(Psalms 44-46, Acts 25)
19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. (Acts 25:19)
The whole of the Gospel hinges on one particular truth. Jesus, the man who died on the cross, is alive! As Christians, we may differ on any number of points, we may quibble over any number of interpretations, but the one thing that is not debatable is this: Jesus is alive! This is the Gospel.
Accused by the Jews, Paul disputed nothing in the Law; he made no disparaging remarks about the Temple, he did not stir up any strife against Caesar or his present government. No! The issue against him, the charge against his life, was that Paul preached that Jesus is alive.
Even today, we can preach a partial message. We tell a half-truth and expect to get a Biblical result, an evangelistic harvest like what is recorded in the book of Acts. We must tell the whole truth! Jesus died on a cross, to be sure, but that is not all. He rose from the dead! He is alive. The Gospel you have been given is supernatural. Preach it! When you do, you will find there is just as much power on it as there was in the beginning.
(Job 7-9, Acts 7:44-60)
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53)
The Good News has a bite. There is nothing wimpy, or wishy-washy about the Gospel. It never nods to compromise or endorses sin. And yet, it is the epitome of love. The Gospel pulls us out of the pit, out of our deceptions and bondage. It never comforts us in our slavery. The Good News is this: Jesus is the Great Liberator.
The Gospel is confrontational. It must be! Though the nations rage, telling the truth is not the enemy of the soul. The Good News does not always come packaged in soothing words and soft music. When asked direct questions regarding sin, the messenger of the Gospel will never bow his or her head and say, “I don’t like to talk about such things.”
Messengers have died to the notion of winning a popularity contest, because the truth has never been, and will never be popular. The truth cuts! Oh, but that cut saves us. It frees us from that tumor that was seeping poison into our hearts, and we are healed and restored. Be a messenger. Do not shrink back from the glory of sharing the Gospel, because it is the truth that sets us all free.
(Job 4-6, Acts 7:20-43)
30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. (Acts 7:30)
We are in such a hurry. We are well-trained in impatience. “Get it now.” “Fast food.” “Act now.” Our culture is designed around the concepts of convenience and even more than that, restlessness. But God works on a different time-table. A thousand years are like a day to Him. He is not moved by our marketing ploys. He has a plan, and His purpose is sure.
God saw it fitting to leave Moses in the middle of the desert for 40 years. The Israelites were crying out for deliverance, and God thought it was wisdom to keep Moses on the backside of nowhere. How can we reconcile this? Those 40 years were not some arbitrary delay. No! Those 40 years were a death. What kind of death? The death of Moses’ presumption. The death of his pride. The death of his preferences, and the undoing of all his earthly confidence. These kinds of deaths take a long time.
Maybe you feel stuck. Maybe you can relate to feeling like you are on the backside of nowhere. You are in great company. Delay, even long delay, is one of the hallmarks of true discipleship. It is painful to be sure. After all, it is the cross. Pick it up and follow Jesus. If we come to the end of ourselves, surely we will learn what it means truly to live in Him. Keep hold of the promise, because the word of the Lord will never return to us void.
(Esther 7-10, Acts 6)
4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4)
With so much activity, and all of the noise that comes from the deluge of social media, have we lost the ability to think? Have we lost the art of pondering? Have we disregarded quiet meditation? In a world where content is king, is there a tendency in us to share a truth before we have learned how to apply it and allow it to work through our own lives?
True apostolic leadership isn’t scared of the quiet; it is afraid of the noise. It takes time to pray, and it takes a tremendous amount of time to study the word. The word of God cuts like a knife, and it must first perform its work within the messenger. This time set aside for prayer and study must be protected at all cost.
Today, with so much noise, the temptation is to promote a truth before we have had the chance to be genuinely confronted with it ourselves. Resist this temptation! It will not save you or your hearers. Take your time. Learn to pray. Learn how to give yourself to the ministry of the word. In this culture of noise, don’t be afraid to be quiet. Who knows? Maybe silence is the new shout.
(Esther 4-6, Acts 5:17-42)
29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins…” 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. (Acts 5:29-31, 33)
The truth is always controversial because it demands a response. Every lie, every deception is exposed when truth is revealed, and that can be quite painful. When we regard the truth about Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are confronted with our sinful hearts.
To truly receive truth is no passive thing. We cannot nod our heads and continue on in the way were living. The truth demands a response and an absolute response. Is it still Good News? Yes! Yes, but only to those who will yield.
The goal of preaching the Gospel cannot be popularity. The Gospel, the Good News, is confrontational. It has a bite. Not everyone who hears it will want to bow to Jesus. Some will resist. Some will be enraged. The goal of the messenger is to preach the message with clarity and power. Set your heart to be loyal to Jesus. He is our message, and He is always good!
(Esther 1-3, Acts 5:1-16)
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:14-16)
There are all sorts of doctrines that would have us negate the power of God. Some say miracles stopped with the death of the apostles. There are theological arguments about dispensations and who is allowed to walk in the power of God and anointing. There will always be debates about God and theology, but where are those who will simply read the word and believe God?
Jesus commanded us to preach the kingdom and demonstrate it’s power. He sends us to be His witnesses in every corner of the earth. We have no other message and no other command. He didn’t send us to relate a history lesson. He sends us to proclaim good news! He sends us out with power and the Holy Spirit. We have no other commissioning.
If we can’t believe for God to verify the message of the Gospel with signs and wonders and healing and deliverance, then maybe we have not been recipients of the Gospel ourselves. The world is dying for good news. Who will go? May our response be like the generation that has gone before us, “Here we are, Lord. Send me!”
(Nehemiah 12-13, Acts 4:23-37)
33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
I don’t know if it takes faith to believe that Jesus died on the cross. Lots of people died on crosses. This is not our message. Our message and the testimony of the apostles is that after Jesus died a brutal death on a cross, He was raised from the dead. Death could not hold him. He rose from the dead!!
In journalism it’s called, burying the lead. To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts. As we share our faith, how often do we bury the lead? We talk all about the details of the cross without mentioning the resurrection. This is a grave error, pun intended!
While it’s true that no one alive today was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus, as believers, we should all have first-hand affirmation of His ascension. Jesus is alive in heaven, and what He has done and is doing in our lives is the proof. Preach the resurrection! Share the good news. And may the grace of God rest on your life as you go.
(Nehemiah 9-11, Acts 4:1-22)
35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord. (Nehemiah 10:35)
The spirit of poverty is always worried that there will not be enough. It thinks, it breathes, it functions from a place of lack. How does God break the spirit of poverty that has ruled over us and bring us into freedom in this area? He commands us to give. And not only give, He commands us to give our firstfruits.
There are people with thousands, even hundreds of thousands, even millions in the bank, who still walk in a poverty spirit. Being rich or poor is more about how we see ourselves in relation to God and the world around us than it is about money. Money, or lack of money, just exposes what we believe about God and His ability to provide for and sustain us.
How does God break us out of a poverty mentality? He commands us to give. Does God need our money? Of course not. Of course not! He commands us to give so that we can be free. As we give, we become like conduits. No longer stagnant ponds, we come into the promise of having living water flow in us and through us. This is freedom. To give without fear. To be able to obey with trust and joy. This is real life and real life in abundance.
(Nehemiah 7-8, Acts 3)
6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
Why do we turn away from those in need? Why do we make every effort to avert our eyes from despair? Maybe because in meeting someone in need, we are confronted with our own lack. We feel poor. Destitute. Intrinsically, we know we don’t have enough, and so we turn away. We know we cannot give away what we don’t have, and most of still live like paupers. Though we have been granted the Kingdom, we have not learned to take hold of it.
Peter was learning how to take hold of what he had been sent out to preach. When he came across sickness and poverty, he didn’t shrink back but rather rejoiced in the opportunity of faith. He got the poor man’s undivided attention, and then he proclaimed the strong name of Jesus. Peter reached out his hands and lifted the once broken man to his feet…healed!
There is a world of difference between a hopeful prayer and the proclamation of faith. Faith expects manifestation now. No one should be left to beg outside the Temple or the church. Speak the name of Jesus. If God has revealed Himself to you as the healer, then stretch out your hands and heal. Give away what you have, and more will be given. There is no need to turn away anymore. Step into your calling!
(Nehemiah 4-6, Acts 2:14-47
“And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.” (Nehemiah 6:12)
Be careful! Watch out!! Submission to God is more than wearing a cross, just as true prophecy is more than tacking the name of Jesus to a directive. Not everyone who comes into your life declaring the “word of the Lord” has been sent by God.
How can we discern? How can we be sure of our way? The truth is that developing discernment takes time and practice. First, we need to know the Word. We need to take time to know the Bible. Prophecy never goes against the declared and express word of the Lord. Everything new must be sifted through what has been confirmed. It takes time and effort and diligence to learn God, but the process is so, so good.
Secondly, Jesus tells us plainly that we are to judge a tree by its fruit. We are told to look at the manor and outcome of life of those who speak the word of the Lord. Do they live what they preach? Do they have the fruit of submission in their lives? This test also requires relationship and time. There are many out there who act more like hired hands than shepherds. Test everything. Weigh everything. This is right and pleasing to the Lord, and it is time well spent.