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Acts 23-24: Christians are Troublemakers

The Rotten Scoundrel

Paul: The Rotten Scoundrel

Just listen to the non-Christian Jews in Acts 23-24 and you will learn the truth. Christians are just troublemakers. Just look at what these guys have to say about Paul to the Roman officials.

We have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He tried to profane the temple, but we seized him” (Acts 24:5-6, ESV)

The only problem is, none of it was true. The fact is, this kind of nonsense has been going on for 2000 years. If we can’t find a good reason to be mad at the Christians, let’s just make something up. Therefore, we should not get too upset when people today get mad at us for trying to force our views on the world when all we are doing is trying to persuade folks with logic, reason and, yes, even faith. Let’s not get too upset when they say we are judgmental because we suggest that folks might be wrong sometimes. Let’s not get too upset when they trump up charges that just aren’t true. And most of all, let’s not back off from getting the only message that will save souls out to the world just because people accuse us of being closed-minded and unloving.

The fact is, everyone who makes those judgments will at some point find out just how loving we are being by passing the message on. They will either learn that when their eyes are opened by God’s word to the truth of Jesus’ message. Or they will learn when it is too late. But all will learn on some day that we tried to bestow love.

Now, having said that. Let me hit the other side. Sadly, too often, those who claim to be Christians have given reason for others to make accusation. No doubt, the biggest one we hear is the Crusades. But if that stands out as the most extreme example that everyone highlights, there have sadly been a thousand seeming trifling examples of Christians living like the world, taking their revenge, seeking their selfish ways, condescending with arrogance.

We should not be upset when folks wrongfully accuse and malign us. It happened to Paul, we should expect it to happen to us. At the same time, we must not give cause to receive truthful accusation. When we have given that cause. We had better make amends quickly.

Keep the faith today and keep reading.
ELC

July 31, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 21-22: Buying Our Way into the Kingdom

Paul was about to be flogged. However, at the seeming last possible moments, he uttered the magic words. “Um, guys, are  you sure you want to do this? I’m a Roman citizen.”

This piqued the tribune’s curiosity. “How much did you pay to get in?”

Okay, so I’m taking a little poetic license here. What I really want to hone in on is the fact that the tribune paid his way into the Roman kingdom. That makes me think of Matthew 5:3–“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

Suddenly, that statement means a good bit more to me. And I see it as an even greater shock. The people to whom Jesus spoke lived in a kingdom that took money to enter. They could all become Romans and throw off the yoke of their slave status if they just paid money to get in like the tribune.

That, however, is not how the kingdom of God works. God’s kingdom doesn’t go to those who can pay enough money. God’s kingdom goes to those who are humble enough to admit their poverty in spirit and quit trying to pay their way in. Only those who recognize how little they have to offer and simply come to Jesus asking for mercy knowing that is their only way in get Jesus’ kingdom.

Paul was able to say he was born into the Roman kingdom. But the only way into Christ’s kingdom is to be reborn by humbly submitting to Jesus (John 3:3, 5; Mark 16:16).

Keep the faith today and keep reading.

ELC

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Kingdom of God, salvation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 19-20: God and the Word of His Grace

And Now I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.–(Acts 20:32, ESV)

Why are we doing this? Why do we crack open that dusty old book, written by men of outdated cultures to people who are behind the times?

Is it because God has declared, “Here is my rule, read your Bible every day!”? Is it because some preacher has guilted us into thinking we are only spiritual when we read our Bible every day? Is it because when we read our Bibles every day it makes us better than all those other people who aren’t as spiritual as we are?

No. No. And No. We are doing this because Jesus has the words of eternal life (cf. John 6:68). The only way for us to get that life is to be in His Word. We aren’t busy trying to draw all the lines, dot all the i’s, cross all the t’s so we can be good enough and have read our Bible’s enough to go to heaven. That fact is, we can’t be that good. We can’t read our Bible’s enough to earn heaven. 

However, when we get in the Word and get the Word in us. Then the life that flows from God pours into our hearts. Then we are built up. Then we gain the inheritance reserved for the sanctified and set apart. That doesn’t happen because we checked daily Bible reading off our to do list. It happens because we surrendered to God and His word.

Keep the faith today and keep reading.

ELC

July 29, 2008 Posted by | Acts, The Bible | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 17-18: The God I Don’t Get

 Look at that picture for a minute. It is an artist’s conception of the Milky Way. Acts 17:24 says God made that.

Somewhere in one of the arms is our little solar system. Somewhere in that little solar system is our little planet. Somewhere on that planet is little ol’ me. God however is “bigger” than all of that.

When I think of that, the thought occurs that God made me, I didn’t make God.

What does that mean on a practical level?

God is going to surprise me. He is not going to do everything exactly the way I think He should.

I don’t know how many times I have heard from people that they just can’t believe in the God of the Bible because they don’t think God would do ______________ (fill in the blank with some shocking display of violence or some shocking display of power or some shocking display of grace or some shocking display of just not acting).

Then I remember the Milky Way. I remember God made that. I didn’t. I remember God made me, I didn’t make Him. I remember that if the God I believe in only ever acts and reacts in ways that make complete sense to me, then I am probably serving a God I have made up in my mind and not the real God who made my mind.

So, I admit it. I serve a God that I just don’t get sometimes. But He is God, so I serve Him. Maybe I’ll have questions for Him when I get to see Him face to face. Most of the time, however, I think I’ll just be so happy to be visibly in his presence that it won’t bother me that I don’t fully get Him. I’ll just be glad that He got me.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 28, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Faith, God | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Acts 15-16: 5 Keys to an Evangelistic Lifestyle

With the conversions of the households of both Lydia and the Philippian Jailer, Acts 16 is a great place to learn about how to live an evangelistic lifestyle. Note 5 keys we learn from the chapter.

1. Know the message: In Acts 16:13-14, Paul and Barnabas obviously knew the message they needed to preach to these women. Further, in Acts 16:32, they knew the message to give to the Jailer when he questioned them. No matter what else we do, if we don’t know the message, we can’t be evangelistic.

2. Know where the prospects are: In Acts 16:13, Paul and Barnabas knew where the Jews would meet in the absence of a synagogue. We are probably not looking for a riverside religious meeting. However, we need to be able to tell where the prospects are. They aren’t in our church buildings. They are out in the world. Salt is only useful when it comes in contact with what needs to be salted.

3. Care about people, no matter how they have treated you: I can’t help but think how many of our modern vengeance minded Americans would have acted when the Jailer was about to off himself. Instead of stopping him, many would have thought “good riddance” regarding the man who had placed them in stocks and, no doubt, treated them with disdain. But Paul and Barnabas cared about people. Despite how the jailer had treated them, they wanted him safe. That only comes when we actually care about people.

4. Be a Christian everywhere, displaying your spirituality: Certainly, we are not supposed to shine our lights so people will somehow think we are special. However, we do need to display the light so folks will glorify God. Whether we find ourselves beside the river with a specifically planned time of evangelism or find ourselves in prison, we need to live like Christians displaying our spirituality. No doubt, evangelism is about us going and teaching. But at times, it is also about us just living right so that when people who are not interested right now become interested later, they know where to turn. That is exactly what happened in Acts 16:29-30. The Jailer had not been interested, but suddenly his perspective changed. He knew where to turn for answers not because Paul and Barnabas had already had a Bible study with him. But because they had displayed their spirituality, living as Christians no matter where they were.

5. Don’t stop because of rejection: In Acts 16:16-24, Paul and Barnabas suffered a tremendous rejection. It was so strong, they were thrown in jail. I could see how that would be a tad bit discouraging. However, it didn’t stop them at all. Instead, they just kept right on being Christians. They just kept right on living out evangelism.

I hope and pray we all develop this kind of lifestyle and spread the gospel to all who will hear.

Keep the faith and keep reading

ELC

July 25, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Baptism, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 13-14: Responding to Prejudice against Christians

Acts 14:2-3 jumped out at me today. “The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time...” (ESV). 

Wow!

Is that how I would respond? So often, when people’s minds are poisoned against me as a Christian, I shrink back. When I think folks aren’t going to want to listen, that’s when I decide to keep quiet or decide to move on. If I hear someone say a name or something derogatory, I begin to think there is no point in trying to talk to them about spiritual things.

But that is not what Paul and Barnabas did. When the minds of the Gentiles were poisoned against them, they remained longer. 

They saw the biases, that only made them work harder. They heard the names, that only caused them to shine brighter. 

Yes, I know when their lives were in danger they went to the next city, but let’s face it, when has my life ever been in danger because I’m a Christian. Sure, people have their minds poisoned against me and against us, but here in America our lives aren’t threatened. Instead of backing off when we think people are prejudiced against God’s message, we should stay longer and work harder.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 11-12: When Was Cornelius Saved?

Acts 10 is the source of a great deal of controversy. Many use it to claim baptism is not essential to salvation. After all, Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Surely no one who was not already saved could possibly receive baptism of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, some say, Cornelius must have been redeemed from his sins before he was baptized. 

That, of course, neglects the fact that Peter said baptism is for the remission of sins in Acts 2:38 and that he wrote that baptism now saves us in I Peter 3:21

So, what is the answer. Was Cornelius saved and then baptized by the Holy Spirit and then baptized in water?Or was he baptized in the Holy Spirit and then baptized in water and saved through that baptism?

I believe Acts 11 answers this question for us. In this chapter, Peter is defending his actions to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who don’t like the idea of opening their fellowship up to the uncircumcised. In Acts 11:4, Luke recorded that Peter is recounting the story in order. In Acts 11:14, Peter revealed that Cornelius had been told by an angel that Peter had a message, by which Cornelius would be saved. Keep that in mind. Cornelius had to hear Peter’s message in order to be saved. But then Acts 11:15 says, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them…” (ESV). 

Remember, Cornelius is going to be saved by the message he hears from Peter. However, Peter didn’t get the message out before the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius. If Cornelius had to hear Peter’s message to be saved, then he wasn’t saved when the Holy Spirit fell on him. But what message did Peter finally give Cornelius? That he had to be baptized in water. When Cornelius did that along with his household they were saved.

Someone will ask, “But how could the Holy Spirit fall on Cornelius if he weren’t saved?” That could happen because God is not bound by our rules. God can do what He wants. I certainly believe God could save someone without water baptism. I just don’t believe He did that here or anywhere else after Jesus died and was resurrected. Don’t you believe that if God wants to, He could let the Holy Spirit fall on anyone He wants? Or does He have to live by the rules we set for Him?

I would love to hear what you think about this or any other topic in these two chapters.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 23, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Baptism, salvation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 9-10: How To Get People To Want You Back When You’re Gone

 

In Acts 7-8, Stephen, a deacon (I believe) and evangelist, was stoned. The disciples mourned and buried him. In Acts 12, James, a leader among the apostles, was executed by Herod. The disciples mourned and buried him. However, in Acts 9:36-43, Tabitha (Dorcas), simply a sister in Christ, died and the disciples called Peter in and said, “You have to do something about this.” She held no office. She doesn’t appear to have been a leader. Evangelists, Deacons, Apostles died and they just got put in the ground. But when Tabitha died they had Peter bring her back.

Granted, I don’t really want to be brought back from the dead once I have stepped into paradise and the comfort of Abraham’s bosom. But I do want people to at least wish I was back. So, I learn a great deal from Tabitha about how I want to live to deepen my relationships with others and how to deepen my relationship with God.

  1. Tabitha was full of good works and charity: She didn’t perform the occasional good work. She was full of them. One translation says she abounded in them. It was her way of life. We need to make good works and acts of charity, especially among our brethren, a way of life.
  2. Tabitha sacrificed for others: Who do you think paid for the materials in those garments she made? Whose time do you think she took to make those garments? We need to remember two things. First, she was probably a lot poorer than most of us, but she still sacrificed her goods for others. Second, she had the same 24 hours in every day that we do. She used some of her 24 hours to serve. Do we?
  3. Tabitha didn’t do everything, but she did what she could: There is no indication that Tabitha taught a ladies’ Bible class. There is no indication that she held any Bible studies. In fact, the only indication is that she made garments for people and did other works of charity. She didn’t do everything, but she did what she could. We don’t have to be paralyzed thinking we must do some little bit of everything. Rather, let’s just figure out what we can do well and do it to serve others.
  4. Tabitha didn’t serve everyone, but she served who she could: Tabitha apparently worked for the widows. It doesn’t say any teenagers were in the room. It doesn’t say the preacher was in the room. It doesn’t say the young marrieds were in the room. The widows were there to show Peter all the good works she had performed for them. Too often we get the deer in the headlights look wondering how we will be able to do something for everyone. We need to stop that. At that point, we usually don’t do anything for anyone. We don’t have to serve everyone. We just need to serve someone. Serve the people you can today.
  5. Tabitha didn’t wait for a church program, she just served: Back in Acts 6, the Jerusalem church established a congregational plan to help the widows. There is no indication that Tabitha was merely following some congregationally given assignment to help the widows. She just helped them. We must quit looking around and bad mouthing our leaders because our congregation isn’t doing something for someone. We just need to start serving.

Tabitha served who she could, when she could, doing what she could without being told. If we want to serve God. We need to do the same.

Keep the faith and keep reading

ELC

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living, Sacrifice, Serving | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 7-8: The 4 Tactics of Miraculous Tricksters

 

 

The tactics of miraculous tricksters haven’t changed in nearly 2000 years. Whether we talk about Simon the Sorcerer or Benny Hinn (whom I have seen in action, live and clearly fake) we get to the same four tactics to draw folks in.

1. Talk

2. Tricks

3. Testimony

4. Time

1. Talk: In Acts 8:9, Simon the Sorcerer went around saying “he himself was somebody great” (ESV). The modern miraculous tricksters are marvelous. If you don’t believe it, just ask them.

2. Tricks: Someone might ask, how can you say what Simon did was tricks. Because when the real power of God came into town, everyone could tell the difference. Even Simon could tell the difference and tried to buy some of the real power he saw displayed. If only I had the time to tell you all the tricks I saw at the Hinn crusade. I’ll just share one. He had supposedly gotten one man who had been in a wheelchair to walk on the stage. I watched as everyone else’s attention was turned to the new person on the stage. The supposedly healed man had to be carried down the stairs off the stage and put back in his wheelchair when Hinn was done with him. Tricks. They are still being used.

3. Testimony: Simon, having convinced some with his tricks perpetuated his reputation with the testimony of those who had been duped. Just watch a few episodes of the modern miraculous tricksters on TV and you will see they rely on the same kind of testimonies. Someone touched a TV and their cancer went into remission. No doubt a certain number of cancer patients go into remission each year. The trickster on TV didn’t heal these people, but they have been duped and they get on TV to testify to the “power of God” in their life. Notice that Simon had testimony from the least to the greatest. The fact that he had duped even great, powerful and influential people to believe him didn’t change the fact that he was a fake.

4. Time: According to Acts 8:11, Simon had amazed the people for a long time. We all know how this works. It starts small. You dupe a few people. They tell others. The others are skeptical. But keep up the tricks long enough and more and more people begin to believe. For how many years have these modern tricksters duped people. Maybe I should tell the story about my friend who had been in a motorcycle accident, became mentally and physically handicapped, bound to a wheelchair who wasn’t even allowed in the main room when Richard Roberts came to heal everybody in Beaumont, TX. My friend actually found the back entrance to the stage and was watching from the sidelines. When my able bodied friends got behind the curtains to see why he was hollering, they found him on the ground with one of Roberts’ henchman on top of him about to hit him in the face. Of course, the henchman said my friend had a demon and he was trying to exorcise him. Yeah right. But, the faithful followers of Roberts just won’t believe this story because he has been amazing them for a long time.

Anyway, when Philip, the real power of God, came to town. Everyone knew the difference, even Simon. Here is my challenge. Instead of coming in to town with a crusade where you rent the biggest hall and then beg for money as a seed of faith for a miracle. How about we meet down at the hospital, the nursing home or even the morgue. Let’s start cleaning those places out for free and then maybe we can declare that the power of God has really come in among us.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Miracles | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 5-6: When Money Just Isn’t Enough

The story of Ananias and Sapphira surprises me. I mean, these guys sold some property and gave half the proceeds to the brethren to help out with folks in need. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to do quite so much for Christ’s church on a monetary level. 

I mean, I know they lied and all. I know they were filled with pride. I know they were trying to boost their own reputation and not glorify God. But, can’t we just look the other way for those who are bankrolling the church?

Apparently not.

Sadly, many churches and elderships today do look the other way when those who are bankrolling the church don’t live as Christians. They can lie, mistreat their wives, forsake the assemblies, use foul language, disrupt classes, cause dissension, but elders look away because they are afraid if they say anything to them the person will leave and take his checkbook with them. 

Peter didn’t have this problem. He was more concerned about the spirituality of the brethren. He was more concerned that they learn to be honest, humble and to honor God. He refused to look the other way. More importantly, God refused to look the other way.

We need to recognize this, we can look the other way when brethren sin, but God won’t. He may not strike them dead immediately, but He will judge them when they die. If we have just looked the other way when they lived in sin instead of gently working to restore them (cf. Galatians 6:1), their blood will be on our hands. 

Whatever it is that is causing us to look the other way, let’s put it behind us and help our brethren turn from their ungodly ways. Only then will we both be saved (cf. Ezekiel 3:16-27).

ELC

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living | , , , , | Leave a comment