Monthly Archives: March 2020

1 Thessalonians 2

The last post was a combination of Acts 18 and 1 Thessalonians 1. I’m following the Foundations reading plan this year, so I’ll be posting the readings of that plan.

Thessalonians 2

Discipleship involves speaking the gospel amid opposition.

There’s always a risk in discipleship of speaking in a way to avoid suffering by pleasing men.

Sometimes defending your calling becomes necessary.

Discipleship must be with gentleness.

Discipleship includes speaking the word but also the giving of your lives to them.

Discipleship is hard work and long hours.

In discipleship, you must walk uprightly toward/with those you are discipling.

To make disciples one must exhort (strongly urge them), encourage, and implore disciples.

And lastly (and something we rarely talk about), the faith and growth of disciples will be our glory and joy. It is so encouraging to see others getting it! It reminds me of this: 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. – 3 John 1:3-4

Can we not start noticing how people are growing and being faithful and encourage them by telling them “I’m so thankful to see you doing _________!” Do we even notice? How encouraged one might be to press on?!?!

Acts 18 Devotion

Acts 18

Making disciples will include meeting people with whom you have things in common. Paul’s connection with Aquila and Priscilla begins a journey of the gospel that is astounding.

Just tracing it in Acts 18, you can see them going on with Paul to Ephesus where Paul leaves them. A man named Apollos needed further instruction concerning Jesus to which Aquila and Priscilla were able to do.

Apollos continues on! Can you see the effects of discipleship? Teaching is vitally important.

Another character in the story interest me. Again, Paul would not have planned to be brought before the proconsul in Corinth but it seems that somehow it resulted in a new disciple.

In verse 17, Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, was beaten by the mob of Jews. In 1 Cor. 1:1, he is with Paul and he calls him a brother. You just never know what the Lord is up to when you follow him. It’s an adventure for sure. And suffering is never far behind.

Look for people with whom you have commonalities. Get to know them. Sow the seed of the gospel. Turn this world upside down by teaching Jesus. May it be like the spread of a virus!

That seems to be the case at Thessalonica. They became imitators Paul and his companions and of God and they became examples of a faith to imitate: * 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth *everywhere, so that we need not say anything. – 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8

Tuck the gospel seed away in some soil today. You will never know how it will bear fruit!

The Church and Covid-19

Some thoughts this morning on how the church responds to #covid-19 (#coronavirus)

Years ago, a group of men from the church gathered at a widow’s house in the neighborhood to make some repairs on her house. We stopped for a water break and sat down for a rest in the backyard.

When I took my seat, one of the men said, “That tree limb above you is dead.”

I look up and sure enough there hangs over me a rather large limb that is dead. So I get up and move to another location.

The person who told me about the limb asked, “You don’t have faith in God.”

I replied, “Sure I do. But I do not want to test God.”

I share that story because some Christians will respond to Covid-19 by testing God. I’m not saying this is a reason for not meeting this morning but for some they will come to church with a motive similar to that of those who handle snakes in church.

If you pick up a poisonous snake to show off your faith that’s not faith. That’s testing God. If you grab a snake to protect someone (love your neighbor) well that’s faith.

Faith in God and testing God can look the same yet with a different motive.

Let us come humbly before the Lord today. Let us pray for our neighbors, government officials and hospital staff. Let’s maintain our love for our neighbor because in doing so we are loving God.

Those who chose not to gather today doesn’t mean they are afraid. That could be the reason but not everyone.

Let’s be merciful, gracious, patient, gentle, and loving.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant

5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Acts 17 Devotion

Acts 17

I think it’s very encouraging to see the gospel being proclaimed and believed! It seems rare to see new believers in our area. The continued proclamation without seeing any respond is discouraging.

So, be encouraged afresh by these three different locations bearing fruit!

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. – Acts 17:4

Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. – Acts 17:12

But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. – Acts 17:34

You might respond to this by thinking…well this was pioneer mission work. These new fields had not heard the gospel. How does that encourage me to keep proclaiming in this saturated field?

Two things: 1) there are people in our area that haven’t heard the gospel. I know that sounds odd but it’s true. We can be complacent in sharing the gospel because it’s easy to re-share than seek out new fields among us. 2) there are many people in our area that have heard (and believe) a false gospel. That’s a field too! One of our odd but primary tasks here is to evangelize the church.

Paul went to the synagogue to share. He reasoned with them. We must seek to persuade nominal Christians to believe in the gospel. I think this has so much to do with what kind of church we are. Can our community look at us and see a difference? Can they see what it looks like to follow and love Jesus?

Are we a compelling community of believers that displays the character of God while repentant of our daily failing before a watching world? May we desire this…Lord bring revival among us.

Acts 16 Devotion

Acts 16

You can’t read this chapter and not know for certain that the Holy Spirit/the Spirit of Christ is leading Paul and his companions while they are seeking opportunities to speak the word (some place they go the Lord forbids them to speak).

The group ends up in Macedonia. The first encounter with Lydia is not surprising. They were looking for people at places of prayer.

The next encounter is not how they planned nor would they had ever crossed paths with had not particular events *happened.

It began with a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination. The key indicator that this was the Lord’s plan comes by way of the first words of v.16…”It happened.”

There was a jailer that the Lord was pursuing and the disaster that happened with the slave-girl caused them to cross paths with this man.

Isn’t it amazing how the Lord works! Problems aren’t random. They are often putting us on the right path. If you are submitted to the Lord trust that he is leading you even when problems arise. Also trust that he is in pursuit of those whom he intends to save. Speak the gospel and the Lord opens their hearts to believe. Wow!

Acts 14-15 Devotion

Acts 14-15

Making disciples is more than sharing the gospel. This has proven to be a problem within the church for years, now. Yet, there is an awakening to biblical discipleship that is changing within the church even now! And for that I am grateful and hopeful.

Both chapters demonstrate this need to check on, strengthen, and encourage. The last verse in 14 blew me away…”And they spent a *long time with the disciples.”

Do they have time to do this? Is it not MORE productive to keep pressing on to more fields and just entrust these new believers to the Lord?

I am convinced that it is counterproductive to do otherwise. If you make disciples that make disciples rather than ONLY adding disciples you will more than likely make more disciples.

It takes time…a long time, perhaps. And it is worth the time. Over and over the Gospels make very clear that Jesus was WITH THE DISCIPLES. You can’t teach, strength, or encourage if you are not somehow with them.

I think most do not see any NEED of it. Let me say this without any reservations…our doctrine of assurance should NEVER hinder us from doing biblical discipleship as Paul did here in Acts.

THEY MAY NOT BE “GOOD TO GO”! All who are Christ’s will endure to the end but hear this…we must endure to the end by faith. The Lord has ordained the means by which we persevere and that involves following up and spending time with each other.

We must do better. Our gatherings must change…indeed they are changing and it is changing us! It prepares us when we scatter. We are more productive in the fields when we have been strengthened and encouraged by each other.

These daily messages are my meager attempt to encourage you to press on by faith is Jesus! He’s worth it! Keep your eyes on Him!

Acts 13 Devotion

Acts 13

Isn’t it amazing to see the Lord sowing the seed of the Word in new fields! I’m just so thankful to God when I see that Word take root and sprout.

Paul and Barnabas, led by the Holy Spirit, go about spreading the good news. In new places, people respond to the gospel. Paul and Barnabas move on to the next place (or field).

What strikes me is the fact that when they spoke the Word and people received salvation, they were leaving Jesus with them!

Over and over again they were planting the gospel that will soon spread from those Jesus followers to more followers to more followers.

If you could watch this unfold from above, how that tiny seed of the gospel began to spread like a fire it would encourage us to do the same.

Imagine you share the gospel with the person who checks you out at Walmart. Imagine there are no believers there. That clerk responds to the gospel and you have left Jesus in that Walmart…her/his family.

That clerk begins to share at work and it spreads. What will you do with the gospel today? As the Spirit leads, tuck it away in some soil somewhere and see what the Lord will do!

Acts 12 Devotion

Acts 12

Ch. 11 ended with news of a great famine. This chapter begins with the death of James and Peter’s arrest. More suffering. Yet…yet, the Word of the Lord continued to grow and multiply! Is suffering somehow related to this growth?

Sure! It is making the Suffering Savior visible again through the suffering church. (It fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions).

Also this suffering causes the church to pray! Though it is described as earnest prayer, it is not without doubts. They did not believe Rhoda when she reported that Peter stands outside at the gate.

(It’s kind of funny that Peter walked through prison gates that opened for him but he stands outside the locked gate at Mary’s house).

Yet, God had answered their prayers, though they were imperfect. That will fill you with joy and trust! So, yes, the suffering is connected to the growth.

I think we get to see a glimpse of what The Day will look like when Christ’s church is released and the enemies are vanquished. All the soldiers along with Herod are killed. I can’t help but think the Lord was reminding them of this to encourage them to press on.

What is suffering producing in you? I know you might think that we don’t suffer anything like what we have just read and that is accurate for where we live. But we still suffer. If you can’t grow with little suffering what makes you think you will grow with this kind of suffering?

Just know that none of it is wasted! It all has purposes that we may never understand but it changes us nonetheless. Press on, dear beloved of the Lord! He’s coming soon!

Acts 11 Devotion

Note from yesterday’s message: I read the NASB translation and it read “But” at the beginning of verse 10. The word can be translated either way depending on context. Whether or not we should take it as a contrast or an addition the message remains accurate.

However, I think “and” is better after reading Peter’s explanation of the event in ch. 11.

The praying and the hunger were all part of the process for Peter to see God’s plan to save the Nations! He would not have went to Cornelius without the Lord’s intervention.

Acts 11

Hearing Peter report what happened reminds me of Genesis 1–the creation story. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus has set in motion the New Creation!

Even Cornelius and his household are brought into the Kingdom of God. How do they come? Faith in Christ comes by hearing the message of Christ.

While Peter was still *saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. – Acts 10:44

…he will *declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ – Acts 11:14

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution…*speaking the word to no one except Jews. – Acts 11:19

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch *spoke to the Hellenists also, *preaching the Lord Jesus. – Acts 11:20

We must not be silent! Why?

And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. – Acts 11:21

Here’s a description of discipleship and what happens when teaching and speaking the gospel are the mission:

For a whole year they met with the church and *taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. – Acts 11:26

Faith comes by hearing! If you are a witness of the grace of Christ, may you fill your network of people with the good news of Jesus!

Acts 10 Devotion

Acts 10

9 …Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.

10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance – Acts 10:9-10

I don’t point this out to make light of it but rather to see the patience and kindness of the Lord. He could have let Peter going on being distracted by his hunger yet the Lord had mercy.

We don’t often understand like Peter. We are often distracted even when we have good intentions. The fact is we are a mess (nothing) without Christ!

Nothing thwarts his plan of saving the Gentiles. Even with messed up people like us, God will make a Name for Himself!

So what? Trust that the Lord is sovereign and that He uses people like you and me despite our failings. In fact, He uses our failings to change us. Praise the Lord!