What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thoughts From Acts 2:14-47


As I studied Acts 2:14-47 this week, I discovered or rediscovered several thoughts that requires specific action from me. I call these required actions application because these are ways to apply God’s Word to my own life.
My application for this week comes from a familiar verse. Acts 2:42 (in the NASB) says, “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” There are several aspects of the Christian life that are highlighted in this verse, however prayer caught my attention this week.
First I looked up the meaning of the word prayer and found out that for the early church, prayer had two aspects. There were the formal prayers involved in the practice of Judaism, and the spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving and worship. The formal prayers were the prayers the apostles would be continuing to say as they worshiped in the temple. The disciples didn’t give these prayers up; they continued to worship according to the Old Testament, seeing and understanding them more accurately now that they had the Holy Spirit to help them.
From the time I was a young Christian, I came to believe that formal, recited, repetitious prayers were anti-Christian. So I rebelled against remembering and saying them. This was still true as I listened to my colleagues in AA say that they prayed the 3rd, 7th and 11th step prayers every day. I have held back from engaging in that practice. However, I’m second thinking that this week. Those prayers are full of truth and insight, and if I pray them from my heart they are as good as my spontaneous prayers.
The 3rd step prayer goes as follows: “God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
The 7th step prayer: “My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I prayer that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.”
The 11th step prayer: “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace – that where there is hatred, I may bring love – that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness – that where there is discord, I may bring harmony – that where there is error, I may bring truth – that where there is doubt, I may bring faith – that where there is despair, I may bring hope – that where there are shadows, I may bring light – that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted – to understand, than to be understood – to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.”
I’ve printed those prayers out and posted them by my computer. I plan on praying them each morning as I start my day. Of course, I’m not going to stop praying the spontaneous prayers, either. The formal prayers just give me focus for my day and remind me why I’m on this earth.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thoughts From Acts 2:1-13

Baptized and Filled

In Acts 2, we are introduced to the promised Holy Spirit. This promise is found in Acts 1:5 when Jesus tells the disciples, “for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Jesus promised that His followers would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit would settle in each believer and bind the believer to Christ forever. There are several passages of Scripture that talk about the role baptism with the Holy Spirit plays in the life of a believer. One of those roles is baptism with the Holy Spirit. Baptism places every believer into the body of Christ. Every person who believes is baptized with the Holy Spirit. It marks us as Christ followers and it is by the Holy Spirit that each of us is sealed into the family of God forever. It does not involve an action on our part. It’s automatic once we believe in Christ.
However, the Holy Spirit also plays another role in believers and it is something believers should seek after. Being filled with the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:1-3 the sealing of the Holy Spirit is described, i.e. the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But in Acts 2:4 it says the followers of Christ were filled with the Holy Spirit (“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance”) That’s a separate role for the Holy Spirit and it has a specific purpose: power to proclaim Christ throughout the world (Acts 1:8). The filling by the Holy Spirit allows us – no propels us – to be of service for Christ.
I liked the way McGee, a theologian, explained the difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit:
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a command given to us. It is not an experience. It is an act of God whereby the believer in Jesus Christ is indwelt by the Spirit of God, sealed unto the day of redemption, and placed into the church, the body of Christ, by the baptism of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit of God is the enablement for service. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit.
So, what does this mean for me? It means I should be seeking and working towards the filling by the Holy Spirit in my life. As I thought about what the filling of the Spirit of God would look like in my life, I realized that it means I would be involved in meaningful service that would proclaim Christ in the world. That I would receive power and I would be His witness in my area of the world and in the world as a whole. That’s based on Acts 1:8. I haven’t been doing much of that lately. I need to pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit and be open to the service opportunities God places in front of me.
It’s not enough to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. I need His power through the Holy Spirit’s filling to be of meaningful service to Christ.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thoughts From Acts 1

Continuing my thoughts on the book of Acts, I studied chapter 1 this last week. There were many interesting points, however, a few stuck out to me.
Acts 1:1 says, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach . . .” Luke says that his first account was all about what Jesus did and what He taught. I asked myself if that was a pattern for us to follow: do and teach. And, possibly if that’s the order we should be doing them in. Several commentaries I read pointed out that Jesus did wonderful things, then He preached to the people who had witnessed those things. We are supposed to do as Jesus did (after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet He said, “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13:15). So I could conclude that we also should do (works of service) and then teach (about the source of the power to do the things we do).
Later in Acts 1 (verse 8) Jesus tells us exactly what the disciples should be doing. “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth.” What caught my eye is that it says we are to “be [His] witnesses.” Being means much more than just talking about Jesus. Being means doing whatever we do in such a way as for it to represent what Christ would have done. It doesn’t say to go and witness to others. It says to be a witness to others. One of the commentaries I read explained it this way: “To be [Jesus’] witnesses in both word and deed means communicating the verbal content of the Gospel and living God‘s way and not our own.” [Emphasis added] We need to be about the business of doing things the way Jesus would do them.
I think doing service and acts of kindness opens doors to the gospel of Christ. Doing creates a platform for verbally sharing about Christ and salvation. I think doing for others causes them to ask, “Why are you doing this nice thing?” And then we can share that we are just doing what Christ would have us do because He loves everybody and wishes everybody to know and love Him. With this perspective in mind, my church is engaging in doing this Saturday. They call it “Outflow.” Five hundred people strong, members of our church reach out to complete projects needed doing by members of our community. The emphasis is on serving those who do not yet know Christ. Doing, in order to open doors to the verbal sharing. It’s not done with ulterior motives or to make the people doing the good works feel good (although that does happen). It is done to show the love of Christ in real, tangible ways to those who most need His love.
That’s what I think Christ’s example was to us: do and teach, be witnesses. Please pray for this outreach into our community and be a part of doing for Jesus.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Overview of the Book of The Acts of the Apostles

I started a new Bible study this week having finished studying Genesis a couple of weeks ago. Things mentioned in the commentaries about The Acts of the Apostles already intrigue me. Several of the commentaries suggested that Luke wrote the book as a continuation of the story in the gospel of Luke. They basically said that in order to understand the themes and purposes of Acts, the themes and purposes of the gospel of Luke must first be understood.
Not having the inclination or the time to do a complete study on the gospel of Luke before starting my study of the book of Acts, I read several introductions and commentaries about the book of Luke. First thing I noticed was that it is generally agreed among scholars, Luke and Acts were written by the same person. It is also generally accepted that the person was Luke. Luke was not an eye witness to the life of Jesus, so he had to do research to tell the story in Luke, while he was a companion of Paul’s and an eye witness to many of the events in Acts.
Luke wrote the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles as an explanation or defense of the truth. He was specifically writing to someone called Theophilus (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1). There is a lot of speculation about who Theophilus was. One theory is that Theophilus was designated as Paul’s “defense attorney” or Paul’s sponsor in Rome. He needed to know the whole story from the birth of Jesus to Paul’s various missionary journeys in order to adequately represent Paul before the rulers in Rome. Regardless of why Luke wrote these two books, they were definitely addressed to Theophilus, a Gentile.
The Ryrie Study Bible’s notes at the beginning of the gospel of Luke explain the distinctive approach Luke took in writing these books. With many references Ryrie builds his case for uniqueness of Luke’s writings. One aspect is that although it was addressed to Theophilus, it is directed toward all Gentiles. Also there’s a pattern of being interested in individuals and mentions many of them by name. Among the many people Luke mentions by name, there’s an abundance of women whose names get recorded for history. There’s an emphasis on prayer and the answers to prayer experienced by the disciples.
In the book of Acts we are given the record of the spread of the gospel starting with the Jews and including the remotest parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). The book of Acts covers approximately thirty years. It ends with Paul imprisoned in Rome awaiting his hearing before Caesar. That fact helps date the writing of this book to around A.D. 63 because if it was later than that other significant events would also have been recorded (like the martyrdom of Paul, the burning of Rome, Nero’s persecution of Christians, and the destruction of Jerusalem) which all happened within a few years of the end of this account.
The key verse for me is Acts 1:8 which says what this book is about: “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The account is how the Holy Spirit is used by Jesus to get His message out to all the nations of the world. I’m looking forward to seeing that all take place as I continue in my study of Acts. My goal is to share with you the key things I learn as I go through this study.