Monday, October 14, 2019

Go, God’s Got This

In Acts chapter 9 we read about the salvation of the apostle Paul (Saul). He was a fierce opponent of the early followers of Jesus and had gone to extremes to have them arrested and even put to death. While traveling 135 miles to Damascus, Saul was stopped in his tracks by a light from heaven with Jesus speaking to him asking him why he (Saul) was persecuting Him (Jesus). Saul was then instructed to go to Damascus to wait for further instruction. Being blinded he was led into the city where he waited three days, praying while not eating or drinking.

As Saul was waiting, God was also prepared Ananias who was being sent to this notorious opponent. The details given to Ananias in a vision were very specific, even to the point of him being told that Saul also had a vision that Ananias, by name, would come to him. As specific as the instruction was, Ananias still responded with a “but,” fearing that Saul may actually be given access to them to further their persecution. Jesus responded to Ananias with, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel…”

Ananias had a choice. He could disregard the instruction from God and live in fear of Saul, or he could listen and go, trusting Jesus to do as He said. Ananias went and became the one blessed to lay hands on this most famous apostle to the Gentile world.

God may not speak to us through visions as was done with Saul and Ananias, but every day we have choices to make as we seek His leading in the varied situations of our lives. The encouragement for all of us is to trust His leading on our hearts and in the situations laid before us, and obediently go forward to see what He does knowing God has it under control.

Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters - 10/11/2019

The More Excellent Way

In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 the apostle Paul wrote about how the Holy Spirit supernaturally gifts believers above and beyond whatever skills and talents they might have to accomplish the common good in the church. These gifts are coordinated with ministries overseen by Jesus Christ as Lord in order to accomplish the intended outcomes of the Father. We also see in this chapter the church as a body of diverse members of which none are the same who are to function according to their own abilities for the welfare of the body.

The chapter ends with “…And I show you a still more excellent way.” Then comes chapter 13 which is all about love. It contains great statement on the value of love, descriptions of love and not love and how love functions. Included are two great statements on what love is--patient and kind. Patience is the putting up with things that might otherwise push our buttons having the meaning of being long-tempered. Kindness has the meaning of showing active goodwill even when the other person is by our standard not deserving. These are love in action, and the framework for this is remembering just how much God has loved us when we were strangers and aliens, living in active disobedience and yet He sent His Son to pay the price required to satisfied the wrath of God and secure our forgiveness.

The greatest gift we can know from God is His great love for us and the best way that we can walk with one another is by demonstrating that love. Everything else will pass away when the Christian steps into eternity, but love endures forever. We read at the end of chapter 13, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters - 09/20/2019

The Face of an Angel

It’s so hard when we are challenged in some way to not let it show in some way. In Acts chapter 6 a man named Stephen was selected with six others to care for the needs of some of the widows who were not being helped. The qualifications for the six in being chosen were that they had good reputations, full of the Spirit and of wisdom. Additionally, we read that Stephen was also full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.

As we move on to the rest of chapter 6 and then all of chapter 7, we learn Stephen was also full of grace and power. We find that beyond caring for the widows, he also was actively speaking about Jesus Christ in the synagogues of non-native Hebrews or Hellenists, and that the Spirit of God was working miraculous signs and wonders as proofs of God’s sending him. As this was happening, we learn that the leadership in one of the synagogues challenged him. When they could get nowhere in their debate, they then hauled him before the greater Council of leadership who listened as false charges were brought against him. When his accusers had finished the Council turned their attention to Stephen. This is what we read in Acts 6:15, “And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.”

Imagine that, having the people you had worshipped with growing up now coming against you because of your faith in Christ. Add to that the entirety of the Jewish leadership. Yet, this man as he sat before them and they observed him even in disagreement, had a countenance that could be spoken of as comparative to how one would imagine the face of an angel.

We all have challenges in our lives and things that might tend to rock our boats. Stephen demonstrated for us how a firm faith in God, knowing His security in Christ and living according to the power of the Spirit made all the difference. 

Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters - 08/16/2019

Go, Stand and Speak

In Kent and Grass Valley we have been working through the book of Acts. In the early chapters Luke moves back and forth between glimpses inside the new and quickly growing body of believers that we know as the church and snapshots outside where the Spirit is working miraculous things as people are being healed and hearing the whole message of salvation in Christ in response. But as the message spread, the leadership in the temple began to feel threatened, not because of any signs of uprising, but because the apostles were gaining favor in the sight of the people and responding by belief in Christ. The leadership, we read, had become jealous of what was going on inside the walls they oversaw.

In Acts chapter 4 Peter and Paul were apprehended and commanded by the ruling Council not to speak of Jesus anymore. Then they were threatened and released. In Acts 5, after continuing to speak, all of the apostles were then arrested. Once again after having been released from prison in the middle of the night by a messenger of God and being told to “go, stand and speak” the whole message of Life, and the subsequently then rearrested they were threatened, beaten, and then released (lot more to the story – Acts 5:12-42).

It seems that for fear of the people the ruling Council could not take any significant action yet against these followers of Christ, though things would quickly change. For the time being, their tactic was intimidate to eliminate with the hope that by exercising enough resistance and threat they would give in. The interesting thing in studying these early believers is that even when faced with these things and even death, they responded with respect while always being clear about who they were compelled to serve knowing that their trust and hope was in God and His strong hand. We can trust Him still today.

Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters - 08/09/2019

Boldly Shaken

“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)

After being arrested for proclaiming salvation in the name of the risen Jesus Christ, Peter and Paul were threatened and warned to not speak again of Him in public. They responded that they could not abide by this directive, but that they were compelled to continue proclaiming Christ. Unable to take action against them, they were released and told their companions all that had happened. The group then went to God in prayer to worship Him as not only the creator of all things but the One who continues to keep them even in this resistance which they were told would come. As they prayed, they did not ask for the trials to stop, but rather that they would have boldness to continue despite them. It was at the conclusion of the prayer that this verse occurs as God demonstrated He had heard their prayer and was powerfully with them such that they then continued to do what they had been sent to do which was to speak boldly the good news of salvation in Jesus and Jesus Christ alone.

Their response in the face of a life-shaking event was to go to God who moved in them in such a way that they could then go forward with unshakable confidence. It is the certain confidence of God’s presence and His strong hand in our struggles that enables us to rest when everything else seems to be moving way to fast or in a direction that we would not have chosen. God’s goodness isn’t measured by Him keeping us from trials, but in His faithfulness to bring us through to the other side.

“I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters - 07/19/2019

The Hope of Perfect Health

Acts chapter 3 tells us of a forty-year-old man being healed who had been lame and unable to walk from birth. He was well-known in Jerusalem because he had asked for help at the temple gates for years. So, you can imagine the excitement that burst forth when people saw him leaping and dancing before their very eyes.

When the apostles Peter and John approached the temple gate, they stopped to respond to this man’s plea. Peter told the man that they had no silver or gold to give him, but what he did have he would. With that he told the man in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene to “WALK!” The immediately Peter reached down and grabbed the man, and as the man was being pulled to his feet, his ankles were strengthened such that he could do the very thing that amazed the masses.

Peter then challenged the gathered crowd to repent or change their minds about Jesus, speaking of the example of the man…. “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3:16, NASB95) The “perfect health” spoken of was not found in his new-found physical condition, but in his being eternally made whole by faith in Jesus who had done both.

In this life everything fades. But when something happens to us or someone we love; many find themselves challenged to their very core and struggle in knowing where to turn.  But in Christ we have great hope. Our God can and does heal according to His perfect will, but more than that He has promised to all who believe through His Son eternal wellness or perfect health that goes far beyond our temporary. God is good. He is our help, and He will not fail. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Sherman County eNews Spiritual Matters - 07/12/2019