of the Apostles from...

English: page of the Acts of the Apostles from the last edition of the bible originally translated by Johann Dietenberger, published in Augsburg 1776 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With these two verses, The Book of Acts concludes. Paul and his entourage depart from Malta and finally arrive in Rome. Awaiting his trial before Caesar, Paul is placed under house arrest, living alone with one guard to watch over him. He continues his ministry from his rented house, sharing the Good News of the Gospel with all who come to see him.

Paul calls the Jewish leaders to his house to explain to them what happened in Jerusalem and why he is in Rome. He explains that the government wanted to release him, but at the objection of the Jewish leadership they did not. Interestingly, the Jews reply that they did not receive any letters from Judea concerning Paul, but they had heard of the “sect” of which Paul is a leader and wanted to hear Paul’s views. Paul shares the Gospel with them and, as usual, some believe and some don’t. Paul quotes from Isaiah 6 a passage prophesying that many of the people would hear but not understand the Gospel, and tells them that God’s message of salvation has been taken to the Gentiles, who will listen.

My kids ask from time to time why they must study history in school. The answer, of course, is we have much to learn from history. In The Book of Acts, Luke faithfully records the history of the early Christian church. Through this divinely inspired record, God offers several takeaways that the modern church must heed. And for the believer who truly seeks to serve the Lord, we see shining examples through Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Stephen and many others of what steadfast faith and faithful witness ought to look like. So, what do you say? Are you up to the task?

Ponder this: What is my ministry? What is my role in sharing the Gospel?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sharing the history of Your Church through Luke’s writing. Help me, Lord, to learn from Your Words and discern Your calling for my ministry; then let me faithfully answer. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Godly Leadership ~ Acts 27:1-28:10

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” ~ Acts 27:23-26

Storm at sea.

Storm at sea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is time for Paul to travel to Rome and face Caesar. He is placed on a ship carrying 276 passengers and crew that encounters a storm of hurricane force. The storm is so fierce that the crew abandons all attempts to steer the ship as they throw cargo and tackle overboard in an attempt to save her. As the storm rages, Paul encourages the crew and passengers by sharing with them a vision from God: each of them would be spared but the ship would be lost. He encourages them to keep up their courage as he shares the vision. Later he encourages them to take food, and taking bread, he breaks it, distributes it, and everybody eats their fill. For 14 days they endure this storm until running aground off the shore of an island called Malta.

The shipwrecked passengers and crew are shown “unusual kindness” (38:2) by the residents of Malta. They are cared for and fed. Paul, along with others who are unnamed, is invited into Publius’ estate (he is the chief official on the island). Paul heals Publius’ father and several others on the island. They are later provided with provisions and prepare to set sail.

When God appoints a leader, He doesn’t mess around. He has already appointed Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. And now, in this perilous situation, the appointed man of God assumes a leadership role that ultimately saves the lives of 276 passengers and crew. This wasn’t something Paul did on his own; he did it in direct response to God’s message to him in that vision. This is another example of Paul’s steadfast faith in the Lord, but more so, it shows how God intervenes through the man of God who responds in faith. No matter what trials we face in this life, God is there. We must be tuned in; we must listen. And when God speaks to us, we must stand firm and be guided by what He tells us – even when we are outranked.

Ponder this: Do I trust God enough to listen for Him during life’s storms and trials? Is God calling me to Godly leadership?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for teaching me about faith and Godly leadership through Paul’s example. Help me to seek you in all situations and circumstances and let me be a Godly leader according to Your good and perfect will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Boldly Standing on Faith ~ Acts 24:1-26:32

But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen–that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” ~ Acts 26:22-23

These three chapters cover a span of just over two years, during which Paul was imprisoned in Caesaria. Governor Felix held him for two years because he didn’t know what to do with Paul, and he was hoping Paul would offer a bribe in exchange for his freedom. Felix was replaced by Festus, who promptly summoned the Jewish leaders to Caesaria to present their charges against Paul. After hearing the charges and Paul’s defense, Festus realizes that there is no merit to the charges, but wanting to appease the Jews he asks Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there. Paul, probably knowing he would never survive the trip, appeals to Caesar.

Festus recognizes that the charges against Paul have no merit, yet because of Paul’s Roman citizenship he must honor Paul’s request. King Agrippa pays a visit to Festus, so Festus discusses Paul’s case with the king. The king summons Paul, who presents his case and the Gospel. Festus and Agrippa agree that Paul has done nothing to deserve imprisonment or death. They would have released him then and there, but since Paul has appealed to Caesar, he would be sent to Caesar.

Cross Quilt at San Rafael's

Cross Quilt at San Rafael’s (Photo credit: lars hammar)

“And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today,” (Acts 26:6). Faith is one of God’s most precious gifts. Through faith we stand firmly on God’s Word in any place under any circumstance knowing that God will honor that. Through faith we share the Gospel with those around us – even if they happen to be senior executives or top government officials like Caesar. If we surrender our life to Him, God will work through us to advance the Gospel just as He worked through Paul. Our modern world sorely needs to hear the Gospel; honestly, fully, and completely. Think about that for a moment. If we simply live out our lives in silence, blending in with the world, we are of little use. Instead, let us stand boldly for Christ in faith. Let us be available to serve the Lord according to His good and perfect will.

Ponder this: In what places and under which circumstances might I serve the Lord?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank you for gifting me with saving faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. Let my life, in both words and actions, be a walking witness to Him. Show me, Lord, how you would have me serve You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Remaining Steadfast ~ Acts 22:30-23:35

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” ~ Acts 23:11

The Roman government takes some rather extraordinary measures to protect Paul, a Roman citizen. Seeking an understanding of the charges of the Jews, the commander brings Paul before the Sanhedrin so they can explain the charges and question Paul. But before they ask their very first question, Paul declares, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (23:1) The chief priest orders another to slap Paul in the mouth, and Paul rebukes the chief priest. Paul then artfully turns the group on itself, Pharisee versus Sadducee, declaring, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” (23:6) The session erupts into a “great uproar” with Pharisees declaring they find nothing wrong with Paul as a group of 40 form a conspiracy and take an oath not to eat or drink until they kill Paul.

Paul’s nephew learns of the conspiracy, reports it to Paul, and then at Paul’s request to the Roman commander. The commander sends Paul to Caesarea under cover of night with military protection to be tried by Governor Felix. The journey to Caesarea is successful, and Governor Felix places Paul in protective custody until his accusers arrive to present their case against him.

I continue to be struck by Paul’s steadfast faith. Standing before the Sanhedrin, he does not waiver. In the face of a conspiracy against his life, he does not waiver. Paul knows that God is with him, and he knows that the Gospel is worth dying for, should that be God’s will.

Christians today face pressure from a different source. Our society scorns the Gospel. Believers are expected to mute the message of Scripture in order to fit into a secular system of norms and values. Those who resist or refuse face persecution, sometimes intense persecution. There are Christian churches that have given in to this pressure to various degrees. Others, like Paul, remain steadfastly faithful to God and His good and perfect will as revealed through Scripture. The divisions within the Church on these matters concern me deeply. False and watered-down doctrine gives the enemy a foothold as many believers and would-be believers are led down a dangerous road of deceitful false teaching. Jesus warned about this when He said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Christians, we must faithfully pray for the Church, for fellow Christians who have been led astray by false or watered-down doctrine, and for our nation. As we pray, we must seize opportunities to share God’s Truth – the Gospel – as the Lord presents such opportunities to us.

Ponder this: Although the battle is ongoing, Jesus Christ has already won the war. How is God calling me to serve?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I lift up Your church and those in leadership within it. I pray that Your Word would be the sole authority for preaching and teaching, and that false teaching would be exposed and removed. I pray specifically for my pastor, our staff, and our teachers. Guide, direct, and bless them so that the Gospel is always at the forefront of our teachings. Help us, Lord, to stand steadfast on Your Word when persecution comes our way. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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