Guiding the Way

“And he said, ‘Well, how could I unless someone guides me?’” Acts 8:31

I was planning to write something about Peter this week, but when reading through Acts, I have often stopped here in Chapter 8. 

I love this passage of scripture. At the start of Chapter 8, we have Paul ravaging the church, persecuting Christians, dragging them off to prison. 

This persecution causes Christians to scatter, but note in verse 4, “those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.”

One such person who was scattered was Philip, one of the Seven appointed to ministry in Chapter 6. 

There is much we can learn from the text about Philip.

It appears from the text in Acts Chapter 6, that Philip met the practical needs of ministry by serving tables so the apostles could devote themselves to teaching and prayer. 

Here in Chapter 8, in the region of Samaria, he’s an evangelist. We are told Philip preached throughout Samaria, and as a result there was much joy in the city. 

Then in Gaza, Philip ministers one-on-one to the Ethiopian eunuch.

Later in Acts 21, we find him at Caesarea raising a family of four daughters who become prophetesses. 

I think we can see Philip as a composite of our own lives – a great example of how God chooses to use us in ministry.

Sometimes, we just need to do the work. It might mean cleaning tables, ushering, putting away chairs, cleaning the kitchen when serving food to the poor, among other activities.

Other times we may be called to share our faith publicly either through teaching or giving a testimony to groups or larger crowds.

Often, we are called to minister one-on-one praying for the friends, peers, family, school mates or fellow workers that God has placed in our lives. 

We are called to minister to our families, raising children in the faith, guiding and helping them discover their calling, preparing them for what God has called them to be. 

We have seasons of ministry, but Philip serves as reminder of what the Christian walk looks like, we go through our journey one step at time, season after season. 

And dare I say – maybe, just maybe, we may be called upon to talk to a stranger, that guy at the barber shop, grocery store or cleaners, someone God has placed strategically in our path to hear the Good News of the Gospel. 

Way back in Mark 13, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give us what to say. We can trust in the Holy Spirit! 

Our role is help others along the way, guiding, pointing the way to Jesus, and the good news of the Gospel.

Amen!

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Sources used for this blog: Jon Courson’s Application Commentary – New Testament, ESV Study Bible

 

Easter Devotional – March 6

Matthew 10:1-15

The Twelve Disciples; Instructions for Service

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

On any large project that involves a lot of people, a few are always called out to take on more responsibility than others. Here Jesus calls out His twelve. He has an urgent mission for them. Their sacrifice is great – cutting off ties, completely changing their lives, going wherever they’re asked to go. They will essentially be doing what Jesus has been doing – healing, exorcising, proclaiming the Good News. Then they’re told that although some people will be excited to see them and eager to listen to what they have to say, others will not be.

Have you been called to something for God? Given greater responsibility? Maybe it’s raising children to live and love like Jesus. Maybe it’s changing jobs or re-locating or going on a missions trip. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? Are you willing to deal with being unpopular?

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, give me courage to be unpopular for You.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Easter Devotional – March 4

Matthew 9:9-17

Matthew Called

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Question about Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John *came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. 17 Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

iPhone, Android, tablets, laptops, desktops…pen and paper. Throughout the years technology has changed how we function day to day. At some point we all have to make the leap…embrace change. You can’t just keep adding on to a typewriter to get a tablet, you have to change how you do things.

For centuries there was a certain way of life. Jesus’ contemporaries thought it’d always be the way they knew. But Jesus is changing it up. He’s not supporting the status quo, He’s bringing something much bigger and better. He’s trading in the sorrow of fasting for celebrating. Why would we fast and long for someone who is in our midst? Jesus was in their midst…but just for a short time.

Where are you allowing status quo in your life, allowing old rules to dictate how you live?

Prayer: God, help me to see how You want me to live and to change what needs to be changed.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Easter Devotional – February 25

Matthew 4:18-25

The First Disciples

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Ministry in Galilee

23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues andproclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs,epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

Imagine. You get a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The national anthem has been beautifully sung, the coin toss is about to take place. But the coach comes out and points to a couple of people in the stands and says, “Hey, come on down here; you’re not spectators anymore, you’re playing in the big game.” First reaction: Are you kidding me? I’m totally unprepared. I’m not ready.

While this would never happen in professional sports, this is how Jesus calls us. We were never meant to be spectators while God works His wonders all around us. We are called to participate. Even though we are unqualified and unprepared, He is all-powerful and completely worthy. God likes to use the unqualified and the unprepared, we just have to be willing to go out on the field.

Are you willing to go out on the field? Willing to allow Him to do His work through you?

Prayer: God, help me to be a player. To be willing to listen to Your call and move from the spectator seats to my place on the field.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

 

Dream Big

Genesis 37

Things look pretty bleak for Joseph. His life, not to mention his fantastic dreams, are in jeopardy. What will become of them? What will become of him?

What are we to make of these fantastic dreams, these earthy and celestial dreams? It sure appears that Joseph is destined for greatness, but the path there is by no means clear. And where is God? His presence is not mentioned in this episode, He has no apparent direct involvement in Joseph’s life. At least not on the surface. But if we dig a little deeper, if we pull back the curtain, we can see God’s fingerprints all over this story, His sovereignty at work in the events of Joseph’s life…right place at right time over and over again. In Shechem at the right time to meet the right guy who happened to be in the right place not only to intercept Joseph, but also was in the right place at the right time to hear where the brothers were going. Even Joseph’s arrival in Dothan is at the right time for Judah to see the trading caravan heading to Egypt (which as we will see will be the right place). The caravan reaches Egypt at the right time so that Joseph is sold to the right guy (Potiphar) who is in the right place. Coincidence? Not at all.

Joseph will have many opportunities along the way to give up or to make unwise choices. But God will work through the mess of Joseph’s life…and ours, taking us through the eye of the storm to demonstrate the wonder of His grace in our lives. He had work to do in Joseph’s life…brash, overconfident, self-centered…to prepare him to deliver his family. And He’s got work to do in ours. The moment when our faith becomes real…when our dreams are seemingly dashed (death of loved one, don’t make the team, injuries), and we have to totally rely on God, trusting that He is working even in that circumstance to bring about His purpose. See the dreams are His. Joseph’s dreams weren’t about Joseph’s greatness, not about him getting the glory. Joseph’s dreams were a part of the grand dream that God has for His creation. Joseph is a part, just as his brothers were even though they didn’t have the same dream or the same role as Joseph, they are no less important. Some of us may be like Joseph, and God may have a very visible role for us to play. But we are not all Josephs. Our part is not a less than. God created each one of us uniquely…different gifts, talents, abilities, calling, dreams.

It’s easy to let the circumstances of our lives determine our sense of nearness or far-ness from God. At the bottom of a well, or on the way to Egypt in shackles, God may seem light years away. But the truth is our circumstances do not determine God’s presence. He is with us. Our job is to stay the course. If God has laid a dream or a vision for ministry on your heart, if you feel Him calling you in some pursuit (and as a believer He has a calling on your life), realize that He will likely take you through a journey of preparation for that calling. And it may not be easy or fun. Depending on the character development that He needs to do in you. I’ve seen that many times in my own life. The road never seems to be downhill or the time short…feels like a long and winding uphill trek, but looking back His fingerprints have always been visible.

So dream big. Trust God in the process. And remember that character matters.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

I Will Be King!

 

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

 

If you are keeping up with the reading, we have finished 1 & 2 Samuel are moving into 1 Kings.  Where as 1&2 Samuel were dominated by the story of David’s rise and reign as king, 1 Kings begins by telling us that “King David was old and advanced in years.”

So here, our story continues with yet another run at the crown.

David had already put down two rebellions, one by his son Absalom and the other by Sheba the Benjaminite. Here, David’s oldest living son Adonijah makes a run at the crown.

In his own mind Adonijah sees himself as next in line, so he attempts to make himself king.  “I will be king”, he declares in I Kings 1:5.

Israel did have a royal succession policy – it was by divine appointment.  God decides! As far as God is concerned, Solomon, the tenth in line, was God’s chosen King.

Both Absalom and Adonijah exalted themselves.  In essence they did not accept God’s choice, but instead exalted themselves.  They would not even wait for their father to die – in Absalom’s case he even sought the death of his father David.

Adonijah hired his own chariots and fifty men to run in front of him to let people know that someone important was coming.  Yep, he had his own entourage, his own posse!

He must be important – right?  In addition, he gained the support of some of Israel’s most powerful leaders including Joab the former commander of Israels’ army and Abiathar the priest.

Joab had lost favor with David after killing his son Absalom during the rebellion, as well as the other commanders who got in Joab’s way – Abner and Amasa.

Abiathar the priest appears to be making a power grab as well. Did he want to be high priest?

By throwing his parties, aligning himself with people of power and self promotion, Adonijah was strengthening his political position. Some might even think he was deeply religious!

Yet it is clear that Adonijah was doing it all for his own glory.  As we read through Chapters one and two – we see how David, Nathan and David’s Captain of the King’s bodyguard – Benaiah, (Yes the same Benaiah of “In a Pit With a Lion on A Snowy Day” fame – a book by Mark Batterson), put down the rebellion.

Solomon following David’s advice consolidates his power and removes his enemies. I will expand upon this more in my next blog.

When reading through this story, I am reminded of how often we are tempted to exalt ourselves, to put ourselves first.

When we seek to be King or Queen, we put ourselves on the throne.  In essence we have decided to not accept God as our king. When God is no longer the King, he becomes one of our servants.

This can also impact our ministries – we want God to do what we want when we want it.  And why can’t God make every one see that our way is better?

In essence, we are in danger of tearing down the Lord’s work as described Romans 14.

We want to use Him to do our bidding to make our lives better; we want to call all the shots.

We forget we exist for His glory and to make disciples – the bible in a nutshell.

Our lives instead should be lives in submission to Jesus, the true and rightful King for the people of God.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Excerpts for this blog were taken from: The Reformed Expository Commentary Series – 1 Kings by P.G. Ryken

 

Why We Read the Psalms

 

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

 

The Book of Psalms is not nearly as prized today as it was in the early church and generations ago.

Psalms were sung in the early church as people went about their daily tasks – Psalms were once the church’s Christian ballads.

There was a time when bishops would not ordain a man into the ministry unless he knew the Psalms from end to end, and could repeat each Psalm correctly.

Can you imagine? Today we struggle to memorize Psalm 1 or 23…  Let’s see how does that go – “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want…”

Of all the books in the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms most vividly represents the faith of individuals in the Lord.

As we read through the Psalms we embrace the inspired responses of human hearts to God’s revelation of Himself in law, history, and prophecy.

Saints of all ages have appropriated this collection of prayers and praises in their public worship and private meditations.

Many psalms address God directly with their poetic expressions of petition and praise. They reveal all the religious feelings of the faithful—fears, doubts, and tragedies, as well as triumphs, joys, and hopes.

The psalmists frequently drew on their experiences for examples of people’s needs and God’s goodness and mercy.

Singing of past deliverances in easily remembered poetry provided support and comfort for believers in their hours of trial, as well as warning them against unbelief and disobedience.

The Psalms, combined with their display of personal religious feelings, make them the most powerful and complete expression of the worship of ancient Israel.

Set in the form of lyric poetry, they became unforgettable. They have often been called the love songs of the people of God.

As we come to the close of the Psalms in our reading in the next couple of weeks, my prayer for you is take the time to dwell in them, embrace them, feed upon them.

We have bunched the Psalms together in this reading plan to support a chronological reading but you are welcome to pick one and memorize it or get into the habit of reading a psalm a day.

I close with following thought – “The book of Psalms has been a royal banquet to me, and in feasting upon its contents I have seemed to eat angels’ food. It is no wonder that the old writers should call it – the school of patience, the soul’s soliloquies, the little Bible, the anatomy of conscience, the rose garden, the pearl island, and the like. It is the paradise of devotion, the Holy Land of poesy, the heart of scripture, the map of experience and the tongue of saints.” – Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Preface to Volume 3.

Until next time… Keep reading!

Jim

Some excerpts in this blog were taken directly from the Bible Knowledge Commentary.