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Archive for November, 2015

Verse 26: “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.”

Imagine you were preaching to crowds; many were coming to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and receiving the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by the apostles. Then, in the midst of this successful ministry, reaching masses of people, the Lord calls you to go minister…to one person. What’s more, instead of being in a nearby locale to where you are now, He says go to the desert…and wait. You and I might be wondering “what did I do wrong? Am I being punished?” Not Philip; he followed the Lord’s angel’s instructions without question or doubt. There, he was about to have an encounter that would be most memorable.

You never know when God is going to give you an assignment you weren’t expecting. One December, while my family and I were stopped in Auburn, we ate at the local mall. While getting some Chinese food, the Oriental young man behind the counter asked me, in broken English, about what did Christmas mean. I politely explained that there were two differing reasons for the holiday…the secular one that includes Santa Claus, and the real reason: the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on this earth, come to live as a man and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, dying for us and rising again. Then he asked something that was about as direct a question as I’ve ever gotten: “who is this Jesus?” I did my best to witness to him and to tell him; I even left my wife’s pocket New Testament with him and instructing him to start reading in John. We couldn’t stay long unfortunately, as we were travelling…but I did contact a local church in the area to seek him out. You never know when God is going to give you an assignment…are you ready for yours?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Verses 18-21: “And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.””

Luke Skywalker attempted to use the Force to lift his half-sunken X-wing fighter from the swamp on Dagobah. Master Yoda had told him the same Force which he used to levitate a rock was the same Force that could lift the heavy star-craft. Luke’s attempt failed and he turned away discouraged, believing the attempt to still be impossible. With a small look of disappointment on his face, Yoda concentrated, pointed, and not only raised the X-wing fighter out of the swamp, but levitated it over to the dry ground. As Luke looked on incredulously, all he could say to Yoda was, “I don’t believe it!”

Yoda’s classic reply? “That…is why you fail.”

This scene from The Empire Strikes Back came to mind when I read the below section of Acts 8. Simon the sorcerer had seemingly became a Christian convert, but in his heart, he didn’t believe. He still thought that the giving of the Holy Spirit through Peter and John to be some sort of magician’s trick that he could simply buy and then capitalize on. Peter tore into him, giving him a verbal rebuke that got Simon’s attention. He goes on in the next verse to encourage him to truly repent; Simon’s weak reply is to ask them to pray for him. You see, Simon wasn’t repentant…he just was sorry he got caught in his lie.

So for those considering becoming a Christian…remember in the ABC’s of becoming one, the ‘B’…stands for ‘believe’. Without that, you will fail.

Something to think about.

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Verse 13: “Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.”

When I was younger, I used to enjoy watching pro wrestling on TV with my father and with my brother. Now, of course, being an impressionable youth (read: naïve!), I thought the action was real, as well as all the bouts were unscripted. I’d follow along with the “story” that a bad guy had turned into a good guy, had teamed up with the good guy to take on opponents, only for the former bad guy to treacherously revert to being bad again in a match, bushwhacking the “unsuspecting” good guy. I thought that the bad guy had really repented of his “evil” ways and had become good. After all, his coming over to the good side seemed so “genuine”. Yes, I was naïve as a boy. 🙂

Here we have Philip in Samaria, preaching and spreading the Gospel. A magician of some renown named Simon began to see the miracles that Philip was performing in the name of Jesus Christ; what’s more, he heard the Good News that Philip preached. He too, “believed” and supposedly became a convert and “continued with Philip”. I was reminded of something that is best stated in my New Testament commentary: quoting the Holman New Testament Commentary on Acts, page 122: “Remember that the word believe does not always mean saving faith in the New Testament (John 2:23-25; Jas. 2:19).” The verse in James is just what came to my mind, when James speaks of some believing in God…James reminds them “good for you! The demons believe in God, too…and they tremble!” We’ll see Simon’s true colors when Peter and John come to town in the next verses.

Make sure you’re not a “bandwagon” fan, jumping to the side of the winning team just because all seams popular and happy. Make sure your belief…is genuine and for the right reasons. Remember…others are watching, so let others see Jesus in you!

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Verse 1: “Now Saul was consenting to his death.”

2 comic book characters come to mind when you speak of hero turning villain (from the classic origins…I realize DC Comics has been revamping their universe of characters, so I speak from the classic origins here, not retconned ones).

Mighty Adam was the choice of the wizard Shazam during the dynasties of Egypt to wield the gifts of the wizard to fight injustice. However, he had a taste of what that power could do, and wielded it selfishly, killing the ruler and making himself king. Shazam banished him, though he would later return with his new name, Black Adam. He became a chief antagonist against Shazam’s modern champion, Captain Marvel.

Sinestro was made a Green Lantern of the planet Korugar and served the Guardians faithfully, using his emerald ring and lantern to defend and to protect his planet and space sector. Again, power went to his head, and he allowed himself to “enjoy” the powers he wielded for personal gain. Banished by the Guardians to an anti-mater universe of Qward (where good is evil and vice versa), Sinestro fashioned a yellow power ring (yellow being a weakness in the green lanterns’/rings’ makeup) to get revenge. He, too, became an antagonist…this time, for Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Earth.

Both these men were heroes; both let power corrupt them; both became villains.

Here we have what will be the reverse: a zealous Jew named Saul, who saw the violence against Stephen…and endorsed it. He actually became emboldened by it, and turned himself into Public Enemy No. 1 for the Christian church. He became a hero in his own eyes (my wife’s pertinent observation here!)

But, God had other plans…

More to come!

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Verses 56,59,60: “and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son Man standing at the right hand of God!” And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

The mob.

I’ve seen actions taken by a mob that would not usually be taken by one lone individual. I have seen rational people on TV reports merge into one collective effort to spread chaos and violence, when ordinarily none would by themselves. I’ve seen groups of fans celebrate an athletic victory with good-natured cheering and yelling, but suddenly get out-of-control and raucous. I’ve seen groups of people oppose each other, when the conflict should’ve been peaceful demonstration and lawful enforcement, spiral into madness. Why? I don’t know…I wish I did.

The mob.

The Bible records that the Christian church will be persecuted in the last days; we see signs of persecution now. Only God knows what the future holds; He’s been in the past, He’s here in the present, and He’ll be there and already know the future.

What if you knew that you were about to deliver the last message you’d ever speak…what would you say? I pray that I would do as Stephen did, and have the courage and the faith to preach Jesus, to look forward to His glory, to prepare at death to see my Lord and my Savior in Heaven…and to ask God to forgive my perpetrators any wrongs against me, without malice or revenge in my heart.

To quote an old cliché: it’s always darkest before the dawn…but here comes the Son-rise!

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