Tag Archives: Jesu

Equipped to Witness ~ Acts 14:21-28

Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. ~ Acts 14:21b-22

As Paul and Barnabas’ visit to Lystra concluded, we are told how some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and won the crowd over against Paul. They stoned Paul and, thinking him dead, dragged him out of the city. Interestingly, “after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” (14:20) God still had work for Paul to do.

The visit to Derbe is mentioned only in verse 21. Then Paul and Barnabas backtrack through the cities they have visited, including Lystra, Iconium and Antioch where Paul had been stoned (Lystra) and where Paul and Barnabas had been persecuted. The purpose of the return visits was to “strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith” (v22). They appointed elders for the churches and then returned to Antioch where they “reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (v 27)

Witnessing with Fortitude

Witnessing with Fortitude (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

The church is about winning people to Christ; but it is primarily about strengthening, nurturing, and encouraging those who already believe. God works through the church to equip us believers for Kingdom work; to go out into the world as the Holy Spirit would guide us and allow God to work through us to win the lost to Christ. The church is not premised on “If we build it the unsaved will come,” paraphrasing a line from the movie Field of Dreams. Rather, the church is premised on God’s desire that modern-day apostles go forth from the church to seek and save the lost according to His will.

We modern-day apostles can learn much from Paul and Barnabas. Their message hit home with people; it hit home so strongly that many persecuted them for their determination to stand firmly upon God’s Word. Faced with such severe persecution, they did not give up; they pressed on. This was not of their own accord, but of the Holy Spirit. Paul later wrote these words in his letter to the Romans:

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. ~ Romans 4:3-5

When we speak God’s Truth and face persecution because of it, we must rejoice. God is using us. What an honor and privilege that is!

Ponder this: I must stand firm on God’s Word. When am I most tempted to weaken?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, help me to press on in the face of persecution according to Your good and perfect will. Let me be Your minister of the Gospel and let me be a productive and useful member of Your church. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Calling Out False Gods ~ Acts 14:8-20

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. ~ Acts 14:11-12

Paul and Barnabas continued to Lystra and preached there. As in previous stops, their words and miraculous acts were well received and many came to faith. Here, however, some of the people believed that Paul and Barnabas were human manifestations of the gods Zeus and Hermes and sought to offer sacrifices to them to which they replied “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” (14:15, italics added for emphasis)

We need more witnesses today like Paul and Barnabas: witnesses who speak honestly about the worldly things in which we humans are quick to place our faith and trust; witnesses who preach the Gospel boldly and truthfully while giving praise and glory to the One True God. There are many false gods around today. They come in many forms with many names, and many people stand on those falsehoods as if their very lives depend upon them. You know what? Their lives are at stake. If we believers are not honest with them concerning matters of eternity, who will be?

The chorus of a popular hymn comes to mind:

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Ponder this: I have Good News to share! With whom would God have me share it?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, this world is filled with things that can so easily distract us from the Gospel. In many cases, these things take Your rightful place in our lives. I want to live for You. Guard and protect me from such temptation, Lord, and help me to speak the Truth in honesty out of love for those who so desperately need to hear it. 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.

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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