The Growing Church

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47

It was exciting to read about such rapid growth in the early church. Clearly the fields were ripe unto harvest. There are places around the globe today that have such growth, and a lot of the growth is due to intense persecution. But you ask, “How could persecution lead to church growth? Doesn’t the church get smaller when pastors and laypeople are thrown into prison…or worse?” That would be the logical way to look at it, but God has a different view on that. The persecuted church tends to thrive because the Believers there do not play games with their faith. They are true Believers or they are not; there’s no middle of the road Believer when jail time is very real.

The “logical” extension of that thought would be, “Shouldn’t we want to be persecuted if the church grows so quickly?” Well, churches and societies go through stages. When churches get too comfortable within society (and where you cannot tell the difference between the two), persecution comes in one form or another as a result of the passivity or lukewarmness.

To those who view the new president as someone who might usher in economic prosperity, be very careful. Economic prosperity does not equal moral prosperity. There is still a large segment of society that despises the Church and all it stands for. They are not backing down.

It’s imperative in these times that we draw near to God in whatever we do and say. As a pastor friend of mine used to say, “If we don’t humble ourselves, He may have to humble us.” Having God humble us, though, may be His indirect way of “adding to our number daily those who are being saved.”

Something to think about.

Please follow and like us:

And to Fellowship

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. Acts 2:42-43

Fellowship is an overlooked and underrated activity within the church. Without fellowship, though, life would be so much harder for all of us. Fellowship provides and encouragement and strength we need to go forward in life.

It’s certainly true: no man is an island. We need each other just as the early Believers needed each other.

Thank the Lord today for someone you haven’t seen in a while. Send them an email or call them. Do it today. You’ll be glad you did.

Please follow and like us:

Planting Those Seeds

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:40-41

Even after seeing the miraculous tongues of fire descending on people, and hearing the praises of God in their mother tongue, many did not believe. It largely depends on how hard (or soft) the heart is.

That’s why, as mentioned earlier, we have no idea what “stage” a person is in within the salvation continuum. What Peter said could be the 11th time a person heard the Gospel, or it could be her first. Many of those listening were no doubt casual observers of Jesus and His ministry. It’s different for every one of us.

Don’t be discouraged when you share your faith and “nothing” happens. You just never know how God can use your words in that person’s life. Just pray that the person will hear the Gospel in other ways as well, i.e, via TV, radio, billboards, etc.

Continue planting the seeds liberally and pray that they are planted on fertile hearts.

Please follow and like us:

The Deposit

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39

Once again, Peter gave the simplest of salvation messages. This time, however, he included the Holy Spirit as a “reward” for repenting and being baptized. Later Paul would describe the Holy Spirit as a deposit for our inheritance (Eph. 1:14 and 2 Cor. 1:22). The third person of the Holy Trinity resides in us.

Let that sink in.

How should that change the way we act and think? What about how we talk, even among close friends?

I know I’ve got some work to do.

Please follow and like us:

Varying Stages of Harvest

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Acts 2:36-37

The people listening to Peter were hungry for truth. They had seen the Holy Spirit move in people they knew. Peter explained the Good News to them, and their only possible response was, “What shall we do?”

Jesus said, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:36

We all have fields in varying stages of harvest. Peter preached to a very ripe harvest, but he had no idea what stage they were in.

A classmate of mine in Bible school was preaching in the subway on the way to church one morning. It was the train headed to the airport. After he finished a basic two-minute Gospel message, the people – mainly older tourists – gave him a hearty applause.

The very next week he preached the same message on the same train line at about the same time, and couldn’t get through 20 words without multiple interruptions by college aged kids. He never did finish preaching because he was shouted down so much.

Two audiences. Two very different stages of harvest.

You never know where someone is in their salvation continuum. Have they heard the Gospel once, twice, or 76 times? It’s very easy to “write somebody off” when they are initially opposed to or even hostile to the Gospel. God probably hasn’t written that person off.

That applies to salvation but it also applies to Christians and their walk with Christ. We never know where people are so we’ve got to be very careful to judge that person only in the same way we would want to be judged. Matthew 7:1

Please follow and like us:

The Aha Moment

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”‘

The Israelites listening to Peter knew that the Messiah would come from the lineage of David; they just didn’t know when and where. Nobody seemed to know, that is, until it was almost too late.

Jesus had lived among the people for 33 years. For 30 years He was just a regular guy, working as a carpenter. With the exception of Him teaching in the synagogue at the age of 12, He didn’t perform any miracles or teach great messages until He was 30 years old. Although having a perfect brother must have been interesting for his siblings. They knew He was different but probably couldn’t quite figure out why. Mary and Joseph definitely knew He was different.

So when Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of God, it sent shock waves throughout His community. Everyone would be watching closely to truly examine this man who claimed to be God’s son. The leaders were hoping to catch Him in inaccuracies and outright lies. The people, on the other hand, looked to Him for hope, though they may not have expressed it that way. They knew the Messiah would come to them “soon,” but why would He come during their time on earth?

Then, just as they were trying to figure it out, He was crucified and buried. There went their hope, in the grave.

But we know the rest of the story. The people Peter was addressing probably knew some of the rest of that story too. When something this spectacular happens, people hear about it one way or another. Peter was merely filling in the details.

We don’t always get details about life events that happen to us. Most of the time we get bits and pieces. That’s more than enough to trust God. We may not like it, nor do we understand it, but the information is just enough.

Please follow and like us:

Now is Good

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Acts 2:22-28

Peter threw some heavy accusations at his listeners. He accused them of crucifying Christ. But he softened the blow by telling the full story of His burial and resurrection. Were they actually there hammering the nails and thrusting the spear? No, probably not. He died for sinners, and every one listening to Peter was a sinner.

When I first became a Believer, I was trying to explain this concept to a co-worker. I remember saying, “You nailed Him to the cross.” Immediately he said, “Hey now, wait a minute. I may have done some very bad things in my life, but you can’t pin that one on me!”

The truth is, though, our sin sent Him to the cross. We are not innocent. But fortunately it didn’t end there because Peter finished the story.

It’s our story too. It’s the Gospel in a few sentences. Don’t underestimate the power of those few words spoken at just the right time in someone’s life.

When is that “right time?” Now is probably a good time.

Please follow and like us:

Getting Antsy for His Return

16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ Acts 2:16-21

This passage was written hundreds of years before Peter spoke it. Each generation has had to come to grips with its meaning for their generation.

“In the last days” is quite subjective since there is no time frame of reference given. We are seeing some of this prophecy being fulfilled in our day. Think of the Muslim men and women who have no physical witness in country dreaming vivid dreams about Christ and Christianity.

When Peter taught this, it was obvious that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on those in that house. They were living out some of these verses. As we continue our walk through this book we will see more visions, dreams, and prophecies.

So, were the disciples living in “the last days?” Yes they were, and they probably believed they were too.

Are we then living in the last days? Yes, and we believe we are, though most do not believe we are in the Book of Revelations territory for end times scenarios.

Each day we live is one day closer to His return. Every generation since Christ believed they were close to those final days. As societies change and devolve day by day, His return does seem imminent.

And as each day passes, we say, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come!”

Please follow and like us:

Captive Audience

12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! Acts 2:12-15

Have you ever witnessed something that just stuns you, where you ask, “What was THAT all about?”

God had poured out the Holy Spirit on His followers and there was a crowd of witnesses who were genuinely puzzled by the event. They had never seen anything like it but they were certainly listening to any answers that would help solve that question.

It’s an interesting scenario because to my knowledge, Peter was just an ordinary fisherman. A few weeks prior to this event he had stood up to lead his fellow Believers as they chose a twelfth disciple, he was not an accomplished public speaker.

But now his first “congregation” was in front of him, Jews who had just witnessed something remarkable, and in their mother tongue. Peter had a “captive audience.” They weren’t going anywhere because Peter was getting ready to tell them what they all wanted to know.

I recall having numerous captive audiences when I was in a foreign country. Many would ask, “Why are you here?”

Jesus himself had times like these as well. As the Son of God, He came from a Heaven above to this place called Earth. You can almost see the people scratching their heads, “Why did He leave His home in Glory for this?”

For three years He told them.

Throughout our days, we can have these moments as well, especially when we’re ministering to those in need. That extra mile we go for others could become a starting point for questions like these.

Please follow and like us: