Friday, February 25, 2011

Our Hero to the Rescue

Acts 23

The heat’s rising, but God’s not done with Paul yet. As in chapter 18, now again God speaks a timely word of encouragement to the battle-tested missionary. One can only imagine the sense of peace and power and presence Paul experienced as “the Lord stood by him” and spoke that night.

There’s an unsung hero in this story, as well. To fulfill His word to Paul, God brings a young man (Paul’s nephew) into the picture to save Paul’s life.

You have to understand the Jews were fuming by this time. They wanted Paul dead so desperately that they bound themselves with an oath to not eat or drink until they had killed him! Sure hope their last meal was a good one.

Our real hero in this story, though, is God, who foiled their plans through the courageous actions of Paul’s nephew. It would have taken a supernatural courage for this young man to approach Paul with the news he’d overheard of the plot against him. And it would have taken even more bravery for him to go to the Roman commander to inform him! He literally risked his own life to save Paul’s!

Amazing, too, is that this commander listened to the boy and accepted his word as true, and then acted in response. But surely by now we know that our Hero does some amazing things to fulfill His word!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who's Got a Testimony?

Acts 22

Paul never got over his salvation, and he never hesitated to tell people about it. We find Paul here in the midst of an angry mob that wants to kill him. Yet what’s on Paul’s mind? A chance to give his testimony!

He literally begs the Roman commander guarding him to let him speak to the crowd. And God, for His purposes, grants the request. Paul’s testimony provides a pretty good model for our own.

First he tells about his life before his encounter with Jesus, speaking of his upbringing, his misguided zeal for God and his persecution of those who followed the Way of Christ Jesus.

Then he describes his conversion experience. He explains how the risen Lord appeared to him, revealed Himself and led him into Damascus. He details the way Jesus sent Ananias to deliver God’s message and give Paul His mission. Paul says that he was baptized, that his sins were washed away and he called upon the name of Jesus for salvation.

Paul barely had a chance to begin telling them how the Lord was working in his life from that time forward before the crowds had heard enough and were ready to put him to death. Whatever the outcome, Paul never got over his salvation, and he never missed a chance to tell about what Jesus had done for him and what He could do for others.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Ultimate Gain

Acts 21 

As the journey unfolds, Paul’s conviction to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit grows stronger. Even though dangers await him in Jerusalem, and even though his own friends urge him not to go, he’s more surrendered to the will of God than ever. Such is the passion of those who deny themselves and take up their crosses daily to follow Jesus their Lord.

Here’s how Paul saw it: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Again: “As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21).

All this from the heart of the man who counts believers as “more than conquerors through him who loved us,” and was convinced that nothing in all creation, neither life nor even death, “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38).

So then it’s not surprising to hear him say to his well-intentioned friends, “I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 13). To Paul, dying for Christ would be the ultimate gain.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tears with the Territory

Acts 20 

There have been a couple of times I’ve had to say tearful good-byes to dear friends. When my wife and I left Calvary Baptist Church in Rockford for seminary, while we rejoiced in the new direction the Lord set before us, we wept with those who had become so precious to us. It’s one of the hardest things in life to do.

This account of Paul’s final good-bye to the elders in Ephesus stirs up all those emotions afresh. Imagine the scene, as these beloved brothers in Christ with whom Paul had lived and ministered for three years gathered on the shore. They had formed a bond in the Lord, solidified through trials and tears. They had engaged together in the work of the gospel, proclaiming Jesus as Lord and establishing the local church.

Paul’s farewell address leaves their hearts in agony, and with much weeping, sorrow and embracing, they wave good-bye for the last time. They know they’ll never see his face again.

For Paul, it’s been his new way of life. The Holy Spirit has compelled him to go to Jerusalem, where the only thing he’s sure of is that imprisonment and affliction await. But, O, for the resolve of Paul’s heart! The only thing that mattered to him was to finish the course. His own life he counted as nothing. His sole desire was to keep testifying to the gospel of the grace of God, by which he had been saved, and in which he stood. Sometimes tears come with the territory.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Putting the Idol-Makers Out of Business

Acts 19 

Where the word of God is preached, trouble’s not far behind. The pattern continues for Paul, yet he is unfazed. His mission is to preach the gospel, and neither stones nor lashes nor prison nor mocking nor rioting would dissuade him from the high call of the Lord Jesus to proclaim His salvation.

In Ephesus the root of the rioting was the love of money. That’s the root of all kinds of evil, Paul would later write to Timothy – the love of money. Here, as the word of the kingdom of God is preached, as the Holy Spirit falls upon the believers, as extraordinary miracles are being done in the name of Jesus, lo and behold, the idol craftsmen start to lose some business!

God speed the day when the liquor store owners, cigarette manufacturers, pornographers, casino operators and immoral media producers raise a riot in this land against Christians because the word of God is being preached, multitudes of people believe the gospel, and start turning away from all these wicked idols they’ve poured their money into!

Paul never set out to put these idol-makers out of business. He did not organize protests outside of their shops or petition the local government to enact zoning ordinances against them. That wasn’t his calling. Preaching the gospel was! That’s our calling, too, dear Christian. Preach the word! That’ll change this world, and may even raise a riot.

Friday, February 18, 2011

God's Encouragement to a Faithful Servant

Acts 18

Make no mistake about it: the way of the cross is hard. If it’s a life of comfort and convenience you want, then don’t try to follow after Christ. If your personal safety and ease are what you value most highly, the Christian life is not for you.

Sound harsh? Try explaining your version of Christianity to Paul. Everywhere he went he ran into opposition. Go back and reread Acts 9:16. This was Paul’s experience. And he rejoiced in it! For the sake of knowing Christ he endured all kinds of hardships and sufferings and persecutions. For the sake of the church he persevered so that others may too obtain salvation.

It was certainly no different in Corinth, as we see in this chapter. I love the description in v. 5 that says “Paul was occupied with the word.” He kept on carrying out the work God had given him to do, even though his witness for Christ brought more trouble. With all that Paul experienced, it would have been easy for him to give up. But God built him up!

The Lord introduced him to some new friends – Aquila and Priscilla. Silas and Timothy rejoined him. God kept giving him new converts. And the Lord himself spoke to Paul in a vision.

Maybe you’re following the Lord, denying yourself and taking up your cross, but you’re in a funk of discouragement. Hear this and take courage: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you…” (vv. 9-10).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Message of Salvation

Acts 17

The message of Christ Jesus never changes. The gospel of salvation in Christ is the same for every generation throughout the ages and for every nation under heaven. The good news is that Jesus died in our place on the cross to bear God’s wrath against our sin, that He was buried and rose from the dead on the third day, and now lives forevermore. And all who repent of sin and turn in faith to Christ will be saved from death and receive abundant and eternal life!

The method of communicating this message to the world, however, changes. Speaking in the synagogue with the Jews, Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures…” Jesus as the Christ. They would have understood and acknowledged the authority of Scripture. And many did, in fact, believe!

With the Greeks in the marketplace and before the philosophers, Paul tailored the method to their spiritual level. They were worshipping idols made of material things by human hands. Paul proclaimed what they worshiped as “unknown” the God of heaven, the Creator of all things, and His righteous judgment against the world through His Son whom He raised from the dead! And some believed!

These were “strange things” Paul was bringing to their ears! And not only did Paul simply present the information, he was persuading them to repent as God commands of all people everywhere. That’s still the message our world needs today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

He Leadeth Me

Acts 16 

There are times when I desperately wish God would write out His directions for me in the sky, or at least send a text message detailing what He wants me to do. I know His will is made clear in His word, but wouldn’t it be nice to get the specific directions once in a while?

If you feel that way, too, it may be encouraging to know that even the great apostle Paul and his protégé Timothy had to learn to follow the Spirit’s guidance. They had wanted to take the gospel east to Asia, but were forbidden by the Spirit. So they decided they’d go north to Bithynia, but again the Spirit closed the door.

The Bible doesn’t say exactly how the Spirit worked to prevent them from going where they thought they were needed. It’s not like their motives were wrong. Could it have been lack of transportation, weather-related issues, illness, or some prophetic word spoken to them? Did they not sense the peace of the Spirit as they prepared to go?

Whatever happened, God had other plans. He revealed His direction to Paul through a vision, and the missionary team obeyed immediately. There was a woman named Lydia who needed to hear the gospel in Macedonia. There was a slave girl who needed to be freed from an evil spirit. There was a Philippian jailer who needed to be saved. And as they followed, no doubt the song they sung was, “He Leadeth Me.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Better Than I Deserve

Acts 15

In response to the question, “How are you doing?” my Granddad would usually reply, “Better than I deserve.” He understood something of a grace given to him of which he was unworthy. God’s grace goes even further. Because of sin we’re all unworthy of His favor, yet He pours out His goodness and mercy upon us in Christ Jesus, even though what we really deserve is His wrath!

In this chapter there’s a hardcore group of Pharisees insisting that the Gentiles who come to faith in Christ must be circumcised according the custom of Moses. Paul and Barnabas had been preaching the gospel of God’s grace to the nations, and many had become disciples. But some objected and caused quite a dissension over the matter of circumcision.

The primary argument comes down to this: Is salvation a free gift of God’s grace available through faith? Or, must one also keep the law of Moses in order to be saved? Paul deals with this repeatedly in his letters to the churches in Rome, Galatia, Philippi and others. Emphatically, the answer comes down to God’s grace in Christ Jesus! As Peter addresses this pivotal Jewish Council in Acts 15, God’s own activity takes center stage. As you hear his speech (vv. 7-11), listen for the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus to break the chains of enslavement to the law. Then lift your heart in praise to the One who gave Himself on the cross to save you from sin and death. You’re doing much better than you deserve!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Through Many Tribulations

Acts 14 

One of the things you see clearly in the book of Acts is that the message of the gospel divides. When the apostles preached Jesus, people weren’t usually neutral about it. Either they embraced it as if they had been waiting for this all their lives, or they got so angry they wanted to kill the messengers.

Of course, Jesus had warned His followers that they would be hated by the world on His account. Christians ought never to be surprised when suffering comes for the sake of His name.

Makes you wonder if we’re really preaching Christ the way He ought to be preached. I know there’s a growing tide of opposition to the gospel of Jesus in our day, but I don’t really see the message dividing people the way it divided the world in Paul’s day. Many believed, but the rest wanted to throw stones. Is our culture so less passionate about spiritual things, so “tolerant” of everyone’s views that they don’t really care? Or are we not “speaking in such a way” that draws a line?

Now more than ever we need the boldness of Paul and Barnabas to preach the uncompromising message of salvation in Christ Jesus alone. We need their courage in the face of mounting opposition. We need their perseverance in the midst of increasing persecution. We need the grace of God to strengthen us in the call to preach and make disciples of all nations, knowing that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Filled with the Spirit

Acts 13 

Check out the activity of the Holy Spirit in this chapter. He speaks to the church in Antioch, instructing them to set apart for Him Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which He has called them (v. 2). By the Holy Spirit, the church sends them out (v. 4). In the power of the Spirit, they proclaim the Word of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul calls out Elymas with stronger words than I’ve ever even thought about saying to anyone (vv. 9-10). The Spirit is at work in a big way!

I have to laugh a little in verse 15. Paul and Barnabas are in attendance at the synagogue when the rulers ask them if they have any word of encouragement for the people. If? I only wonder if these rulers had any idea what they were asking for!

Needless to say, Paul accepts the invitation and preaches a bold Spirit-filled message of God’s plan of redemption through the nation of Israel culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ, emphasizing His death and resurrection. This is the “good news” of God’s promises now fulfilled, and, yes, a word of encouragement to the people!

Paul then warns them of the danger of rejecting this message and the incredible work that God is doing in their midst. They beg him to come back next week, which he does, much to the displeasure of some of the Jews. Even though the crowds are incited against them, they leave the city filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. O Lord, fill us today with Your Spirit!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

To God Be the Glory

Acts 12

There’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in this chapter. You feel the weight of sorrow as Herod’s hatred for the church intensifies, and he puts James to death by the sword. And you feel the anger of injustice as the Bible records that this action “pleased the Jews.”

But you also feel the anticipation of God’s power. Herod arrested Peter and kept him in prison, “but earnest prayer was made for him to God by the church.” I love that statement! Even before you read what happens next, you get the sense that God’s going to come through in a mighty way in response to the earnest prayers of His people! And He does!

The account of Peter’s rescue is awe-inspiring, and at the same time, somewhat humorous. The angel has to poke Peter in the side to wake him up, like trying to rouse a six-year-old boy to get up for school. Of course, Peter thinks he’s seeing a vision. The chains simply fall off his hands. He follows the angel out of the prison in a daze. They pass the first and second guards completely undetected. The iron gates opens on its own. Peter’s half-way down the street before he realizes this is no dream at all, but God’s deliverance!

You also have to smile at the scene where Peter knocks on the door of the house where the church is praying for him, yet they don’t realize God’s already answered their prayers! Bottom line, as Herod’s death shows: To God be the glory!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Acts 11

I’ll admit that I enjoy comfort. Things that are safe, secure, familiar, predictable. The house I live in is comfortable. My community is comfortable. My job is comfortable. The only thing is – I’ve yet to read in the Bible where God calls us to a comfortable life.

The thought of the Gentiles receiving salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit was a foreign concept to these card-carrying Jews. In fact they criticized Peter and his friends for taking these despised Gentiles out to lunch at Applebee’s. The Jewish nation knew they were special in God’s eyes, but going to the Gentiles was way out of their comfort zone.

But when they heard how God was at work to bring “repentance that leads to life” even to these outsider nations, well, they had nothing else to say except to glorify God. Their comfort zone was just about to explode.

As Peter and the rest learned, and as we must learn, we had better not stand in God’s way when He wants so much to bring repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus to the nations. That must become our heart’s desire, as well. It’s what we’re commanded to do. It’s what we’re empowered to do. It’s what we ought to want to do, even though it will mean getting out of our comfort zones and getting into the real world where people are hurting, messy, broken, proud, self-sufficient, lost and lonely – all needing hope and peace and joy and salvation.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

God's Missionary Heart

Acts 10 

Perhaps you remember when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989. For many years the wall stood as a barricade cutting off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and East Berlin. Following a series of political changes in the Eastern Bloc, the weakening pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary, and weeks of civil unrest, the East German government finally allowed its citizens to cross into the West. As people climbed the wall and began chipping away at it, the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolically paved the way for the reunification of Germany, and, interestingly too, for the advancement of the gospel into the Iron Curtain.

Even more significant was the tumbling down of the barricade that separated Gentiles from Jews. The Jews saw the Gentiles as common, or unclean. They would not even associate with them, lest they be defiled by being in their very presence.

But God was about to knock the wall down. Through divine visions given to Cornelius and Peter, God was fulfilling His plan to bring about the reconciliation of all men to Himself through Jesus Christ. Peter learned that God shows no partiality, but will accept anyone from any nation who comes to Him through faith in Jesus. “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The wall came down, and so did the Holy Spirit. And the road was paved to preach the gospel to the world.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

God's Chosen Instrument

Acts 9

It’s impossible to overstate what happened to Saul on the way to Damascus. This was such a dramatic event not only in his own life but in the entire course of church and world history.

The man who came to destroy the church ended up doing more to build up the church than anyone apart from Jesus Himself. The man who hated the followers of Christ with a passion found himself passionately loving them instead. The man who was living full of self-righteousness died with Christ and received new life in Him.

Saul got saved! His life took a 180 when Jesus encountered him on that road. He left the old behind and embraced the new. As zealous as he had been to bring the church down, he was now a thousand times more zealous to lift her up.

God had a plan for Saul all along. He would be the Lord’s chosen instrument to carry His name before the world. And has anyone ever preached the name of Jesus more boldly? Has anyone ever suffered as much for the sake of His name?

We’ll see much more of Saul, who became Paul, in the chapters ahead. For now think about this: Has your life changed because of your own encounter with Jesus? Maybe not so dramatically, but has it been made new? If not, receive Him by grace through faith today! If so, then know you’re also His chosen instrument to carry His name into the world!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Persecuted But Not Destroyed

Acts 8

What strikes me in this chapter is what happens when persecution breaks out against the church in Jerusalem. Although the believers are scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, far from silencing their witness, “those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

The church didn’t cower in fear, they didn’t hide away in a holy huddle and they didn’t compromise their message. They proclaimed the word of Christ boldly as they went. In much of the world today where persecution against the church intensifies, the results are similar.

I’m not saying that I’d ever wish for it, but I wonder what would happen if violent persecution arose against the church in America. Would we fall away or would we fall to our knees in prayer? Would we keep quiet or would we keep preaching Christ? Would we retreat under intimidation or would we rise up under the banner of our Lord Jesus to press on to win the prize for which He has called us heavenward?

The Holy Spirit’s activity through Philip is highlighted in this chapter, as he preaches to the crowds in Samaria, then to the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza. As you read, praise God that people still believe in Christ when the gospel is preached, and remember to pray for those who are being persecuted, that the message might continue to go forth.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Martyrs for Jesus

Acts 7

Remember the key verse in Acts? It’s the one where Jesus tells His followers that they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth, once they receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them (Acts 1:8), which happened in Acts 2.

The Greek word for “witness” is martus, from which we get the word “martyr.” That’s how closely the early believers become known for witnessing for Christ to the point of death. Stephen was the first to be martyred for His witness.

The Bible describes Stephen in glowing terms, literally. He was full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit, full of grace and full of power. He was doing great wonders and signs among the people when opposition arose. False witnesses were brought in to speak against him, but as Stephen faced the council they all saw that his face was like the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).

In chapter 7 Stephen makes one of the most comprehensive speeches of Israelite history recorded, and one of the most convicting. Essentially he argued that in the same way the people’s forefathers had rejected the will of God, now this generation did likewise. In a rage, the mob dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

In his martyrdom, Stephen witnessed faithfully for Jesus, died like Jesus and will also live eternally in the presence of Jesus!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Longing for Revival

Acts 6

One of the things I long for as a pastor and as a follower of Christ is revival. Like the kind you read about in days of old where the people of God cry out to Him for the salvation of souls and multitudes come to faith in Jesus. The kind of Great Awakening, preceding by the church getting all things right with God and pleading with Him to move mightily in their midst, where sinners run to the Lord in repentance and faith, and even the church members who thought they were saved really get saved!

I read recently of a pastor in England who’d been preaching for years and years, when finally the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to the truth of his own message and he at last truly believed and was converted. This sparked something of a revival in the congregation and community, and a once orthodox but cold church grew flaming hot for Christ!

In verse 7 of Acts 6 we read one of the several “summary statements” Luke records about what God is doing in the church. That’s what I yearn for to be said about what God is doing in us today. Right here. I rejoice that this statement is true in many areas of the world even as we speak. People in some nations are turning to Christ as never before. Hallelujah!

I want to see it here! Where the number of disciples multiply greatly, and even the “priests” become obedient to the faith.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Preaching and Teaching Jesus as the Christ

Acts 5

This chapter begins on a frightening note. As the church is enjoying unprecedented grace from the Lord at the end of chapter 4, we now see this harrowing account of how God desires to keep His church united and pure.

Bottom line: Don’t lie to God! Simple. Dishonesty is not a good policy. No wonder the young church was seized with the fear of God’s intense hatred of sin. By the way, the church would be much more holy today if God chose to act that way against us. Then again, there wouldn’t be anyone left.

The emphasis of the chapter moves from there to the power of the Spirit once again poured out into and through the lives of the apostles. They’re shown performing great miracles, and God keeps adding believers to the church.

This brings out the envy and fury of the religious leaders, however, and the apostles are arrested. But never doubt that God’s mighty hand far exceeds the feeble attempts of His enemies to silence the gospel. The persecution serves as a platform for the gospel, and the apostles take the stage and hammer it home. This almost gets them killed, but God spares theirs lives using a Pharisee, and the chapter ends with the apostles beaten and threatened but rejoicing that they had been counted worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus. And far from keeping quiet, they kept on preaching and teaching Jesus as the Christ. May that be our passion today!

Friday, February 4, 2011

No Other Name

Acts 4

The opposition arises, just as Jesus forewarned His followers that it would (see John 15:18-16:4, et al). I’m sure the Lord’s words served as a great comfort and encouragement to Peter and John when they were arrested for preaching the gospel.

In fact, through the Spirit of God, who works in, with and through the Word of God, bringing the truth to light in the hearts and minds of the people of God, Peter and John were filled with boldness as they stood before this council. Even in the face of threats and chains, these two “uneducated, common men” astonished the rulers and elders with their proclamation of Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen Lord.

Peter’s line in v. 12 cuts to the chase: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Friend, that’s as true today as it ever has been and ever will be. Are you confident in His name alone for salvation?

When these servants of Christ were released, they returned to the fellowship of their friends. The church lifted their voices together, glorifying God and asking for even greater boldness against the threats to keep speaking His Word. And God answered in an earth-shaking way. Ever been in a prayer meeting that got God’s attention like that?

And the church was strengthened in great power and grace.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In the Name of Jesus

Acts 3

Friend, there is power in the name of Jesus! There is healing and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. And there is the refreshing blessing of salvation in the name of Jesus!

In this chapter we continue to see the power of the Holy Spirit at work through God’s people. Here Peter and John bring a crippled man to his feet – not in their own ability and not in their own piety, but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Understandably, the man who was healed can hardly contain himself. This man, who had never before known what it was like to stand or walk or run or leap, is suddenly lifted to his feet and then enters the temple jumping for joy and praising God loudly enough, I’m sure, to rock the angels in heaven.

The crowds marvel at what’s taking place, and Peter seizes the moment and lets the gospel loose. He doesn’t sugar-coat the message, either. He calls the people to account for denying Jesus and delivering Him over to Pilate. He exposes their sin and lays the death of the Author of Life on them.

But he also delivers the good news. Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan, and so was His resurrection from the grave. The message is the same for people today as it was then: Repent! Turn away from sin and turn to God, that your sins may be blotted out and times of refreshing and blessing may come from the presence of the Lord!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Church Is Born

Acts 2

I can only imagine the scene in which these 120 believers were together on the day when the Spirit came down and filled them up. They had been waiting on the Lord’s promise, as He had instructed them. Perhaps they wondered, “How long?”

But on this glorious and world-changing day, Christ Jesus fulfilled His word. And as the sound like a mighty rushing wind filled the house, and as they saw this strange sight of something like divided tongues of fire appear and rest on each of them, the promised power had arrived. Their lives, and the entire world, would never be the same again.

The sound bewildered the multitudes, and as the Spirit gave the believers the supernatural ability to speak to the crowds in their own native languages, you can imagine the astonishment and wonder that overcame them.

Peter didn’t miss a beat. In the power and authority of the Spirit he preached the message of Christ Jesus like it’s never been preached. His words pierced the hearts of the crowd, and before he could give the invitation they were crying out to know what to do! That day the Lord gave new life – the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit – to about 3,000 souls who repented and were saved from death to life.

The church was born. The believers enjoyed unusual fellowship together. And God was just getting started.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

You Will Receive Power!

Acts 1

Honestly, there’s too much good stuff in a whole chapter of Acts to write just a brief devotion. But I’ll try! I will tell you that it’s helpful to keep verse 8 in mind as you read through the book of Acts. In fact, you might as well go ahead and memorize it now if you haven’t already, because that’s a truth for you and me just as much as it was for the original apostles.

The rest of the book shows what happens when the Holy Spirit indeed empowers believers to witness for Christ. The book opens with a small band of believers huddled in an upper room in Jerusalem, waiting for this promise of the Father. It ends with Paul witnessing for Jesus boldly and without hindrance to the ends of the earth – even while he’s under Roman guard!

Along the way we get to see how these ordinary, uneducated men and women turn the world upside down with the gospel message in the power of the Holy Spirit.

That’s what our world needs today! They need to see the power of God on display in the lives of us ordinary people who dare to take God at His Word, whose own lives are completely transformed by His mercy and grace, who are madly devoted to the fellowship of His Body, who call upon the name of the Lord with expectant faith, who rejoice in being counted worthy to suffer disgrace for His name, and of whom the world will take note and say, “These men have been with Jesus.”