Monthly Archives: June 2013

Look Past Pride ~ Acts 5:12-42

“Therefore in this present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:38-39

On more than one occasion, the council of high priests had Peter and John imprisoned for teaching in Jesus’ name. In this passage, the high priests were “filled with jealousy” (5:17) at the large numbers of people drawn to the apostles; thus they persecuted the apostles and put them in prison. Of course, the high priests perceived this following as admiration for the apostles themselves; hence their jealousy. Would throwing them into prison stop their momentum?

Overnight, an angel of the Lord releases the apostles from prison, unbeknownst to the guards outside the door. When the apostles are seen the next day preaching in the synagogue, the Sanhedrin launches an investigation only to learn that the doors to their cells remained securely locked. Peter and John are called before the Sanhedrin, which orders them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name. Their reply? “We must obey God rather than men.” (5:29) Oh, that I would have that brand of courage!

At least one of the high priests recognized that there was something different about the apostles’ ministry and was moved to reprimand his brethren on the Council. As their pride clouded their judgment, he reminded them that human effort cannot defeat God’s will – but human effort, based not on God’s will but on selfish intent, will ultimately fail. If the apostles’ ministry truly originated from God, even the powerful high priests would not be able to stop it. With that, the high priests had the apostles flogged and sent them on their way.

Pride is an ugly thing. It causes us to look inward, to exalt ourselves when we really should be exalting God and trusting only in Him. Pride clouds our judgment; it distracts us from God’s purpose for our lives. Pride can infect all of us – even those in high positions within the church. The psalmist wrote, “How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” (Psalm 40:4) As I seek to build my ministry I must constantly be mindful of pride – this isn’t about me; it’s about Him.

Ponder this: God’s purpose will prevail over the purposes of men. How often do I react to situations and circumstances without prayer or thought, only to wonder why things go wrong? When does human pride shift my focus from my Heavenly Father to myself?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, If you are willing, I want to be an apostle. I want to witness for Christ. More than anything, I want to do Your will. Open my eyes to see and my ears to hear. Rid me of human pride and give me a sincere spirit and a willing heart, O God. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Unnatural Miracle

As much as I travel on business, I am still amazed at the miracle of air travel. “Miracle”, you say? Absolutely. As I zoom across the country 36,000 feet above the Earth in this pressurized metal tube weighing thousands of pounds I can’t help but think that there is something completely unnatural going on here.

I was never really good at physics, but I do have a basic understanding of gravity. Gravity is one of those natural laws that we humans were not physically

Birds

Birds (Photo credit: Kenny Teo (zoompict))

designed to conquer. After all, birds flap their wings and fly quite naturally. We humans flap our arms and, while looking a bit ridiculous, we go nowhere. All we can do is stand fixed to the ground and dream of what that bird’s eye view must look like.

Or can we? One advantage we have over the birds of the air is the creativity and ingenuity of the human mind. Man is the only creature capable of devising ways to conquer the natural laws that otherwise bind our bodies. Whether it’s jetting across the earth or exploring the depths of the seas, the human mind can figure it out. In this case, by harnessing the powers of thrust and lift we become like the birds of the air; the bird’s eye view of America’s fruited plains spreads before us as we jet to our destination. And as I pause between typing these sentences to look out the window, I am simultaneously amazed and impressed.

Some believe that man evolved to this state over billions of years. Not me. The idea that this level of ingenuity and creativity somehow evolved out of nothing makes no sense to me. Scripture tells us that God created man in His image. He created man to be in relationship with Him while having dominion over the birds of the air and the fishes of the sea. Thus, man is completely unique. Our ingenuity is no evolutionary accident; it comes by the supernatural design of our Creator. Some were created to invent; others to inspire. We are all gifted by God to contribute in our own way to this marvelous creation. Today, as I jet across this beautiful country of ours, I am especially thankful for the creativity and ingenuity behind the miracle of air travel and I am thankful to God for the men and women who make it happen.

“Oh, the Tangled Webs…” ~ Acts 5:1-11

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? Acts 5:3

Ananias and Sapphira sell their land, their stated purpose being to donate the proceeds to the church. After closing the sale, they decide to give only a portion of the funds to the church and keep the rest for themselves. Nothing wrong here, right? After all, the money is their property to do with as they please, correct? Here’s the rub: Ananias and Sapphira had promised the full sum and represented the amount they donated as such. Succinctly stated, they lied. They lied to Peter, they lied to the church – they lied to God. God, through the Holy Spirit, revealed to Peter what was happening. The result of the couple’s charade was their demise; not because they withheld funds, but because they sought to make it appear as if they were giving all.

Did Ananias and Sapphira hold back because they didn’t fully trust God for their needs? Did they lie about the value of their gift in an attempt to gain favor for themselves? The passage doesn’t reveal their motive; it simply tells us that they lied. This isn’t about how much we give or don’t give; it’s about honesty and integrity. It’s about being honest concerning who we are and what motivates us. It’s about understanding God’s power and sovereignty and honoring Him by being completely true to Him. I am reminded of the old saying “Oh, the tangled webs we weave when we practice to deceive…”

Looking in the mirror I realize rather quickly that there have been many times in my own life that I behaved just as Ananias and Sapphira did. I’ve sought to glorify myself. I’ve tried to be something I’m not in hopes that God will honor that. How foolish man’s folly can be!

Through the account of Ananias and Sapphira, God reminds us that we must consistently live for Christ. Examining my own life, I realize that my inconsistencies can impair my witness or, worse yet, I witness for the wrong person. God forgive me. As I lay my sins at the foot of the cross I am thankful for the forgiveness freely offered through Jesus Christ. My sins are in the past, and today is a new day.

Ponder this: What have I done or said to elevate others’ perception of me rather than to glorify God? How many times have I put my own wants and needs ahead of others? Lord, when have I lied to You?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I confess that I often live my life for myself and not for you. Thank you for forgiving me. Help me to turn away from that sin and glorify you today and every day. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

(c) Jeffrey R. Strege, 2018

Monday! – Psalm 8

1 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. 3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 4 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! 6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the heavens and thefish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

It’s Monday! If this doesn’t motivate us to take on the work week with gusto, nothing will! We are here to serve an awesome God, the One who created all that exists – the One who created us to serve Him! May His name be praised and glorified for ever and ever! May our actions point straight to Him!

Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, thank you for your marvelous creation, and thank you for another day full of opportunities to serve. Let my words and actions today point straight to you. In Jesus’ name – AMEN and AMEN!

Available to Serve

But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene -walk !” Acts 3:6

While visiting Vancouver, BC on business I worshipped at Coastal Church, a nondenominational church on Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. The worship was lively, vibrant, and sincere. The sermon was based on the story of Rebekah, courted by Abraham’s servant for the benefit of Abraham’s son Isaac. The sermon was about Rebekah’s approach to life in a positive, hard-working, manner of servanthood. Her attitude made her available to receive and respond to God’s calling on her life.

Peter and John most certainly availed themselves for God’s work. Acts chapters 3 and 4 cover the account of their miraculous healing of a known cripple and their subsequent arrest and appearance before the Sanhedrin. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter answers their question “By what power or what name did you do this”? (4:7) with this powerful and succinct testimony: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (4:8-13). (Italics added)

What a brave and powerful testimony! Sometimes I wonder if I’m holding back. I have a feeling of unworthiness at times as I read Scripture and craft these messages. I wonder if I could be more available to God than I am right now. I’m sure I could. I pray that God will give me the approach to life that Rebekah, Peter, John and so many others had.

Ponder this: What are the barriers separating me from God? What life changes might I undertake to make myself more available for His work?

My prayer for today: Father, make me truly available to You for whatever purpose You have laid out for the remainder of my life. In your Son’s holy name – AMEN.

Life’s Soundtrack

Sunset in Naples, FLImagine a world without music. On the radio there is nothing but talk. High school football has no fight song. You recline on the beach but there’s no “Margaritaville”. Worship is devoid of voices and instruments lifted in songs of praise. Christmas has no carols, commercials have no jingles, couples in love don’t have “our song”. We love our music. Music shapes, molds, and marks the key events of our lives.

One of my favorite movies is “Mr. Holland’s Opus” starring Richard Dreyfuss as Glenn Holland. Mr. Holland is a high school band director by day and a frustrated composer by night. As a band director-slash-composer he desperately seeks to instill into his students the same love and appreciation for music he has. In one scene, he is working after school with clarinet player Gertrude Lang. Gertrude is working so very hard, but struggling to make it through the piece she is attempting to play. At one point she gets so frustrated that she stops playing altogether and says that maybe she’ll just quit. She practices and practices but for some reason the notes just don’t come out right. Mr. Holland asks her which of her features she likes best when she looks into the mirror. Gertrude has beautiful, long auburn hair and mentions that her father says it reminds him of the sunset. Mr. Holland tells her to close her eyes and “play the sunset.” The proverbial light bulb goes on in her head as she transforms from a wanna-be clarinet player to a musician.

“Play the sunset.” That’s what music is all about. The notes on the page are not the musician’s final destination; they are the merely roadmap for taking him there. And when performed masterfully, both the musician and her audience are moved emotionally as the musician contributes another track to Life’s Soundtrack.

Music is an essential part of our lives. It celebrates the milestones in life while inspiring us to achieve great things. It sets the tone or the mood for what we’re about to do. Whether in mourning or in celebration; in peace or at war; in worship or on vacation, our music marks the times of our lives. “Play the sunset” and let Life’s Soundtrack play on.

My Gifts for His Glory

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:4

What is it like to be so full of the Holy Spirit that you suddenly begin to praise God in foreign tongues and witness to the world through performing miracles in His name? The miracle of Pentecost was the gift that Jesus promised in verses 4 and 5 of Chapter 1, and with this, the disciples were launched into ministry.

God has given me the Holy Spirit. God has gifted me when preaching in my pastor’s place when needed; He has gifted me when teaching Bible Study or Sunday School. It is a glorious feeling to know that God is using me to reach His people. I have never spoken in tongues. But, interestingly, when the disciples spoke in tongues in this passage, people from various countries recognized the tongues as their own; they could understand what the disciples were saying and through those words many were saved. Remembering that their mission from Jesus was to be His witness to “the ends of the earth” (1:18) it makes sense that the Holy Spirit would enable them to communicate in the languages of those He wanted to reach.

The Holy Spirit provides what we need in order to serve Him as He has uniquely called each of us. The disciples needed to witness to foreigners so He gave them the gift of tongues. God has given me the gifts of the written and spoken words. It’s up to me to use those gifts to His glory and trust that He will reach people through them.

Ponder this: What gifts has God given me? Am I using my gifts to His glory for His purpose?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, As unworthy as I am, you have chosen me to share your Gospel. Help me to use the gifts and talents you have given me to your glory. Let my witness be vibrant, enthusiastic, and true to your Word so that those who read my words or interact with me see only You. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

%d bloggers like this: