GROWTH

The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers. —Acts 9:31

The church in the United States has experience peace for a long time. It is possible according to the verse above for the church to grow during a time of peace. How does that happen? Well we are told that the church grew stronger because it lived in the “fear of the Lord” and it also grew in numbers “with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.”

What is the fear of the Lord? Well, we are told in Proverbs 8:13 “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Romans 12:9 we are told “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” The fear of the Lord is to love the things that He loves and to hate the things that He hates. As the church was living this way the Holy Spirit of God encouraged them and the church then also grew in numbers.

Could it be that not “fearing the Lord” is the problem with individuals and churches as to why they are not maturing in strength or in numbers? Are individuals and churches not maturing or growing in numbers because there is not a hatred of evil, but participating in it? Is the Holy Spirit of God being grieved and quenched because of a lack of righteous, holy living? Hebrews 13:28-29 says “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Do we have this reverence and awe and are we thankful in our worship of God? Are we just going through the motions?

Dear Father, please help me to live a more holy life for You by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the authority of Jesus. May I be in awe of You and have a thankful heart for Who You are and all that You do. May it be so!

STUBBORN, DEAF AND RESISTANT TO THE TRUTH!

You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! —Acts 7:51

I am sure you have heard parents say proudly, “I am not going to force my child to go to church; I will let him make that choice for himself when he gets older.” But they have no problem sending their child daily to a godless public school where he will learn nothing about God and be encouraged away from God. Parents who say this do so because they themselves are not faithfully following God and in most cases are not even attending a church themselves. They are being deaf to the truth; they are thinking just like a lost person and being stubbornly resistant to the purposes of God as a parent.

In the context of the above verse, Stephen bore witness of the Truth to Jewish people who should have known the Truth, but did not. Because of his bold testimony about the Lord Jesus and accusing these religionists of their stubbornness and resistance to the Holy Spirit, Stephen was stoned to death. Stubborn, deaf to the truth, resistant people will seek to silence others who are speaking the truth by various means. The way they silenced Stephen was to kill him.

Other ways people have sought or do seek to have bold followers of Jesus Christ silenced is to have them fired from their jobs, have their business taken away or shut down, marginalize them, fine them large sums in court, imprison them, torture them, limit their activities, spy on them, kill them or have them killed. Persecution comes in many forms and the reason for this persecution is only because followers of Jesus love Him and love to encourage others to love Him as well, showing that love for Him by obedience to Him. And there’s the rub. Man wants you to obey his desires which are so often contrary to God’s desires.

This present administration spoke of bringing change to America. It has. It has encouraged godless behavior, deception, violence, relational divisions, unsafe conditions for its citizens, economic decline, and overall national insecurity. Franklin Graham clearly stated this decline and President Obama’s response to a heckler is very revealing to us as to his character. https://www.facebook.com/official.Ray.Comfort/photos/a.122900324397116.15609.110962898924192/1055475584472914/?type=1&theater. There is no doubt that the President is being stubborn, is deaf to the truth and is resisting the Holy Spirit of God. This is known by the fruit he is bearing and Jesus said that we would know them by their fruit.

Oh, may it not be the case that you and I are being stubborn, deaf to the truth and resistant to the Holy Spirit of God. May we be pliable, listeners of the truth and accepting of the truth. May it be so!

Dear Father, may I not resist the desires of Your Holy Spirit and Your Son. May my ears be open to the truth and have a soft heart to bend toward Your desires. Yes, may this be so!

YOU HAVE BEEN SENT BY GOD!

God sent Moses to be their ruler and savior. —Acts 7:35

Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. —Acts 7:37

Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. —John 17:18

The teacher sent the student to the office with the class attendance for that day. The trucking employer sent a driver to pick up merchandise that was to be delivered elsewhere. The king sent his herald to make a declaration to the people. All these were sent in the authority of the sender to accomplish what the sender desired.

So it is in the verses above. Moses was sent to fulfill the specific purposes the Lord God Almighty had delegated to him. Jesus was sent by His Father to accomplish what was planned from the foundation of the world. We are now sent by Jesus to accomplish the Great Commission of Matthew 18:19-20 which is to make disciples in the entire world. All sent ones have the authority of the Sender to accomplish what the Sender has delegated the sent one to do.

As a sent one, are you and I accomplishing what the Sender sent us to be and do? Do you and I know what He has sent us to be and do? May we be faithful in what He desires of us!

Dear Father, oh that I would be faithful to what You have sent me to be and do in the authority of Jesus. Please help me be about making disciples and all that means. Help me to be sensitive to Your guidance and be obedient to it. May I do so in the authority of Jesus who sent me to do so and to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit You have given me.

KNOW HISTORY (HIS STORY)

But then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. —Acts 7:18

Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. —Exodus 1:8

Those who do not know, understand or remember what has happened in the past are bound to make massive mistakes in the future. America came into existence so the people could come out from being under the rule of a tyrannical leader and worship according to God’s desires and not the king’s. We are well into the process of becoming an administrative state where religious liberties will be taken away and once again there will be a state church— one that bows to the state’s desires. Tyranny will once again rear its ugly head. Why will this happen? Because we have one generation who have not been taught the history of this nation and multitudes of other people who have been or are in the dark as to what is going on in our government. They do not want to be involved. We are beginning to reap what our complacent ways have sown.

I always find it interesting when I read the verses above of how the new king of Egypt came into power and he did not know anything about Joseph. How could a man come into that office of leadership and not know about Joseph, a man who had greatly impacted the nation? What manner of man was this new king who did not know of a major event, a 7 year famine that impacted the whole land of Egypt? Who was this king that did not have a clue about Joseph’s wonderful leadership during this time? However that could be, his ignorance about history caused him to make the terrible decision to enslave the Jewish people in Egypt. This appalling decision would keep the Jewish people in slavery for 400 years (Exodus 1:8-11; Acts 7:6). Yet, the Jewish people continued to multiply and grow powerful (Exodus 1:20).

Whether a tyrannical government rules or one that is free, those who follow the Lord God Almighty are to continue to follow Him faithfully. We are citizens of heaven first-most and citizens of a nation on earth to shine for the Lord Jesus and bear witness to Him. May we always be faithful regardless of which regime we come under.

Dear Father, I am grateful to know that heaven is my home and that I am a citizen of that most glorious place. May I be a faithful citizen of this country that You have placed me in, bearing testimony to Jesus my Lord. May it be so!

SERVE ACCORDING TO GOD’S GRACE TO YOU

So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word… So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. —Acts 6:2-4

Can you imagine a heavy equipment operator performing brain surgery? Or, how would you like to sit in the dentist chair and have a brute work on your teeth when his real occupation has him operating a jack hammer? Things run a whole lot more smoothly when people stick to their strengths.

So it is in the context of the verses above. The apostles could have run a food program and that was a wonderful ministry, but they were not called to that. Their giftedness and calling was to spend their time in prayer and in teaching the Word of God.

Others were chosen to lead up the food program so the apostles could focus on the ministry the Lord had chosen for them. The result? Those who needed food got it, the apostles were able to focus on prayer and teaching the Word of God and because of the proper distribution of ministry strengths the message continued to spread and a great number of people were saved.

This is how it should be in the body of Christ. Each member has gifts, abilities and resources the Lord has delegated to them to be stewards of. It is only when each member is being faithful in their stewardship that the ministry of the local church thrives according to God’s purposes for that local church.

So, are you and I being faithful stewards of God’s grace to us? How do you and I serve with the gifts, abilities and resources God has delegated to us? May we be faithful today and for the rest of our lives with His desires for us. May it be do!

Dear Father, thank You for the gifts, abilities and resources You have delegated to me. I understand that I am a steward by Your grace through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit’s power. May I be faithful to Your desires in my life.

WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN!

We must obey God rather than any human authority. —Acts 5:29

Obedience to God will put the followers of Jesus at odds with the worldly culture around them. Here in the U.S. if was been “relatively comfortable” to follow Jesus, but those days could be coming to an end.

“Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. The precedent established will leave no room for any limitation on what can constitute such a redefined notion of marriage or human sexuality. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason,” the pledge states, in part.” http://www.christianpost.com/news/pastors-pledge-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court-redefines-marriage-140196/

The context of the verse above was after the apostles were arrested when their message collided with the culture around them. They were jailed for that message. The same thing will happen in the U.S. as it does in other parts of the world when the state tries to force the church to bend to its ungodly beliefs.

Then there are those like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed…” http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/. Here’s a woman who has said that the Bible has always been a guide for her life and yet she does not have any problem seeking to encourage others to believe and obey something other than what God’s Word says.

Dear follower of Jesus, stick close to Him for the days ahead. He never changes. His Word does not change just because a culture or an individual seeks to change it. “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11). God’s standards do not change with the shifting sands of a temporal culture. May we hold fast to His Word!

Dear Father, please help me to be faithfully shining for You in the authority of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit’s power. May I not be disobedient to Your Word.

ONLY ONE WAY!

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. —Acts 4:12

We are traveling today to visit our daughter, son-in-law and their girls. It is about a seven hour trip and we are so looking forward to seeing them. Little 9 months old Jordyn is back home after heart surgery. We are grateful the Lord brought her through such a traumatic surgery. There are 3 ways or routes that we can take to get to their NY home from NH and they are all about the same distance and time. We just need to decide which way we are going. Each way will bring us there.

That is not the case to get to heaven. Not all ways get there, nor are there 3 ways to get there. There is only one way to be saved from sin, only one way to have a relationship with God, only one way to heaven. That way is Jesus and Jesus only!

It took Someone to deal with the eternal sin issue. One sin not “under the blood of Christ” would be enough to keep a person from having a relationship with God and keep them out of heaven just as much as 100,000,000 sins would. Jesus took care of that problem on the cross as the eternal Son of God! He was our Substitute taking the penalty and punishment for our sin so we could be saved from sin, have a relationship with God through Him and go to heaven.

No other world religion has anything like this. Islam does not— it is a works system. Buddhism and Hinduism do not and they are works systems as well. As a matter of fact, all religious systems where man has to do something to be saved or reach some level of higher existence are false systems– even those under the umbrella of Christendom.

When we truly have a good understanding of Who Jesus is and What He has done, then we can understand better the mercy and grace of God and the great work that was accomplished on the cross. All this because of His great love for us! Rejoice!

Dear Father, I know there was nothing good in me, but it was all Your doing that saved me from my sin and keeps me saved from my sin. I am grateful to know I am secure in Your hands. May I live a faithful life, seeking to do those things that are pleasing in your sight. May it be so!

REPENT!

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. —Acts 3:19

Sin is a breaking of God’s Law. It is a trespassing of His Law by thoughts, words or actions. We have all broken His Law, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Repenting of sin for salvation is to realize what sin is and to have a change of mind about it, turning from my own sinful ways and turning to follow God’s ways. Salvation is an accepting of Jesus’ finished work at the cross— He died on that cross, taking the penalty and punishment for our sin. I call on His Name to save me and then I seek to follow Him out of loving gratitude for what He has done for me. Have you called on Jesus for forgiveness of sin and new life in Him? Rejoice if you have! Call on Him now if you have not! “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

DEVOTION IS TO BE INTENSELY COMMITTED!

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer… And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. —Acts 2:42, 47

What are you devoted to? People are devoted to various people or things. There is devotion to spouses and there is devotion to sports. There is devotion to a job and devotion to jogging. Some are devoted to God’s Word and many are devoted to the world’s ungodly ideas. Hang around a person long enough and you will know what they are devoted to.

In the above verses the early believers were known to be devoted followers of Jesus. They listen to the Word of God as the Apostles taught and applied the teachings to life. These early believers enjoyed being together and serving together. They ate together and celebrated the Lord’s Table together. Those of the early church spoke with the Lord often because they were dependent on Him. People responded to the gospel every day as believers were both living their faith in Jesus and sharing their faith in Jesus. This devotedness was with intense effort. It was not their left over time and resources that were being given… it was their best.

How about us? Are you and I committed followers of Jesus? Do we give our left over time and resources or out best?

Dear Father, may I be a faithful, devoted follower of the Lord Jesus. May this be so in His authority and in the power of the Holy Spirit. May it be so!

CALL ON JESUS AND BE SAVED FROM YOUR SIN!

But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. —Acts 2:21

OKLAHOMA CITY- It’s an incredible story of survival following severe storms in Oklahoma. A mobile home in the Forest Park mobile home community was tossed on top of a woman’s home and left her trapped for hours on May 6, 2015. Her rescue was all thanks to a technician working for Oklahoma Natural Gas. He was making sure gas meters were off after the tornado hit, and that’s when he heard a faint cry for help. “When I got to about here, I could hear her faintly asking for help,” Cory Scalf, an ONG worker said. http://kfor.com/2015/05/07/ong-worker-hears-woman-crying-for-help-under-tornado-rubble/

There are many real life stories like the one above. People are trapped, call for help and they are rescued. It reminds me of Peter when he was walking on the water toward Jesus. This was an amazing miracle! But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and started looking at the waves, doubt rose up in him, he began to sink and was going to drown. He called out to Jesus, “Save me, Lord!” and Jesus reached out and grabbed him (Matthew 14:24-32).

The above verse tells us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Peter saw himself in a life-threatening situation and called on the Lord. But everyone who understands that their sin has put them into an eternal life threatening situation and calls on Jesus to be saved from their sin will be saved! Romans 10:13 tells us that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Have you called on Jesus? If your answer is “yes” then you have be saved from your sin. Rejoice! Heaven is your home. But, if your answer is “no” then you are in grave danger of being lost in hell forever, never to experience the love of God in heaven. Call on Jesus to be saved from your sin and to a relationship with God through Him. May it be so!

Dear Father, thank You for salvation through Jesus. Oh that I would life faithfully for Him, doing Your will for Your glory. Please help me not to be selfish, but to focus on Your desires. May it be so in the authority of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.