Monthly Archives: February 2018

“I will return and rebuild”

“God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted [the Gentiles] by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9)

 God is determined to return and rebuild David’s fallen tent: This means restoring and re-establishing the kingdom that was mighty and strong, yet is now decimated and downtrodden by imperial Romans; God raised the Jews gradually until they attained super-power status under King David – a man after God’s own heart. This was the chosen nation – God’s first born, and the royal priesthood to bring many other nations to God, but they failed and fell! Rebellion against God brought this nation to collapse under the pressure of foreign Empires that God used as his punishing rod. But beyond the physical nation, Israel represented the Kingdom of God.

The figurative “rebuilding of David’s fallen tent” (Acts 15:16-17) is now God’s actualizing the greater meaning – no longer just a local empire in the Middle East, but the eternal Kingdom where God reigns. And the exciting news is about the building blocks: While the Jews selfishly took pride in being the chosen race, they missed God’s grand and ultimate plan that had everyone else in mind. They labeled everyone else as ‘gentile’; I am one of them, and so are you. It’s really exciting that Jesus Christ blew off the cap and sent for disciples from all nations, from the ends of the earth. The building blocks for the rebuilding include Jews and Gentiles, white and black, red and yellow, men and women, old and young – and from all nations; you are included!

When they went out in the power of the Holy Spirit to preach, the early Church was taken by surprise when Gentiles also came to the faith. The Holy Spirit did not wait for Peter to finish his sermon during his first mission to gentiles gathered at Cornelius’ house: ‘While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message’ (Acts 10:44). As more gentiles believed in other cities, a conflict arose as to whether they should be subjected to circumcision and the Law of Moses. Thanks to this conflict and the ensuing debate, the Jews were further reminded that it was God’s plan to bring them into the Kingdom of God. “He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith”. They are also acceptable building blocks.

What stops you from coming into the Kingdom of God? He has shown you love and accepted you; He has beaten down every hurdle and every enemy that would stand in your way. He will forgive your sin no matter how far you’ve fallen. There is endless pain and fire elsewhere. God is rebuilding – establishing an eternal Kingdom to which you should belong. Put your faith in Him today.

 

 

When Suffering brings Progress

 “But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.” (Acts 12:24)

 The lent season has begun, and you’ve been called upon to observe the same by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. Such discipline is not easy is actually physical suffering; but sometimes suffering brings progress, when cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

At the heart of the book of Acts we find heart-breaking episodes that could almost have heralded the death of what had started only months ago on the day of Pentecost. As the Church took off in the power of the Holy Spirit, it was met with tough persecution at the hands of both leading Jews and the ruling Roman imperialists. In Chapter 12, James is killed and Peter imprisoned; these were in Jesus’ inner circle and were indeed the pre-eminent apostles. Was it Herod’s method to ‘cut off the head’ and scatter the rest of the body? The early and untimely death of potent James will forever remain a puzzle to anyone who dares think about his journey with his Master; much more ministry was expected of him – far reaching missionary journeys and church plants, and powerful revolutionary testimonies, or perhaps even writing the ‘Gospel according to James’ as one who shared in closer fellowship. What do you think the other disciples thought when James was killed?

While they were still reeling in that loss, Peter was imprisoned! He was guarded by four squads of four soldiers each, and Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. It was another big fish! Peter’s miraculous escape did more harm than good: Herod’s anger flared, he put to death some soldiers; and what would he have done to Peter if he were to catch him again? Dismember him in public perhaps, or burn him in fire or crucify him? This was the tension in the Church, yet they did not lose heart. They prayed fervently. And the most important fact is that the Holy Spirit was vigilantly at work. God executed Herod and he was eaten by worms and died in his throne; this was not the end to the difficulties and suffering though.

That ‘the word of God continued to spread and flourish’ despite the persecutions and difficulties and suffering is testament of the invincibility of the Holy Spirit’s work. Nothing and no one can come against Him – not earthly rulers, not human weakness, not forces of darkness, not primitive cultures – absolutely nothing. Questions may linger about some painful seasons or incidents in your Christian walk; but when you keep attentive, led by the Holy Spirit, it will always bring progress and strength to you and to the Church. Apart from being saved, you need to give yourself as an agent of propagating the Word of God; in so labouring, all suffering brings progress. I pray that this Lent period brings you to a place of more reflection and surrender to God’s mission.

 

 

Are you qualified to help?

“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them…” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith… (Acts 6:3-5)

In a growing church, the need for more people to come up and take on ministry responsibilities is always great. Helps are needed; and good enough, many are willing to offer themselves. Today’s study, however, gets us to pause and ask the question: Are you qualified to help? In Acts 6, the Church in Jerusalem had greatly grown and the challenges faced were real, hence an advert to fill up positions of those who were to help by serving and waiting on tables was published in the community. It read, perhaps:

Job Vacancy- Title: Deacons

Number of Positions: Seven (7)

Reporting to: Apostles

Key Responsibility: Fair distribution of food to All Jews in Church

Would you qualify for this job? Verses 3, 5 and 8 outline what seemed to be desired minimum qualifications then; and I suppose that would not be different today. For anyone who desires to help in the congregation, the following descriptions ought to be true:

  1. Full of the Spirit: Not necessarily having had an ecstatic experience, but having had a daily walk under the control of the Holy Spirit for long, so that the evident fruit of the Spirit is clearly seen: that is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These give a willing servant the impetus to extend their hand to needy people with an equitable ministry.
  2. Full of Wisdom: Wisdom that comes from the fear of the Lord which is also precisely the right conduct in obedience to the will of God and not just to mastering a body of knowledge.
  3. Full of Faith: Stephen is described to have been a man full of faith – he believed entirely in God, who is God in the good times and the bad, even when wicked people try to kill; God is in control and has promise for a life much better and longer in the world after this.
  4. Full of Grace: This is another trait cast on Stephen; despite being full of Faith and the Holy Spirit, yet he was not conceited, but he was graceful and gracious – truly full of grace that befits a servant.
  5. Full of Power: This is not a preserve of the Apostles; deacons Stephen and Philip performed great wonders and deeds in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stephen stood firm against a hostile mob, preached to them and died boldly in their hands; it is these facts that portray him as a man full of power.

Now check if you qualify to help. Accompany your desire with a hunger for the above qualifications, and pray to God to equip you for the service to which you are called.

 

 

More than what I wanted

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” … He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. (Acts 3:6-8)

God knows best what you want. If you are to ever pray a good prayer, it should be one in line with God’s will; what you want is not all that God has in store for you – He has more than what you want. The lyrics of Cece Winan’s age-old hit song tell in poetic love language the whole excitement of ‘More than what I wanted’:

I wasn’t looking, all the colors were gray

It’s hard to notice, when you’re out in the rain

All of a sudden, colors are starting to change

You brought the light now the darkness is gone

The search is over, now I know you are the one

Somebody tell me, where did an angel come from

‘Cause you’re more than just the one;

Yeah, you’re more than what I wanted…

The man who was lame from birth as recounted in Acts 3 would well identify with the above lyrics. He was carried daily to the gate to beg from those entering the Temple, and always expected money. Doubtlessly he did not receive from everyone, but some gave him something, and that was his livelihood. He expected no more from Peter and John. To his disappointment, Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have’; that must have sunk the man’s heart to hopelessness; but Peter had not yet finished his speech, and God had in store for this man more than he ever wanted. When the man was healed in Jesus’ Name, it was excitement beyond words – he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

In another episode in Matthew 15, Jesus found more than he expected – great insistent and enduring faith and prayer in a Canaanite woman! Her request for the daughter’s healing was granted, and for us her legacy of faith was recorded. When Jesus comes checking, how much faith does he find in you? How much fruit? How much commitment to service? He will either find more than he expected, or be disappointed when he finds much less! Yet it is this faith and openness to the Lord that will unlock blessings galore – more than you want.

Back to the man once lame but now healed: we learn that our expectations and the ‘silver and gold’ we seek are much less than the blessings God has in store for us. We have this motivation to seek the Giver more than the gifts, and from his storehouses in heaven, He will download the best, beyond your imagination. Cultivate the habit of praising the Lord with all liberty of expression in celebration of this knowledge and all the great things He has done.