Simple Sharing

Luke 7:22-23

And He answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."


     John the Baptist is in prison, waiting in expectation for Jesus to do something. Probably a little frustrated by his current situation and wondering what Jesus is up to, he sends a couple of his disciples to find out if Jesus is the One he originally thought. Jesus’ response is recorded above. It’s a simple set of instructions: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” 

Odds are you know someone who is a bit like John. It could be they don’t know Jesus as Savior. Maybe it is someone who knows Jesus but is in a low point. I think Jesus is telling us to do the same for these people. Tell them what you’ve seen Jesus doing. He’s healing. He is giving new strength to people. He’s delivering people. He is giving life all around us. Those testimonies are the carriers of hope, so share your stories.

     Another thing to encourage others to do is have an open mind. That last line there says that those who aren’t offended by Jesus will be blessed by Him. We know that Jesus and His gospel is scandalous and can offend. But if we choose not to be offended, we will find blessing. We can either take offense or learn. As you share your stories, don’t be afraid to offend the sensibilities of worldly reason. Let God’s supernatural involvement in your life penetrate the natural. 

     It is important to know that after this line, Jesus gave John a glowing description calling him the greatest man who ever lived. Doubt doesn’t discount us. We all travel through the valley sometimes. But hope shared through the sharing of God’s story in our lives will disperse the doubt, build positive relationships, and develop courage to move forward.


  1. Write out your testimony. What is God doing in your life currently? What could you share that would encourage other believers or help non-believers see the Gospel at work? Be prepared to share it in conversation today.
  2. Think about what offends you. Discern if these things are really worth getting offended over. If we expect the world to hear our story without offense, we should be open to hear their story as well, with offense or judgement. 

Don't Be Poisoned

Acts 14:1-7 - Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.  But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.  But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.  When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country,  and there they continued to preach the gospel.

     The Gospel will not advance without opposition. It is what we do when the opposition arises that determines the legacy we leave. When Luke and his mission partners began to see God’s family growing through their preaching of the good news, they also encountered resistance. This resistance comes from those who are unbelieving Jews, and their method is to poison the minds of the Gentiles. The response of the missionaries was to speak boldly for the Lord. 
     We all have instructions from our Lord to make disciples by teaching what we have learned about God and baptizing new brothers and sisters. But those who do not know Jesus already have been swayed against Him. Through subtle means like popular music, movies, news, and social media the culture has poisoned our minds against faith in God and against real reason.  Because of this we must stand firm and renew our minds every day. We must speak boldly for the Lord, first to ourselves and then to an unbelieving culture.
     We must first speak truth to ourselves because the poison has seeped into our church communities. Mistrust and entitlement have turned us against one another, giving the unbelievers more reason to stay away in their own minds. When we speak truth in love to ourselves and our communities we prophesy power and abundance over them, which becomes lived out. As the church lives out its identity as the sons and daughters of God, then those who seek to poison and destroy us will instead be reached with the love and grace of our Father. The truth is delivered to an unbelieving culture because we live what we believe, not merely because it is our duty. We speak of that which we love.
     You might notice in the last verses that the apostles fled when they heard there was to be an attempt on their lives. One could interpret that as running away, but there is more to it. The last words of verse 7 are “and there they continued to preach the gospel.” God will move us however he needs to in order to get us where He wants to use us. The goal isn’t to save our own lives, but instead to continue to preach the gospel, no matter the circumstances.

Identify the poison that is in your own thinking. Is it a lack of belief in yourself? Is there separation rising between you and your church? Name the poison and pray for God to remove it and seek forgiveness when necessary.

Evaluate your own sharing of the gospel in day to day life. If you haven’t already, write out your testimony and memorize it. Pray and look for opportunities to share God’s story in your life with others.

There is a Hunger

Acts 13:42-44 -  As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.  And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

     It isn’t hard to see that people are searching for fulfillment. We tend to look to religion, education, technology, sex, entertainment, and a host of other practices to fit that empty place inside. What is interesting is that there are some who have found that fulfillment. You may be one of them. The people know Christ as Savior and as Lord. They have understood the weight of sin and experienced its damage, and they have also encountered love without strings and received forgiveness and freedom from the weight of their sins. The thing that is puzzling is the lack of sharing about this great news they’ve experienced. 
     Read Acts 13:42-44. Paul is describing how people responded after hearing a sermon by Paul. They begged to hear more and invited their friends to come with them so that the next Sabbath almost the whole city turned out to hear him. If you are a follower of Christ you need to remember the principle at work here: people are hungry. As followers of Jesus we have access to and knowledge about the greatest news and the only hope any of us have for eternal and abundant life. We need to be sharing it. Regardless of the laws and of the judgment we may receive, the gospel is worth sharing. Lives hang in the balance. The people you encounter daily who are reaching out for salvation and connection but avoiding the church need to hear from you. It’s your testimony they will hear. It is your invitation that will eventually get them into fellowship. 
     We have no excuse to not share what God has done and to share it outside of the walls of the building where the church meets. In fact, we are called and commanded to do so from Jesus himself. Make today the day you begin to share the hope you have.

Write the excuses you have made for not sharing the gospel in your day-to-day life. Go through each one and ask if God is not bigger than the excuse. Pray that God would help you overcome each of them, one by one. 

Pray for God to reveal to you those in your life who are hungry and ready to hear the gospel. Write the names down and begin to share with them.

You Don't Have to Fight

Acts 12:1-11 - About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Our human nature and our national culture lead us to be keenly aware of when we aren’t being treated fairly. It shows up at early age with cries of, “It’s not fair!” from the mouths of toddlers. Justice is the cry of so many, and no doubt we are to seek justice for the oppressed, freedom for the slave, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry. What happens, though, when we are the victim? When we observe the actions of the apostles we don’t seem the see any fighting for their rights. Instead, all but John the Revelator marched to their deaths almost willingly. In Acts 12 we see Herod take James’s life and then imprison Peter with intent to kill him as well. What isn’t mentioned is a cry for justice or the raising of a coup.
Instead of playing the victim card, Peter takes his discipline. Perhaps he sees an opportunity to share the gospel in prison. Maybe he remembers what Jesus said to him when he sliced off the guard’s ear in the garden. Most likely, Peter simply trusts God. Paul’s words, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain,” haven’t been written yet, but the philosophy is present. Peter is aware that as long as he is following Christ, walking in the Spirit, then he can endure whatever is thrown at him. So trusting in his King Jesus keeps him steady.
The other thing we see here is the working of prayer. Luke makes sure to mention in verse five, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” Peter was lifted up, protected, and covered by the prayers of his fellow believers. I am sure that he knew it, and because he trusted God, he was sure those prayers would be answered. And so they were. An angel of the Lord came into the prison and led Peter out, right past the guards. When we throw off the victim mentality and surrender the results to God, we will be delivered. It may not be how we think it should be, like John, but you can be sure it will come.

Where in your life are you playing the victim? When life isn’t fair, how do you respond?

Is your trust in God greater than your sense of safety? Pray that God would release you from the bonds of self-preservation in order to let His way show through in your life.


Acts 11:9-15 - But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.  And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea.  And the Spirit told me to go with them, wmaking no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.  And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter;  he will declare to you a message by which zyou will be saved, you and all your household.’  As I began to speak, athe Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.

   Traditions have a way of digging in. For centuries, Peter had been practicing certain behaviors based upon the law that God had given to the Jews through Moses. Dietary guidelines were a big part of these practices, so when the Lord gave him instructions to kill and eat a mess of unclean animals, Peter was quite confused. He stood on his tradition until God commanded him, “What God has made clean, do not call common (v 9).” The overall message God was getting across was that the Gentiles were called clean by God, and Peter needed to understand this to get a clearer vision of what God was doing in the world.
     While many traditions come from a good place and tie us to our past and our heritage, we must be careful not to let them blind us from what God has in store. Traditions have a way of making us feel comfortable. All I have to do is think of the smell of pumpkin pie at the holidays and I’m transported to cozy Christmases with the family. And while there is nothing wrong with family holidays, comfort in the setting of our relationship with Christ can have detrimental effects. We can get stuck believing that God wants our lives to be easy and that our call will not change. But as we see with Peter, God wants us to stretch and grow in our faith, which means that some our closely held traditions may be challenged so that others can hear the Gospel and God can expand His family.

What are some traditions or ideas you hold onto that aren’t necessarily in the Bible or even contradict it? What might these ideas be keeping you from doing for God?

Take the time to ask God where He is at work and don’t eschew things that are outside of your comfort zone. Take steps to do something new for God that you haven’t done before.

Spiritual Truth

Read Acts 8:31  “And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”

Read John 16:13   “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Don’t you find it interesting that the Ethiopian was reading the Scriptures even though he didn’t really understand? Let’s all be honest, at some point in our lives we have completely avoided reading the Bible because we didn’t understand what we were reading. The emergence of newer Bible translations has really helped those of us who struggle with understanding the King James version of the Bible. In fact, there are so many easy-to-read translations these days, there is no excuse anymore for us not to read our Bibles. However, a recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.

And here is this Ethiopian man, who wasn’t even allowed to worship in public because he was a eunuch, and he was reading the book of Isaiah out loud. This man was searching for God. His heart was certainly ready to be taught and his spirit ready to be fed spiritual truth. He longed to know the truth enough to invite a perfect stranger, walking along a dusty road, to ride in his chariot with him and teach him about what he was reading. And Philip’s heart was ready to oblige. He had the knowledge and the desire to follow the Spirit’s leading. 

Where do you fit in the statistics? Are you part of the 45 percent of Christians who read their Bibles more than once a week? If you have the desire to read and study more, what specific steps can you take to spend more time in the Word?

Do you understand what you are reading in the Word of God? Pray and ask God to lead you to a good Bible study, whether in a group or on your own. There are many different methods to study Scripture. 

Ask a pastor or teacher from Pinnacle to help you learn, they’re just like Philip, eager to share!

Ears to Hear

Read Acts 8:27-31  “And he (Philip) rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”

There are so many unique and interesting facets of this story in Acts. The first is the fact that an Ethiopian eunuch has been to Jerusalem to worship the one, true God. According to Jewish Law (Deut 23), the eunuch would not have actually been allowed in the temple to worship in public. At the most he would could have been admitted into the Court of Gentiles. He was from an area near modern Sudan and based on traveling twenty-five miles a day, the trip to Jerusalem would have taken anywhere from 48-60 days, one way. This is quite an undertaking of time and finances for this man and his entourage. And now he is headed home and on the desert road toward Gaza, reading a handwritten copy of the book of Isaiah. 

Enter Philip. Remember, an angel of the Lord instructed him to leave Samaria and go to that exact desert road. Philip immediately went, even though he had no idea why he was going or what was in store for him. The Scripture says very plainly, “So he got up and went.” No negotiating, no refusing, just quick obedience on Philip’s part. And now, in verses twenty-nine and thirty, we see him doing the same thing. This time we are told the Spirit told Philip to go join the chariot and once again, Philip didn’t hesitate…in fact, it says he ran to the chariot. Philip is such a good example for us today. First, he was listening for the Spirit to be able to send him. Second, he was immediately obedient. And lastly, he was excited to share what he knew about Jesus and help the Ethiopian interpret the Scriptures.

Listen. Obey. Share. 

Let’s all be committed to following Philip’s example.  

Are you listening for the Spirit to give you instruction to do God’s work or to talk to people, help people in need? Do you pay enough attention? Are you really listening? 

Are you spreading the Good News like we are instructed?

Ask God today to give you spiritual ears to hear His voice and to be immediately obedient. If you need help studying the Bible, reach out to someone today and set up a discipleship relationship or join a Bible study. 


Read Acts 8:5–8  “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.”

Read Acts 8:26–27   “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is a desert place. And he rose and went.”

Philip was one of the believers who fled Jerusalem the day that Stephen was stoned to death. He relocated to Samaria and he had great success there in spreading the Good News. We are told that he performed amazing miracles there of ridding people of unclean spirits as well as healing those who were paralyzed or lame. As in the ministry of Jesus himself and of his apostles, so in the ministry of Philip these works of mercy and power were visible “signs” confirming the message that he proclaimed…Jesus was the Messiah. In Samaria, Philip was well received and doing good things for the Kingdom of God. 

Interestingly enough, by verse twenty-six in this chapter, we are told that Philip received a visit from “an angel of the Lord.” This was a divine message to Philip from the Lord. One would think the message may be, “Philip, you are doing such a good job in teaching about me in Samaria. Keep up the good work!” However, that is not what the divine message was. Philip was instructed to leave the abundance of what he was experiencing in Samaria and instead to go to a quiet place with fewer people. In fact the exact instructions were simply to go to a road. Scripture goes on to explain (because God wants us to understand) that this road that He was sending Philip on, was a desert place. Philip was immediately obedient. If there were any grumblings in his heart, we are not informed of them. However, his bravado in which he spread the gospel in Samaria leads us to believe that he went willingly and joyfully. Oh, that we can do the same!

“Great moves of God are usually preceded by simple acts of obedience.”  - Steven Furtick, Lead Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina

Is there something that you believe God has been asking you to do and you have not been obedient? Spend some time pondering on what could be holding you back.

Pray and ask God for the courage to follow where and to what He is calling you. 

Write down 3 action steps you can take in the next few days to act in obedience to what God is asking you to do. 

Pain to Purpose

Read Acts 8:1, 4  “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

Read John 12:24   “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

On that very day, the people fled…and they were scattered. We read that passage, but do we really stop to think about what that meant? One commentary suggested that this very well could have meant that upward of 10,000 left Jerusalem that day. Men, women and children fled the city, which meant that they likely left the bulk of their belongings behind...their homes, very possibly even their extended families who were not yet believers. They left it all behind because they were being persecuted. One would think that since persecution is what drove them away, that in the new regions in which they would relocate they would be very careful not to speak of their belief in Jesus, just in case they were to be persecuted there as well. But that is not what happened. They simply did not go looking for a safe haven until the persecution subsided; they went with a strong sense of mission to declare Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. In the Greek, verse four begins with “therefore on the other hand” (μὲν οὖν). Because of persecution believers were scattered and therefore, the Word of God spread. This is perfect evidence of God’s sovereign control; in spite of opposition His Word accomplished what He intended. 

God always has a plan, a purpose in everything that we go through. God does not cause every struggle in our lives, but He certainly uses them to mold us and transform us to become the person that He has created us to be. There is a purpose in your pain and God has a plan. 

The stoning of Stephen was the catalyst to spreading the gospel; that work is still continuing today. How often do we see only the problem or trial when God has a much bigger plan in the future?

Bring your problem to God today and ask Him to help you see His plan better, but more than that to help you trust that He is working in the process and that things will work out for your good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)


Read Acts 7:57-60 “But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Imagine the violent scene surrounding Stephen, the crowd rushed toward him and drug him outside of the city gates in order to stone him to death. Scholars have debated whether the crowd that executed Stephen were only the Sanhedrin or perhaps there were also Jewish citizens among that crowd. They have also noted that a standard execution by stoning, according to Jewish law, must first be brought before the governor for approval. And that certainly didn't happen, he was immediately taken out to be put to death. Stephen had just levied a very grievous charge against the Jews in his speech and now as rocks and stones are being combatively thrown at him, what did he do? He the top of his lungs. He committed his spirit to the Father and he forgave. Just as Jesus did, and no doubt Stephen knew it, he asked for forgiveness for those who were stoning him. Interestingly enough, that forgiveness he requested included Saul, who would later encounter Jesus personally on a dusty road and become Paul, the writer of the majority of the New Testament and a powerful apostle of the Lord.

How did Stephen pray for forgiveness for his murderers? That is worth spending some time pondering. It's a unfathomable response, but Stephen and many who have been martyred after him have followed suit. There is really only one explanation. They really had learned something from Jesus, which central to his message was a non-negotiable teaching of loving ones enemies. Forgiveness. Jesus told Peter not to forgive his brother only seven times, but rather seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22) What Jesus was saying is that forgiveness of others is essential to our spiritual well being. There is an excellent quote by Lewis B. Smedes, a Christian author and theologian, that says, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."

Spend some time meditating on the Stephen's martyrdom and the circumstances surrounding it. Pray about and meditate on the fact that Stephen asked for forgiveness from his murderers.

How about you...are you currently in a prison of holding unforgiveness toward someone? Look up several verses regarding forgiveness and ask God to help you set that person free, to free you from the unforgiveness. This is a process that will likely need daily prayer toward, but God is faithful and will walk you through it.

More Like Jesus

Read Acts 6:15   “And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”

Read Ecclesiastes 8:1   “Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.”

Read Acts 4:13  “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

What does it mean that Stephen’s face “was like the face of an angel?” It’s a very unusual expression and one commentary scholar insinuated that likely even the writer of Acts, Luke didn’t really know what this meant. Perhaps it is a recognition on the part of the council members, people who had veils covering their understanding of the things of God, because they were too wrapped up in legalism and the world? Paul tells us in Second Corinthians chapter three, that their hearts are hardened and a veil lies over their heart so that they do not understand. But when a person turns to Jesus the veil is removed. Perhaps this was a tiny crack enabling these council members to see the truth. Only God knows if that crack was used in the future to change any of their hearts. But we do know that they saw Stephen in a completely different light for a very short moment. This is an important fact for us to know, which is why it is included in Stephen’s story. 

Why was Stephen’s countenance so different from the others? We can go back to Acts 3:3, 8 to know the answer…
“...full of the Spirit and of wisdom…” “And Stephen, full of grace and power…” 
Stephen had spent time in the presence of Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to be biblical scholars or pastors to share the Good News about Jesus. Even uneducated, uncommon people like us, after having spent time in the presence of Jesus, will be filled with grace, power and the words to share in order to change the lives of those around us. All we need is Jesus. 

Set aside time every day to be in the presence of Jesus. Put in on your calendar, make an appointment and be committed to keep it. 

Know that this transformation to be more and more like Jesus happens in slow steps of intentionality. Pray today and ask God to help you be patient and consistent in allowing Him to transform you from the inside out so that others will see Jesus in you. 

Thoughts on Tradition

Read Acts 6:14 - “We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Colossians 2:8 - “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Matthew 23:27-28 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

     The Jewish leaders accusation against Stephen was that he was insisting that Jesus would destroy the temple as well as change the customs that Moses had delivered to them. The issue of customs and/or traditions is a struggle in the Church still today. Some Christian denominations have taught that God demands strict conformity to dress codes, condemning makeup, jewelry, pants and short hair for women. Others taught it was wrong for Christians to play sports, play cards, dance, wear wedding rings, go to movies, wear jeans in church or even own a television! Then there are the broader, more common issues like order of worship service, worship and music style, and methods of church government.  All you need to do to see how divisive an issue this is among Christian churches, is to google the topic and read the many varied opinions on tradition and customs in the Christian church.

     Customs and tradition, in and of themselves, are not inherently good or bad. Its value or its distraction really depends on the treatment of the traditions by the church members. Of course, there is the issue of biblical foundation, but that's another topic altogether. Without fail, we want everything we do in and out of church to be rooted in the Truth of God's word. In order to know whether our church customs are a value or a distraction to other believers, especially visitors in our churches, we must allow the Holy Spirit's leadership in making those decisions of changing customs or continuing the tradition. In studying Jesus' life, we will see that He emphasizes inner holiness rather than outward conformity. When you walk in the Spirit, He will lead you to dress and act in a way that honors Him, but this will not conform to a man-made religious code. If we submit our lives, individually to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and then corporately as a church in the same manner, we will be living "according to Christ."

How do customs and/or traditions affect our faith in God? In what way would our customs affect other people's faith in God?

What customs do we tend to struggle against? Spend time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to put off any customs or traditions that may be impeding yours or someone else's relationship with God. As well, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to the traditions that are helpful and valuable in doing His kingdom work and bringing God glory.

Fearless Sharing

Read Acts 6:9-10 -  “Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

Luke 12:11-12 -   “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Luke 21:14-15 - “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.”

     You can read Stephen’s entire speech in chapter seven of Acts. But what we want to focus on today is how Stephen spoke with such boldness and wisdom that his adversaries "could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking." Reading the Amplified version of verse 10 gives us even greater understanding:

      “But they were not able to resist the intelligence and the wisdom and [the inspiration of] the Spirit with which and by Whom he spoke.” (Acts 6:10 AMP)

     The verses we read in the book of Luke today are "red letter" verses, meaning that these words were spoken by Jesus himself. Jesus was warning his followers in both of these chapters of Luke that they would be persecuted for His sake. What Jesus assures His followers in these verses is exactly what happened to Stephen when he entered into debate with those who rose up against him in the synagogue of the Freedmen. Stephen spoke with wisdom, by the Spirit. Those of us who are believers, also have the Spirit of the Living God living inside of us. We too, are able to speak with such wisdom and boldness as the Spirit enables us to do so. We must spend time in prayer and studying His word and to simply trust in Him.

Why should we not be afraid to share our faith with unbelievers, no matter the hostility or resistance?

Pray and ask the Holy Spirt to give you wisdom and boldness and find someone this week with which to share your faith.

Holy Spirit Power

Read Acts 6:8 - “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”

Read Acts 1:8  - “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

     When you read Stephen’s story, you will see a man filled with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, faith, grace and consequently, power. (Acts 6:3, 5, 8) It is important to note that Stephen was said to have been filled with the Spirit even prior to his being appointed by the apostles as one of the seven new leaders with the duty of overseeing food distribution to the widows. As a result of the Spirit’s power in Stephen’s life, he was “doing great wonders and signs among the people.” Scholars believe this to mean that he would have been participating in healing, casting out demons and teaching, in addition to his administrative job of food distribution. Once Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit, his life changed dramatically and that change was an instrument in changing the lives of those around him as well. Today, the same Holy Spirit with His life-changing power is available to each one of us who have received Jesus as our Savior.

     The word ‘power’ in the original Greek is, δύναμις dýnamis, which means force, miraculous power, mighty wonderful work. This is the same word for ‘power’ that we also see in Acts 1:8. This dynamite-type power is the same power available to us today as believers. According to the verses we read today, as well as many more that can be found in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit's power enables us to have abundant and fruitful lives. God's power is available to us in order that our lives would effect change in people's lives around us and to further the kingdom of God.

As a believer, are you living life with the Holy Spirit the way God’s word says you can and will? What kind of fruit is exhibited in a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit? (See Galatians 5:22-24)

What can you do in order to effect change in the lives of people around you? Spend time in prayer and ask God to fill you with His Spirit and to give you a specific assignment to accomplish for Him this week.

A Simple Change

Read Acts 3:17-21 - “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.  19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,  20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,  21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago."

1 John 1:8-9 - If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

     In Acts chapter three, verse fifteen Peter accused those present in the temple, who had witnessed the healing of the beggar, of “killing the Author of life.” It was a harsh accusation and scholars believe that many who were present had also been in the crowd who joined with the throng in demanding before Pilate that Jesus be crucified. Now we pick up in verse seventeen with Peter acknowledging that they had acted out of ignorance. The word ‘ignorance’ in the original Greek is the word, agnoia, which means “lack of knowledge, ignorance (especially of divine things); of moral blindness.” And then Peter enlightened them with the best news any of us could hear…if we repent of our sins and turn to God, then God will “blot out” our sins. To have our sins blotted out also means for them to be obliterated, to wipe them completely out of God’s view of us. Even those who committed the most heinous crime of murdering our Lord Jesus, (and aren’t we all guilty of that?) can have their sins completely obliterated through repentance. 

     In today’s culture, repentance is a dirty word. No one wants to have to repent because very few of us want to take responsibility for our owns actions. We don’t want to admit that we have done anything wrong…in fact, very few things are wrong in this day and time. “Live and let live,” is the mantra of our age. While I certainly am not advocating judgment, as it is God’s place to judge others and not ours, we certainly have to take responsibility for what is right and wrong in our own lives. How do I know what is the sin in my life of which I need to repent? By reading and studying God’s word. He will lead you and guide you to the truth of what is right and what is wrong. It is certainly right and good for believers to repent. Repentance simply means, to turn completely. Repentance is a 180 degree turn from sin, but it’s actually more than that…it is an intentional turn toward God. In order to be Christians who experience God’s refreshing, like Peter describes in this passage of Acts, we cannot simply intellectually believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but we must repent of our sins and turn toward Jesus to live for Him. 

What does repentance mean to you? 

Why do you think God’s forgiveness is inexhaustible? 

Spend some time in prayer and meditation, asking God what sin in your life is in need of your repentance. Pray a prayer of repentance, receiving His forgiveness and make a commitment to turn toward God in this area of your life. 

Be Amazed

Read Acts 3:11-16 - While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s.  12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?  13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.  14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Luke 4:36 - And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”

     The people at the temple knew this man, the one who had to be carried to the temple every day in order to beg for alms. They saw him begging, day in and day out as they gathered for their prayer times at the temple. There was no doubt that this man was lame. He couldn’t walk on his own, yet they witnessed the miracle with their own eyes. The latter of verse nine in chapter three says, “And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” The word ‘wonder' here is the same word that we find in Acts 3:11 where it says they were “utterly astounded” (ESV) or “full of amazement” (NASB.) The root of both words in the original Greek is the word, thambos, which means “to render immoveable; to dumbfound; astonishment, awe.” The repetition in these two verses of how awe-struck the people were is to emphasize how this miracle affected the people who witnessed it. 

     And Peter took advantage…but not for his own attention or glorification. He took advantage of the opportunity to tell all of these people about Jesus. He first pointed to the God they all worship, the God who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush as “I Am.” He connected Jesus to the prophecies of old and reminded the people that they were ancestors of a promise. Peter brought them the Good News - that faith in the name of Jesus and through the power of the risen Christ, represented by his name, is what has healed the man. Belief in the person and the power of Jesus, not any kind of magic or personal power, has made the lame man well.

When was the last time you were ‘full of amazement’ at something that God did in your life or in the life of someone you know? Spend some time remembering - and worshipping and thanking the God of the universe for his miraculous intervention.

When given the opportunity to give glory to God, Peter took it. Think back to the last time that you had an opportunity to give God glory. Did you seize the opportunity, or did you choose to keep the praise for yourself? 

How can you acknowledge the presence of Almighty God in your life every day and give Him glory? 

Money Only Goes So Far...

Read Acts 3:1-9 - Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.  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!”  And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Most of us have likely encountered the person on the side of the road or on the sidewalk that is asking for money. Our reactions to this person are varied between sympathy and frustration. You may have been taught that there is a difference between good help and enabling. The most difficult decision to make is to differentiate between the two when you are called on to help someone. 

Prior to this encounter, Peter and the apostles as well as over 3000 people have received the power of the Holy Spirit. So Peter was walking in the power of the Spirit when he came upon this lame man. Rather than gift him with a few cents to tide him over for the day, Peter gave him something much greater - his total healing through the power of the Holy Spirit. This gift that Peter gave the beggar that day was far better than money, it was the gift of healing and eternal life. 

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a report online in April 2016 read, “On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.” As Christians, we absolutely are obligated to help support this struggle financially. However, when we look at this issue from a kingdom perspective, what kind of other things can we do to offer “life?” There is an organization in Amarillo called the Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center. They offer living-giving skills and opportunities like wood-working, arts and crafts, classes to learn to budget and communication skills. They are always in need of volunteers to help at the Center. Our own Pinnacle Food Pantry provides food for upwards of 80 families every other week, and though the clients aren’t necessary considered homeless,this kingdom work is providing food for families that otherwise could not afford it on their own. The need for volunteers at the Pinnacle Food Pantry is always great. 

As believers, we too walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s be determined to keep our eyes open to spiritual needs and intentionally bring God’s gift of healing and life giving power to people we encounter. 

Are you currently doing anything to bring life and healing to the hurting in your community or neighborhood? 

If not, where could you do this powerful kingdom work?

Think of someone you know who you can pray for and spend the next week calling on God to come to their aid, offering your own help and resources if that is what God calls you to do. 

Brave New World Day 8

Read Acts 3:1-5 - Now Peter and John were ogoing up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.  And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

     Here in Acts Three, we encounter a man who has been lame since birth. His daily ritual was to have someone lay him at the gate of the Temple and beg for money. Today would be a completely different day in that man’s life. On this day, suddenly he would encounter the power of Jesus. As Peter and John arrived at the gate, he asked them for money. Rather than give him what he had asked them for, Peter said three simple but powerful words, “Look at us.” The word here for ‘look’ in Greek is blepo, which means “to observe, perceive, frequently implying special contemplation.” Peter asked the lame man for his full attention in order to shift his focus from his immediate needs to a shift in perspective, a shift beyond the visible and ordinary to the invisible and the extraordinary.

     God will often interrupt our lives in order to give us a shift in perspective. Sometimes thoughts of despair, hopelessness, bitterness, unforgiveness and self-pity consume our thoughts. These things and others just like them will hinder God’s ability to work in our lives. Just like the lame man, we also have to make an intentional choice to shift our perspective. We have to look past what is happening in the natural in order to believe what God’s word says about what He is doing in the supernatural. We have to stop our thoughts and fix our eyes on Jesus. That is the way that we will, like the beggar, experience the life changing power of Jesus. 

From what does God need to shift your focus so that you can receive His gift and move from the ordinary to the extraordinary?

What are three things you could specifically do in order to make this shift?

Brave New World Day 7

Read Acts 17:6-7  And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,  and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

     I love the way these men described the church in these verses: These men who have turned the world upside down….” With this being an election year, and with all of the divisive voices in the media, we need hope and security that is not of human origin. What God was doing through the early church was disrupting the the false peace that had been established. Whole families from every background were finding freedom and strength and hope in Jesus as the church lived and loved in ways that had never been seen. There were not charity organizations and no government programs. There was a group of people who saw needs and filled them because of God’s love. This new way of living turned the world upside down. Imagine what would happen if today’s church tapped into the Holy Spirit more every day and outwardly loved people without fear! God can still turn the world upside down. But He wants to do it through us.

How should the church look differently today from the culture that surrounds it?
Evaluate your own faith. Is your faith capable of “turning the world upside down?"
Ask God to show you what you can do to love those around you without fear and change the way they see the church. Then do it.

Brave New World Day 6

Read Acts 19:11-12  And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.

     We live in a world that is rational and believes in what it can see and not much else. Yet there seems to be a longing in each of us to believe that there is a power beyond what we can see and experience in the temporal world. Our literature and movies all display this. But many would rather believe in super-powered mutants than give God any credit because at least, in some way, at least mutation is an explanation. But God is real, and the wonders and signs He performed through Jesus, Peter, Paul and others are real. 
     The Holy Spirit lives within each follower of Christ. The gifts that God has given us are powered by that Spirit. What we see in Paul form the passage above is the literal manifestation of the spiritual gifts. Remember also, that Paul was just a human being, like you and me. Yet, even his handkerchief was able to heal because of the present of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life. As you continue in your walk with Jesus, ask Him to teach you how to use the gifts you have. Practice them at home and wherever you can find time. Believe that God will do the unexplainable through you and listen for His voice leading you to act.

How can a small act of faith lead to something big?
Why is the supernatural so hard to believe, even though we all seem to want to believe?
Look for unexplainable things in your everyday life and praise God when you see them.