Tag Archives: Acts of the Apostles

Equipped to Witness

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

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Acts 1:8 NIV

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

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

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

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

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

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“You Are Here”gpch.org

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria!

Fully Committed ~ Acts 20:1-38

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.~ Acts 20:24

The Farewell

The Farewell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the uproar in Ephesus, Paul and several companions depart. Paul’s ultimate destination is Jerusalem, but he makes several stops along the way. During a stopover in Miletus, Paul sent word to Ephesus for the elders of the church to meet him in Miletus. When they arrive, Paul recounts his witness to them, warns them of opposition that will arise both from outside and from within the church, and tells them they will never see him again.

I am struck by the wisdom from God that Paul displays. Paul’s unwavering dedication to God’s service and those who believe, his insight into how his trials and tribulations are worth suffering for God’s good purposes, and his love for those with whom he served are all noteworthy. The degree to which Paul lives these traits is not of his own accord – we see here the power and influence that God can have over a life that is fully committed to Him and we see how God can use such a committed servant to win many for the Gospel.

We also see throughout Paul’s ministry the constant attacks Satan levies against the Gospel and those who believe. Paul’s warning here to the elders must be heeded today as well:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (verses 28-30)

My heart breaks when I consider the thousands who have been misled through false, incomplete, or watered-down teaching and preaching. The savage wolves about which Paul warned the elders from Ephesus are active in the church today, and many have unwittingly succumbed to their false teachings. Christians, we must be in the Word. We must be in prayer. And if we hear false teaching in the church, we must speak out as God leads us. Stand firmly and boldly upon the foundation of the Gospel and be richly blessed.

Ponder this: God doesn’t call all of us to a missionary ministry as He called Paul; to what is He calling me? Am I willing?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for faithful servants like Paul and the apostles. Let me learn from them and be inspired by them, but more than that, fill me with your Holy Spirit and guide my footsteps that I might be fully committed to doing Your will in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Prison Hymns ~ Acts 16:16-40

After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. ~ Acts 16:23-25

As I read the book of Acts I continue to be amazed at Paul’s complete submission to the will of the Father. Paul clearly sees that God’s plan is bigger than he (Paul) is. This passage provides an example of how God uses the perseverance of His children to save those who are lost.

Paul and Silas are jailed because Paul called a demonic spirit out of a slave girl. The girl’s owner had them arrested because he was making a living out of the girl’s possession. Once the demon was gone her mystical powers left with it and so did her usefulness to her master. So, in essence, the slave owner accused Paul and Silas of stealing his livelihood.

Cell Block

Cell Block (Photo credit: dbnunley)

Paul and Silas spent the night in jail after being stripped and beaten. How did they spend their time? By “praying and singing hymns to God”! As I read this passage I wonder how I would spend my time if I were in a similar situation. Something tells me that I would be brooding over my unfortunate circumstance, not singing hymns. We are also told that the other prisoners were listening to them. What an incredible witness! Chained to the wall in the depth of the prison after being severely beaten, Paul and Silas never lose focus on the One whom they serve. Their ministry continues, even in the bowels of prison!

An earthquake causes the prisoners’ chains to break and the prison doors to fall open. The jailer awakens, and fearing that his prisoners had left through the open doors, draws his sword to take his life, probably realizing that the punishment he would receive for allowing prisoners to leave would have been far worse. But, Paul, Silas and the other prisoners were still there! Why? Paul and Silas knew God was at work and they had a role to play in accomplishing His mission. Apparently the jailer realized this too, for he asked Paul and Silas to share the Gospel with him and his family. The jailer brought them to his family, who came to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and were saved.

Paul and Silas were unjustly stripped, beaten, and imprisoned. Through all of that they maintained their steadfast faith in God and actively demonstrated that faith to those around them, even in a most difficult and unjust circumstance. God worked through Paul’s and Silas’ imprisonment to save a man and his family by bringing them to faith in Christ. Do I allow Him to work through me in times of trial?

Ponder this: It is not difficult to show faith in good times; but how do I react when things go wrong? Does the world see Christ in me, even when things don’t go my way?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank you for the faith examples you gave in Paul and Silas. Help me to learn and grow in faith so that the world sees You through me, even when times are tough. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Joy in Persecution ~ Acts 13:13-52

But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. ~ Acts 13:50

The Apostles preaching the Gospel

The Apostles preaching the Gospel (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Paul and Barnabas continue on their journey and the Holy Spirit leads them to Antioch. Here, Paul is invited to speak in the synagogue on the Sabbath, a common event (inviting a guest rabbi to speak) in those days. Paul beautifully presents the Gospel, and the response was so great that he was invited to speak the following week. This time, almost the entire town showed up, both Jews and Gentiles. Upon seeing the positive response from the crowd, the Jewish leaders became jealous and reprimanded Paul for his message. Sound familiar? Paul boldly tells them “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:46-47). Upon hearing this, the Gentiles were filled with joy and “all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (13:48b).

Throughout the book of Acts, we see this pattern: As the Gospel spreads through Jewish and Gentile populations, persecution almost always follows. You see, the Gospel rightfully shifts the focus of the believer from the supposed greatness of human leaders to the power and might of Almighty God. In this passage, the Jewish leaders succumb to the siren call of their egos to the point of stirring up persecution against the very men they had invited to speak! As a result, many come to faith as the apostles are expelled from the region.

Even today we see this phenomenon. Believers who speak God’s Truth in America are often called unthinking, narrow-minded, old fashioned, and many other derogatory names – by believers and non-believers alike. In many parts of the world, Christians bold enough to share the Gospel are persecuted to the point of death. We humans want to be in charge, we want power and position; we want to be subordinate to nobody. When our testimony yields such persecution we should take heart and rejoice, just as the apostles did. For such persecution means our witness is having impact on our world. And with that, we should be encouraged and press on towards the goal of sharing the Gospel with all who so desperately need to hear it.

Ponder this: Have I ever been persecuted for sharing the Gospel? What is my response?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, strengthen me to share your Word with this dying world. Help me to rejoice and take encouragement when persecution comes my way. May I always serve You first. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Available? ~ Acts 13:1-3

So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. ~ Acts 13:3

My wife and me!

Selfie pic: My wife and me!

For any relationship to work, we must be available to the one with whom we seek the relationship. This applies to all relationships in life; my relationship with my wife, with my kids, with my friends – if I am not available to them or them to me, a relationship cannot happen.

The same is true with my relationship with God. If I am not available to Him, then the relationship will not grow. I will not learn, nor will I mature in my faith. But also, I will not serve Him because I am not available to hear and heed His call.

The first three verses of Acts chapter 13 show us what it looks like to completely avail ourselves to God’s calling. The prophets and teachers at the church at Antioch were together, worshipping the Lord and fasting. Their focus was solely on God, and because of that they were able to hear the Holy Spirit’s calling when it came. Barnabas and Saul were to leave and go preach on the island of Cyprus. The group prayed together, laid their hands upon Barnabas and Saul, and the two departed.

I see a sense of purpose here, a sense of knowing God’s will and following it completely. What if they hadn’t been available? What if they had been drinking in a bar or working overtime? What if they had decided they were too busy or too tired to join together in Christian fellowship? What if they had been watching some mindless TV show with a glass of wine in their hand? Would they have heard God’s calling?

Bible Study 2

Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

These questions, of course, are not about Barnabas and Saul. They are about me. And what I realize so clearly is that, although I like to think I am available to God, I’m often not. I must be more regular and deliberate in worship. I must be more regular and attentive to reading and studying God’s Word. I must seek like-minded believers with whom I can spend time in fellowship, Bible study and prayer. I must watch less mindless TV and drink less wine and instead focus more on God’s Word. I must be completely available to Him so that I can heed His call when I hear His voice.

Ponder this: What distracts me from fully knowing God’s purpose for my life? Are there life changes I need to make in order to be fully available to Him?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the sweet nectar of conviction. Reform me, Lord and help me to be more conscientious with how I spend my time. Help me to be more available to You. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Death by Ego ~ Acts 12:19-25

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”  ~ Acts 12:21-22

Herod’s ego finally got the better of him. He granted an audience to representatives from Tyre and Sidon, which were two countries that counted on Herod for their food supply. These people were seeking peace. Herod dons his royal robes, ascends the throne and speaks to the people. The Scripture does not record his words, and they are not important. Whatever he said struck a cord with his audience, for they revered him as a god. Rather than redirect their praise to the true God, Herod basked in it, leading to his demise. He didn’t just die; God sent an angel to strike him down, after which the Scripture tells us he was eaten by worms.

Talk about crash and burn! Herod’s rapid descent from the top of the world to dinner for worms was all about his ego. Ego is hungry, and it can feel so good to have it fed. Make no mistake; we like to be praised for a job well done, and that is a good thing. It means we are impacting our world in a positive and productive way. We must always remember, however, that this life is not about us. It is about Him. When we receive praise or adulation for something we’ve accomplished we should immediately give thanks to God, for He is the source of all that we are and all that we have.

Ponder this: When does my ego get in the way of my witness?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You have gifted me with talents and skills so that I may serve You according to Your will. Thank you for those talents and skills, and help me to always remember that You are their source. Tune me in to my ego, Lord, and strengthen me so I may resist the temptation to bask in it. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Breaking Chains ~ Acts 12:1-18

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. ~ Acts 12:7

Ruins of Herod's Palace

Ruins of Herod’s Palace (Photo credit: Vince Millett)

Herod is a good example of what can happen when power is exclusive to one individual. Herod was all about Herod, and many of the things he did were food to his ego. When the Jews reacted favorably to his execution of James, brother of John, he decided to persecute more Christians and imprisoned many including Peter. But God had other plans. Even with the layers of guards Herod placed to keep Peter in prison, one angel sent by God got him out. Sadly, Herod had the guards executed. Even if he had heard the story of the angel freeing Peter I suspect he wouldn’t have believed it.

Amid the turmoil and dissention in the United States these days, I find this story very comforting. God has a plan. God’s plan will happen. It is bigger than us, and it is perfect. Oh, what comfort that gives! With this knowledge and understanding we believers see the world and current events differently than many. God wants us to be active in the world, to His glory. But even when things are said and done that discourage and frustrate us, we need only remember that God has a plan. And God’s plan will happen. We are freed from the chains that bind us to sin. Praise His holy name!

Ponder this: What current issues bother me most? I am turning those over to God today.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, sin is active in our nation and in our world. But I know that sin’s activity is only temporal. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, you have loosed the chains of sin that bind me. For this I offer thanks and praise. Equip me, Lord, to share this Good News as You would call me to do so. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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