Posts Tagged ‘disciples’

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”

We were doing some yard work recently, and my wife was complimenting me on the trimming of a small tree/bush near my son’s window. My wife noticed that some leaves poking out were different from the other leaves she saw. While she was looking at the leaves, I was tracing the branches down to the root. While we were discussing if it was the same plant or not, I commented, “Honey, you’re looking at the leaves, and I’m looking at the roots!” Sure enough, it turns out that new leaves were part of one tree, and the other leaves belonged to a second tree growing close alongside. To look at it from far off, you would think it was the same tree, but when you look closely, you see which tree which branch of leaves belongs to.

Jesus was telling His disciples that they cannot bear fruit unless they abide in Him. Just like a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is attached ultimately to the roots, we cannot bear Christian witness or works apart from Jesus Christ. He is our Source. When I was a little boy, my grandmother had some grapevines that strung across an old bed spring-like fencing. Unfortunately, also in this fencing was poison oak. I didn’t want to touch either because I couldn’t tell which was which. Of course, once the grapes started growing, I could easily tell where the true grapevine was.

Jesus also told his disciples that God “prunes” the good branches to produce more fruit; if He has branches not producing fruit, they are taken away. Once you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your salvation is guaranteed and you are going to Heaven. But we also need to use our gifts and abilities (that God gave us, by the way) to glorify Him and serve Him, else those gifts get rusty or fall into disuse…and what a waste of God-given talents that would be!

Tis better to be a fruit-producing branch of the True Vine; wouldn’t you agree?

Something to think about.

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Verses 4-5: “And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.”

Our previous pastor had been at our church for about 17 years; he was much beloved and respected. Once, he thought he felt God’s call to take a pastor position at another church way out of town. He wasn’t sure, so he coveted our prayers and he put some “fleeces” before God to answer. We didn’t want him to go, but we didn’t want him acting contrary to God’s will either. He was a man of God who wouldn’t ignore God’s calling. I personally wrote him a letter to read on the trip up that I tried to encourage him through. I also humorously asked in the letter “what side of the road do you want the burning bushes on, to tell you to come back?” 🙂 As it turned out, that wasn’t the move God wanted him to make, and he stayed with us a while longer. God eventually did call him back near his childhood home in north Georgia, and this time, there was no denying God’s signs. He is there now, leading that church in following the Lord.

Paul knew where he had to go; his road lead to Jerusalem. His friends and fellow believers didn’t want him to go; they feared for his life. As already mentioned previously, Paul would not be dissuaded. He answered God’s call, knowing whether he lived or died, he would be serving the cause of Jesus. He was a man of God who wouldn’t ignore God’s calling.

How about you, fellow believer? Are you listening for God’s call in your life today…no matter where it may lead?

Something to think about.

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Verse 3: “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;”

There’s an older gentleman in our church who ought to have his name in the dictionary, next to the definition of the word “servant”. He is retired and is a widower, but yet faithfully takes care of our church grounds and buildings daily. I’ve never heard him complain, never heard him get angry, and he is always glad to see you and ask how you are doing, how your family is, and ask about life in general; a man of quiet humility. When his wife died, the church made sure he had time to take care of family duties, bereavement, and obligations; there was a signup sheet to pitch in and to volunteer to do one or more of his duties. Let me tell you, the pastor said it best when he welcomed this man back during morning service when he returned from leave: he told him that it “took a whole church to do your job, brother!”

This man faithfully did a task that was important, but one that not necessarily the pastoral staff could have taken care of, in addition to the other duties they attended to as pastoral staff. Now, yes, there are small churches where the pastor is a one-man show, sometimes doing all the jobs. But the point is, although the disciples could’ve seen to the care of the widows who were being overlooked in daily care, they needed help, so that they could stay focused on evangelism and preaching. They ordained the first deacons to take care of this. Though “deacon” has been seen as an office of leadership in the church, we all should remember that it is a position of “servant” leadership…where the serving comes first.

Something to think about.

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Verse 41: “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

Those who follow this blog know I sometimes use cartoon references (back when cartoons were fairly safe to let your kids watch), especially Saturday morning cartoons. (I realize to today’s generation of kids, that “Saturday morning cartoons” doesn’t make sense to them, with the advent of cable and cartoon networks.) But I digress…

Hong Kong Phooey was one of my favorite cartoons on Saturday mornings. Even though it only lasted less than 2 seasons, I enjoyed the comic superhero, who was a mix of The Shadow and Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. He was voiced perfectly by the great actor Scatman Crothers. Part of the “in joke” of the show was, that no matter who Hong Kong might splatter with mud or run over with the Phooey-mobile on the way to a crime, everyone who was the inadvertent brunt of the encounter took delight in crossing the path of “America’s secret weapon against crime”! Everyone virtually sang Hong Kong’s praises, even if he might have just run over their feet! Nobody was ever mad that he accidently hit them! They sounded honored to have had said encounter with the great superhero. I never
caught that as a kid, but as an adult, it does make me chuckle.

The disciples, on the other hand, truly and sincerely rejoiced to be beaten in Jesus’s name. No warning from the council this time; they received the customary 39 lashes (one less than the amount to cause death) and released. They knew they were in God’s will, and they knew His will was no “health and wealth” religion like we sometimes see today. It’s easy to complain to God when things go bad during the day; but take a minute and thank God that they weren’t worse! Thank God that He is still there, and can use even bad things for His good.

Something to think about today.

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Verse 39: “but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

Two businessmen are walking through a train station. The first one is talking about advice his broker gave him: “My broker said to hang onto that stock…that it should really take off in the long run. What does your broker say?” The second one replies, “Well, my broker is E. F. Hutton, and he says…” at which point everyone working or walking around them, stops, and quietly leans in, ears cocked to the conversation, to hear the advice that Hutton gave this man. This is an old TV commercial for E. F. Hutton: the marketing caption was “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen”.

So it was with Gamaliel, a wise teacher and Pharisee on the Sanhedrin council. Footnotes in my Bible record that he was the teacher of Paul; his was a calming influence on the council, especially since this council was ready to kill the disciples. He argued that other insurrectionists had come and gone, and nothing lasting had ever resulted from their efforts. His proposal was to let the disciples alone; if their cause was from man, it would crumble. But…if it was from God “you cannot overthrow it”. He was reminding them that if God is for something, man cannot oppose it and hope to win…man would be doomed to failure and to punishment.

My Holman Concordance on Acts had a very interesting paragraph on page 79: “This passage holds two great lessons for us. First, the calm, quiet logic of Gamaliel should appeal to Christians repeatedly told in Scripture to be sober and controlled. Second, though committed believers must speak out against heresy and cultic error, attacks against fellow Christians on minor matters are out of place and out of character. People whose views do not agree with ours should be left to God, lest we discover they were right and we were wrong and find ourselves fighting against God. Such was the case of the apostle Paul who all his life could never forget he had once been God’s vigorous enemy.”

Would that we had more Gamaliels in today’s contentious, bickering world.

Something to think about today.

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Verse 46: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,”

Simplicity. Now, there’s an interesting word. Merriam-Webster online defines it as “the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded” ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/simplicity )
I remember as a boy that life didn’t seem so complicated (at least it didn’t appear to be…maybe it was). Even as I look at life today, it seems to be overly filled with stuff. Work, meetings, taking care of the home/family, church activities, school activities, not even counting activities that are additional choices that we elect to be involved in. Therein, I believe, are some of the sources of stress in our modern lives.

The early disciples worshipped in two different places as part of their daily lives: the temple and at fellowship in each other’s homes. It’s something we tend to forget; that you don’t have to worship God just at church. He’s there every second of your lives, in all aspects of life (and sees everything). God doesn’t need to be compartmentalized to just Sunday. Turning to Him in worship, prayer, and fellowship in our daily lives, is crucial to helping make our complicated 21st-century lives less complicated and more…simple.

Something to think about.

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Verses 12-13: “So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.””

The Great Santini was a master magician, who regularly was thrilling audiences with his illusions and prestidigitation. He was also a man with dark secrets, who was not above murdering the blackmailing owner of the club he was performing at. To give himself an airtight alibi, he performed the murder during his great water-tank escape act…no one would suspect him, since he was in a locked trunk submerged in water in full view of the audience…or was he? The only person to suspect him, of course, was Lt. Columbo. “Now You See Him…” is one of my favorite Columbo episodes. Jack Cassidy plays Santini, an illusionist and magician par excellence, who audiences marveled at. Even the rumpled detective, played by Peter Falk, had to marvel at how Santini would perform his magic. However, he knew that it was illusion, and continued to pursue him to bring him to justice.

Folks can be like the players in this mystery. Some marvel at what seems impossible, wondering if it’s real magic. Others scoff at the trick, professing to know how it’s done. Others are left just plain wondering. The witnesses of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are just such a crowd. Some knew of the disciples and marveled that they were speaking the gospel in different languages. Others just said, “Ah, they’re drunk!” Peter took that opportunity that God gave him to get up and address the crowd with a sermon that was God-inspired and struck right to the need they had for salvation and forgiveness.

Jesus is no illusion; He’s real!

More to come…

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Verse 3: “to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Welcome to 2015, as we begin a walk through the Acts of the Apostles. I feel like I should start this first devotional with the phrase “when last we left our hero”, because the author, Luke, starts Acts where the Gospel of Luke leaves off: restating the historical events of Jesus’s resurrection, time spent with the disciples over the next 40 days, and His ascension into Heaven.

I want to focus on the phrase here “infallible proofs”. I love to watch the old Columbo TV mystery movies that were originally shown on NBC. I always enjoyed the way that Lt. Columbo would find the proof he needed in the killer’s “perfect” crime so that he could eventually corner them. For the most part, it was always the little things that the killer would try to deny, but eventually have to accept, as all the things that Lt. Columbo would find would become part of the case against them…things that when put together, were impossible to deny. Even the killer would have to admit it.

Infallible proofs. Eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus after the resurrection. Eyewitness accounts of Him appearing in a room with the disciples with the wounds of the cross still present. Proof of His being real, by talking with disciples and eating with them. The eyewitness account on the road to Emmaus. Not just one account but several. The verse here is best put as Jesus lives! Following this is the spread of His church here on earth.

So again, to paraphrase another old TV phrase, “tune in for the next episode” to see what happens. 🙂

Have a blessed day in Him.

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Mark 4:11 “And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables,” “

Sometimes it’s really satisfying when a child “gets it”; that moment they understand something you’ve been trying to teach them. Oh, it may be something you’ve been trying to hammer home, or it may be something they’ve caught from your actions. While thinking about what God had to show me on this verse, my youngest son reminded me that Jesus used parables in the everyday objects that people in Biblical times were familiar with: agriculture, coin of the realm, livestock, etc. I told him that he was right; he explained the stories in things that they should understand. I realized that he got it.

Jesus was revealing things to the disciples about the kingdom of God; they were active pursuers of the truth. To those who claimed they sought the truth, Jesus offered the parables. I read in research that parables had physical and spiritual meanings. The crowd (including the religious leaders) might comprehend the physical, but not see the spiritual; sometimes, even the disciples had trouble seeing. But rejoice in the fact that God has not hidden the blessings of our eternal home; there is no complicated puzzle to figure out on how to gain eternal life. Jesus is the answer.

Submitted…for your information.

Something to think about today.

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