Friday, September 22, 2017

The Church Has Left The Building

Acts 8-9



Jesus told the believers to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.  He told them to preach in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then the entire world.  The command was given in Acts 1.  The power to fulfill the mission was given to them in Acts 2.  Thus far in this narrative of the early church they had not left Jerusalem.  They were content with staying local with the gospel.  They were not being completely obedient to the command they were given.

The believers who had been to comfortable and perhaps a bit too complacent in Jerusalem were now forced to migrate to the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria.  
The believers expected the Gentiles to come to them.  So the Spirit forced them to got to the Gentiles, beginning with the persecution that drove them out of Jerusalem.

- LIFE APPLICATION COMMENTARY

Paul, along with the other religious leaders, the same leaders that killed Jesus, planned to stop the message of JESUS.  They began their campaign of arrest, beatings, and even killing believers for proclaiming the message and the name of Jesus.  
Satan's plan was to scatter and lose them, but God scattered them to use them.  He used them to spread the Gospel to the known world.  

Acts 8:4 
4  Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 

“Persecution always separates the PURE from the PHONY

“Persecution always separates the authentic from the artificial 

Persecution, therefore, became the splash in the pond to send the gospel rippling outward. 
- Chuck Swindle

Today in America we have been content with letting the missionaries take the Gospel all over the world, but we have failed to take it across the street.  It is as if we are doing the exact opposite of what the early church did.  They shared at home but failed to send the gospel out.  We seem to be content to give our money and send the missionaries and fail to have a burden for the lost around us.  

God scattered the early believers so they would spread the gospel.  Today the nations are being scattered and God is bringing them to us.  We have "all" nations in our neighborhood, schools, and workplace.  Still, we seem to be silent.  God has commanded us to Make Disciples of all nations.  

Why are we silent?
Why are we stingy?
Why are we calloused?
We glorify God best, by sharing Jesus. 



Thursday, September 21, 2017

He is Working

Acts 7



Acts 7 is an amazing chapter.  We get to read a great message preached by Stephen.  He carries the listener and now reader through the history of the nation of Israel.  We see, through the History of the nation of Israel, God was the pursuer.  God pursued the Jews.  God initiated the relationship.  The same is true for us as believers today.  God pursued me.  God is seeking to save those who are lost.  No one seeks God unless God first draws them to Himself.  Stephen gives the religious leader a History lesson and then reminds them they are just as wicked as their fathers.  He then tells them they were the ones who killed the Messiah, the promised redeemer.  This did not set will with them and they killed him on the spot.  We see the heart of Stephen and should be challenged to have the same heart of forgiveness.

Acts 7:58-60 
58  and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59  And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
60  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. 


I want to draw your attention to one verse in this chapter.  Look again at verse 34.  This verse was a part of the story of Moses and God's redemption of His people.

Acts 7:34 
34  I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt." '


God is calling Moses to lead His people out of bondage.  He is calling a man to work on His behalf.  I believe God still works through His people to do great things on His behalf for His glory.  I see three amazing things in the verses.

1.  God SEES

Acts 7:34 
34  I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt." '

God sees you right now.  God knows your name. God knows the hairs on your head, or if you have any.  God saw you in you before you were in your Mother's womb.  God perfectly knit you together in your Mother's womb.  You may feel alone.  You may feel as if God doesn't care.  You may feel as if God doesn't see, but I am here to tell you GOD SEE YOU.

Proverbs 5:21 
21  For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He ponders all his paths.




2,  God HEARS

Acts 7:34 
34  I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt." '
God hears your prayers.  God desires your prayers.  God loves for you to pray to Him.  He saw the oppression of His people and He heard their prayers for redemption and restoration.  God sees what you are going through and He hears your prayer.  Are you talking with your Father.  Are you crying out to him.  Are you thanking him for all He has done on your behalf.  You are not alone and God is listening.

James 5:13 
13  Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 


Psalm 102:17 
17  He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer.


Psalm 145:18
18  The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.






3.  God WORKS.

Acts 7:34 
34  I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt." '

God saw their pain.  God heard their prayers.  God worked on their behalf.  I am thankful that not only is God my Creator, but He is also my Sustainer.  God has not left us on our own.  God is and does work on our behalf.  God uses others to work with us, and for us.  God sent Moses to lead the people out of bondage.  God uses people to help you, encourage you, lead you, direct you.  He also wants to use you to help others, encourager others, lead others, and direct others on his behalf.  He WORKS on our behalf.  He is working in you, and on you at the same time.

Philippians 1:6 
6  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 


Philippians 2:13
13  for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.


I am thankful that God HEARS SEES and WORKS in me and for me.
I pray that I will daily surrender to His plan, His will, and His work.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hallmark is Blessed


ACTS 6


As I read Acts 6 I am thankful for Hallmark.  The early church was having growing pains.  The church was growing and this made it difficult for the pastors to visit the widows.  The pastors needed to stay focused on their ministry of preaching and teaching and training others to do the work of the ministry.  They found servant leaders within the church to take care of the needs of the widows.

Hallmark is blessed that our deacons and trustees visit the shut-ins of Hallmark.  Every month in our board meeting we get to hear from them as they report on the visits they made.  Several have taken portable DVD players to their homes.  They also take meh recorded services to them so they can watch our services and feel as if they are still attending Hallmark.   The reception they have received from those they are visiting is amazing.

Hallmark is also  blessed with a group of ladies who go meet at the church every Tuesday for visitation.  They go visit the members who are in the hospital as well as the shut-ins.  I am blessed to pray with them every Tuesday morning before they head out to make visits.

Hallmark is blessed that so many are willing to serve, and do the work of the ministry.  Thank you again for your wonderful spirit of ministry.  I am blessed to be the pastor of such an amazing body of believers.  Let's continue to do the work of the ministry TOGETHER.

Thank you Hallmark.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Greater Things

Acts 4 and 5


These chapters reminds me of the GREAT POWER of God and also reminds us that in the POWER of God we can see GREATER THINGS in our life and in the life of our Church.

I want to see God do greater things in my life and in the life of my church.  I pray that this is your prayer as well.  Let's look at these chapters and see how we can see God to Greater Things.

1.  Great POWER (Acts 4:33)

With GREAT POWER they were being the WITNESS!
This is the PROMISED POWER spoken of in Acts 1:8
This is the POWER that came upon them in Acts 2. 
This is the POWER that saw 3,000 people saved in Acts 3
This is the POWER that saw 5,000 men saved in Acts 4

This POWER is the same POWER that we have living in us as believers. WE CAN DO GREATER THINGS THROUGH THIS POWER!

What we attempt by the power of the Holy Spirit, I believe has a lot to do with what we believe about the Holy Spirit.

“What you believe absolutely determines how you act.” 
Francis Chan
2.  Great GRACE (Acts 4:33) (Acts 11:23)

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

Grace = unmerited Favor.
There are two types of grace:
  • SAVING Grace (Eph. 2:8)
Ephesians 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
  • SUSTAINING Grace (2 Corinthians 12:9)

2 Corinthians 12:9 
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
  • Favor
  • What you need when you need it

If we are going to do GREATER things we must be RELY on HIS GREAT POWER and REST in HIS GREAT GRACE.


3.  Great FEAR (Acts 5:5,11)
  • God is a jealous God a consuming fire
  • Acts 12:22-24
However this is not the end of the this story. (ACTS 5:7-11)

Phobos – Fear in response to a manifestation of God’s presence involves both 

REVERENT AWE and FEAR of his DISCIPLINE

Acts 12:22-24 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God grew and multiplied

AFTER GOD’S People 
  • received HIS Power
  • Experience HIS GRACE 
  • Observed HIS Judgment  
THEY WITNESSED GREATER THINGS 

“And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.”  Acts 5:11

But the word of God grew and multiplied.” Acts 12:24
How will we do GREATER THINGS?
How can we have a GREATER WITNESS?

Application:
In order for YOU to be a GREAT WITNESS YOU must:
  1. RELY on His power 
  2. REST in His grace
  3. REVEAL His glory.

Monday, September 18, 2017

On Mission

ACTS 2-3



Last night we had an awesome evening at Hallmark.  We will definitely make this an annual or bi-annual event.   We had the opportunity to hear about 6 of the mission trips that Hallmark has been a part of this past year.

We heard from people who went on trips to the following places...
- Chile
- Guatemala
- Honduras
- Camp Barnabas
- China
- Mexico.

It was amazing to hear of the stories of God doing amazing works all over the world.  I set there amazed that I get to be a part of a church that sacrifices for the sake of the gospel.  I am blessed to have traveled to Greece, Romania, Hungary, and China this year.  I am blessed to be able to see first hand what God is doing all over the world.

In our reading today the first church was given the power to fulfill the mission they had been given.  They were told in chapter one to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the power of God.  In chapter two the are given the power of the Holy Spirit.  Immediately they began to proclaim the name of Jesus to all who would listen.  Three thousand people gave their life to Christ after hearing Peter proclaim the need to repent.

The book of Acts records the courage and the boldness the early believers had in proclaiming the gospel.  We sense their urgency to accomplish the message of giving the gospel to the entire world.  They faced opposition, but they were empowered by God and would not let anything stop them.

Today, as a believer, we are empowered by the same power the early church received.  We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment of our conversion and He empowers us to do what Jesus has commissioned us to do.

Let's have the same commitment and passion the early church did.
Let's proclaim the message of Jesus to those we come in contact with and God places in our path.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hurry Up and Wait

Acts 1



No one likes to wait.  However the early church was commanded to WAIT.  They were to wait until they received the power of the Holy Spirit and then they were to be the witnesses that God has called them to be.  They were commissioned to wait until they were empowered to fulfill the GREAT COMMISSION.  The great commission is to make disciples who make disciples.

We have the same command to make disciples who make disciples.  What can we learn from the first church during their time of waiting that will prepare us to become better disciple making believers?


In the Gospels, we are Christ's admiring audience; in Acts, we are the ones on stage.

"In the Gospels, Jesus models Christianity; in Acts, everyday people model Christianity."

-CHUCK SWINDOLL

How could they wait.  What was their faith in?
  1. They had FAITH in the RISEN Christ (Acts 1:1-11)
  • Proof of LIFE (3). 
  • Promise of Power (4-8). 
Ordinary people were able to do extraordinary things because the Spirit of God was at work in their lives. 

“The Ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity.” – BEC-NT Commentary.
  • Promise to Return (9-11)
2.  They had FAITH in the BODY of Christ (Acts 1:12-14) 


One Accord – A bond stronger than death.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.


3.  They had FAITH in PRAYER with Christ. (Acts 1:12-14)

I find it interesting that these same disciples that could not stay awake and pray with Jesus in the garden are now devoting themselves to it. 

What changed?  THE THINGS THEY HAD WITNESSED
They had seen Jesus conquer death, so now they see…
the Importance of their WITNESS. 

So what are we waiting for?

The purpose of the church is to be a WITNESS if we are going to be the WITNESS God has to called us to be we must have the power of the Spirit.  The power of the Spirit comes through UNIFIED PRAYER.

“Prayer is a shield to the soul a sacrifice to God and a scourge to Satan.” – John Bunyan 

Action Step for you today:

Put My Faith in Christ / Serve in the Body of Christ / Pray with Christ.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Replicate






Replicate: To Reproduce.



Matthew 28:19-20 
19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.



The last words of our Savior to His followers have been recored for us here in Matthew 28.  The mission He would give them before ascending to His Father would be to REPLICATE.  The mission was to Make Disciples who Make Disciples.

The disciples took this mission seriously.  In fact most of them died because of how seriously they took the mission.  They made it their goal and life work to replicate themselves in others.

It saddens me to think that my church and many churches across America don't take the mission as seriously as the early christians did.  We get sidetracked on so many preference that are secondary to the mission.  What should we wear?  What should we sing?  The message was to short.  The message was to long.  The sanctuary is to hot.  The sanctuary is to cold.  The truth is we have allowed our "Christianity" to become something that it was never intended to be.

Romans 12:1
1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.


Luke 9:23
23  Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 


Matthew 10:38 
38  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 




The early church suffered persecution, prison, beatings, and death for the mission of making disciples who make disciples.  I am left with the question in my life about my commitment to the commission. I am left with the thoughts of what disciples I have replicated?  Who am I investing my life into?  Am I making disciples who make disciples?

Your mission, as a believer,  is to REPLICATE.  How well are you fulfilling the mission?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Transformed to Serve



Transformed to Serve

The average reader would conclude that John completed his book with the dramatic testimony of Thomas (John 20:28-31), and the reader would wonder why John added another chapter. The main reason is the Apostle Peter, John's close associate in ministry (Acts 3:1). John did not want to end his Gospel without telling his readers that Peter was restored to his apostleship. Apart from the information in this chapter, we would wonder why Peter was so prominent in the first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts.

I see in this chapter three pictures of the believer and a responsibility attached to each picture.

We Are Fishers of Men—Obey Him (John 21:1-8)

The Lord had instructed His disciples to meet Him in Galilee, which helps to explain why they were at the Sea of Galilee, or Sea of Tiberias (Matt. 26:32; 28:7-10; Mark 16:7). 

Whether Peter and his friends were right or wrong we cannot prove—though I personally think that they were wrong—but we do know this: their efforts were in vain. 

After His resurrection, our Lord was sometimes not recognized (Luke 24:16; John 20:14); so it was that His disciples did not recognize Him when, at dawning, He appeared on the shore. His question expected a negative reply: "You have not caught anything to eat, have you?" Their reply was brief and perhaps a bit embarrassed: "No."

It was time for Jesus to take over the situation, just as He did when He called Peter into discipleship. He told them where to cast the net; they obeyed, and they caught 153 fish! The difference between success was the width of the ship! We are never far from success when we permit Jesus to give the orders, and we are usually closer to success than we realize.

It was John who first realized that the stranger on the shore was their own Lord and Master. It was John who leaned on the Lord's breast at the table (John 13:23) and who stood by the cross when his Lord suffered and died (John 19:26). It is love that recognizes the Lord and shares that good news with others: "It is the Lord!"

With characteristic impulsiveness, Peter quickly put on his outer garment ("naked" simply means "stripped for work") and dove into the water! He wanted to get to Jesus! This is in contrast to Luke 5:8 where Peter told the Lord to depart from him. The other six men followed in the boat, bringing the net full of fish. In the experience recorded in Luke 5, the nets began to break; but in this experience, the net held fast.

Jesus called the disciples and us to be "fishers of men." This phrase was not invented by Jesus; it had been used for years by Greek and Roman teachers. To be a "fisher of men" in that day meant to seek to persuade men and "catch" them with the truth. A fisherman catches living fish, but when he gets them, they die. A Christian witness seeks to catch "dead fish" (dead in their sins), and when he or she "catches" them, they are made alive in Christ!

We Are Shepherds—Love Him (John 21:9-18)


In spite of his faults and failures, Peter did indeed love the Lord, and he was not ashamed to admit it. The other men were certainly listening "over Peter's shoulder" and benefiting from the conversation, for they too had failed the Lord after boasting of their devotion. Peter had already confessed his sin and been forgiven. Now he was being restored to apostleship and leadership.
The image, however, changes from that of the fisherman to that of the shepherd. Peter was to minister both as an evangelist (catching the fish) and a pastor (shepherding the flock). It is unfortunate when we divorce these two because they should go together. Pastors ought to evangelize (2 Tim. 4:5) and then shepherd the people they have won so that they mature in the Lord.

Jesus gave three admonitions to Peter: "Feed My lambs," "Shepherd My sheep," and "Feed My sheep." Both the lambs and the more mature sheep need feeding and leading, and that is the task of the spiritual shepherd. It is an awesome responsibility to be a shepherd of God's flock! (1 Peter 5:2) There are enemies that want to destroy the flock, and the shepherd must be alert and courageous (Acts 20:28-35). 

While it is true that the Holy Spirit equips people to serve as shepherds, and gives these people to churches (Eph. 4:11ff), it is also true that each individual Christian must help to care for the flock. Each of us has a gift or gifts from the Lord, and we should use what He has given us to help protect and perfect the flock. Sheep are prone to wander, and we must look after each other and encourage each other.

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20-21), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). Pastors are "under-shepherds" who must obey Him as they minister to the flock. The most important thing the pastor can do is to love Jesus Christ. If he truly loves Jesus Christ, the pastor will also love His sheep and tenderly care for them. The Greek word for "sheep" at the end of John 21:17 means "dear sheep." Our Lord's sheep are dear to Him and He wants His ministers to love them and care for them personally and lovingly. (See Ezek. 34 for God's indictment of unfaithful shepherds, the leaders of Judah.) A pastor who loves the flock will serve it faithfully, no matter what the cost.

We Are Disciples—Follow Him (John 21:19-25)

Jesus had just spoken about Peter's life and ministry, and now He talks about Peter's death. This must have been a shock to Peter, to have the Lord discuss his death in such an open manner. No doubt Peter was rejoicing that he had been restored to fellowship and apostleship. Why bring up martyrdom?
The first time Jesus spoke about His own death, Peter had opposed it (Matt. 16:21ff). Peter had even used his sword in the Garden in a futile attempt to protect his Lord. Yet Peter had boasted he would die for the Lord Jesus! But when the pressure was on, Peter failed miserably. (You and I probably would have done worse!) Anyone who yields himself to serve the Lord must honestly confront this matter of death.

When a person has settled the matter of death, then he is ready to live and to serve! Our Lord's own death is a repeated theme in John's Gospel: He knew that His "hour" would come, and He was prepared to obey the Father's will. We as His followers must yield ourselves—just as He yielded Himself for us—and be "living sacrifices" (Rom. 12:1-2) who are "ready to be offered" (2 Tim. 4:6-8) if it is the will of God.

Earlier that morning, Peter had "girded himself' and hurried to shore to meet Jesus (John 21:7). The day would come when another would take charge of Peter—and kill him (see 2 Peter 1:13-14). Tradition tells us that Peter was indeed crucified, but that he asked to be crucified upside down, because he was not worthy to die exactly as his Master had died.

But Peter's death would not be a tragedy; it would glorify God! The death of Lazarus glorified God (John 11:4, 40) and so did the death of Jesus (John 12:23ff). Paul's great concern was that he glorify God, whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20-21). This should be our desire as well.

Our Lord's words, "Follow Me!" must have brought new joy and love to Peter's heart. Literally, Jesus said, "Keep on following Me." Immediately, Peter began to follow Jesus, just as he had done before his great denial. However, for a moment Peter took his eyes off the Lord Jesus, a mistake he had made at least two other times. After that first great catch of fish, Peter took his eyes off his Lord and looked at himself. "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8


As John came to the close of his book, he affirmed again the credibility of his witness. (Remember, witness is a key theme in the Gospel of John. The word is used forty-seven times.) John witnessed these events himself and wrote them for us as he was led by the Holy Spirit. He could have included so much more, but he wrote only what the Spirit told him to write.

The book ends with Peter and John together following Jesus, and He led them right into the Book of Acts! What an exciting thing it was to receive the power of the Spirit and to bear witness of Jesus Christ! Had they not trusted Him, been transformed by Him, and followed Him, they would have remained successful fishermen on the Sea of Galilee; and the world would never have heard of them.
Jesus Christ is transforming lives today. Wherever He finds a believer who is willing to yield to His will, listen to His Word, and follow His way, He begins to transform that believer and accomplish remarkable things in that life. He also begins to do wonderful things through that life.

Peter and John have been off the scene (except for their books) for centuries, but you and I are still here. We are taking His place and taking their place. What a responsibility! What a privilege!
We can succeed only as we permit Him to transform us.

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jesus defeats Death


The Son of Man Triumphs!

"Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion," says Dr. John Stott. "The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed."

The resurrection of Jesus Christ affirms to us that He is indeed the Son of God, just as He claimed to be (Rom. 1:4). It also proves that His sacrifice for sin has been accepted and that the work of salvation is completed (Rom. 4:24-25). Those who trust Him can "walk in newness of life" because He is alive and imparts His power to them (Rom. 6:4; Gal. 2:20). 

Perplexed Hearts: He Opens the Tomb

We do not know at what time Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week, but it must have been very early. The earthquake and the angel (Matt. 28:2-4) opened the tomb, not to let Jesus out but to let the witnesses in. "Come and see, go and tell!" is the Easter mandate for the church.

Mary Magdalene had been especially helped by Jesus and was devoted to Him (Luke 8:2). She had lingered at the cross (Mark 15:47), and then she was first at the tomb. With her were Mary the mother of James; Joanna; and other devout women (Luke 24:10), hoping to finish preparing their Lord's body for burial. It was a sad labor of love that was transformed into gladness when they discovered that Jesus was alive.

At this point two angels appeared on the scene. Matthew 28:2 and Mark 16:5 mention only one of the two, the one who gave the message to the women. There was a kind rebuke in his message as he reminded them of their bad memories! More than once, Jesus had told His followers that He would suffer and die and be raised from the dead (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Luke 9:22, 44; 18:31-34). How sad it is when God's people forget His Word and live defeated lives. Today, the Spirit of God assists us to remember His Word (John 14:26).

Obedient to their commission, the women ran to tell the disciples the good news, but the men did not believe them! (According to Mark 16:14, Jesus later rebuked them for their unbelief.) Mary Magdalene asked Peter and John to come to examine the tomb (John 20:1-10), and they too saw the proof that Jesus was not there. However, all that the evidence said was that the body was gone and that apparently there had been no violence.

As Mary lingered by the tomb weeping, Jesus Himself appeared to her (John 20:11-18). It is one thing to see the empty tomb and the empty graveclothes, but quite something else to meet the risen Christ. We today cannot see the evidence in the tomb, but we do have the testimony of the witnesses found in the inspired Word of God. And we can live out our faith in Jesus Christ and know personally that He is alive in us (Gal. 2:20).

Discouraged Hearts: He Opens Their Eyes (Luke 24:13-35)

Emmaus was a small village eight miles northwest of Jerusalem. The two walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus were discouraged disciples who had no reason to be discouraged. They had heard the reports of the women that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was alive, but they did not believe them. They had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21), but their hopes had been shattered. We get the impression that these two were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. They saw the glory of the kingdom, but they failed to understand the suffering.

Jesus graciously walked with them and listened to their "animated heated conversation" (Luke 24:17, wuest). No doubt they were quoting various Old Testament prophecies and trying to remember what Jesus had taught, but they were unable to put it all together and come up with an explanation that made sense. Was He a failure or a success? Why did He have to die? Was there a future for the nation?

The longer Cleopas talked, the more he indicted himself and his friend for their unbelief. What more evidence could they want? Witnesses (including Apostles) had seen the tomb empty. Angels had announced that Jesus was alive. Witnesses had seen Him alive and heard Him speak. The proof was there!

What was their basic problem? They did not believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. That was the problem with most of the Jews in that day: they saw Messiah as a conquering Redeemer, but they did not see Him as a Suffering Servant. As they read the Old Testament, they saw the glory but not the suffering, the crown but not the cross. The teachers in that day were not unlike some of the "success preachers" today, blind to the total message of the Bible.

Perhaps Jesus started at Genesis 3:15, the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at Genesis 22, which tells of Abraham placing his only beloved son on the altar. Surely He touched on Passover, the levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, the Day of Atonement, the serpent in the wilderness, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the prophetic messages of Psalms 22 and 69. The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page. He did not teach them only doctrine or prophecy; He taught "the things concerning Himself' (Luke 24:27).

Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, and then He opened their eyes so that they recognized Him. Now they knew for themselves that Jesus was alive. They had the evidence of the open tomb, the angels, the witnesses, the Scriptures and now their own personal experience with the Lord. The fact that Jesus vanished did not mean that He abandoned them, for He was with them even though they could not see Him; and they would see Him again.

The best evidence that we have understood the Bible and met the living Christ is that we have something exciting to share with others. The two men immediately left Emmaus and returned to Jerusalem to tell the believers that they had met Jesus. But when they arrived, the apostles and the others told them that Jesus was alive and had appeared to Peter! What a difference it would make in our church services if everybody who gathered came to tell about meeting the living Christ! If our services are "dead" it is probably because we are not really walking with and listening to the living Savior.

Troubled Hearts: He Opens Their Minds (Luke 24:36-46)

So many exciting things had happened that day and so much was unexplained that ten of the Apostles, plus other believers, met together that evening and shared their witness with one another. While Cleopas and his friend were telling their story, Jesus Himself appeared in the room! And the doors were shut! (John 20:19)

You would have expected the believers to heave a great sigh of relief and sing a hymn of praise, but instead they became terrified, frightened, and troubled (Luke 24:37-38). They thought a ghost had appeared! It all happened so suddenly that they were totally unprepared, even though several of them had already seen the risen Christ. Mark 16:14 suggests that the condition of their hearts had something to do with the expression of their fears.

Jesus sought to calm them. The first thing He did was to give them His blessing: "Peace be unto you!" He even repeated the blessing (John 20:19-21). "The God of peace" had raised Jesus from the dead, and there was nothing for them to fear (Heb. 13:20-21). Because of His sacrifice on the cross, men and women could now have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and enjoy the peace of God (Phil. 4:6-7).
The next thing He did to calm them was to show them His wounded hands and feet (Ps. 22:16) and assure them that He was not a ghost. Songwriters sometimes mention His "scars," but the record says nothing about "scars." The "prints" of Calvary were on His glorified body (John 20:24-29), and they are still there (Rev. 5:6, 9, 12). It has well been said that the only work of man now in heaven is the marks of Calvary on the body of the exalted Savior.

The final source of peace and assurance is the Word of God, so our Lord "opened their understanding" of the Old Testament Scriptures, just as He had done with the Emmaus disciples. After all, the believers were not being sent into the world to share their own personal experiences but to share the truths of the Word of God. We today cannot touch and feel the Lord Jesus, nor is it necessary that we do so; but we can rest our faith on the Word of God (1 John 1:1-5).
Jesus not only enabled them to understand the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, but He also reminded them of what He had taught them, and He explained how it all fit together. Now they began to understand the necessity for His suffering and death and how the Cross related to the promise of the kingdom (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). What a privilege it was for them to listen to Jesus expound the Word!

Joyful Hearts: He Opens Their Lips (Luke 24:47-53)

But privilege always brings responsibility; they were to be witnesses of all that He had said and done (Acts 1:8). A witness is somebody who sincerely tells what he has seen and heard (Acts 4:20), and the word witness is used in one way or another twenty-nine times in the Book of Acts. As Christians, we are not judges or prosecuting attorneys sent to condemn the world. We are witnesses who point to Jesus Christ and tell lost sinners how to be saved.

How could a group of common people ever hope to fulfill that kind of a commission? God promised to provide the power (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8), and He did. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the church and empowered them to preach the Word (Acts 2). After Pentecost, the Spirit continued to fill them with great power (see Acts 4:33).

Witnessing is not something that we do for the Lord; it is something that He does through us, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a great difference between a "sales talk" and a Spirit-empowered witness. "People do not come to Christ at the end of an argument," said Vance Havner. "Simon Peter came to Jesus because Andrew went after him with a testimony." We go forth in the authority of His name, in the power of His spirit, heralding His Gospel of His grace.

In heaven today, our Lord ministers as our High Priest (Heb. 7:25) and our Advocate (1 John 2:1). As High Priest, He gives us the grace we need to face testing and temptation (Heb. 4:14-16); and if we fail, as Advocate He forgives and restores us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:6-10). As the glorified Head of the church, Jesus Christ is equipping His people to live for Him and serve Him in this present world (Eph. 4:7-16; Heb. 13:20-21). Through the Word of God and prayer, He is ministering to us by His Spirit and making us more like Himself.

Of course, He is also preparing in heaven a home for His people (John 14:1-6), and one day He will return and take us to be with Him forever.

The last thing our Lord did was to bless His people, and the first thing they did was to worship Him! The two always go together, for as we truly worship Him, He will share His blessings. He not only opened their lips to witness, but He also opened their lips to worship and praise Him!

Dr. Luke opened his Gospel with a scene in the temple (Luke 1:8ff), and he closed his Gospel the same way (Luke 24:53). But what a contrast between the unbelieving, silent priest and the trusting, joyful saints! Luke has explained how Jesus went to Jerusalem and accomplished the work of redemption. His book begins and ends in Jerusalem. But his next book, The Acts of the Apostles, would explain how that Gospel traveled from Jerusalem to Rome!

Is the Gospel going out to the ends of the earth from your Jerusalem?

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.

Monday, September 11, 2017

He is Risen! He is not here!



All of Scripture points to the work and mission of Jesus, which seemed to have ended the day He hung on the cross at Calvary.  At least, that's how things appeared to His disciples who watched their promised Messiah die.  Little did they know the cross was only part one of Jesus' redemptive act.  With His death on the cross, Jesus paid God's penalty for the sins of the world, sins that required a blood sacrifice to purify the sinners.  

Jesus did not remain in the grave.  On the third day, He rose from the dead and defeated death - the ultimate consequence of sin.  Mark's Gospel documents the moment when three of Jesus' faithful followers, all women, showed up at His tomb to anoint His body.  There they encountered an angel who told them the news of Jesus' resurrection.  The angel also told them to take the news to the disciples and Peter.  These same disciples deserted Jesus at the cross.  God wanted this great news conveyed as an offer of restoration and forgiveness.  

Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, God made a way for you - a sinful and broken son or daughter - to be reunited with Him as the recipient of His forgiveness and grace.

   ~  How would your life be different if the resurrection was not part of Jesus' work?

   ~  What hope do you have because it is?

   ~  Use these truths to motivate you to share the complete picture of the gospel with others.


- Robby Gallaty (Foundations page 192)




Friday, September 8, 2017

He is in control



John 19




The overwhelming thought that I was left with today was that Jesus chose to be silent.  He chose to lay his life down for Me.  He chose to pay my sin debt on the horrible cruel cross.  He Loves me that much.  What a great reminder that God was in control the entire time.  Did it ever occur to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?  He all ready knows...

Let me share with you the two verses I wrote down from chapter 19.


"Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?"
~ Pilate 

 
"You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above."
~ Jesus 


In this small exchange we are reminded of the sovereignty of GOD.  Pilate wanted Jesus to give an answer and yet Jesus remained silent.  Pilate reminded Jesus of the authority He had from the Roman government.  Jesus reminded Pilate that Jesus authority came from GOD himself.  He reminded Pilate that his power came from Heaven not Rome.

I pray that this exchange will remind you today that God is in control.   
Even when it does not seem like it.  
Even when circumstances have you feeling overwhelmed.  
Even when you don't understand. 

Rest in these three truths from scripture...

God is in control. 
God is good.
God loves you.