Bible Reference: Acts 4:31-35
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 31 At that moment the earth shook beneath them, causing the building they were in to tremble.[s] Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness.[t] 32 All the believers were one in mind and heart. Selfishness was not a part of their community, for they shared everything they had with one another. 33 The apostles gave powerful testimonies about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great measures of grace rested upon them all. 34–35 Some who owned houses or land sold them and brought the proceeds before the apostles to distribute to those without. Not a single person among them was needy.
OBSERVATION: Here’s a story about the results of prayer. Let me encourage you to carefully read the above verses. The preceding verse says that ‘after they had prayed….’. We are reminded that there is awesome power in the prayers of a righteous person. How’s your prayer life? As we meditate on the precious Word of God today, may it impact our life and drive you towards praying for the needs of those around you.
APPLICATION: There is a story about a renowned preacher that was blessed to have a team of prayer warriors in the basement of his church while he preached. Of course the results were always very productive, as God responded to the cries of His people concerning the hearts of those who were listening to His Word. Many surrendered their hearts to the Lord. In our story, the disciples had labored in prayer, and the Holy Spirit had dealt so strongly in their hearts that were willing to sacrifice their material gifts to share with those in need. Can you imagine the mindset of an unbeliever today if we (Christians) tell them that we love them, but we are willing to stand by and see them go hungry? Or that we care for their eternal destiny, but we uncaringly see them lose their home, while we drive around in very expensive cars and live in luxurious homes? Friend of God, can you see where those things just don’t go together? Unbelievers will never know how much we care about them until they see our God-like hearts revealed in caring for them whether we are asked to, or not. Think about the power channel used to see the earth-shaking experience mentioned in our Scripture today – prayer. One of our worst attended services in most churches today is our Prayer Meeting. So what do you suppose might be the driving force of our earth-shaking experience today? Church members and attendees today refuse to attend more than one church service per week; they are embarrassed to talk to their heavenly father (pray) in the presence of other believers; they find excuses for not attending a small, often thought of as insignificant, midweek meeting, etc, etc. Dear friends, with prayer being so insignificant to many, how might we expect to see an earth-shaking move of God in our churches, our communities and our country? God gave His all for us, yet we find excuses why we should not return the favor to Him in appreciation for all that He did, and all that He gave. Our lives reflect what we ask God for. If we ask for nothing, what might we expect from God?
PRAYER: Precious Lord, Your are our King! Thank You for all that You gave at Calvary so that we might have everlasting peace in our everlasting home in heaven. Please reach in to the hearts of many today so that there might be an awesome moving of Your Holy Spirit in Your people in our town. People need the Lord. Oh dear Savior, may our hearts be so impacted by Your love and Your saving grace, that they may see enough of Jesus in our lives to convince them of the decision they need to make. May You rule and reign in our midst heavenly Father, and may You receive honor and glory today from those who may surrender their hearts to you. AMEN!
Bible Reference: Psalm 46:9-11
Translation: The Message (MSG)
Bible Text: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, GOD-of-Angel-Armies protects us.
OBSERVATION: I’m not on Facebook as much as some are, but by now I have seen many evaluations of 2019 – good and bad, and then I have seen many wishes for 2020 – worldly and spiritual. Whether you’re a Facebook fan or not, it’s a place where people express their views, and often where many look for your response to their views. But that is really not the best place to look for your ideal advice, because some may wish to simply express their most far-out ideas with hopes of stirring up a good conversation. As we meditate on today’s Scripture we are reminded that we serve a God who fights for us and protects us.
APPLICATION: Unfortunately, I believe that what we read on Facebook, expresses the minds and thoughts of the average person alive today. But when I read this passage of scripture in various translations, God helped me to realize that Facebook is not the place I should go to for a spiritual meter on how well God did in 2019 nor a general opinion about how He might rule in 2020. Here are some of the thoughts that I believe God wanted me to discern in my study today: a) Get away from the noises of this world. Get to a place where it’s just you and God. ‘Step out of the traffic’ of everyday noises and seek the face of God. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ is the way one version put it; b) Don’t be one to look for the general consensus of the world, or even the church, but reflect on the proven power of your God and be reminded of His awesome power. Know that He is in control of each one of us, and if we allow Him to direct our path and control our tongues, then perhaps we too can be used for His glory, and then we just might see God’s mighty works performed in our land. We should be reminded that God is in charge of us individually; our families; our respective churches; our workplaces; our towns; yes, everywhere and in everything that He has created. Knowing all this then, why would we worry our little heads with what might happen in each of these scenarios? In other words, we have no idea what may happen in our lives – health-wise, relationship-wise or in any other area of our lives, but after being reminded of who’s in charge, will our worries amount to anything other than degrading our mental health? Friends, you can say the same things about each of the other scenarios mentioned. For the United States, we are entering into a year of presidential elections. God is telling U.S. Christians to be still and know that He is God over everything in our lives, especially our elections. We are told in Romans 13 that God places our rulers in authority over us, so are we worrying our little heads because we fear that God might mess up? Be still Brothers , and know that He is God over everything that we know and have committed to Him. Sisters, be still and allow God to be God. He is very capable, willing and able to handle our affairs today, just as He did for Jacob, Moses and all other Biblical accounts written in God’s Word to support our theory on this. Be still! Listen! Surrender control to God and return thanks to Him in all things!
PRAYER: Lord God, we acknowledge that You are indeed God of our lives, and God of this universe. Please forgive us for so often trying to reverse that order, especially when we think that we know better than You, how things should go here on earth. Thanks for the reminder that You made it all and that You are still very capable of managing everything – even today. Forgive us Lord for our lack of faith. Even as I write this, I am very concerned about many matters that I already know are hot agenda items this year. Please forgive me, and give me extra strength and boldness to declare Your glory, Your power and Your majesty as You continue to control my ‘world’. I am very weak, but praise be to the God of this universe, You are immensely strong, and very much in control of Your creation. In total surrender, I join with my Christian Brothers and Sisters – Your servants, to lead the pack in glorifying You as our Leader, our God, our Savior and our Lord. For these things, and all for Your glory, I ask all this in Your strong and mighty name, ‘Jesus’ my Lord, AMEN!
Bible Reference: Acts 5:17-21
Translation: GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
Bible Text: 17 The chief priest and the whole party of the Sadducees who were with him were extremely jealous. So they took action 18 by arresting the apostles and putting them in the city jail. 19 But at night an angel from the Lord opened the doors to their cell and led them out of the prison. 20 The angel told them, “Stand in the temple courtyard, and tell the people everything about life in Christ.” 21 Early in the morning, after they had listened to the angel, the apostles went into the temple courtyard and began to teach….
OBSERVATION: In most translations, the angels’ first words to the apostles were ‘Go, stand in the temple courtyard and tell…’. I believe these are awesome words for us to remember as we usher in a New Year – Go, tell the good News of Jesus Christ. As we meditate on this Scripture today, let us be reminded that we still serve the same miraculous God who sent the angles to the apostles!
APPLICATION: I believe that one of the biggest obstacles to current day Christians sharing the joy of knowing Christ, is rejection, coupled with our fear of intruding in someone else’s space. But notice in our Scripture that the angels first approached the disciples in prison, then miraculously released them from prison, without the authorities actually opening the gates to let them out. Do you suppose that there have been any doubt by the apostles that God would be with them as they carried out the instructions given to them? But before you come back at me about the differences between the help given the apostles and what we might expect today, let me remind you that the Bible is clear on how God assures us: How He will be with us until the very end; How He will direct our paths; How He will fill our hearts with joy; and How He will give us the words to say, if only we will surrender ourselves over to Him completely, and allow Him full access to our lips and our heart. Friends, I believe where we mess things up, is that we quickly assume full responsibility for our words and our actions, and only call on God for direction when we run into trouble. I am hoping that God will send me, and use me for His glory. When He does, the ministry will only be successful if HE uses me as a means for His ministry, not the other way around. My thoughts about the ministry will be limited to what is impacting me. In most cases, that will be irrelevant to what is troubling my Brother. Trusting Jesus to fulfill His awesome work through a usable vessel like me, or you, will achieve His work in each of us.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I am trusting You today to accomplish Your work in Your people today, and I make myself available for You to use me to accomplish that work in accordance with Your perfect will. People need the Lord, not more of broken mankind. Please complete your work in me. I believe that many of my readers will submit to a similar commitment today. Please touch their hearts and make them Your usable vessels dear Lord. AMEN!
Bible Reference: Acts 5:3
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 3 God revealed their secret to Peter,[b] so he said to him, “Ananias, why did you let Satan fill your heart and make you think you could lie to the Holy Spirit? You only pretended to give it all, yet you hid back part of the proceeds from the sale of your property to keep for yourselves.
OBSERVATION: Perhaps one of the most controversial matters in a church is discussions around the subject of giving. Whether it’s how much we should give, or the ways that the church leadership spends the money, or how much the pastor is paid. But unless we miss the whole point of whether Christians should give, or the point of how much we should freely give, let us seek guidance from the Word of God. Our Scripture today is a good example of an individual not giving in a way pleasing to God. Perhaps this is something that God had planned to deal with you on today, so ask Him to help you place self aside while you meditate on His Word for a few minutes.
APPLICATION: Isn’t it interesting how……When we pray in times of trouble we seem convinced that God hears our cry, that He knows all about our troubles, and that He will take care of us and see us through our difficulty? Praise God He is such an awesome God, and He Cares for us in that way. But isn’t it strange how we pick and choose what we will share with our loving God? When it comes to tithing, I am convinced that our churches will never have another budget shortage, if God’s children would be diligent in their tithing/giving, as instructed in God’s Word. So what do you suppose might be the problem, child of God? Are we really putting the Lord’s Spirit to the test like Ananias and Sapphira did? Are we trying to pull one off on God, like we try to do with our government when we file our taxes or pay our import duties? Please allow me to simply clarify what I feel like God instructs us in His Word about giving, from the earnings that He has blessed us to receive. A guide is given to us of at least 10% of the first fruits of our income. In other words, 10% of our gross income, or before anything else is taken out. The discussion around this will often arise from individuals who feel like taxes should come out before calculating the tithe, or their house mortgage or other bills should come out first. But then God could also come back to us and show where He gave to us right from the very best that He had – His one and only Son. Friends, please allow me to assure you, that we could never out-give God, also, that God will care for His kids who makes every effort to be obedient to His commands and His calling. We may give and not have a clue where the money will come from to meet all the bills that are due, but when we are obedient to God, He will provide a way even when there appears to be no way. God will never ask us to give, then turn His back on us when it comes to meeting the remaining needs that we have. Ananias and Sapphira got into trouble when they thought that they were hiding something from God, and that their lie would never be detected. Of course God knew what was happening and He shared that with His servant (Peter). Are you also testing God, by keeping your income a secret? Remember, God knows all things. There is no hiding from Him. Also remember that you will never be disappointed with the blessings from God when you’re honest before Him and obedient to His commands. When He owns all of you, He will never fail you. Testing Him, is allowing Satan to interfere and have a ‘piece of the pie’. God never blesses you halfheartedly, He blesses you abundantly more that you can ever imagine! That’s our loving God my friend!
PRAYER: Thank You loving Lord for giving Your ultimate sacrifice just for me – Your precious Son, Jesus. Thank you for giving guidance to us on what we should give in return to You. Please help Your children to stay true to You, regardless of what our worldly eyes might see as impossibilities in our limited view as mere humans. Lord, we honestly want to please You in every way possible, but the temptations of this world are so great that we need Your help to keep our eyes fixed on You, and our hearts determined to honor and love You in every way possible. Oh that our hearts may be moved in such a way, that our wallets will be opened to giving as You direct us to. Thank You Lord for first giving to us. As we give back to You, may we never regret giving towards Your will and Your work here on earth, that results in kingdom benefits for You. AMEN!
Bible Reference: Acts 4:8-12
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 8 Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered, “Respected elders and leaders of the people, listen. 9 Are we being put on trial today for doing an act of kindness by healing a frail, crippled man? Well then, 10 you and everyone else in Israel should know that it is by the power of the name of Jesus that the crippled man stands here today completely healed! You crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth,[f] but God raised him from the dead. 11 This Jesus is ‘the stone that you, the builders, have rejected, and now he has become the cornerstone!’[g] 12 There is no one else[h] who has the power to save us, for there is only one name to whom God has given authority by which we must experience salvation:[i] the name of Jesus.”
OBSERVATION: You will see from this Scripture that there was trouble between church and state right from the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. However, I believe you will also see how important it is to represent Jesus well, even when questioned by unsuspecting authorities. As we meditate on this today, hopefully we will learn how to best represent Christ in all circumstances of life.
APPLICATION: I would imagine that most of my readers will fall into the same ‘boat’ as myself, in that we may never have been under close scrutiny by governing authorities in practicing our faith. Because of this, it may be challenging for us to identify with all that Peter and his companions dealt with. However there are some important points in this story that, I believe, will help us in our Christian journey:
(1) Stand firm in your faith in the good times and in the challenging times. Think about it. The easiest way to get along with people, is to agree with their opinions, beliefs and ideals. But what does this convey about your own personal opinions, beliefs and ideals? Don’t you think that in the case of the latter, folk will soon look at you in pity knowing that you have no firm convictions about anything in life? Yes, you will probably be less argumentative that most people, because you will never challenge anyone about their convictions. Peter stood firm in his convictions even when faced with the authorities who had every right to sentence him to death;
(2) Speak as a representative of Christ. I believe it is easy to see that Peter showed no anger in his voice, and that he respected the authorities that he was addressing. When our motives and integrity is questioned, we will often raise our voices and say things that are disrespectful. There are certain pieces of evidence that we portray when someone is really getting us upset. It may be the wrinkled forehead, or the tremor in your lips, or the twitch in your eyes, but often something will let the other party know that they are truly getting ‘under our skin’! Peter had every reason to try every trick in the book to get his point across properly and respectfully, as the authorities could easily have ordered his death. Our conflicts may never be quite as life threatening, but yet we tend to go overboard in trying to convince those who question us. I’ve seen great exaggeration by individuals, as well as awful anger built up in folk when questioned. Peter’s response actually led to sharing prophecy, and the plan of salvation with those who questioned him. Wow, wouldn’t that be a great goal to try and achieve before a conversation is finished with someone who questions us?
(3) Nothing to hide. Peter held nothing back, nor did he use terms to disguise what he felt God wanted him to say to the leaders. Unfortunately, it seems like we try very hard to avoid hurting the feelings of our friends and family, so we talk in riddles in order to avoid actually speaking openly about our Lord. Oh my, what a shame dear friend. In spite of all the power of our Lord, Jesus still went to a criminal’s cross, walking thru the shame and jeering of an angry crowd, and He hung there – exposed to additional shame and disrespect – but precious friend, He did all that in love, so that we might live forever with He and the Father in heaven! So what is it again that you feel ashamed to talk about in public? Who is it that intimidates you when you know you should be sharing your faith with them?
May I encourage you to be very open in sharing who healed you; who touched your life; who brightens your day; who is your hope for all eternity; etc, etc. Jesus wasn’t ashamed of anyone that He made, nor anyone He saved. Why should you or I be ashamed of Him?
PRAYER: Thank You precious Lord for creating us in Your image. Thank You for giving up Your very life so that we may see the likes of heaven and our heavenly Father. As You touch our lives each day, may we be especially bold about declaring the Word of God, honoring the One who saved us, and bragging on the One who healed us and made us anew in Jesus Christ. To You be all glory, honor and praise! Oh that our lives will reflect Your glory in every aspect of our lives. AMEN!