Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Acts 7- Courage for Christ

In Acts 7 we see the murder of Stephen.  Stephen was one of the Church's first deacons and a man filled with the Holy Spirit.  In Acts Chapter 7 he went to trial.  In Stephen's trial he showed no fear and spoke truth through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That truth got him killed because it was offensive and convicting to those that heard it.  Stephen was the Church's first martyr.

Stephen was the first of many martyrs in the first church.  Stephen was the first of the martyrs in the Church in general.  Martyrdom has not gone away.  Just because we here in the United States talk about persecution like it's being made fun of, doesn't mean that that is the reality throughout the world.

Read this story from a past National Review article:

"Afghan Christian, Shoib Assadullah, was arrested on October 21, 2010, for giving a copy of the New Testament to a man, and is being held in Mazar-e-Sharif. No Afghan lawyer has agreed to defend him, and (he) will probably face charges of apostasy, a crime that is punishable by death under the government’s version of sharia. As the State Department’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report notes, religious freedom in Afghanistan has diminished “particularly for Christian groups and individuals.”

For all I know this man was killed for sharing a copy of the New Testament.

The same author wrote a follow-up article to update another Afghan man who had been arrested for his faith:

"The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which, together with the U.S. Embassy, has been active on the case, is reporting that Said Musa, the Afghan man facing a death sentence for having become a Christian has now been released and is safely in another country."

Sadly Musa is the exception in countries like Afghanistan.

Persecution.org writes that the Iraqi Christian Community is facing ethnic cleansing from Muslim Terrorist and is in danger of disappearing from the planet.  Due to persecution their numbers have declined by about one million since 2003.  You Tube Iraqi Christians: Facing Extinction.  You will be shocked.

So, we are left with the question: "Could I suffer and die for my Savior?"  But I think we are left with something else.  I know that all of these martyrs were not poor saps.  I think the reason they died is because they recognized the beauty of their Savior in a way maybe I haven't.  They love God so much that they would die for the one who died for them.  So, instead of asking, "Could I die for Christ like them?' ask "Do I live for Christ like them?"  Do I see my God as He truly is?  Do I risk anything to follow my Lord?

Stephen and other martyrs were not fools.  Stephen saw the glory of God before he died and accepted death gladly and was even able to forgive his murderers.  Only an all powerful God like mine could render that response.  

See our God as He is and live courageously for Christ today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Acts 6- Come On Men

Acts 6 is a fairly short chapter with two stories in it.  I believe the second story fits best with the next chapter so I want to focus on the story in verses 1 through 7.

When we left the first church it seemed like a perfect church, unless your name is Ananias or Sapphira.  In chapter 6 we see the first church dealing with its first congregation wide internal conflict.  One half of the church believed that the other half was ignoring their needs.  So the first church needed to respond.  (By the way this should prove their is no such thing as a perfect church, so stop looking for one).

How did it respond?  Did it ask the leadership to spread its self more thinly?  No.  The twelve disciples said it would be wrong for them to neglect the ministry of the Word and the ministry of prayer to do another ministry.

The leaders in the church did a few great things here and the first is that they didn't underestimate the enormous power of the ministries of prayer and sharing the Word.  Those two ministries are immensely important for the life of a church and these men were wise to keep up their work there.

So how did the first church rise above their first congregation wide internal conflict?

Men stepped up in leadership.  These men were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  The Church and our churches need men to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom and to step up in leadership.  When this happened in the first church, "the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly".

Women, this does not mean there are not leadership and service roles for you.  Of course there are, in fact I would not be who I am today without the many women who were Sunday school teachers and servant-leaders around my life.  What I am saying is that for a church to have great growth men need to step up.

Women are filling many roles and spreading themselves thin because men are dropping the ball.  Step up men.  I'm sure the women of the church would agree with me that they want the men of the church to be prayer warriors, ministers of the word, servants, and leaders.  In fact I believe men should be leading more in every aspect.  What woman dreams of being with a man that is an impressionable tag-along?

So men, step up.  Minister in your local church in the capacity God created you for.  If that's teaching, then teach.  If it is serving widows and orphans, then serve.  But the bottom line is step up and do something.  When we do men, our local churches will grow in influence in our communities.  So if you want God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven... then step up men today.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Psalm 29

I want to take a break from Acts for just a while.  Here is an awesome Psalm I want to share with you.

"Ascribe to the Lord, O might ones,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
the voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in His temple all cry, 'Glory!'

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to His people;
the Lord blesses His people with peace."

How Great is Our God!  He has total control over trees like the cedars of Lebanon that could get to be 120 feet tall and 30 feet around!  He has total control of Sirion, the mountain also know has Mount Hermon!  He controls the barren desert and the lush forest!  He is the God of the sky and the water!

Not only is God all the things mentioned above, but He is Lord over you and I.  When we start our prayers, "Dear Lord", this is the Lord we are talking about.

Thinks about the might of our God today.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Acts 5- Yeah Pain!

Acts Chapter 5 is a pretty wild section of scripture.  It is a very difficult passage of scripture for many as well.  Therefore, I'm going to apologize for not answering some of the obvious questions in this chapter like, "Why would God kill Ananias and Sapphira for something as small as a lie?"

In this chapter we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  Following that story we see the miraculous signs and wonders that God performed through the apostles.  We see people healed by the shadow of Peter.  We see the Church getting a right fear of God.  We see many added to the Church.  And we see Peter and the apostles arrested... again.

This time Peter and the apostles were put in prison for the night.  An angel of God busts them out of prison and tells them to preach again.  So, when those in charge find the prison empty and the apostles doing again what they had been arrested for, those in charge were ticked off.

"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name.  Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."

Peter and the guys replied: "We must obey God rather than men!"  Then Peter gave the Gospel again to those in charge.

Those in charge were now even more ticked off and if it were not for a wise man named Gamaliel they would have killed the apostles.  But instead they had the apostles flogged and released.  (Remember the flogging scene in "The Passion of the Christ"?  This is what they did to the apostles.)

So the apostles came away beaten and bloody with chunks of their back having been ripped out.  And here is their response in verse 41, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."

Wow!  Rejoicing after being flogged?!  Why?

Believe it or not I played football in high school.  One thing about playing defense is that you won't get blocked if you aren't going toward the ball.  No one would care if I was going to the left and the play was going to the right, no lineman would block me.

Same thing with Satan.  He will not block you if you are not pressing on toward the prize.  So when you get blocked in life you should rejoice.  Easier said than done, right?  Still, persecutions are road signs as we are running the race.

Be worthy of being blocked.  Run toward the ball.  Rejoice when you suffer for the Name today.