Spoken Against

When sharing Jesus gets you in trouble, what’s THAT about?

“With regard to this sect [the Way of Jesus] we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” -Acts 28:22

When Paul comes to share the Good News in Rome, he’s told what he probably already knew: what is “good news” to those who know their need is a threat to those who don’t.

This was foretold, in fact, by a prophet who encountered Jesus just after His birth.  Speaking by the Spirit, Simeon said of Jesus, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed…so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

When the Truth of God comes to broken people (and we are all broken people), some will receive it with gladness because their hearts are ready to be healed.  Others will receive it either with indifference or anger, because their pride is still greater than their pain and they are not willing to lay down sword and shield to be released from their bondage.  In fact, they might even turn the sword on you for daring to threaten the shield of their own strength and choices.

When someone speaks against and opposes you when you share the message of Jesus, take heart.  It’s likely that this has much less to do with you, and much more to do with them.

Be Strengthened

A prayer for you today…

May you be given power today, power from the Creator who spoke the stars into being.
Let Him speak into your life.

May you be given strength today, strength from the God who holds the universe together.
Let Him hold up your heart.

May you have endurance and patience with others, and may you be filled with joy as you remember how much endurance and patience God has with you.

May you give thanks to the Father today as you remember how the blood of Jesus makes you worthy to be called God’s Child.

May you rejoice today that Jesus delivered you from the darkness of sin and brought you into the light of forgiveness.  Receive His forgiveness.

May you remember that since you didn’t deserve any of these gifts, you can’t un-deserve them any more, either, and nothing can take them away.

–(amen)–

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:11-14)

Grace and Self-Image

It’s hard to see ourselves for who we really are.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” -Romans 12:3

Paul realizes that the self-image called for here is only possible through and by the grace of God.  There are too many forces pulling us one way or another for us to do it in our own strength.

When we think of ourselves too highly, grace reminds us it’s all a gift.  When we think of ourselves too lowly, grace reminds us that the gift was given because in Christ, God loves us deeply.

Grace is the balance that keeps us steady in Him.  May you walk steady today!

The First Thing

When people think of you, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

“Paul came also to Derbe and Lystra.  A disciple was there, named Timothy.” -Acts 16:1

In literature, the “principle of first mention” is that whatever is said of a character, place or action when it first appears is a guide and foundation for how to understand whatever follows.

When Timothy is first mentioned in Scripture, he is not introduced by his family association.  That comes later.  He is not introduced by his trade, school or social status.  Even his heritage and nationality are only incidental.

The most important thing about Timothy, the one thing that drives and determines the course of his life, is that he is a disciple.  To be a “Christian” is to be a disciple, a follower and imitator of the Way of Jesus, and not just a little bit or in name alone.

To be a disciple means that following Jesus takes first place.

Always.

In everything.

And nothing else matters more.

Ask yourself this: when people think of you, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

On Anger

Anger is a flame.

Like a match dropped into gasoline, it catches fire suddenly, often without warning, but never without prior conditions that enabled the blaze.  It is a reaction, never an initiation.  It comes from a sense that something is wrong with the world that affects me in a personal and negative way.

I may be angry at a wound from another person’s action or inaction.  I may be angry about someone’s response or lack of response to something I did that I hoped or expected would be received a different way.  This is unrighteous anger, and as James puts it, “Man’s anger does not produce the righteous life God desires.” (James 1:20)

I may be angry at the things God is angry about: the presence of sin in my life or the lives of those I love, or the brokenness of the world.  This is righteous anger, yet most of us do not experience it because either we do not see these things through the eyes of Christ, or we do not see ourselves as personally connected.

Freedom from unrighteous anger comes from seeing ourselves as God sees us and realizing that we are both undeserving of anything but judgement, AND unbelievably loved in Christ.  We are angered when we do not get the good things we think we deserve, but set free when we realize and accept that we do not deserve them at all.  With such understanding, we also will hate sin and brokenness in the world.  Then at last we will be free to be angry at the things God is angry about, and be motivated to do something about them, empowered by the fire of God and strengthened by His love.

The Speech and the Glory

What results do your words produce?

“Immediately an angel of the Lord struck [Herod] down, because he did not give God the glory… But the word of God increased and multiplied.” -Acts 12:23-24

Herod gives a great oration, a powerful speech that causes all those who hear it to respond in praise, but not to God.  Herod wows the crowd and receives their adoration gladly, but the end result is both judgement for him and an end to his words.

BUT the Word of God goes out in power.

As if in contrast to the word of man, this Word both increases (linearly) and multiplies (exponentially), proof of God’s favor and His desire for His rightful glory.

Let us not seek to impress with our own words, but to incarnate His (“flesh them out”), for when our words give glory to God, He is faithful to make them effective and fruitful for the Kingdom.

Training vs. Transformation

Do we REALLY need more training to reach people for Christ?

“So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” -Acts 16:5

In church growth discussions, one of the first things that comes up is, “people just need more training in how to reach out.” Is that REALLY the primary issue?

In Acts, Paul, Silas and Timothy bring good news of forgiveness through Christ and helpful instruction in how to live the full life of the redeemed. When the churches receive this, they are encouraged in heart and action, and the overflow of their response is that people are added to the Kingdom every day.

This is not a professional program led by trained instructors and managed by credentialed administrators. It is simply the natural result of lives being changed by Christ.

Maybe the reason churches don’t grow is not a lack of training, but a lack of transformation.

What We Are

What are you, really?

When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! -Psalm 65:3-4

Because of the atoning work of Christ, now we, as those who trust and follow Him, are the temple of the living God.

Let us be satisfied, pleased and content with who we are in Christ, for because of Him we who were wicked are now filled with goodness. We who were evil are now holy.

In Christ, let us love who He has made us to be, and live like who and what we are.

When I Preach

What makes a good sermon?

Ask ten people and you’ll probably get twelve opinions, but as for me, I try to ask myself these four questions when I preach a message.

Is it PERSONAL? Why would I want to hear someone tell me about my problems or possibilities without admitting to any of theirs? Why would I want to preach one to someone else if the message has no connection to me?

Is it PRACTICAL? If someone shares a valuable truth with me, shouldn’t they also help me see how to apply it? If I share a message with someone else, shouldn’t I help them see how it relates to everyday life?

Is it PASSIONATE? If I’m listening to someone preach, I want to see that they really care about what they’re saying. If I’m the one speaking, I want to make sure it really comes from
the depths of my heart, not just the top my head.

Is it PREPARED? Some people are great off the cuff, but most of the time you can tell when they’re just rambling. If I’m taking someone’s time to listen to me, I don’t want to just say something. I need to have something to say.

For me, there are also three goals that I try to reach when I share a message. I want to make sure the foundation is Scripture. This isn’t about self-help or making people feel warm and fuzzy. If I share a message it needs to be solidly settled on God’s Word.

I want to put the focus on Jesus. No generic “God talk” that’s easy and inoffensive, I want to lift up “the name above all names.”

I want to finish the sermon with hope and encouragement in Christ. At the end of the day, what more hopeful thing is there than the Good News of Jesus? No matter what hard message needs to be shared, there must always be light at the end. That’s the hope of the Gospel, that no matter how great the darkness, the light of Christ is always greater still.

How about you? When you hear a sermon, what makes it “good”, “great”, “bad” or “just okay” to you?

MULTIPLICATION (in Acts)

Healthy organisms multiply.  Healthy churches…

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” -Acts 6:7

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” -Acts 9:31

In these passages and all throughout Acts, we see three things continually multiplied among the followers of Christ.

1) The Word of God: People seek out, listen to, understand, and apply Biblical teaching in their everyday lives.  They don’t just show up and hear, they go out and live.

2) The number of disciples: More and more people take tangible steps of surrender to Jesus, receiving Him as Savior and following Him as Lord.

3) The fear of the Lord: This is not fear of judgment or punishment for a lack of right living.  It is godly awe, reverence, and devotion to the Christ who delivers and empowers His people.  Jesus becomes THE priority.

4) The comfort of the Holy Spirit: In a time of persecution and hardship, God’s people experience the transformative life of the Spirit of God, giving them strength and hope in every situation.

When these things are present and are multiplying among a community of Christ followers, there is a dynamism that causes change in the world around them and growth of the life within them.

This is what happened with the Church in Acts.  When these things are not present, it’s only a matter of time before the life drains out and the church shuts down.

God works through multiplication.

GET YOUR LAUNCH LIST BONUSES NOW!

Let's do this together.

WHAT TYPE OF ORGANIZATION IS THIS FOR? (Primarily)