They Could Not Be Stopped

They were cursed.

They were threatened.

They were hunted.

They were jailed.

They were whipped and beaten.

They were killed.

But the message of Jesus’ disciples could not be stopped.

Gamaliel advised the religious leaders in Acts 5 – “Therefore, in the present case, I advise you: leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” vs 38-39.

jesus-was-not-of-human-origin

The verdict is in.

Jesus was not of human origin.  His Great Commission for his disciples – then and now – to go into all the world and preach the Gospel making new disciples was not of human origin.

When they tried to stop the Good News of Jesus from spreading, the Pharisees found themselves fighting against God.  You know how well that worked.

How many believers are there in the world?  How many churches?

How many Bibles do you have in your house?

God was not stopped…..

and he will not be stopped.

We know the end of this story.

With Jesus

They were unschooled, ordinary men.

But the religious leaders were astonished as Peter and John stood in front of them, telling them what they knew about Jesus.  These fishermen were eloquent and compelling.  They were passionate and knowledgeable.

It was clear to those listening to Peter and John that these men had been with Jesus  –

and Jesus had transformed them.  Something was significantly different about Peter and John.

* Jesus had redeemed their lives from sin and death and given them the power of the Holy Spirit who was now living inside of them.

* They spoke with authority about their personal experiences with Jesus.

* They had courage beyond that of a normal person.

The religious leaders didn’t know what to say or do so they let Peter and John go with a warning not to speak of Jesus again.

“But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you or to him?  You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4: 19-20.

Brave.

Committed.

Not intimidated by the those in positions of power.

Nothing was going to stop Peter and John from sharing their personal experience with Jesus.  We know the truth about Jesus today because they did not stop talking about what they had seen and heard.

Dear Father, Please help us be as brave and committed as Peter and John with sharing what we know about Jesus.

Today

It should have been me.

The thief up on the cross next to Jesus was sentenced to die for the bad things he had done.

That was me….before I put my faith in Jesus.

My rebellion, self-centeredness, and lack of compassion are a few of the reasons I should have been on that cross.

The Great News is Jesus was up there on the cross for me…..and for you.  He who knew no sin became sin for us.  He bore the weight of all of the world’s sin – once and for all.  You and I can be redeemed from spiritual death by accepting the free gift of salvation that only Jesus can give.

As I read this account in Luke 23, I visualize Jesus turning to me, looking me in the eye and saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” vs 43.

For the thief, it was that day.  Oh, glorious day!

For me, it probably won’t be today – although it could be.

And I’m ready.

There will come a day for me when it is ‘today’ because I have committed my heart and life to Jesus.  This passage in the Bible reassures me.  The thief did nothing to earn his way into heaven.  He put his faith in Jesus and it was done.  He didn’t say a prayer or say specific words and he was never baptized.  Jesus knew the thief’s heart just like Jesus knows my heart.

This passage also tells me there is no waiting – no purgatory, no additional steps.

Today.

In paradise.

Thank you, Jesus 

He Prayed for Me

And he prayed for you.

One of my favorite things about the Chronological Bible is we are reading about Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

It’s so appropriate!

The holiday reminds me to be thankful and God’s Word reminds me the most important thing to be thankful for – Christ’s sacrifice for me.

For God so loved the world…

Life everlasting with my Abba Father.

I love reading the prayer of Jesus in John 17.  He included us as he prayed to his Father for his disciples. “My prayers is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (vs 20-23)

We know Jesus because the disciples faithfully shared with others the Truth they had seen and heard.   And we pay it forward by sharing what we have seen and heard about the Jesus with others…

in gratitude for what Christ did for us.

May we be found faithful witnesses to your love and grace, Abba Father.

Do It!

Do you have questions about what God wants you to do?

Do you have various options but you aren’t sure which one is the right one?

One of the huge benefits of faithfully reading God’s Word is how clearly God answers these questions for me. God is constantly pointing out my priorities.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mathew 22: 36-39.

These are the top two. Love God. Love others. I need to do these – all day, every day.

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus has some more clear directions to those of us who have put our faith in him.

“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13.

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14.

How am I supposed to be light? Our dark world needs a lot of light, doesn’t it? I am Christ’s hands and feet on this earth. When I share his love and truth, I am spreading his light. When my life and attitude are different in a positive way from the darkness that is quickly spreading across our country, my life shines for Christ.

How am I supposed to be salt? I need to be engaged in my culture, sprinkling God’s love over the people around me. When I’m living my faith out loud I bring the flavor of Christ – his caring, forgiveness and truth – with me where ever I go.

When I have options and choices, these scriptures help me decide. Which option helps me show my love for God and love other’s the most? What choice is the best in making my life salt and light in my corner of this earth?

What about you? What does it mean to you when Jesus says you are the salt and light of the world?

He challenging us – are we accepting that challenge?

There is no time better than today to do it!

Please light up our paths, Abba Father, and guide our steps.

Surrounded

“I have a problem with anxiety.”

“I’m going to need to take an extra anxiety pill”

“I get so anxious”

“My whole family has issues with anxiety.”

I’m hearing these statements from people in the world around me and I feel like I’m surrounded by anxiousness.

Don’t get me wrong – I have moments of anxiety. Who doesn’t in our crazy culture?

But then I remember what Jesus says to me in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

‘Burdened’ means ‘anxious’ to me. You and I are burdened when we start to worry about all the things we’re not in control of. We are burdened when we focus on all the negatives in our lives. We are burdened when we become afraid of the unknowns – all those terrible things that could happen to us and the people we love.

Jesus gives me rest for my soul when I listen to his voice and lay at his feet all the things that make me anxious. His yoke is easy and his burden is light because he can be trusted. He loves me and has promised to work it all out for my good.

Nothing is impossible for him.

As I keep my eyes focused on Jesus each day, anxiety fades away.

Thank you, Jesus.

What Am I Supposed to do?

When the path right in front of me looks like its straight up hill.

When the issue confronting me is big

and confusing

and scary

and heart-breaking.

When I am threatened on all sides by more problems, more sadness, more darkness.

What am I supposed to do?

Have you been there?

Have you felt the weight of too many responsibilities and so much conflict?

When Nehemiah found himself in this type of situation, he turned to God and prayed “Now strengthen my hands.”(6:9)

please-strengthen-my-hands

Nehemiah had groups of powerful people plotting against him as he led the Jews in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  His enemies were trying to frighten the Jews so they would stop working on the wall.  But God answered Nehemiah’s prayers and the wall was eventually finished.

Is there something in your life that looks like its impossible to accomplish?  Impossible to fix?

Give it to God.  Ask him to strengthen your hands and then trust that he is answering.  He may use you like he did Nehemiah to actually orchestrate the answer.  Or  he may want your strong hands to be folded in prayer before him, admitting your dependence on him and remaining faithful while he works all things out for your good.

Either way,  God’s got this.

Please strengthen our hands, Abba Father.

Try It

I would normally tell you from experience that it’s not a good idea to test God. You won’t like consequences. God wants us to have faith in him and trust him, not test him.

With one exception.

There is one place in the Bible where God says, “Test me”.

He knows all the issues we have with money – it quickly becomes our god, we always want more and we’re willing to sacrifice our families to get it, we have trouble giving generously, we get in such deep debt that we think we can’t give.  Just to name a few.

God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10.

I have attended a couple of different churches who sponsor a 90 day challenge for giving to God.  People tithe for 90 days – no cheating because nothing is hidden from God – and they watch God move in their finances.  If they don’t see God move, they get their money back.

Nobody has ever asked for their money back because God always moves.  I love it!  Test him!

And you will find out what those of us that have committed to tithing have found out – the refunds, checks for overpayment and unexpected credit to our accounts start rolling in.   Regular stories like this –

I had a dental claim paid by my insurance a couple of years ago and the medical assistant looked at me with surprise when she handed me back a check for $900. She told that insurance NEVER covers this part of the procedure but they did for me. Thank you, God!

The air conditioner in our home recently started making a very loud and worrying noise. Our house is 15 years old and the air conditioner is original to the house so you know what we thought – time for a new air conditioner. Nope! It was fixed for the cost of a service call. I always give God the credit for anything like this that happens to us because I know he’s watching over us.

You would hear these kinds of stories from anyone who has committed to tithe.  God is faithful and we can count on him to respond when we are generous givers. I believe God moves in how often our cars break down and how quickly appliances stop working. If we are stingy with God, we don’t need to be surprised when we spend that money anyway on repairs and unexpected bills.

God is a good Father and he wants to teach us the right way to handle our money. Test him!

Through the years, my husband and I have donated two of our older cars to charity because we know God will bless us more for that than what we could sell them for.  We donated a 2 year-old refrigerator to a church mission for the same reason.  God knows.

When you and I faithfully tithe, we are putting our finances under the umbrella of God’s blessing.  When we do that, he not only blesses our finances, he pours other blessings into our lives as well.  These are things that money can’t buy – like joy, love and purpose.  And more.

So much more pours out that it fills us up and starts to spill over to the people around us.  The windows of heaven open up for us when we get our money in line with God.  The more we give, the more we have.  That’s God’s math.  We cannot outgive God.

If you don’t have any of these stories, go ahead and test God!  I know what will happen.

Thank you for your faithfulness with our finances, Abba Father.

How Did I Get Here?

I have a story.

You have a story.

How did we get here? Tell me about the mountains you climbed and I’ll tell you about the valleys I’ve struggled through.

God tells us in Psalm 107 that we all need to share our stories.  “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story.” Psalm 107: 2.

Each of us has a unique tale to share.

Some of us have wandered, looking for a place to belong. We were hungry for love, starving for a purpose. When we cried out to God, he drew us closer to himself – to the place he made just for us. God gave us a purpose to get up every morning.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

Others of us lived in darkness, bound by chains of rebellion and addiction, stumbling through life with no help in sight. But we cried out to the LORD and he brought us out of the utter darkness, breaking all of our chains.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

Some of us made very foolish decisions and were suffering through the consequences of those to the point of thinking that death might be an option.  But, instead, we turned to God for help and he healed us, rescuing us from the living death we found ourselves in.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

Others of us have experienced violent storms in our lives as huge waves of pain and grief washed over us. When our courage and strength were gone, we finally cried out to the LORD and he “stilled the storm with a whisper” (Psalm 107:29), calmed the waves and guided us home to him.

Let us tell our story, giving thanks to God for he is good.

My story is that I have loved Jesus my entire life but I had never made him Lord of my life. In my young adulthood I decided to wander – trying out all the ‘fun’ things the world had to offer. It seemed great at first but gradually my life because very empty, my soul was constantly searching for real joy. So I called out to God who made it very clear to me that he had never left me. When I turned back to him, I found him waiting for me with open arms.

When I got off the throne of my life and put Jesus on it, I found the joy I had been looking for.

God has been drawing me closer to him as I travel this Journey towards the Truth each day. I have left the emptiness and darkness behind, finding meaning and light because I put God first in my life. 

I will continue to tell my story for the rest of my life, giving thanks to God for he is good.

I See His Work

What do you do in a thunderstorm? Check out the clouds? Watch the wind rip through the trees? Count the seconds between the flash of the lightening and the roll of thunder?

I recently spent a week by Lake Okoboji in Iowa which is near where I grew up. It’s a beautiful lake surrounded by lots of vacation homes, condos and hotels. One of the days I was there it rained and it reminded me of one of my favorite things about this part of the country. It’s farmland as far as you can see but there is no irrigation here – God himself waters this land. I remember several times as a kid when the farmers needed more rain. So we had a prayer meeting. And when we had a prayer meeting for rain, the large church I grew up in was full – wall to wall people, standing room only. Everyone around my hometown knew who watered their crops and our town’s economy depended on those crops.

As I read God’s Word in the book of Job I am remembering what it felt like sitting in my cabin by the lake, listening to it rain and thunderstorm, saying ‘wow’ when the thunder clapped very loudly right over us and watching the bright show of lightening cracking across the lake.

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;

he does great things beyond our understanding.

He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’

and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour”.

So that everyone he has made may know his work,

he stops all people from their labor.

The animals take cover;

They remain in their dens.

The tempest come out from it’s chamber,

the cold from the driving winds.

The breath of God produces ice,

and broad waters become frozen.

He loads the clouds with moisture;

he scatters his lightening through them.

At his direction they swirl around

over the face of the earth

to do whatever he commands them.” Job 37: 5-12.

God definitely had the attention of everyone around the lake that day. It was impossible to ignore his work.

Do you know the benefits that God has packed into a rainstorm like that?

  • the obvious one is the rainfall – growing the crops and providing grass to feed the animals.
  • rainstorms are natural air-conditioners – cooling the air and the land.
  • lightening provides nitrogen which fertilizes the soil and provides protein for the animals.
  • rainstorms remove pollution in the air, cleaning it.

I may not understand a lot of things God does, but when I feel the rain, hear the thunder and see the lightening, I know that God is providing for us and taking care of us.

Thank you, Abba Father.