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Showing posts from January, 2011

Focus, Attitude, and Action

6"Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought becauseGod, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
As a new week is starting, a month comes to an end and the issues we are facing worldwide continue to mount in severity, I encourage us to embrace these words as our standard for the various personal, national, and international challenges that are ahead of each of us.  It is quite easy to be intimidated by that which we don't understand - war, unrest, falling stock market values, crashing home sales, troubles in our homes or work environment, etc.  We can look at the challenges of our very own life and become discouraged by what seems to be mounting pressure to perform, crushing demands on our time/energy, and emotional highs/lows that keep us as unbalanced as a ride on a roller coaster.  Or...we can embrace the words of Moses to "…

Love is a learning experience

15 Look at what I've done for you today: I've placed in front of you
      Life and Good  - Death and Evil. 16 And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16)
Every new day brings the dawn of new choices - no two days are exactly alike in what will come across our paths.  We may believe our lives are "boring" and without any real sense of "difference" from day-to-day, but indeed, there are new choices each day.  We are told that we are faced with choices of life and good or death and evil.  Pretty heavy stuff, if you ask me.  The evidence is all around us - in what we choose to listen to, what we allow our eyes to take in, or what we attend our minds to consider.  Each entertained thought, internalized perception of sight, or message heard is an opport…

Shackles have no hold on us

1-4 That's when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members. He murdered James, John's brother. When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week, mind you—and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.  5All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.  6Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances! (Acts 12:1-6)
The message of Christ has always brought some form of conviction - some deal with that conviction with repentance, while others resist with all that is within.  Herod was the Roman ruler over Judea - his "title" was Herod,…

The strength of a leader

2 When good people run things, everyone is glad,
   but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans.  (Proverbs 29:2)
Much can be said about "good leaders", but the most frequent thing you will heard mentioned about "solid" leadership is the fact that people have no problem "getting behind them" in loyal support.  Good leadership does not mean that everyone agrees with every decision that is made, but that they can apply themselves to the vision of that leader and move forward in faith that the plans will accomplish the end result.  We find leaders in every area of our lives - at work, in our homes, in the community in which we reside, and over countries. In fact, we often fill the role of leaders in some arena of our lives. Leaders play an integral part in "directing" our future. Therefore, the leader must lead with integrity, passion and purpose - but the leader must also lead with interest in others, compassion, and openness of heart/mind.
I have bee…

Rewriting the Title Page of our Lives

19-21Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, "Isn't this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn't he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?"  22But their suspicions didn't slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah. (Acts 9:19-22)
Saul of Tarsus - the persecutor of the New Testament church - is now dedicated to the work of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.  He was called to be God's personal representative to the non-Jews (those with no real knowledge of the one true God), the…

Honesty opens the hearing

11-12"Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He's there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again."  13-14Ananias protested, "Master, you can't be serious. Everybody's talking about this man and the terrible things he's been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he's shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us."  15-16But the Master said, "Don't argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I'm about to show him what he's in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job."
(Acts 9:11-16)

Saul of Tarsus is best known to us by the name Paul.  As the story unfolds before us this morning, we see that Saul of Tarsus was out on a mission - destroy the …

Clear paths

8 Grow a wise heart—you'll do yourself a favor;
   keep a clear head—you'll find a good life.  (Proverbs 19:8)
Within these two sentences, two words give us direction, two words describe a condition, and two words reveal the focus.  The two words that give us direction are "grow" and "keep".  The two that describe a condition are "wise" and "clear". The two indicating the focus are "heart" and "head".  Let's dig a little deeper....
Two words of direction: Grow - the first thing that comes to mind when we consider growing is the natural outcome of development in which something or someone increases in size or capacity.  As we consider this in light of our Christian walk, we see growth as more than "natural" development - in also encompasses "supernatural" development.  That is the increase in our capacity that comes from time with Jesus.  One of the least common definitions of "grow" is th…

Intensity - directed focus

3-8And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail. Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus. Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah. When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God's action, they hung on his every word. Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way. And what joy in the city! (Acts 7:3-8)
Stephen was martyred for his faith - stoned on the outskirts of the city - guilty of nothing more than his passionate pursuit of Christ.  Saul was an onlooker to those events that day.  We read that he was there, congratulating the killers of Stephen.  Then scripture defines the "scattering of the believers" all over the world - because they wer…

The legacy of forgiveness

8Stephen, brimming with God's grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. (Acts 6:8)
51And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you're just like your ancestors. (Acts 7:51)
Our two passages today are taken from a very lengthy story of Stephen - a man appointed by the disciples to be a "deacon" in the church.  In his role as deacon, he was given the responsibility to make sure the widows, orphans, and poor were cared for.  His role as deacon allowed the disciples to go on with their work of spreading the gospel message - preaching, healing the sick, and sharing the good news that Christ was raised from the dead.  His ministry gained him some momentum and there were people who were a little "miffed" because they could not match his wisdom.  This is what we find in Acts 6:
But then some men from the meeting place whose membershi…

Engage in some "soul-talk"

1-2 O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I'll bless his holy name! O my soul, bless God, don't forget a single blessing!   3-5 He forgives your sins—every one. He heals your diseases—every one. He redeems you from hell—saves your life!  He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.  He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal. He renews your youth—you're always young in his presence.  (Psalm 103:1-5)
There are times when we need to remind our soul - mind, will and emotions - to bless God with all that we have within us.  Mind wanders, will is weak, and emotions pull us a thousand different directions.  David was not above the very struggle we face daily - to keep our attention on God.  He starts by telling us "how" we do that - we engage in "soul-talk".  Look at what David does - he focuses his mind on the things God has done in his life.  He recounts the blessings of God.  He determines to bless God - he makes it a matter of his will. In so doing, h…

Hope, Liberty and Power

38-39"So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!"  40-42That convinced them. They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus' name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute. (Acts 5:38-42)
The disciples have been making all kinds of new friends through the many converts to the Christian faith all over Jerusalem after the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.  Scripture tells us that people had mixed emotions as it came to accepting this move of God those many years ago.  In …

Pentecost - the Word made alive!

8-12With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: "Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I'll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is 'the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.' Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one."  13-14They couldn't take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so uprig…

Pentecost - are you ready for ignition?

36"All Israel, then, know this: There's no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross."  37Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?"  38-39Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites."  40He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!"  41-42That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
(Acts 2:36-42)

Pentecost has an effect on the …