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Posts tagged ‘Acts of the Apostles’

Being transformed by trust…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'”
Acts 17:28

When the Apostle Paul traveled throughout Athens preaching the message of the love of God, he would say, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Paul would say to them, “I worship a God who is not any of these things: He can’t be found in marble. He can’t be found in gold and He can’t be found in vain philosophy. But He stands here right now and He calls us His offspring.” In Acts 17, he says, “My friends, you’ve made this way too complicated. You’re God’s kids. He’s alive. He wants you. He loves you and he calls you to serve him.”

If you read enough of Paul and the words of Jesus, you get the idea that almost all of our problems in this world come from one problem: We just do not know how to receive the love and grace of God. Paul seems to hit on this theme repeatedly in all of his letters – that all of the sin, mistakes, problems, hurt, and evil in the world comes back to this one problem: People do not know – in our heads, hearts, and bones – the truth and the depth of the love of God.

I see this image of Paul anguishing in the knowledge of what could be if people could just trust in Christ. Today, w e, too, may trust in the cross of Christ, in the resurrection, in a God who loves us, who believes in us, who wants to lift us up, transform us, and carry us into his kingdom of faith, hope, and love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, your kingdom is where I want to live. Love me, lift me up, and transform me into the person you want me to be today. Amen.

Devotion: How has God in your life transformed the way you live today?

Visions of Christmas: Seeing White.


Visions of Christmas: Seeing White

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.
Acts 2:46

Recommended Reading
1 Corinthians 14:33 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=%201%20Corinthians%2014:33&version=NKJV)

Our modern Christian activities are much more elaborate and complicated than those of the early church. That’s not to say their lives weren’t complicated. In any age, the duties of life seem to expand to fill the time and resources available. Yet Luke, the author of Acts, noted something about the early Christians. He didn’t say their life was simple, but he did say they lived their lives with “simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46). Is it possible to live with simplicity of heart in a busy season like Christmas? It must be. If the early Christians did it from week to week, we can surely do it at Christmas.

Watch This Week’s TV Broadcast ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/television.aspx?tid=email_watchedevo )

We don’t know exactly what Luke meant by his words, but it must have something to do with staying focused on the basics which he mentioned in verse 42: teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. What are the basics of Christmas? Love, generosity, worship, service, giving, contemplation, gratitude, and others.

Like a pure white garment (Revelation 19:8), keep this Christmas clutter free by living with simplicity of heart.

Read-Thru-the-Bible
1 Timothy 12 Timothy 4

By David Jeremiah.

Writing the Next Chapter of Your Life.


couple starting over
(© ViewApart iStockphoto.com)
Exhausted and heartbroken, we drove out of the city, everything we owned packed in a U-Haul, with a carsick dog and 1-year-old in tow. We were officially closing that chapter of ministry.
Exiting the city, I played back in my mind some wonderful climatic scenes: the adoption of our first child after 10 years of infertility and the supernatural growth of a previously declining congregation. However, during that long drive south, the devastating lows—my husband having a stress-induced heart attack at age 34, financial pressure due to our house in a previous state not selling for two years, and the draining struggle of trying to live in peace with a contentious church board—overshadowed the wonderful.
We felt God leading us to take some time to rest, reflect and rebound, so we headed to the Gulf Coast. Determined to not allow our waiting time to be wasted time, for the next six months we worked several jobs to make ends meet, walked the beach and prayed, asking God to begin writing our next chapter.
Resilience means “to spring back into shape after bending, stretching or being compressed.”
In our previous chapter, we had been bent, stretched and compressed, some due to our own actions and some due to the actions of others. During those six months, we felt the Holy Spirit molding us back into shape and showing us what it looks like to be resilient.
My husband was given this Scripture by God during our six-month sabbatical, and we made it our goal: “They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city” (Acts 14:19-20).
There may be times in ministry that we feel stoned, dragged around and left for dead, but if we determine to have a resilient spirit, those chapters don’t have to be the end of the book!
Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.
Reprinted with permission from © Her Green Room Assemblies of God USA. Jennifer Stafford is a wife to a passionate, wonderful man, Chad, and mommy to a smart, funny, heart-after-God little boy, Evan. She and her husband have served in full time ministry together for over 15 years, and four years ago partnered with the Church Multiplication Network to plant a church in Daphne, Alabama.

7 Reasons You Should Develop More Leaders Now.


Rick Warren

If you want your church to grow—and if you want the kingdom to grow—you’re going to need to develop many more leaders. In the early church, an interesting turn of events happened when the apostles shifted from simply preaching to releasing leaders.

The Bible says in the early chapters of Acts that God was “adding” to the church daily. Shortly into the life of the Jerusalem church, there arose a conflict between Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews over the care of orphans and widows. The apostles asked for leaders from the church to be pointed out, and then they released seven men to oversee a new area of ministry. Suddenly, the terminology changes from God “adding” to the church to the church “multiplying.”

Out of Acts 6, we can take away at least seven lessons for churches that want to grow by empowering and releasing more leaders.

1. A growing church is a biblical idea. It says, “In those days the number of disciples were increasing.” If a church is not growing, it is often because something is unhealthy. Healthy things grow. Unless the community is already saturated and everyone reachable has been reached, a church must diagnose what is breaking down in the leadership development process. We’ve said that if there is one person who doesn’t know Christ, we’re going to keep growing. A growing church is biblical.

2. Church growth causes problems. Acts 6 says that there were “rumblings of discontent.” That’s true in any church. Sometimes people come to me and say, “Pastor Rick, we’ve really got a problem in this church.” I want to say, “Which one? I’m aware of about a couple hundred. Which one are you talking about?” They say, “You may not recognize this, but there’s this need.” Of course we recognize it. We live with it day and night. But leadership development takes time, so there are always holes to be filled in any growing ministry.

3. Problems are always unmet needs. The passage says, “The Greek-speaking Jews claimed their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.” We would like to think everyone in our church’s membership is together in the priority of seeing more people come to Jesus, but even Christians get distracted when there are unmet needs in their lives—real or imagined. When you experience a leadership problem in your church, it almost always flows out of someone’s unmet need.

4. Pastors cannot do it all. The apostles’ response to this need was, “It wouldn’t be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” It’s a legitimate need, but it’s not one that God called them to meet. Spiritual leaders cannot remain spiritual leaders long if they aren’t spending adequate time at the feet of Jesus seeking wisdom, direction and vision.

5. Spirit-filled believers assist the pastoral staff. The apostles said, “Choose seven men, full of the Holy Spirit, and we’ll turn the responsibility over to them.” It’s interesting that if you read these names in Acts 6—Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus—you find that they are all Greek names. And these men cared deeply about the needs of the Greek believers in the early church.

6. The pastors are to focus on praying and teaching. Then they said, “We will give our attention to prayer and teaching of the word.” I once had to make a covenant with Saddleback Church. If the people would take on the work of the ministry, I would make sure they were well fed. That’s been my goal since that time. The ministry of Saddleback outgrew me a long time ago. Obviously I can’t do all the ministry. I can’t even do a fraction of the ministry. But I can make sure that people are well fed.

7. The result of lay ministry was more growth. The passage says, “This proposal pleased the whole group so the word of God increased rapidly [multiplied].” There was mobilization. In many churches, all you’re expected to do is attend and give. But those are really two minor issues related to what God really wants to do in your life. We have allowed our spectator-oriented culture to influence the church.

But God teaches us to mobilize every person for ministry—pastors and staff are to equip all believers for the work of the ministry. We have to mobilize every member for ministry. This is leadership development. And this is essential to fulfilling the Great Commission.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America‘s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

{ Day 295 }.


But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:11, NKJV

The word used in the New Testament for spiritual gifts is charisma or, literally, “gifts of grace.” In other words, these gifts are given freely and are not earned. It was Simon the sorcerer who misunderstood the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit, thinking they could be purchased (Acts 8:18-24). What a terrible thing, we think. No doubt Simon had a wrong equation, and Peter severely rebuked him because of the wickedness in his heart that would allow him even to consider buying the power of God. But there’s not much difference between earning gifts and buying them. Money is only a function of effort and labor. Contrary to some commonly held equations, the gifts and power of God are distributed at the will of the Holy Spirit. They are not given as a token or a badge of God’s approval of a person’s level of spiritual maturity. Neither are they earned by our consecration. They are grace gifts.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Father, teach me that spiritual gifts are gifts freely given because of Your great grace. I cannot earn these gifts, and nothing I can offer to You will purchase them. You bestow these gifts freely as the gift of grace.

Spiritual gifts are given freely and are not earned.

By MIKE BICKLE.

{ Day 291 }.


We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.2 Peter 1:16-18

Convincing power and irrefutable truth marked the spread of the gospel in the first century. The presence and power of the Spirit provided undeniable evidence of the truth the apostles proclaimed. An important element of the gospel message in those days was that the apostles were eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus was risen from the dead. Firsthand eyewitness verification of this essential truth was of highest importance in the initial preaching of the gospel. When the apostles assembled to choose a man to replace Judas, the stipulation was that he needed to have been with them from the beginning so, as Peter said, he could “become a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:22). One fundamental job of the twelve apostles was to provide eyewitness verification to all that Jesus said and did. The church’s message in the end times will not only be that Christ is risen from the dead, but that His return is imminent.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Father, I thank You for those who were eyewitnesses of Your power and glory in the days when Your church began on Earth. I recognize that the great harvest of souls that will soon take place will be a witness to the fact that Your return in imminent. Thank You for this outpouring of mercy and power.

The last great harvesting of souls
will be an extravagant
outpouring of God’s
mercy and power.

By MIKE BICKLE.

Rick Warren: 8 Acts of a Healthy, Growing Church.


Saddleback Church

Saddleback Church(Facebook)

B.H. Carroll, a famous Bible scholar, in his commentary, estimates that there were probably 100,000 members in the Jerusalem church after 25 years. Peter Wagner and many have agreed. G. Campbell Morgan estimates a minimum of 60,000.

In any Bible dictionary, it will tell you that in New Testament times, the city of Jerusalem was approximately 200,000 people. What we have here is a church with 100,000 members in a city of 200,000 people. Half the city had come to Christ. No wonder they said, “You’ve filled Jerusalem.”

When you look at the book of Acts, you find at least eight characteristics of the early church that positioned them for this kind of blessing from God. If we echo the actions of the early church, we can expect God’s blessing on our church as much as those ancient leaders saw a blessing on the church in Jerusalem.

1. We must minister in the Holy Spirit’s power. Acts 1:4 says, “Don’t leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift My Father promised which you’ve heard Me speak about. John baptized with water but in a few days you’ll be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If you’re a Christian, you already have the Holy Spirit living inside you, but we must rely on His power on a moment-by-moment basis. The power of God is given for witnessing, for ministry, for mission.

To minister in the Holy Spirit’s power means to have Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled members. One of the characteristics of people who try to minister in a church without God’s Spirit is simple—fatigue. You end up running on your own steam rather than running on the power of God’s Spirit. So the starting point is to minister with the Holy Spirit’s power. He said, “Don’t leave Jerusalem. Wait until you’ve got My power.”

2. We must maintain a warm fellowship. Next, according to Acts 2:42-44, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship and the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wondrous and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All believers were together and had everything in common.”

This is a perfect example of fellowship. They loved each other. When God has a bunch of baby Christians, He looks for the warmest incubator He can find. The church that has warmth and fellowship and harmony? God blesses that church with new believers because He wants them to be in an environment where they can grow.

Ten times in the first five chapters of Acts, it says, “They were unified.” Luke, the writer, uses phrases like “they were of one accord,” “one heart,” “one purpose,” “one spirit, “all united in thought.” God can overlook a lack of facilities, a lack of programs and a lack of leadership. But one thing He will not overlook is disharmony in the church. Harmony—unity—must be maintained at all costs because the church is a fellowship. We need to build fellowship into each other.

Notice the results of fellowship. Verse 47 says, “The Lord added to their number daily.” The result of people being close to each other and celebrating warmth and harmony was that other people wanted to get involved.

3. We must multiply small groups. There are four advantages to meeting in small groups house to house:

  • It is infinitely expandable.
  • It is unlimited geographically.
  • It is good stewardship.
  • It promotes relationships.

There’s benefit—wisdom—in God’s way of multiplying small groups. As a result, the Lord added to their number daily those that were being saved.

4. We must magnify our vision of God. In Acts 4:24, the apostles were essentially praying, “God, there are rulers and there are leaders and there are people against You, but You’re in control. You’re the sovereign Lord. You made everything in heaven and on earth.”

We are children of the King. We’re on the winning side. We’ve read the last chapter. We know how it’s going to end. Jesus Christ has broken our chains, and Jesus says in the Bible, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” We’re attacking hell with squirt guns! And we’re trying to snatch people right out of the jaws of hell.

There are a lot of churches that want to play it safe. They get as far away from unbelievers as they can so they don’t get tainted. I want to get so close to hell that I can smell it! That’s where you set up your rescue station. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat if Jesus Christ is the captain of the boat. We need to magnify our vision of God.

5. We must maximize the power of prayer. Forty-eight times in the book of Acts, it says, “They prayed.” We will have the power the early church experienced when we pray like the early church prayed. Spiritual warfare requires the use of spiritual weapons. Notice Acts 4:31: “After they prayed the place they were meeting was shaken.” When was the last time you were in a prayer meeting like that? “They were all filled with God’s Spirit and they spoke the word of God boldly.” We must maximize the power of prayer if we’re going to be like the church of Jerusalem.

6. We must model Christlike generosity. The New Testament church in Jerusalem was a giving church. Acts 4:32-37 says, “ All the believers were one in heart and one in mind [there’s unity again]. No one claimed any of that which was his possessions as his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and grace was with them all. There were no needy persons among them.”

Notice there were three results of their generosity:

  • Verse 32 says there was unity in the church.
  • Verse 33 says it was a powerful testimony to the community.
  • Verse 44 says there were no needy people.

7. We must mobilize every member for ministry. Acts 6 describes a problem that arose in the early church between the Greek-speakers and the Aramaic-speakers. One felt that the other was receiving special treatment and needs were going unmet. So, they chose seven guys to oversee this area of ministry to people.

They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid hands on them. Then the Bible says, “So the word of God spread and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.”

When every member is a minister, discovers their God-given shape and serves someone else, the church moves from just a leader “adding” more people to the church “multiplying.”

8. We must move out with God’s mission. Acts 8 records God’s reminder to the apostles of the Great Commission: “Go! Go into all the world and make disciples!” They initially started sharing the faith, and the church at Jerusalem started getting bigger and bigger. But God never said, “I want just the church in Jerusalem to be big.” He said, “I want you to go not to just Jerusalem but Samaria and to Judea and to the uttermost parts of the world.” But they didn’t do it.

They didn’t spread the gospel. So God applied pressure by allowing persecution to get them to spread. The Bible says, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church of Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered through Judea and Samaria.” Notice thaT: the pastors stayed home, but all the people were scattered into Judea and Samaria. Why? Because that’s where He wanted them to go. They scattered everywhere and shared the Good News.

Jesus never said, “I came that you might have meetings.” He said, “I’ve come that you might have life.” Where is life lived? It’s live in the marketplace and in the family.

We will be the New Testament church when we magnify the vision of God, pray like they prayed, are filled with the Spirit and are generous with each other. I am a believer, and I know I’m going to heaven. Nothing can take that away from me. But between now and when I go to heaven, I want to take as many people with me as possible. I hope you’ll commit to that same thing.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven LifeHis book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Written by Rick Warren

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