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, June 30, 2016

Acts 4: Courage and Boldness

So, continuing from last week’s blog about the first recorded incident of persecution, much of the rest of the chapter deals with what happens after the hearing before the Sanhedrin. Verses 24-37 record the prayer the early Church prayed once Peter and John were released from prison and joined them in their meeting place.
The prayer starts out with praise and moves into their requests. They didn’t pray for protection against persecution. They didn’t pray that God would wipe out all enemies of His message. They didn’t pray for their next meal. What did they pray? Acts 4:29 tells us what they prayed: “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence,” [NASB] They asked that God grant them the boldness and courage to speak about Christ in spite of the persecution.
Several commentators (Fronczak, Clarke, McGee) address this verse. One commentator (Fronczak) said that what the early Church was praying was, “Now Lord, give us power to speak and to confirm Your Word.” Another (Clarke) said, “While we are endeavoring to fulfill thy counsels, and can do nothing without thee, sustain our courage, that we may proclaim thy truth with boldness and irresistible power.”
Clarke said this about “take note of their threats”: “It is not against us, but against thee, that they conspire; it is not to prevent the success of our preaching, but to bring to naught they counsel; the whole of their enmity is against thee. Now, Lord look upon it; consider this.” Fronczak put it this way: “Their threatenings are against You, not us. They are determined to bring to naught Your Word and course.” We also need to remember that the attacks against us are not really personal attacks on us; they are attacks on the truth of God’s Word and the truth of the resurrection of Christ. Those that persecute us, are in fact, denying the Godhead. It is against Him that they argue and choose not to believe.
What else can I say? We need to be more like the early Church and pray for boldness and courage, not escape plans for possible persecution. The early disciples walked head on into situations that might bring them persecution. Everything from prison, beatings, and death would come their way. They did not pray to be rescued from those situations. They prayed for the courage to face those situations in such a way as to be able to speak God’s Word in the midst of the persecution. What do I pray for today that is significantly different from the early Church’s example? I pray for protection. I pray for peace and no conflicts, I pray I will not have to suffer. I pray for health and happiness. I rarely pray for the boldness and courage to share Christ without being defensive or timid. I need to make sure I’m praying for the most important thing: to proclaim Christ with courage and boldness, no matter what situations I find myself in. The whole modern day Church needs to be praying for that.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Acts 4;1-12: Whose Authority

This chapter highlights the first incident of persecution against the believers of Jesus. There are a couple things of note and they lead to one application for me.
First, verse 2 states what the persecution was initially about. Starting at the end of verse 1 this passage says, “. . . the priests and the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees, came upon them [Peter and John] being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Those leaders in the temple were upset because these uneducated, untrained men were teaching (vs. 13) AND because they were proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. They also didn’t appreciate these common men doing miracles (healing the lame man in Acts 3). They really didn’t want to bring attention to the resurrection of Jesus – especially the Sadducees – because that would just fuel the idea of the resurrection and they didn’t believe in resurrection or miracles of any kind.
When the disciples were put on trial the next day, possibly after the Sanhedrin (the judging body of men) had a chance to discuss how they were going to accuse and prosecute Peter and John, they inquired only one aspect of what had upset them: “. . . By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (vs. 7) The apostles knew they were talking about healing the lame man, so Peter responded by telling them all about whose name they were trusting in: “let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health.” He fully gives all the credit to Jesus. Just as Peter preached the gospel focusing on Jesus and His resurrection, that should be the focus of our gospel messages as we share Christ with those who don’t know Him.
Also, stemming from that, I had the thought (and some discussion with my Bible study partner, Kris) that we need to make sure we are not glorifying the Holy Spirit first. Some of our songs say things like, “Holy Spirit we welcome you . . .” I feel we should be asking Jesus to send His Holy Spirit to us as we may have need. I’ve heard many people (including some pastors) pray to the Holy Spirit asking the Holy Spirit to “fill us” when the focus should be on praying to Jesus and the Father, and He will send His Holy Spirit to be our Helper in whatever way we need help. The Holy Spirit only acts at Jesus’ and the Father’s commands. We need to make sure our focus is on glorifying and praying to Jesus as we keep Him the focus of our lives and ministries.
I was challenged by these concepts to observe and adjust how I share Christ with others and how I should be praying for Jesus to send His Holy Spirit to meet my needs. If you want to get an idea of how to share the gospel message with someone, study the sermons of Peter in the first 11 or 12 chapters of Acts. A good example is found in Acts 4:8-12.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Where Does Power Come From: Acts 3:1-11

Acts 3:1-11 is the telling of an incident in the life of Peter and John, and of a lame man. Basically, there was this man, lame since birth, sitting near the temple in Jerusalem begging for alms. This was his regular spot and the people going in and out of the temple recognized him as they passed that way. One day, the lame man turned his attention on Peter and John asking for alms as they passed by. Peter and John were not men of wealth – not even earning enough to give some away to this man. So what did Peter and John do? What would I have done?
What Peter did was recorded in verses 6-7: “But Peter said, ‘I do not possess sliver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!’ And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.” Peter provided healing from Jesus. He could have used this as an opportunity to promote himself and/or John, but he didn’t. It put all the focus on the true source of power: Jesus Christ the Nazarene. The man and the people nearby all had heard of this man, Jesus Christ the Nazarene. By this time they had probably heard the rumors and observations of Jesus’ teachings, death, burial, and resurrection.
The people who saw the man walking and leaping and praising God were “filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Verse 10) The man kept walking with Peter and John into the temple where even more people saw him and were amazed. In fact a crowd began to form. This healing, through Jesus’ power and working through the Holy Spirit, opened up another opportunity for Peter to preach a message to the gathered people. That’s what the rest of Acts 3 is: Peter’s second sermon in Jerusalem.
However, what I want to think about is where Peter’s and John’s healing power came from and what the purpose of the healing was. The power was a continuation of Jesus’ power and a continuation of the healings Jesus had performed during His ministry on earth. It was still Jesus doing the healing. It’s still Jesus today who gives us the power to heal and grow and mature. And the purpose of the healing? To provide a platform, an opportunity, for Peter and John to share more about Jesus. Today the purpose in healing –whether physical, emotional, or spiritual – is so the message and power of Christ might be shared and create a platform for witnessing of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.
I find it hard to see the power of Jesus working in my life through the Holy Spirit. Yet, I know it to be truth. And I know I often fail to take the opportunities God provides for me to proclaim the power of Jesus in my own life situations. I don’t believe I’m alone in my struggles in this area. And, I don’t have any solutions to it, either. However, reading about the apostles and the lame man, encourages me to proclaim Christ’s power whenever I am given the platform to do so. I can only imagine what my life would be like without His power in my life . . . I’d probably be dead and long buried. That possibility is enough to focus others’ attention on the true source of power.