When We Obey

Acts 5:32
“. . .the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Jesus promised, when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we will receive power to be witnesses for Christ. It seems to me, I am always in need of more power than I currently have. The longer I walk with the Lord, the bigger some of the battles become. I need a greater measure of His power to deny the flesh, as well as to effectively serve the Lord. I think it is a common experience for all Christians to feel powerless against the battle in front of them. That being said, there is a critical principle revealed in this verse. Peter declares that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey.

Throughout Scripture, we find the people of God facing obstacles bigger than themselves. We read of Moses and the congregation of Israel being chased by the Egyptian army, where they are trapped by the Red Sea. We know of Joshua and the immense walls that surrounded the city of Jericho. Later, Scripture records how Gideon faced the armies of the Midianites, and David stood toe to toe with the Philistine giant. The New Testament is filled with its share of obstacles as well. We read of the man with the withered hand, blind Bartimeus, and the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the Temple. In each of these cases, God is calling people to do the impossible. In each case, they could have excused themselves because of a lack of power. I can almost hear the excuses I would have used. “Lord I can’t do that, I don’t have that kind of power, that water is too deep, the walls too high and the giant is too tall.”

The truth stated by Peter answers those objections. The Holy Spirit is given when we obey. If we are waiting for an overwhelming sense of power to build up in us before we do battle against the flesh, or go out in service of the Lord, we are going to wait forever. If we go out in obedient faith to the promises of God, we will find that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey. All the strength you need for the battle at hand, will be given as you walk in obedient faith to the command of God. In that struggle you are facing with the flesh, trust today, that He will empower you as you choose to obey.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 5

  1. Hypocrisy, are we sensitive to it? Do we overlook it? God is serious about it. Pretending to be something we are not, lying to ourselves. If there is anything in your life that falls into this category, take time now to lay it before the Lord, confess and repent. God loves you and wants to forgive you and make all things new! Read I Corinthians 5:17
  2. In verse 12 we see the phrase “all in one accord” again. Being like-minded with the body of Christ is recurring theme. Is there something about your church that you question or don’t understand? Take time to call your pastor or staff and search the scriptures. Many times we may believe something that was taught to us in our younger years. It may be good, but not necessarily scriptural.
  3. The apostles were put in prison; the Lord set them free and told them to go back. Our natural reaction sometimes is to run away from conflict, yet God told them to go back. Are there things in your life that you are running from? Is Lord prompting you to go back? Pray and seek Him, seek council and be obedient. There might be a miracle awaiting you?
  4. Verse 29 is a wow verse! Sometimes we don’t obey God because we don’t know what He wants us to do. Keep praying, keep studying God’s Word, He will speak to you!
  5. The Pharisee Gamaliel gives some interesting advice to the council in verse 38-39. How can you apply this advice to situations in your life?

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 33- Shelter From The Storm
Deuteronomy 34- Big Shoes

Resurrection From The Dead

Acts 4:2 
“…..they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

The greatest tragedy in human history was the day Christ died. The true sinfulness of mankind was expressed as the world turned on Christ, as if to say, “We won’t have this man ruling over us.” In an attempt to rid the world of Him, they nailed Him to the cross and watched Him die. In contrast to the darkness of that hour, heaven’s great light shone forth as Jesus rose from the dead, gaining victory over death, hell, and sin. The Resurrection is heaven’s great triumph.  The resurrection, proves the claims of Christ. When asked for a sign Jesus declared,

“ An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:39-40

Essentially, He was saying, “In addition to fulfilled prophecy, the miracles I performed, and the lives I have changed, the only sign I will give you, is that I will rise again.” Death could not hold Him down, the grave could not keep Him in. The Son of God rose from the dead triumphantly, assuring us all, His promises are true.

But the Resurrection proves something else. Not only are we guaranteed Jesus is who He said He was, but we are guaranteed there is more to life than this temporal existence. Paul declared,

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”                1 Corinthians 15:20-22

The term “first-fruits” refers to the fruit on the tree that ripened first. When Israel gathered these fruits, they would celebrate, partly because they had a taste of the harvest, and partly because they knew a much greater harvest awaited them. The resurrection of Christ is like that. We celebrate that He conquered death and was raised in a glorified body, never to die again. We also rejoice in knowing, when this life comes to an end, as it will for each of us, we can be assured there is eternity.

One day, we will all breathe our last in these earthly tents. Those who have trusted Christ for salvation, will awaken in glory. The tent will be cast off, and replaced with a glorious body, designed never to wear out, but to last for all eternity. Rejoice today, as we look with anticipation to the great hope of the Resurrection.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 4

  1. The Sadducees were “disturbed” that Peter and John were teaching the resurrection of Jesus and had them taken into custody until the next day. Yet how many believed in spite of the Sadducees actions?
  2. Again as with Jesus, the religious group of the day, the Sanhedrin, brought Peter in for questioning. Have you ever had to take a stand for Christ?
  3. Trials and struggles come our way always. We see 3 important disciplines that Peter and John practiced in verse 24-30, worship, prayer and scripture. Are you including these in your daily routine?
  4. Verse 32 through the end of the chapter show an interesting concept for the early church. In what ways is the Lord nudging you? Be obedient and see what blessing the Lord brings into your life!

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 31- Life Lessons
Deuteronomy 32- What’s In It For Me?

What I Do Have I Give

Acts 3:6
“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, . . .’”

Peter makes reference to a simple rule of life. We can only give away what we personally possess. By his own admission, Peter had no money to give this man. It is interesting to note that from an economic standpoint, Peter’s condition was no different than the beggar’s. In the world’s estimation, a man in his thirties who is too broke to share his change with a beggar, is of very little value. Peter would not make a who’s who list in the 1st Century. However, if we look more closely, we see that Peter possessed something far greater than riches that tarnish and fade. Peter said,

“. . .what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
 Acts 3:6

Flat broke, jobless, and in a city that was not his home, Peter had more to offer this world than Pilate, Herod, and all the powers of Rome combined. Peter knew Jesus.

I wonder about you and me. What do we possess? If we were stopped on the street and searched, would they be able to find that Jesus resides and reigns in our heart and lives? It is when we allow Jesus to take possession of us, that we find we possess Him. It is when we allow Him to have all of our lives: our thoughts, actions, dreams, possessions, and futures, that we find, like the Psalmist of old, “Our cup runs over.”

What do you possess this morning? Is it Jesus? Could you give Him to the stranger on the street, or the person sitting near you at church, or the family member who is struggling to find meaning in life? Let’s determine together to make it our aim to know Jesus better so, through our lives, the lame may walk and the lost be found.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 3

  1. Peter in John became men of prayer, as they learned from Jesus. How much time do you spend seeking the Lord and developing your relationship with Him?
  2. Sometimes we feel we need to give monetarily or in some other physical way. Peter and John gave an interesting thing here in verse 6. Is this your first choice in time of need?
  3. After this miracle, Peter immediately gives all the credit to the Lord. He disassociates himself from the miracle and points people to Jesus. He preaches what according to verse 19.
  4. God sent Jesus to bless you (or to make happy). Is the blessing of God ruling your life?

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 29- Hidden Things
Deuteronomy 30- Choose Life

Pour Out Your Spirit

Acts 2:4
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”

The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind all the ministry that will take place in the book of Acts. Jesus had commanded His disciples to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel message, but before they went, they were to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Their personal lives, their ministries, and their world, would forever be changed because the Holy Spirit came upon them.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on His church and the individual Christian, is a work of God. Jesus promised He would baptize them with the Holy Spirit. However, that does not mean the disciples played no part in the event. I think it is important that we understand their involvement, as the promise of God was being fulfilled in them.

First off, they were obedient to the Word. Jesus commanded them to wait in Jerusalem, and wait they did. Next, we find them in prayer. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to those who ask; but He also explained that we should ask persistently. Jesus told a story of a man who knocked on his neighbor’s door in the middle of the night seeking bread. He continues to knock until the man gave him what he was seeking. The man finally gave in because of the persistence of the petitioner (Luke 11:5-8). Jesus is not teaching us to bug our neighbors to get what we want. Instead, His point was to teach the need for persistent prayer for the Holy Spirit. Finally, they were in one accord. Rather than bickering about petty things, or focusing upon their differences, they were all together with a heart and mind fixed on their need for more of Jesus. It was in this setting, that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon His church. The lives of these men and women were forever transformed.

There is no special formula behind receiving the Spirit and gifts of God. I am not suggesting that we must travel to Jerusalem, fill a room with 120 people, and wait ten days if we want to receive the Spirit of God.  I am saying,  we are active participants in the work of God. If we desire a greater work of God in our lives, we must obey Him and seek Him.

Let’s take some time this morning to ask God to fill us again with His Spirit. Certainly, the world is in desperate need of men and women who have been transformed by the power of God.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 2

  1. An exciting moment has taken place; the Holy Spirit has come on the Day of Pentecost. Verse 6 says “everyone heard them speak in his own language.” Verse 13 implies that some people thought they were drunk. Have you ever felt Gods Spirit move you to do something so amazing the world thought you were a bit intoxicated?
  2. In Peter’s first sermon, he quotes the prophet Joel 2:28-32. Remember there should always be a scriptural basis for what is happening in our lives by the Holy Spirit. What things do you see here?
  3. Peter also points out that the Crucifixion of Jesus was not an accident. His death was the plan of God. Read Psalm 16:8-11
  4. According to verse 33, where is Jesus now?
  5. The conviction of God moved on the people; what is Peter’s instruction?
  6. The instruction from God brought the most amazing gift from being obedient. How many were saved from this outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
  7. They continued “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Which of these areas is the Lord speaking to you about?

 

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 27- Choose
Deuteronomy 28- Head Or Tail

All He Began To Do

Acts 1:1
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, . . .”

The book of Acts is a sequel to the Gospel account, written by Luke. He declares, in this opening verse, the purpose for writing the Gospel account and the book of Acts. He states that the Gospel records what Jesus began to do; and the book of Acts, what He continues to do. Since Jesus is alive from the dead, the story of the Bible is a continuing one. John closed his Gospel account declaring that all the books in the world could not hold all that Jesus did for humanity. As amazing as it may seem, Jesus is not finished. The resurrection is not the end of the story. It is the transition point where the work of Jesus transfers from being accomplished outwardly through His life on earth, to the inward working of His Spirit in the life of all who believe.

Another thing that strikes me about Luke’s statement, is that he personally had so much to say. He is looking back to what Jesus has done, and looking forward to what Jesus will do. I think that is a great way to live. It would be wise for each of us to chronicle the things Jesus has done for us. Perhaps taking the time to make a list of all the things that have been accomplished as a result of your positive response to the Gospel message. In Ephesians, Chapter 1, Paul records that Jesus chose us, predestined us, adopted us, accepted us, redeemed us, forgave us, is coming back for us, and has filled us with His Spirit to guarantee that we belong to Him. Paul also recognized that “He who had begun a good work in Him would complete it” (Philippians 1:6).

Take some time to reflect on all that Jesus has done for you, and look forward with expectation to the things He still desires to accomplish. It may be that He will turn another fisherman into the world’s greatest fisher of men.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Acts 1

  1. How many days was Jesus seen after His resurrection?
  2. In verse 4, the disciples were commanded by Jesus not to depart from Jerusalem, but to “wait for the Promise of the Father”. What promise were they waiting for?
  3. After receiving ________ from the Holy Spirit, what were they instructed to do?
  4. Verse 11 states this same Jesus will return in like manner. How often have you heard other ways that Christ will return?
  5. The disciples, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus and His brothers were “all in one accord in prayer & supplication”. What does it mean to you to “be in one accord”?
  6. Peter explains the fall of Judas and quotes Psalm 69:25. The disciples come to an agreement to replace Judas with Matthias. How did they come to the conclusion to pick Matthias?

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 25- Forty Lashes
Deuteronomy 26- A Great Nation

Follow Me

John 21:19
“Follow Me.”

Much has happened since Peter first met Jesus. In a few short years, it seems as though a lifetime has transpired. Peter, the fisherman, has become Peter, the apostle. The young man who used to spend his days on the Sea of Galilee pursuing fish, is now a man who has spent over three years fishing for men. I imagine, at one time, his stories were all about his biggest catch, or perhaps times of weathering one of the storms for which the Sea of Galilee was famous.  Now his stories would include tales of praying for the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. Certainly, life had changed for the young fisherman from Galilee. Along with change, came true spiritual development. The Peter who first met Jesus, was not the same Peter we see standing here. Sure, he still had his setbacks, but life with Jesus had changed him. Later, we read that even unbelievers recognized that spending time with Jesus changes men.

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

That being said, I am struck by the commission Jesus gives to Peter. He simply says, “Follow Me.” those are the same words, the same call, the same commission Peter heard when he began his journey with Jesus. All the growth, all the ministry, all the experience, would never change the basic call of God on Peter. He was never called to change the world, but to simply and continually follow Jesus.

Things are the same for me and you. When we first heard the Gospel, we heard Jesus say, “Follow Me.” No matter how long ago that may have been, no matter how closely you have walked with Him, or how far you have fallen; regardless of what mission trips, Bible studies or worship teams, you have been involved in, the commission remains the same. Jesus wants you to follow Him.

I have always loved that first call on the life of Peter, when Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). It greatly encourages me to know, when I follow Jesus, He will make the changes in me so that I become the man He intends for me to be.

Let’s recommit ourselves today, to be followers of Jesus. Let’s determine we will go the way He is going, and be involved in the things He wants for our lives. As we do, He will make us into who He wants us to be.

“Follow Me.”

Pastor Jim

Questions for John 21

  1. The disciples had all received the Holy Spirit in the last chapter, and were born again. Yet in verses 1-3 we see them going back to the old way of life. How many of them are in this story? Who led the charge back to the old life?
  2. At the end of verse 3, what was the result of going back to the old life?
  3. After the miraculous catch of fish, who realizes who is on shore? How does Peter respond when he finds out it is Jesus?
  4. What does Peter do with his coat? I’m so glad Jesus chose this guy.
  5. Presumably, the disciples were fishing to provide for their own needs. However, read Luke 5:4-10.   What did Jesus say at the end of Luke 5:10? Now look at verses 9-13 of John 21. What did Jesus already have waiting for them on the shore?
  6. In verses 15-17, we see Jesus restoring Peter to ministry by giving him three opportunities to affirm his love for Jesus, even as he had denied that love three times earlier. What does Jesus tell Peter to do?
  7. History tells us that Peter died by crucifixion. When he began to be crucified he requested that it would be upside down, as he did not feel that he was worthy to die the same way as his Lord. Verses 18 and 19 record Jesus prophesying Peter’s eventual crucifixion. Would you say that Peter proved that He did love Jesus?
  8. Peter does not like this prophecy, and essentially asks, “What about John? What’s going to happen to him?” How does Jesus respond to this question in verse 22? Is it a good thing to compare ourselves to others? Instead of that, what should we be busy doing?
  9. Throughout the gospel of John, John does not identify himself by name. However, read verses 20-24 and note how his identity is revealed.
  10. Consider verse 25. The gospels are not an exhaustive record of all that Jesus did. That would be impossible to record. However, taken as a whole, they are a very complete picture of our Lord.

 

Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 23- Sharing Is Caring
Deuteronomy 24- Happy Marriage

Jesus The Gardener

John 20:15 
“She, supposing Him to be the gardener, .
 . .”

Mary saw Jesus, but the circumstance she was in, and the experiences she was facing, caused her to conclude that He was a gardener. It was not until she heard His Word, that she clearly understood who He really was.

It interests me how many different, even opposing views, people develop regarding Jesus. These views have two things in common. First, they are usually forged as a result of personal experience, and second, they are always formed without the illumination of Scripture. Some consider Jesus to be a good person who was misunderstood; others, a mythical figure; while till others, use portions of Scripture to develop a hybrid Jesus, who bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible.

This is not only true of the unbeliever or the seeker, it is also true of the Christian. How often do we allow the circumstances of life to shape our view of Christ? When we are facing hardship, we think of Him as unloving, distant or even weak. While blessings cause us to think of Him as loving and kind. It is not our circumstances, but His Word, that defines Him. When we will listen to His Word, we will see who He truly is, and how He wants to work in our circumstances.

Never limit Jesus to what you understand of Him; He is so much greater than that. Let His Word define Him as you worship Him.

Pastor Jim

Questions for John 20

  1. In verses 1-9 a body is missing from the tomb, but no risen Savior, yet. What three individuals examine the tomb?
  2. Read verse 9. Although Jesus had taught them that He would die and rise again in the fulfillment of the Scriptures, they didn’t understand. Does not understanding something mean that it is not true? Have you ever had 20/20 hindsight (spiritually speaking) on a circumstance that was difficult to understand while you were going through it?
  3. Read verses 10-11. Where do the disciples go? Where does Mary go? Why do you think she did?
  4. As Jesus begins to talk with Mary, she doesn’t recognize Him. What reasons could there be for that? Read Luke 24:15-16 for a possibility.
  5. Why were the disciples hidden in a locked room? What changed when Jesus arrived? (Verse 19-20)
  6. Read verse 22. Compare this with John 14:16-18. Did Jesus make good on this promise?
  7. How did Thomas respond to the news that Jesus had risen? (Verse 24-25)
  8. How did Jesus respond to Thomas’ doubt? (Verse 26-29)
  9. In verse 29 Jesus talks about how blessed those are who have not seen and yet believe. Who falls in to that category?
  10. According to verse 30-31, why was the Gospel of John written? Do you think this would be a useful book for a person to read who did not yet know Jesus?Old Testament:
    Deuteronomy 21- The Curse
    Deuteronomy 22- Torn Apart