The Secret to an Amazing Ministry- Revealed!! {Acts 14}

1:16 AM

By Sue Desmarais

I ended last week's post on leaving a legacy by sharing my desire to one day hear the Lord say, Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matt25:21) and since, I’ve been reading each chapter with interests, trying to discover the qualities needed to have an effectual ministry in this day and age. After all, I know times have changed, but our Lord hasn’t, and neither has His call to all of us found in Matthew 28:18-20!

Paul was hands-down the greatest missionary in all of the New Testament church and I was determined to see if I could learn his secret, and O goodness girls, I’ve found it!! It’s hidden within the chapter, but before the big reveal, I want to share a bit of how I found it!!

You see, I’m not always good at being, “intentional about my good intentions”. What I mean by that is, I may tell you I have this tremendous desire to hear the Lord say, “Well done…”, but when obstacles and opposition arise, I’ll be the first to rethink my goals, but not Paul! After he and Barnabas were run out of Antioch of Pisidia,they simply, “shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium.” - 13:51

Now I know, one could argue that they had seen and experienced great success in that city and that, “the Lord’s message spread throughout that region!” which only spurred them on. BUT, once more here in chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas see that with success comes great opposition and once more, “they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area.”- Acts 14:6

There seems to be a pattern forming: Arrive -> Preach -> Witness Conversions -> Oppositions arises -> Move on to the next town…

That is until 14:19-20,

“Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.”

Did you catch it? I reached this point in the chapter and had to stop reading, and admit to myself and to the Lord that I think, had this been me at this point, The Lord and I would have had to have a talk, for I’m not certain I could have taken much more of the fierce persecution Paul and Barnabas were experiencing! And this was when the Lord showed me something I’ve never noticed before! - Paul Got Up!
Paul was
  • Stoned
  • Dragged out of town
  • Believed to be dead
  • BUT he got up!
  • AND walked back into the same town!
  • AND then started on a 60 mile journey the next morning!!

How can a person stoned and believed dead, get up and go on a sixty mile journey the next day!?

That’s when Paul’s own words came flooding into my mind…

“I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
1 Thessalonians 5:24
For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure.” Phil 2:13

I can see now Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. No man can get up and keep going after being stoned and left for dead without God’s help, but Jesus has promised us that, “with God ALL things are possible”. Matthew 19:26 (emphasis mine)

I also understand now why Paul often referred to himself as the Lord’s “doulos” or bond-servant. A “doulos” is often defined as a slave, but it’s much more than that, in that the person volunteers to serve wholeheartedly, claiming to have no rights of their own. I looked up the definition once more in the Stong’s Greek dictionary and here’s some of what I found: A Doulos is
  • one who worships God and submits to him
  • the true worshippers of Christ are those whose agency God employs in executing his purposes
  • So devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests,
  • strenuously laboring for another's salvation,

I can clearly see Paul fitting this description, what I wonder most is, do I? Do you?  


New Directions {Acts 13}

10:30 PM

By Lisa Thayer

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to see someone’s sin?  You recognize things rather quickly and you want to address them and let them know an easy way to be free of those sins?  I have heard it said many times that we recognize these sins so easily because they are the same sins we have committed.

Every time I read stories about Paul, I am always changed in some way.  Paul is just like you and I.  We were radically changed when we encountered Jesus.  Following Jesus is radically different than following what the world tells us.  We are moved to share our stories with others.  Doors open and we go through them and enter a whole new world.  We see differently.  Just like Paul, once the scales fall off our eyes, we are radically changed.  Pauls’ sermon here is one we should all memorize.  And the people we have always been around with either accept us or send us out of their lives.  What is your attitude when you can’t change someone’s opinion about Christ?  Do you shake the dust off your feet AND are you filled with JOY and with the Holy Spirit? (vs. 51-52)  Or do you mope about thinking of ways to return to change the person or people who just don’t believe you?

I have found discernment to be rather difficult lately.  How do you know the Holy Spirit is leading you to something, someplace else?   I have sought the Lord lately to be ‘obvious’ to me – you know, like pluck me out of my current space and place me someplace else.  Okay!  That hasn’t happened.  So I have desires for something else and I try to make them happen.  No, that’s not it.  I share and share my story and I am met with some stubbornness.  Hold on here!  You’re telling me I’m stubborn and lack obedience?  Ok, Lord, now where? 

Let’s go back to the beginning of the chapter.  What were Saul and Barnabas doing BEFORE they left for their mission?  “So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (v. 3)  I am pretty sure the Holy Spirit is letting me know that I have not been totally committed to the desires of my heart.  How long have I prayed and fasted for the one thing, not many things, the one thing I want more than anything else?  

There is something here I never saw before.  There is variety in the Church!  We must never exclude anyone whom Christ has called to follow Him.  What does your church look like?  Do the people attending your church look just like you?  Are they from the same neighborhood?  Do you welcome people from the different sides of town?  Our churches should be compromised of people from different racial and cultural backgrounds.  When we have a propensity to label and categorize and gravitate towards the people we are most comfortable with, we see the ugly sin of prejudice.  The more we understand the gospel and embrace God’s version of the body of Christ, the more we will begin to transcend these differences.  More than merely getting along, we will be able to honestly and authentically say from our hearts that we love each other.

I believe we need to start in familiar territory, just like Barnabas and Paul (v. 4).  Who better to share your Good News with, but when those familiar people begin to persecute you, we need to shake the dust off our feet and be joyful and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in a different direction.


Power and Joy in Prayer {Acts 12}

10:30 PM

By Lisa Moore

In Acts Chapter 11 we see the church growing, with many people coming to the Lord.  But in the very next chapter we are back in Jerusalem with King Herod Agrippa beheading James, the brother of John, and imprisoning Peter.  "Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.  And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.  When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also." (vs. 1-3)  Herod had big plans and schemes to further win the adoration of the Jewish people at the expense of Peter.  But as Herod learned the hard way, no scheme of man's can thwart the purpose of God. (Job 42:2)

While Peter was kept in prison, "prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God." (v. 5)  A group of believers had gathered at the house of Mary, the mother of John, to intercede to God on Peter's behalf.  As they were intently praying, a young servant girl named Rhoda heard a knock on the door.  While answering she heard a familiar voice, the voice of Peter.  In her excitement and joy she ran to tell the others leaving Peter standing at the gate.  But Rhoda was not believed.  She was told she was crazy, that it was an angel she heard.  Rhoda didn't relinquish, and through her insistence
and the continued knocking of Peter, Mary and the others soon learned how an angel of the Lord delivered Peter from the bonds of Herod and how God had answered their prayers.

So what can we learn from Rhoda?  First, she was determined.  Even though her story was doubted, she never gave up.  She knew Peter was at the door, and nothing was going to shake her from her truth.  Like Rhoda when sharing our testimony, our stories may be doubted.  Others may try to convince us that our faith in Jesus is crazy, and refuse to believe.  But no matter what they say, we know that God's Word is truth and as Jesus tells us in John 8:32, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  

Second, Rhoda was eager to share the good news about Peter's deliverance.  We too should be just as eager to share the Good News of Jesus.  The Good News that " God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  Out of our joy in the gift of the redeeming love of Jesus, we should be obedient to the command of our Lord to, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15)  And we are to do so with gentleness and respect.  (1 Tim. 3:15)

And finally, Rhoda had unshakable faith in the power of prayer.  Even though the believers gathered at Mary's were praying with intensity for Peter's release, when Rhoda came to tell them their prayers had been answered they didn't believe.  But Rhoda never doubted for a moment.  Merely hearing the voice of Peter was all she needed to know that God had heeded their pleas.  When we seek God and pray to Him, we must do so in complete faith that what we are asking Him, He has the power and ability to do.  "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."  (1 John 5:14) 

We should all be like the servant-girl Rhoda.  Exited, and full of faith.  Praying expectantly to our Heavenly Father, and being filled with joy when those prayers are answered.  There is power in prayer.  When we are bound by chains and all gates are shut, the gate to God through prayer is always open and through Him, all things are possible.


No Partiality {Scripture Saturday}

11:30 PM

By Sandra Wyatt

Welcome to Scripture Saturday!  Today we continue our memorization of verses found in Acts with verse 10:34…

So Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”

God does not grant special favors to the rich or poor.  Being a good moral man/woman does not make a person special to Him and neither does being a great sinner.  God does not notice dress, whether it is a religious robe or rags.  He is much more interested in the person wearing the clothes.  God does not care what nationality we are.  He does not care for our rank or station in society.  He doesn’t care if you possess special talents.  Because of the work of Jesus, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

“No matter our place of origin, the same God reaches out to us; the same gospel calls us home. Social boundaries and ethnic differences are no obstacle to the gospel. In the eyes of God, all of us in our wonderful uniqueness equally are given the invitation to receive Him.”

What a blessing that the door is open to everyone to receive Him as Savior!

Have a blessed and precious day everyone!


Goodness and Fullness of the Spirit and Faith {Acts 11}

2:45 AM

By Angie Benjamin

The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. -Acts 11:22–24

Disciples had been scattered all over the Mediterranean coastlands after the persecution of Stephen. Some went about 400 miles north to Antioch and preached to Gentiles. A great number believed.News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and the man chosen to represent Jerusalem in Antioch was Barnabas, a Jew from Cyprus. Earlier, Luke mentioned that he had an outstanding reputation for piety and generosity among the believers at Jerusalem, and that he was respectful of the apostolic leadership (4:36-37). 

Barnabas came and saw the grace of God, and he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord.

Barnabas has the nickname “Son of Encouragement” (4:36). He certainly lives up to his name in evaluating the progress of the gospel at Antioch. Luke says that when Barnabas sees “what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them” (11:23). How Barnabas knows the grace of God is working is not stated. Presumably the fact that so many Gentiles are accepting Jesus as Savior is considered proof in itself. Perhaps the evidence is in changed lives, or in a display of the gifts of the Spirit. Barnabas doesn’t find any defects in the new converts’ faith or theology. He simply encourages both missionaries and converts “to remain true to the Lord” (11:23).

Barnabas gives us a great example on how to help new Christians. He demonstrated strong faith; he ministered joyfully with kindness and encouragement. He taught new believers further lessons on God (Acts 9:26-30).

It is obvious that Luke admires Barnabas, "For he was a good man." But, what is the root of his goodness? Where does it come from? And how does this particular root produce the fruit of goodness we see in this text? How might it produce the same goodness in us?

Verse 24. says that:

1.Barnabas was a good man,
2.and Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit and faith, that's the other assertion.

How do they relate to each other? Probably fullness of the Holy Spirit and faith is the root or source of Barnabas' goodness. Paul unpacks this relationship in Galatians. He says in Galatians 5:22 that goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. You don't get the Holy Spirit because you are good. The Holy Spirit takes over your life and starts to make you good.

But what do we do in that process? We are not passive in this affair of becoming good. That's why Luke doesn't just say that Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit. He is full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Faith is what we do. Now what does faith have to do with the work of the Holy Spirit?

Galatians 3:2 tells us: "Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" The assumed answer is that we received the Spirit by faith in the Word of God. Then verse 5 says, "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" And again the assumed answer is FAITH! The Spirit is received by faith and goes on being supplied through faith.

You see, at the very beginning of the Christian life we receive the Holy Spirit by trusting in the truth of the gospel (Galatians 3:2). Then as the Christian life goes on and there is need again and again to be strengthened and filled with the Spirit, this too happens by faith in the word of God's promise (Galatians 3:5). One of the practical fruits or products of this Spirit-filled faith is goodness (Galatians 5:22).

So when Luke says that Barnabas was "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith," might refer to the fact that Barnabas had a great faith in God, and that by this faith the Holy Spirit became powerful in his heart, and that the result was a lot of practical goodness in Barnabas' life.

What made Barnabas tick? what was the key to his life as a successful Christian leader?
Well, Luke could have responded: "The key to his life was that he was full of the Holy Spirit." or in other words "The key to his life was that he was full of faith."

Six fruits of Barnabas' Goodness and Faith

1. His Empathy to Outsiders

Barnabas felt empathy for outsiders, because faith makes us feel the wonder of once having been an outsider but now accepted by God.

2. His Submission to God's Call Through the Church

Barnabas yielded to the call of God, because faith rests in the missionary promise, "I will be with you to the end of the age."

3. His Vision of God's Grace in an Imperfect Church

Barnabas saw the grace of God in an imperfect church, because faith has a homing device for grace.

4. His Joy over God's Grace in Other's Lives

Barnabas rejoiced over the grace of God in the lives of others, because faith not only sees grace but savors it.

5. His Exertion for the Saints' Perseverance

Genuine saving faith knows the necessity of vigilance for itself and therefore for others.

6. His Trustworthiness with Other People's Money

 verses 29–30: "And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul."

Barnabas was trustworthy with other people's money, because the power of greed had been broken by his faith in the love of a never-failing God.

When we meet new believers, we should remember Barnabas, and think of way to help them grow in their faith.


Christ Came To Unify {Acts 10}

11:30 PM

By Becky Bramlett Austin 

In this chapter an amazing event transpires....the first Gentile convert is accepted under the saving grace of God.

Meet Cornelius.  He was an important man stationed in  Rome, well known and widely respected. As a Roman centurion, he had a minimum of 100 men under his command and likely thousands of men.  But more importantly, the Bible tells us he was “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” (V2) Although Cornelius had not surrendered his life under the Lordship of Christ, he was a man seeking God's favor with sincerity of heart and purpose.  God honored his seeking heart  " You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah29:13)

Jesus came to the Jews first but they rejected him as the Messiah. Now was the time for God to orchestrate a NEW COVENANT that would extend the gift  of salvation to ALL men.  "All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name. " (Psalm 86:9). So there would be no doubt, God gave specific directions to Cornelius and specific directions to Peter to bring these 2 men together for a union that would change the world.
To overcome Peter's ingrained prejudices against Gentiles which he had been taught from infancy through Jewish custom, God had to redefine and widen Peter's view of "clean" vs " unclean". According to Jewish custom, Jews were not supposed to associate with "unclean" Gentiles and they were forbidden to eat the "unclean" foods that these Heathen nations ate. Through a vision, Peter came to understand that God had changed the standards. Through Christ ALL men could be made "clean". 

 “And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean." (V28)

“but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (v35)
Did you realize that Christ changed all of that?  Did you realize that man's acceptance of Christ as Lord of his life is the pivotal standard that fulfills all the prior customs and teachings of the Law?  Did you realize that you are a Gentile who under the Law would have been excluded and considered "unclean" by Jewish standards? Did you realize that Cornelius represents you? By God opening salvation through Christ to the Gentile nation, it became possible for you and I to become part of his "chosen people" too.  So this story of Cornelius and Peter becomes "our story" to celebrate! 

Peter explains the Gospel to Cornelius and Cornelius understands the salvation plan God lovingly and sacrificially made possible through Christ.  “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”” (V42-43). And God bestowed the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Gentile believers  which has continued to this day. 

What a blessing that Christ broke down the barriers of sin as well as the barriers of separation between men?  Christ came to help us see past our differences and embrace each other as a unified family in Him. 


What Will be Your Legacy? {Acts 9}

10:30 PM

By Sue Desmarais

What is the legacy you’re leaving to those who come after you? Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever wondered how you’ll be remembered after The Lord calls you home? I think of that every time I read about Tabitha/Dorcus in Acts 9:36-39,

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.  About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room.  Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.(emphasis mine)

Here is a woman who used what she had to help others, especially widows who once were solely dependant on their husbands to survive, and now found themselves at the mercy of their children or others to care for them. I discovered that there are over 50 verses in the Bible that speak or refer to caring for the poor, widow, orphan and stranger or refugee. I was surprised to see how often these groups of people were lumped together, but that’s for another day. It’s safe to say today, that looking after the widows was very important to the Lord and Tabitha took God’s command very seriously.

Seeing these widows weeping; holding up the articles of clothing she had made for them always makes me wonder what others would say or hold up that would testify to how I had faithfully followed the Lord’s command, and this time I didn’t just stop at Tabitha, but decided to look at the legacy of all those listed in chapter nine.

There was Ananias, who the Lord called on to go to Paul, and I wondered why The Lord choose Ananias from all those living in the area? I suppose it was because He knew He could count on Ananias to go and do exactly what He commanded him to do. Ananias is only mentioned once more in the Bible and that’s in Paul's speech in Acts 22. Paul describes Ananias as "a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews" that dwelt in Damascus (Acts 22:12). I’d be honored if I could be described in the same way one day!

We know Paul, according to Ananias, had caused tremendous harm to God’s people and, had come there with authority from the chief priests to arrest all believers. Yet, Paul went onto be probably the greatest missionary in all of history, and write most of the New Testament!

Aeneas  lived in Lydda, and had been crippled for eight years. When Peter said to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat," he was healed immediately and got up and went onto praise God. God used him and his illness as a light to others to cause others to place their  faith in Christ Jesus.

Finally, there’s Peter, who at one time seemed to be famous for saying or doing the wrong things, yet after being filled with God spirit at the Day of Pentecost went onto to be used tremendously by God as we can see right here in this chapter alone!

There is something I think fascinating in how Peter brought Tabitha back to life. Notice both these scenes from Scripture. The first was Jesus bringing Jarius’ daughter back to life:

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.” Mark 5:40-42 (emphasis mine)

The second is Peter bringing Tabitha back to life:

Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.  He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive.” - Acts 9:40-41 (emphasis mine)

Did you notice only one letter is changed in what both commanded? I think this proves Peter was definitely paying attention to the Master while he walked with Him on earth!

In this one chapter we have some amazing example of people of great faith! ALL used by God, though some more so than others, yet  each possessed an equal opportunity to one day hear their Master say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your Master!' - Matthew 25:21

Our God is an equal opportunity God and I pray each of us will hear those very words one day, and leave a legacy that others will desire to follow.


Sent {Acts 8}

11:30 PM

By Lisa Thayer

For several weeks the word ‘Sent’ has been repeated in my head.  I’ll admit, when I was very young, I sat in a church and began the process of filling out the paperwork to go into the Peace Corp.  Then I met my first husband.  I truly believe God’s hand has been involved in every part of my life.  Sometimes it’s amazing where He’s taken me and sometimes I struggle with why He’s placed me where I am. 

Today I want to focus on Philip.  Philip was just an ordinary man, not an apostle.  At this point and time, Christianity had grown rapidly and Saul was on his own mission to stop the growth.  So God scattered these believers.  We see persecution around the world in this day, and are heartbroken because families are left homeless and some people are thrown in jail.  But we have to remember how it all began.  And sometimes we have to trust that God is doing a good thing    

Not only are we called into salvation when we turn our lives over to the Lord, but we are called to mission at the very same time.  We just cannot hoard this belief, we are called to share it.  Our story does not have to become a ‘perfect’ example and then we can share it.  We are called to share it now.  Just look at this story of Philip being sent to Gaza.  Gaza was this nasty place of a lot of pagan rituals.  Gaza was in Samaria, you know, the place with the half-breeds (Jews/Gentiles) and any true Jew would not set foot near the place, lest he defile himself.  Sort of like the inner city of larger cities where the drug addicts and dealers are crawling.  Or perhaps the women’s facilities where women go to discuss abortions.  Or maybe, it’s the grocery store behind the person paying with WIC.  We all have that nasty place we just don’t want to go.  But we are ordinary people with a huge gift that God is calling us to share.  WE, yes you, are called to go out and share what you know.  You cannot just sit in your bible studies, in your comfy churches, you really need to be willing to get dirty and rub shoulders with some nasty people. 

Jesus told us we would not have to worry about what to say in Matthew 10:19, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Let’s just say, you’re not in the situation of being arrested for your faith, but on a plane, or sitting in the doctor’s office, or on the phone with a friend, and somehow you are like Philip next to an Ethiopian eunuch and you get to explain a passage of the bible.  You don’t have your notes or a script, much less your bible handy.  I am sure that if you are completely sold out on the power of the Holy Spirit and you are completely sold out on the power of the resurrected Christ, you will be enabled to speak exactly what is necessary to perfectly share the gospel message.

I have heard people share over and over the stories of how they have shared the gospel message with people so many times, especially with friends and family, and they become discouraged with their unbelief that they wonder if these people will ever believe.  But I don’t know is, are these same people praying to God to send them people to share the gospel with?  Or are they trying to be in control of who they share with?  Are you asking God to ‘Send Me’?  Or does the thought of being lifted out of where you are, sharing your story with the eunuch and seeing the belief right where you are frighten you?  God may be trying to lift you out of where you are to place you where you belong.  It may be time to let go of something that is holding you back.  Let the eunuch rejoice, and let God use you where He needs you!

Here are some verses which may inspire you.

Isaiah 6:8, ESV And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
Hebrews 13:21, NLT May he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 2:10, NIV For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Jeremiah 32:27, NASB Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Philippians 2:13, ESV For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.


Emulating Jesus {Acts 7}

1:10 AM

By Lisa Moore

These days it seems you can't listen to the news without hearing stories of Christians being persecuted or killed, with little public outcry. Not surprising from a world that rejects Jesus.  As times become more perilous, we as followers need to be prepared to suffer and possibly lay down our lives for our Savior.  And just like Stephen, the Church's first martyr, we can become powerful witnesses whose testimony can change lives.

Stephen was a deacon in the early Church and was, "full of grace and power", who was "performing great wonders and signs among the people", (Acts 6:8).  Members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen, opposed Stephen on theological grounds, "But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.", (Acts 6:10).  In response they hired false witnesses who accused Stephen of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.  As a result, Stephen was taken into custody and questioned before the council of the synagogue.  But instead of answering the charges against him, Stephen recounted the history of Israel beginning with Abraham and ending with the fulfillment of God's promises through Jesus.  He finished with charging the council with the murder and betrayal of the Messiah.  Enraged, members of the council and others dragged Stephen into the streets where he was to be stoned to his death.  Now you'd think that fearing for his life Stephen would have been crying out for mercy, proclaiming his innocence.  Instead, he gave such a beautiful and powerful testimony, that it forever changed the life of a young man observing nearby.  A young man named Saul.

The word martyr comes from the Greek word "martys", and means witness or testimony.  The Gospel is based on the testimony of those who saw Jesus crucified, buried, raised to life, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.  As Christians, there is no greater calling than to give testimony to what the Lord has done in our lives. We are to be living witnesses ready at a moments notice to, "make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.", (1 Pet. 3:15).

We may not all be called to physically die for Jesus as Stephen was, but we are all called to die to self; putting the will of God before our own and allowing Him to work through us.  But working for God's Kingdom is not an easy task.  The moment we begin spreading the Gospel to others, we put ourselves in the line of fire from the enemy.  Jesus made it very clear that loving Him brings out the hate for God in the human heart, making us a target for the ungodly.  Paul warns us that, "Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted.", (2 Tim. 3:12).  But although we may face trials and tribulations as Christians, we can find hope in the words of Jesus.  "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.", (Matt. 5:11-12)

God wants us all to have the courage, faith, and boldness of Stephen.  As the mob closed in around him, his focus was only on Jesus.  He was so full of grace and the Spirit, that when looked into the sky he saw his Savior.  "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (v.56). Think of that.  Jesus was so eager to receive the spirit of this man who gave everything, that instead of sitting, He stood at the right hand of God to welcome Stephen home. 

I want to be a Stephen.  I want to be so full of Jesus, that when I give my testimony, those who look upon me see the glory of God.  I want to be surrendered to the Lord trusting completely in His faithfulness.  And most of all, even in the most violent and hateful circumstances, I too want to be able to emulate our Savior.  Like Jesus, the greatest martyr, Stephen used his dying breath to call out to God, "Lord do not hold this sin against them!", (v.60).  Only through the grace of God was Stephen able to perform this act of Christlike love.  What remarkable things will you do when the grace of God flows through you!?

Sandra Wyatt

No Other Way… {Scripture Saturday}

11:30 PM

By Sandra Wyatt

Welcome to Scripture Saturday!  Today we continue our memorization of verses found in Acts with verse 4:12…

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is not other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Peter is echoing what Jesus said about Himself, “there is salvation in no one else…”

That means that you cannot be saved by being good.  You cannot be saved by keeping the law. Remember what Paul said, “for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:21) and "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) You also cannot be saved by being sincere or buy your salvation.

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.”

God has made only one way for salvation, and there are no short cuts.  Jesus is the way whereby you must be saved.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

“‘Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” (Isaiah 52:6-7)
Have a blessed and precious day everyone!


More than Conquerors in Jesus Christ {Acts 6}

11:30 PM

By Mari Sandoval

After Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost thousands were saved (Acts 2: 14-21) and as the days went by the number of believers increased as the apostles preached the Word with the Power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:48, 4:31, 5:14).  When Jesus was with the first apostles He had promised all this would happen, and His desire for His disciples to live in love in unity was being fulfilled!  “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all (Acts 4:32-34). This was the foundation of the primitive Church!  

But of course, Satan always finds a way to attack causing division and opposition among the believers: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Act 6:1) Apparently, some of the Hellenistic Jews believed that the widows among the Hebrew Jews were receiving better care. This called for a solution: “So the [c]Twelve called the disciples together and said, “It is not appropriate for us to neglect [teaching] the word of God in order to serve tables and manage the distribution of food” (6:2). The apostles should not be distracted from prayer and the preaching of the word. (Vs.4)

I did a bit of research and I found that “serving tables” didn't mean that the apostles considered the work of cleaning up the widow's dinner table as something as a “lower task”. “This speaks of handling the practical administration of the financial and practical details relevant to caring for the widows. A 'table' at that time meant a place where a money changer did his collecting or exchanging of money. The deacons were elected to oversee the distribution of monies and provisions to the needy among the fellowship." (Ogilvie)

The instruction to care for this matter was: “Therefore, brothers, choose from among you seven men with good reputations [men of godly character and moral integrity], full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Vs.3)  These were the men they elected: “… [d]Stephen, a man full of faith [in Christ Jesus], and [filled with and led by] the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas (Nikolaos), a proselyte (Gentile convert) from Antioch.”  ( Vs.5)

Satan’s plans for division and distraction were placed in God’s hands and through the guidance and Wisdom of His Holy Spirit this problem turned into a blessing! And because of this: “… the message of God kept on growing and spreading, and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem; and a large number of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith [accepting Jesus as Messiah and acknowledging Him as the Source of eternal salvation].” (Vs.7)

Later on we find that opposition occurs once more: “Now Stephen, full of grace (divine blessing, favor) and power, was doing great wonders and signs (attesting miracles) among the people. However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued  with Stephen” (6:8-9)  But Stephen was empowered by the Holy Spirit, as he spoke to them and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke (vs. 10) The opposing Jews, defeated in debate, induced false accusations against Stephen and he was arrested!

They couldn’t tolerate what Stephen was teaching: that Jesus was greater than Moses; that Jesus was God; that Jesus was greater than the temple; that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law; and that Jesus was greater than their religious customs and traditions.  They twisted his words, accusing him of blasphemy!  But our Lord was with Stephen and he knew it deep inside!!  “Then all those who were sitting in the Council, stared [intently] at him, and they saw that Stephen’s face was like the face of an angel.” (Vs. 15)

In these few chapters we’ve seen how the disciples have been thrown in jail and even flogged (Ch. 4, 5) because of their faith in Jesus! Jesus had warned them about this, but He also told them He would never leave them nor forsake them (Mat 5:11-12, Mat. 10:17-20).

Let me ask you: Are you finding opposition as you witness Jesus and your faith in Him? Do you remember a time when these difficult and or painful circumstances turned into a blessing?

Let’s recall Paul’s encouraging words in Rom 8:26-28 “In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words.27 And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of [c]God’s people in accordance with God’s will. 28 And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”  Yes, there is a Perfect Plan in all our trials! Our Father is in Perfect Control of our situation!

Paul continues: “ Who shall ever separate us from the love of [d]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?36 Just as it is written and forever remains written, “For Your sake we are put to death all day long;

We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. 38 For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:35-39)

Remember He will never leave us nor forsake us: in Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors!