Perspective Matters

Today’s reading is Acts 14.

In yesterday’s post, we talked about all the hardships Paul and Barnabas went through on this missionary journey. Today, notice the report they gave about it. “When they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” The report wasn’t about all the Jews had done to them. It wasn’t about all the pain they had experienced. It wasn’t about all the suffering they went through. It wasn’t about all the rejection they faced. It was about the miracles and the acceptance of so many Gentiles. I don’t want to blow PMA smoke as if the key to success in any endeavor is simply to maintain a positive mental attitude. However, I think it is important to recognize when it comes to conviction, faithfulness, perseverance in the face of opposition and persecution, perspective matters. If we focus on the rejections and hardships, we’re going to give up. When we focus on the working of God and the doorway of faith that folks are actually walking through, we’ll stick with it. Paul had a persevering perspective. I want to develop one too. How about you?

Next week’s reading is Acts 15.

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Herod vs. the Word

Today’s reading is Acts 12.

Today’s thought is very simple. Herod wanted to stamp out the church. He wanted to stop the spread of the Word. So, he executed James and thought he was going to execute Peter. James went to be with the Lord. Peter escaped. Herod died, eaten by worms. The Word of God increased and multiplied. Here we are nearly 2000 years later, the Word is still growing, increasing, and multiplying. Herod isn’t even food for worms anymore. Let’s just understand that no matter who attacks the Word, the Word will win. Don’t abandon the Word.

Next week’s reading is Acts 13.

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The Hand of the Lord

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

Why did the Antioch church have so much success with the gospel? Because the hand of the Lord was with them. How will we have success with the gospel today? The hand of the Lord needs to be with us. I know I have to remember this all the time. Sometimes…okay, I’ll be honest, a lot of the time, I get caught up in my own arrogance and pride thinking my ideas are the best, my plans are greatest, my work is what is needed to grow my home congregation. It’s just not true. What is needed is the hand of the Lord. If the hand of the Lord is with us, He can use anyone, any plans, anyone’s work. No doubt, like those Christians, like Barnabas, like Saul, we need to work. We need to plan and then act out the plans. But we always need to remember who the author of the success really is: the Lord. Let’s simply thank the Lord that He lets us be involved.

Next week’s reading is Acts 12.

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The Parenthesis Closes

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

Acts 11:19 sounds vaguely familiar. Oh yeah. It says something very similar back in Acts 8:4. Both mention those who were scattered and preaching due to the persecution surrounding Stephen. This second one adds the detail that some people started preaching to Gentiles. The technical term for Luke’s rhetorical device here is inclusio. Good luck finding an excuse to use that in a sentence. I typically refer to it as a parenthesis or bookends. You have the same statement made at the beginning and the end. That means everything in between is supposed to be seen as a unit. And that is the point. Luke was giving a series of arguments to prepare us for the shift from Christianity being dominated by the Jews to being dominated by the Gentiles. But the entire parenthesis essentially has one point. We see the salvation of a Samaritan sorcerer, an Ethiopian Eunuch, the Priest’s persecutor, and even a Caesarean Centurion. The message is quite simple. If these guys can be saved, anyone can be saved. If these guys can be saved, you can be saved. If these guys can be saved, I can be saved. Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

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Barnabas: A Son of Encouragement

Today’s reading is Acts 9.

We started the week with the shocking choice of Saul, but we are seeing a whole cast of supporting disciples who made Saul successful. Without Ananias, Saul would have not even been a Christian. Without Barnabas, Saul would have been forever on the outskirts of the church. It took Barnabas, a son of encouragement, a merciful, compassionate, trusting disciple to bring Saul in and stick his neck out for Saul before the apostles. By the way, did you notice that it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who brought Saul before the apostles? It wasn’t the Holy Spirit who revealed to the apostles or the Jerusalem church that Saul could be trusted. It was Barnabas. Why? Because God works through people. We need to be the kind of people the Holy Spirit works through. We need to be the Barnabases that God uses to grow the church and comfort the brethren.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 9.

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Saul: A Shocking Choice

Today’s reading is Acts 9.

Who would have thought back in Acts 7:58 and in Acts 8:1-3 that Saul would ever amount to much? Oh, sure, he was on the fast track to stardom among the Jews. But what good was that going to do him? Yet, here is the man Jesus chose as His star player, His premiere ambassador, His go-to guy. What a shocking choice? And what comfort it provides for me. I hope it provides the same comfort for you. Paul will later explain he was chosen in order to teach us that anyone and everyone can be saved. It doesn’t matter what sins we’ve committed. It doesn’t matter how bad we’ve been. It doesn’t matter how unforgivable we think we are. God saves sinners. He saves sinners like me. He forgives. He forgives people like you. Don’t be shocked that God would save you; after all, He saved Saul.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 9.

A Word for Our Kids

Hey kids, what a shock? Did you think Saul would end up becoming a Christian? Is he the guy you would have chosen to be one of the biggest preachers of the gospel? Yet, that is exactly what he will become. In fact, in Acts, up to this point the main character has seemed to be Peter, but we will see Saul, with his name changed to Paul, take over that role in just a few chapters. This is where I have to remind you that there is nothing about Saul’s conversion and salvation that says turning to Jesus gives us permission to sin. Rather, it is a reminder that when we have sinned, we have permission to turn to Jesus. Remember that.

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Preaching the Word

Today’s reading is Acts 8.

When the Christians from Jerusalem scattered, they didn’t go quietly. They went preaching and teaching. However, notice what they went teaching and preaching: The Word. They didn’t go teaching and preaching self-help psychology. They didn’t go teaching and preaching philosophy. They didn’t go teaching and preaching cultural mandates. They taught the Word. The Word has been so linked to the kingdom of Christ that the growth of the Word has been used interchangeably for the growth of the kingdom (see Acts 6:7). While the Word teaches us to be moral, moralism is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. While the Word provides guidance for successful living, successful living is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. While the Word gives instruction in a psychologically fulfilling and meaningful life, psychological fulfillment is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. When what we teach and preach looks and sounds more like the self-help section of the local bookstore than it does the preaching and teaching of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, we are going to be in trouble. And while folks’s lives may seem to improve, they won’t be saved. These early Christians were scattered, but went about preaching the Word. Folks were saved. May we do the same.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 8.

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