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, December 29, 2016

Be Intentional: Acts 13:1-`5

We start to be observers of Paul’s ministry for the remainder of Acts. Paul starts with the Jews in the various cities he travels to, and when the established Jewish leaders reject the message about the Messiah, he shares with the Gentiles in those areas. A couple of things stand out to me as I review this beginning of the missionary journeys.
It appears as though Paul, along with Barnabas, had a strategy for their first missionary trip. They started in Antioch, traveled to Cypress by ship, walked across Cypress, sailed to Asia Minor and continued to move from familiar territory (Barnabas was from Cypress) to the unfamiliar territory in the Roman Empire. They were intentionally picking places to go share the message of Christ. They also made their first stops at the local synagogues in each town. I’m struck by their intentionality and planning. Why? Because I don’t really have any plans or strategies for sharing about Christ in my world. I need to be more intentional. This means thinking about where I have a witness and planning how I will present the message per each situation that I find myself in on a regular basis.
The second concept that struck me was based on Paul and Barnabas’ example once they are in Galatia (still in Asia Minor). They went to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch “and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.” (13:14) We don’t know how many Sabbaths they had done this for or what made them stand out among the worshippers. But something caused the leader of the synagogue to approach them and say, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” (13:16) Paul and Barnabas were actually invited to speak to the worshippers (and, of course, they took advantage of the opportunity). What made them appear worthy of such an honor to the synagogue officials? Was it the way they listened on other Sabbaths? Was it the way they dressed (appearing as a rabbi and/or Pharisee)? Was it something they said in passing? Something opened the way for them to share (of course, it could be God’s intervention, too).
So I ask myself, “What do I look like, sound like, act like that would grant me an audience of listeners?” I don’t really know the answer to those questions, but it causes me to think about my life and if I should be doing something different. Possibly I’m already doing what God wants me to. I try to share Christ/God to those in my sphere of influence either with my blog articles or with those in Alcoholics Anonymous that I come in contact with. But, should I (and you) be doing something else, too? Just something to be thinking about.
Both of these applications require intentionality on my part. I need to put more effort into being intentional for God’s sake. That’s a purpose worthy of my attention.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Eagerly Waiting

This week I finished Acts chapter 12 in my Bible study. It’s a good place to stop and pause to reflect on what has been happening and what is about to happen. Basically, the first 12 chapters told us about how the Holy Spirit used the apostles to spread the good news of Christ to the Jews in Jerusalem and the Jews (with a few Gentiles) in Judea and Samaria. The focus was mostly on the apostle Peter. Now the book moves on to telling us about how the Holy Spirit moved in Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles throughout the remotest parts of the earth. I’ll pick up on that starting next week.
For this week, as part of my reflections, I paused to think about the true importance of Christmas. Basically, it’s a remembrance of the Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled. Yet not all the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus’ life and deeds. There are other prophecies, from both the Old and the New Testaments, which are yet to be fulfilled. We learn early in Jesus’ story, when He was presented at the temple after His birth, that there were people throughout the land who were waiting for the birth of the Savior. Two of those people were in the temple that day.
Simeon, a righteous and devout man who was looking for the consolation of Israel, was there. Luke tells us that, “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (Luke 2:25) Simeon’s response to seeing the baby Jesus was an example of something that would be said by someone who was waiting expectantly for the arrival of the Messiah. “For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32) Because of Simeon’s faith and trust in the truth of the Old Testament, he knew what he was looking at when he saw Jesus – because he was expecting God to show him.
The other person was Anna, a prophetess, who was “advanced in years.” She was also in the temple that day and upon seeing Jesus she, “began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38) She also, like Simeon, had kept herself faithful to God and was ready to believe in the Christ child. She, too, knew what she was looking at when she first saw Jesus.
We too have the Scriptures telling us of a time we should be looking forward to: The Second Coming of Christ. It’s been a long time since Jesus rose from the dead. Are we still waiting expectantly for His return? Sometimes I am patiently waiting and sometimes I’m grudgingly waiting. Neither of those responses correspond with what Simeon and Anna were doing. They were eagerly waiting (the original word for waiting implies an active and eager action). Am I eagerly waiting for Christ’s return? Not as much as I should be.
So, as I celebrate Jesus’ first coming to earth, I will remember that His second coming is soon. When? We don’t know the answer to that, but it is sooner each day than the day before. And, I will try to be eagerly, expectantly, actively waiting while I celebrate the salvation He has already brought us.
Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Five Points About Prayer: Acts 12:5

Acts 12 recounts another miracle escape from prison by Peter. That’s the outward story, the public story. However, there is a inward, private story going on at the same time. It doesn’t get the same amount of space as Peter’s escape, but without this part of the story, Peter’s rescue may never have happened.
The inward, private story was taking place among the followers of Jesus gathered together in private rooms and houses all over the city of Jerusalem. In spite of the renewed persecution of the church in Jerusalem, the believers continued to gather together. One of the main reasons they gathered together was to pray.
Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” Here’s the one sentence in the whole chapter about the church praying for Peter’s release and wellbeing. However, there are five points made it that sentence which all of us should take to heart about prayer.
1. Prayer should be intense and purposeful, not casual or haphazard. I often do what I call “arrow prayers.” On the spot, at the moment, one-liner prayers lifted up to God while I’m on the go. I don’t think that kind of praying is wrong, but it shouldn’t be the kind of prayer we are involved in.
2. Prayer should be ongoing, continuous. That doesn’t mean that all of us are praying together all the time. I think it means that groups of people are praying and rotating in new people into the group as others have to go about the business of living. Someone should be praying at all times especially when there’s an urgent and important need.
3. Prayer should be made to God, the one and only true God. It should come from a genuine contact with the living God through Jesus Christ. Jesus told us this in John14:6 (“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” It is not meaningless, empty repetition to a vague God that has no real power. (Matthew 6:7-8)
4. Prayer should be specific, not vague. The believers in Jerusalem were praying specifically for Peter and his situation. They asked for exactly what they needed. (James 4:2-3)
5. Prayer should be communal, corporate, done together as a group. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” God expected us to pray together. We were instructed to do so by Jesus. I think there are too many in our churches today who are unwilling to be involved in corporate prayer. They won’t pray out loud for whatever reasons when they are in groups. I wonder if they pray to God in private or if they are just so out of the practice of prayer, that they just don’t do it at all. I’m at fault in this, too. I do not encourage prayer in the groups I’m involved in because I don’t want to embarrass anyone. But I think we are missing out on seeing God work in mighty ways because we do not pray together enough.
Those are some thoughts about prayer. If you want to pray together, write me a comment or send me an email (thetootsierolllady@yahoo.com). I’d love to pray with you in one way or another.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Restore Hearts and Minds: Acts 11:19-30

Acts continues to record the spread of the message of Christ. In Acts 11:19-30, Luke, the writer of Acts, gives an account of the conversion of Gentiles in Antioch. The first witnesses to the Antioch Gentiles came from Hellenistic Jewish believers from Cyprus and Cyrene. It specifically says that while others who were dispersed from Jerusalem preached only to the Jews, “there were some of them . . . who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.” [vs. 20]
The Jerusalem Church heard about these conversions and sent Barnabas to check things out. “Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.” [vs. 23]
My first question to myself is, “Do I encourage others in the faith to have resolute hearts and to stay true to the Lord?” But then the second question I had was, “Am I resolute in heart and mind to the Lord?” That question caused me to wonder what my life should look like if I’m to be resolute of heart and mind. And, what sets me apart from the general population that makes it obvious to others that I am true to the Lord Jesus?
Barnabas’ encouragement to the Antioch believers is also an encouragement to us. We should have resolute hearts and should do everything as Jesus would have us do to remain true to the teachings of Jesus. Some manuscripts translate “to encourage” as “to exhort” or “to plead with.” It has a sense of urgency to it. It is something we are to be about on a regular, daily or moment to moment, basis. Our lives should be set apart by our zeal for doing the right things (according to Jesus’ teachings and according to the Word of God).
I’m challenged today by Barnabas’ example and by the exhortation to be resolute in heart and mind in serving Jesus. How can I be an encourager today and how can I keep Jesus’ teachings before me at all times? This will take some thought and prayer, but it is something I must do.