Better than the Temple and the Law!

“God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles.” (Acts 7:9-10)
Stephen is accused of slandering the Temple and the Law (Acts 6:13-14).
The Temple represents ‘God with us’, God living with His people.
The Law represents God speaking with His people.
Stephen wants to show them that Jesus fulfills both of these.
God is not tied to one place; He is in Mesopotamia, Haran, and Egypt.
Both before and after the Temple and the Law, God is with His people!
The Temple and the Law are temporary symbols of God’s ultimate desire.
To live with us and speak with us in eternal fellowship and partnership.
Stephen believes that Jesus is uniquely ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:23)
Moses spoke about God, but Jesus is God speaking with us (John 14:24).
Moses built a tabernacle for God, but Jesus is the tabernacle of God (John 1:14).
No matter where we are or where Jesus sends us, He is God with us to the very end.
Who needs a Temple when we have God Himself over, with and in us.
Who needs the Law when we have God’s Spirit in us, leading us in God’s will.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my heart is Your temple, You live in me. Speak to me and through me, like You did Stephen, and that others may know ‘God with us’ too.

Spirit-inspired words of wisdom!

“They could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him.” (Acts 6:10)
Stephen and the other early disciples were not educated (Acts 4:13).
But some of them had been with Jesus, or had the Spirit of Jesus.
Stephen’s ability to speak well came from Jesus, and the Spirit.
As Jesus followers, we are assured the Spirit will speak through us too.
“It will not be you speaking, but the Spirit speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:20)
Our whole life is a partnership with God and Jesus and the Spirit.
As we spend time with Jesus, we become like Jesus, so we can live for Jesus.
We are His body, His mouth and eyes and hands and feet.
Jesus works through us by His Spirit, and people see Him in us (Acts 6:15).
In order to experience this, we need to step into situations for Him to work.
When we serve or speak to others for Jesus’s sake, the Spirit does His work.
He will give us insights and wisdom and words we would not have ourselves.
These gifts of the Spirit occur through those who cooperate with Him.
Are you holding back, or are you stepping up in faith, so He can use you too!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, when I feel the nudge to speak, I often hesitate because I do not know what to say, or how to say it. Help me to speak, and trust that You will speak through my weakness.

Giving your full attention to your ministry?

“Give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4)
Reading this passage, it seems that ‘waiting on tables’ is beneath them.
But it is not beneath them, it is not their specific calling.
They were commissioned as first disciples to oversee the ministry of the word.
By this is meant oversight for the whole Jesus mission, not just ‘preaching’.
The service (ministry) of the message (the word) is the whole mission of Jesus.
To go to the ends of the earth with the good news of the kingdom of Jesus.
This was a huge task then, and still is a huge task today.
By delegating these tasks in the church to others, they could focus on their task.
The part about prayer is not unique to this ministry, but is for all workers.
These seven were commissioned to the ministry of prayer and waiting on tables.
By prayer is meant surrendering to God’s leadership and direction.
To be led by the Spirit as they fulfilled their task.
We are all called to give our attention to prayer and a specific ministry.
What specific task are you assigned to in/with the church in the world?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, to each of us a task has been assigned. Help us to give our attention to You (prayer) and to the task You have assigned us!

When shame is good?

“May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame.” (Psalm 129:5)
For the Jews, the hill called Zion symbolized all God’s promises.
Not only their capitol, it was the city of David their king.
And the location of their temple, where God lived with them.
To hate Zion is to hate God, and to hate all that God represents.
This was no doubt nationalistic pride for the people of Israel.
But how do we read this verse as Jesus followers?
Jesus is our Zion, Who symbolizes all God’s promises for the world.
He is the true heir of David, and the ruler of the world.
He does not represent a worldly kingdom, but the kingdom of God.
God’s kingdom signifies all that is good and right, for all people.
Some things we shouldn’t be ashamed of, but other things we should.
The purpose of shame is to shake and wake us up, to come to our senses.
I don’t wish shame on anyone, but shame may be necessary.
After all, shouldn’t someone who hates goodness be ashamed?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, its hard to imagine people opposed to Your goodness and grace. But You faced them too. Some of them were ashamed, and repented. May many more be ashamed, and repent.

Focus on Jesus!!!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 2 Corinthians 3-4
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Satan is only the ‘god of this age’ through deception.
Ever since Genesis 3, he has been deceiving God’s image-bearer rulers.
We are deceived, confused, lost, far from paradise, restless wanderers.
Our world would have been a glorious kingdom, beautiful and joy-filled.
Jesus, God’s new image-bearer (4:4), comes to restore God’s paradise.
So why are people eager for this, quick to welcome Jesus and the kingdom?
Because the deceiver still deceives, and we prefer cling to the darkness.
Look at our broken, messed up world, who would want things to be this way?
Look at love and goodness of Jesus, who wouldn’t want things this way?
Life in this world is hard because the deceiver still deceives.
But life can be better because the Saviour still saves.
As Jesus followers, we see a better world displayed in the face of Jesus.
We fix our eyes on all that He is and does, and find hope in Him.
And He is changing us from the inside out, to reflect Him more and more.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the deceiver tries to shift my focus away from You. But I will keep my eyes on You, for Your love and goodness is our only hope in this broken, messed up world.

YES in Christ!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 2 Corinthians 1-2
“Our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
No matter what happens, God is working affirmatively in our lives.
God is not fickle or contrary; God always loves us, and wants the best!
But we make that hard, for we are constantly ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Humans are inconsistent and unreliable, both hot and cold.
God allows us the freedom to choose, and to experience the consequences.
This is why there is suffering and death in the world.
This is why there is frustration and disappointment.
God does everything He can to win our hearts back to Him.
His sending Jesus is a huge YES to us: I am with You, I am for You!
He offers comfort to the suffering, forgiveness to the sinners.
He rescues us from more deadly situations that we can ever know.
But in the end, if someones refuses, He will sadly say YES too.
He will give us our heart’s desire, even if that desire is NO to God.
As a Jesus follower, I want to rely on God’s YES, no matter what.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, are You with me, are You for me, are You strengthening me, will You bring me safeyl through??? YES and AMEN!!!

Love and grace cannot be stopped!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 5:33-42
“If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.” (Acts 5:38)
This is wise advice, but it is also wise advice for Jesus followers.
When new movements or religious ideas arise, many Christians attack.
We need to agree with everything, but we shouldn’t be mean or aggressive.
The way of Jesus is not with pressure or force or anger.
God will defend the truth, and the lie will be exposed soon enough.
Even with cults or non-believers, treat them with grace, not cruelty.
The Sanhedrin had the men flogged because they didn’t understand grace.
Let us not flog people we disagree with, either with actions or words.
This is the perfect time to love them, talk with them, pray for them.
There may even be something in what they say we can learn from.
Loving our enemies is not easy, and may even lead to disgrace.
Can we also rejoice when we suffer disgrace in Jesus’s Name (v.41)?
As a Jesus follower, I want to be a joyful, loving, gracious witness.
Nothing can stop God’s grace and love from reclaiming God’s world!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to worry less about defending Your grace and love, and focus more on demonstrating them. Nothing can stop Your grace and love!

A gentle, gracious witness!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 5:27-32
“God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior…” (Acts 5:31)
The word for prince is ‘archegos’, which means ‘founder’ or ‘pioneer leader’.
We believe that God has initiated a new movement on earth in Jesus.
That movement involves transforming the world through humility and grace.
“That he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. (Acts 5:31)
As our pioneer leader, we join with Jesus in His gracious mission.
Like Jesus, we love people in Jesus’s Name, attracting them to Jesus.
This does not mean obnoxious or pushy witnessing.
We are not called to pressure people to repent or force them to convert.
If someone is not interested, we move on (Matthew 10:14).
At all times we remain gentle and gracious, like our founder.
Because we are confident in Jesus, we can handle people with care.
Because we believe Jesus’s way is the best way, we speak the truth in love.
How confident am I that God will save others through my gentle witness?
Confident enough to keep on witnessing, when others tell us to stop?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me not to be an obnoxious witness. But give me gentle boldness to be a gracious witness, even if others pressure me to stop.

About this new life?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 5:17-26
“Go… and tell the people all about this new life.” (Acts 5:20)
As a Jesus follower, I claim to have new life in Christ.
And I am encouraged to tell other people about this new life.
Do I tell others about the idea of new life – the facts of Jesus?
Or do I tell others about my experience of new life – how I am changed.
Sharing my ideas about Jesus and new life won’t convince anyone.
Our world is filled with competing ideas, all claiming to be true.
Granted, we also believe the Spirit works through our speaking.
But we also believe the Spirit works in us, to change us.
We cannot and should not share ideas, without also the experience.
Do I experience a new kind of life, the fruit of Jesus’s Spirit in me?
Do I have more love, more peace, more joy, more patience, etc. in me?
Is Jesus in/with me transforming me to live with/like/for Him?
Today I want to focus on this, on how I am experiencing this new life?
The more love, joy and peace I have, the easier it will be to tell others.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I don’t just want to know about, or talk about You. I want to KNOW You, and to SHOW You, so that others can experience You too!

The shadow of Jesus in me!?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 5:12-16
“That Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.” (Acts 5:14)
In many parts of the world, the church is experiencing dramatic growth.
Except for some reason in North America and Europe (maybe a few pockets).
Many churches are shrinking, or dying, or barely holding on.
What strikes me here is how positive people felt about Jesus’s followers.
“They were highly regarded by the people.” (Acts 5:13)
In my experience, people will avoid even the shadow of a christian.
Is the way we are presenting Jesus to our world driving people away?
I believe that signs like conversion or healing follow Jesus-like character.
That is, the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit flow from the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit.
As we walk with the Spirit, the Spirit changes us, and works through us.
As Jesus followers, our presence should convey God’s love, joy, peace, etc.
People will be drawn to this, and will seek our presence, even our shadow.
That is where people find healing, hope and faith in the Lord!
What kind of shadow am I casting for Jesus?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to be more like You, so that people can see and experience You through me. Use me to bless, help, heal, serve many, that they may come to You!