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Humility

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And now, the rest of the story

Apollos was an eloquent preacher. He was well-versed in the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew his stuff. But he wasn’t “up to snuff”.

In today’s Bible reading, Dr. Luke tells us about an Alexandrian preacher named Apollos. Look at the positive words Dr. Luke uses to describe him: eloquent, competent in the Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus. (Acts 18:24-26)

But Luke adds that Apollos only knew of John’s baptism. So Aquilla and his wife Priscilla take him aside and teach him more accurately. What was lacking? What needed clarification?

If Apollos only knew of John’s baptism, he didn’t know about the Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection. Those are some very important things! The Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection are what make Christianity more than just another religion or a cult of Judaism. With those two realities, Believers are empowered to live the life that the Jewish Law prescribed. Radio commentator Paul Harvey would have said that the Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection are “the rest of the story”.

Application

Yes, Apollos preached about Jesus accurately. But he needed to know — and experience — more accurately. And by taking him aside and explaining the rest of the story, Aquilla and Priscilla changed his trajectory from being an eloquent preacher to being an empowered preacher. Being eloquent wasn’t enough for Apollos. And it isn’t enough for you or me. We also must be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live the obedient life to which we’ve been called.

It’s relatively easy for someone to go out and get an education and then teach the truths of the Bible. But being empowered by the Holy Spirit takes the education to “a-whole-nother” level. God doesn’t want us to simply transfer knowledge from one person’s head to another person’s head. God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) as the Holy Spirit applies the truths to our hearts.

Are you being renewed? Are you seeking to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit? (Ephesians 5:18)

Don’t settle with mere head-knowledge.

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As I read today’s Bible reading, I was reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well: One conversation leads to an entire village coming out to hear more.

Paul is in Antioch of Pisidia on the Sabbath. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets (The Old Testament), the synagogue leaders open up the floor, asking for people to speak encouraging words to the people. Paul steps forward and briefly recounts the history of the people of Israel. Paul quotes a few Psalms and points out that Jesus was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures. (Acts 13:33-35)

As the people left the synagogue, they asked the Apostles to tell them more the next week. On the next Sabbath, more people — Jews and Gentiles — showed up because of the news that had spread through the community throughout the week. Many people were saved in the hearing of God’s Word. But division arose from the Judaizers, those who said that you had to be a good Jew if you wanted to be a good Christian. The Judaizers stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, who were then invited to leave the region.

Their response to the persecution is typical of the Apostles: They rejoice in their persecution. Instead of being discouraged and withdrawing, they are emboldened!

Application

How do you respond when you encounter persecution? I mean real persecution. Most Christians in Western society don’t have a clue what it’s like to be persecuted. We think we’re persecuted when we can’t say “Merry Christmas” and wear a cross necklace. No, real persecution occurs when people want to kill you. Real persecution occurs when people hate you for your Christian faith.

But there is subtle persecution that we may experience, such as the “Merry Christmas” greeting and religious display restrictions. In those cases, how do you respond? Do you feel threatened? What about when people make fun of you because of your faith? How do you respond then?

The Biblical response is not to assume a victim mentality. Instead, the Biblical response is to rejoice that you are worthy of their disrespect … just like Jesus was.

When you experience religious persecution — and you will — take joy! Be encouraged! And be emboldened!

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waiters

In today’s Bible reading, the Apostles come to a point where they realize they can’t do it all. And that’s a good thing!

People began accusing the Apostles of overlooking the Hellenistic (Gentile) widows and giving preference to Jewish widows. That may or may not have been the case, but the accusation was made.

Rather than deny that there was a problem or telling the people to get over it, the twelve Apostles summoned the help of other believers. “We can’t do it all. Actually, trying to do it all is causing us to neglect our main calling. We need help. We — the ordained — need to delegate all of the ministry activities to you — the ordinary — so that we can dedicate ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6:2-4)

At this point, the Apostles more deeply understood the ramifications of the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-29. The Holy Spirit would empower ordinary people — not just ordained people — to do the work of ministry. The Kingdom-sized task of expanding the Kingdom of God through reaching out and equipping would require the gifts of Kingdom Citizens. For this specific task, they appointed only seven. Seven men, full of the Holy Spirit would serve tables. Seven men, full of the Holy Spirit would do menial — and important life-affirming and life-sustaining — tasks. Yes, even menial tasks require the equipping power of the Holy Spirit.

Application

No task in the Kingdom of God can be done adequately without the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Kingdom Citizens. No task. Even serving food to widows.

If serving food to widows requires Holy Spirit empowerment, how much more does administering the business of the church, teaching and discipling, hospitality, evangelism, and church planting? How much more does preaching and leading of worship of the King?

No Kingdom Citizen can fulfill his/her Kingdom calling without being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Are you walking in His power? Are you relying on Him to guide and direct you in whatever ministry He has called you to do?

Ask God to fill you anew today. Ask for a fresh outpouring on you and your tasks for today.

All Kingdom Citizens need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit because we all leak. (Ephesians 5:18)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:10–11 ESV)

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shadows

In today’s Bible reading, we see how people respond to the miraculous signs and wonders they witness at the hands of the Apostles. “They even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.” (Acts 5:15 ESV)

Any time we see a mighty move of God, we all want to get in on what God’s doing. But at the same time, we need to be careful with our response. It’s easy for our emotions to get ahead of our brains. And that’s what it sounds like Luke reports in Acts 5:15. Verse 16 seems to indicate that being in the path of Peter’s shadow actually caused people to be healed.

But notice that Luke is describing what happened. That’s the nature of the history genre, the type of writing of Acts. History describes what happened. And Dr. Luke was careful in both his Gospel and in Acts to faithfully describe what he learned in his investigation. (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2)

Amazing things were happening in the early days of the life of the church. God did some incredible things. But note that Luke doesn’t say that these things happened at any other time throughout the rest of Acts. Now, I’m not saying that God couldn’t keep on working these miracles. But it’s clear that Luke doesn’t mention it again after these two verses. (Acts 5:15-16)

It’s also important to note that no other New Testament writer mentions it anywhere in their writings either. Also absent is any instruction (even in Acts) which prescribes that people should try to arrange the infirmed so that Peter’s shadow could grace them and heal them.

Application

Before I go any further, let me say definitively that I believe that God is God and I’m not. God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, wherever He wants. I believe that the only expiration date God has placed on His gifts is the return of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 13:8–12 [note that we haven’t yet seen him “face to face”])

Now, having said that, I’ll add that when we read history, like Acts, we must remember that we’re reading descriptions (what happened), not prescriptions (how things are supposed to happen).

I hope you can see that we could get into a lot of trouble if we insist that all you need to do is go to a faith healing crusade and sit in the faith healer’s shadow to be healed. To do that is to force a meaning on the Bible text that simply isn’t there. And to do that is to put vulnerable people in very vulnerable situations where if they don’t get what they’re promised, they blame God. God is not honored by someone’s misuse and twisting of the Bible.

Can God heal and do miraculous things today? Absolutely! Can God use doctors and medicine? Absolutely. We’ll see when we get to Acts 28 that it’s wise to pray and seek medical help. Does God always heal and do miraculous things? Yes, but not on our timetable and not on our dictates.

God has not obligated Himself to do anything in response to our requests. We must always remember that God is God. And we aren’t.

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Image source GNPI

I’m sure they meant well, but Jesus has some choice words for His Disciples in today’s Bible reading. Parents bring their children to Jesus and the Disciples try to turn them away. Jesus responds in a way we wouldn’t expect — at least those who see Jesus as only a mild-mannered only-loving Savior.

Mark says that Jesus was indignant, a “strong word of deep emotion”. (Mark 10:14) AT Robertson adds, “Surely it ought to be a joy to parents to bring their children to Jesus, certainly to allow them to come, but to hinder their coming is a crime. There are parents who will have to give answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.”[1]

In fact, Jesus said that if someone does not receive the Kingdom of God as a child, they will not enter it. The word Mark uses for child means a child under school-age. There is an innocence in that age group. An innocence that is so trusting, so vulnerable and there’s no pretention.

Children are a big deal to God. In the Bible, children are seen as blessings from God. (Psalm 127:3) The concept of Gentiles as being adopted children of God is central to the Gospel Message. (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) Yes, as Robertson points out, parents will give an answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.

In contrast, in Western Civilization in the Twenty-First Century, children are merely commodities. Look at the way children are abused and trafficked. Look no further than Hollywood’s Michelle Williams. Last week as she clutched her “Best Actress” Golden Globe trophy, she said “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom. … I know my choices might look different but thank God or whomever you pray to that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours.”

Application

Yes, children are a big deal to God. We will give an answer to God for keeping children from coming to Jesus. We will give an answer to God for putting up obstacles in our own lives that would prevent our own children from coming to Him. And we will give an answer to God for the way we have treated children as pawns in our lives.

Everyone who comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ has to do so by laying aside agendas. Laying aside pretentions. Laying aside themselves. Coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ requires that we come on His terms, not ours. (Mark 8:34-36)

Yes, the Gospel Message is about forgiveness. The Gospel Message is about grace. The Gospel Message is about mercy. But forgiveness, grace, and mercy are only available as we come to terms with our guilt as sinners. As sinners, we deserve punishment. We deserve death. We owe a debt we cannot pay. But Jesus has paid a debt He didn’t owe.

Have you laid aside your pretentions? Have you come to God, simply trusting Him at His Word?

[1] Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.

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