Acting Out: Day 17 — The Holy Spirit: A Gift For All

Read Acts 10:24-48

Key Verse: Acts 10:45 “The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles, too.” (NLT)

For the last two thousand years Christians have debated whether or not the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was meant for all believers or was it just meant for the early Church. In our key verse for today we see that the Jewish believers had a similar concern. They had difficulty believing that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was meant for all believers and not just the Jewish ones. In fact, they even thought that Christianity was strictly meant for the Jews and that no one else would ever be accepted by God.

It seems very obvious in this passage that the Jewish believers had to change their minds about whether or not all people could be saved. Now that God had proved that He accepted them by giving them the Holy Spirit how could the Jewish believers disagree.

If God used His Holy Spirit as proof that He accepts all people as believers of Jesus Christ we can know with great confidence that God also intends the Holy Spirit to be available to all believers. The baptism was not simply meant to jump start the church’s growth as some believe. It is meant for you. God wants to fill all believers with the Holy Spirit so we can all know that we have been accepted by God and so that we can Act Out for Him with the same kind of power, boldness, and faith that the early Church had.

When someone offers you a gift don’t you usually accept it? Why should gifts from God be any different?

Prayer: “Lord, thank-you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Please help me to be a witness of the great things you have done in me.”

Acting Out: Day 16 — Acceptable To God

Read Acts 10:1-23

Key Verse: Acts 10:15 “The voice spoke again, ‘If God says something is acceptable, don’t say it isn’t.” (NLT)

Peter begins to experience a major shift in thinking in this passage. Peter was a Jew. As far as Jews were concerned they were God’s chosen people and they had become convinced that they were the only people that God would have dealings with. God gives Peter this vision as a sign to him that God was ready to reach out to the whole world with the message of the cross.

When given this vision Peter protests the idea of eating anything impure because he did not want to defile himself. God responded to him by telling him that if God says something is acceptable, then it is.

God had two meanings to this, first of all he was telling Peter that it was now ok for him to eat foods he normally would not have eaten. More importantly, God was beginning to reveal to Peter that Jesus’ death on the cross was for the forgiveness of the sins of all people, not just the Jews.

Sometimes God asks us to speak to people who we really don’t think are the “right type” of people to get saved. We think they are not going to accept God so we decide that it is not acceptable to reach out to them. We need to remember that Jesus died for the sins of all people not just for ours. When God prompts us to witness to individuals who we would not have chosen we need to trust that God knows what He is doing and Act Out in faith. Sometimes it may seem hard to do but the rewards are amazing.

Prayer: “Lord, help me to have the faith to Act Out and witness to whoever you ask me to witness to, no matter who they are.”

Acting Out: Day 15 — From Hunter to Hunted

Read Acts 9:20-43

Key Verse: Acts 9:20 “And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God?” (NLT)

Things certainly turned around for Saul very quickly. He became a Christian and immediately started to teach others about Jesus. He went from trying to destroy the church to winning souls for Jesus Christ. He also went from being one who tracked down Christians to try and kill them to one who was now himself being hunted.

Being a Christian made Saul a lot of enemies. The Jewish teachers in Damascus wanted to kill him (v. 23) and the Greek- speaking Jews in Jerusalem wanted to kill him (v. 29). On both of these occasions other believers had to protect Saul by sneaking him out of the towns. Not only did Saul make enemies with unbelievers but even some Christians did not trust him, after all he did try to kill them.

Barnabas stood up and defended Saul to the other believers. He told them of Saul’s great preaching and how much he had changed since finding Jesus. Barnabas was able to convince the church to accept Saul as one of their own.

We can learn a lot from these two men. Saul Acted Out for Jesus even though he was once the Church’s greatest enemy. He preached the Good News after only just getting saved himself. Barnabas Acted Out and defended Saul even though it could have made him very unpopular with the other believers.

Prayer: “Lord, help me to have the courage to Act Out for you without being afraid of what anyone else may say or do.”

Acting Out: Day 14 — From “Yes Lord” to “But Lord”

Read Acts 9:1-19

Key Verse: Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said, ‘Go and do what I say’…” (NLT)

The conversion of Saul (who was later renamed Paul) is one of the major turning points in the Church’s history. Saul went from uttering murderous threats (v.1) to being chosen as one who would suffer many things for the sake of the Gospel (v. 16).  Saul was not the only one who was dramatically changed in this passage. We are also introduced to a Christian named Ananias who needed to be changed. When God first spoke to Ananias, Ananias reacted positively, “Yes Lord”, but as soon as he found out what God wanted him to do and who God wanted him to witness to his reaction changed to “But Lord”. Ananias began to try and make excuses as to why he should not have to do what God wanted.

Sometimes we are enthusiastic about doing things for God that is, right up until we find out what it is exactly that God wants us to do. It is at that point that we start to make excuses and try and get ourselves out of having to do anything at all. God responded to Ananias very forcefully and demanded that he do as God said. It would have been so much better if Ananias had trusted God from the beginning and did as God asked.

It is important for us to learn to trust God completely and to not hesitate when God asks us to do something for Him. God is in control and He knows what He is doing. That Saul who God asks you to witness to may be the next Paul.

Prayer: “Lord, sometimes it is easy to want to say “Yes Lord” when you speak to me but then my answer turns to “But Lord” as I look for excuses. Help me to trust you completely so I can Act Out for You.”

Acting Out: Day 11 — Truly Devoted

Read Acts 7:31-60

Key Verse: Acts 7:55 “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” (NLT)

Stephen was certainly in the middle of a very difficult situation. He know what these men were capable of yet he decided it was better to lose his own life for the gospel of Jesus Christ than to look out for himself. He uses the people’s own history to show them that they have a terrible reputation for rejecting the things of God. They worshiped idols, rejected Moses, killed God’s prophets, and now they had even killed God’s own Son.

Stephen must have known that what he was saying was going to get him in a lot of trouble. But he also knew that it was the absolute truth and he was willing to sacrifice his own life for the truth. Stephen was truly devoted to God and would stand-up for him no matter the cost.

“What would you have done? Would you have tried to wiggle your way out of the situation or would you have laid it all on the line like Stephen did? It is hard to do but you too can stand-up for God in any circumstance. You do it by being a person like Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit” (v. 55). The Holy Spirit is your strength to stand- up and Act Out for God.

Prayer: “Lord, I want to be so devoted to you that I would be willing to lay it all on the line for you if need be. Teach me to be like Stephen who forgave those who were hurting him even while they were still doing it.”

What’s It Worth To You?

Think about your prized possession for a moment.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just think about the actual physical item that is your favourite, most valuable possession.  Now think about what that item is actually worth.  If it were sitting on a table at a yard sale, what would the sticker price say?  For some of us, our most valuable item may actually be worth a considerable amount of money, but I’m willing to guess that for the majority of us, our most valuable item may not be of much value at all to somebody else.

Assuming there is no loss of life, this is where the real tragedy comes in when someone loses a home to a fire.  Sure you may have insurance on the contents of your house, but a dollar figure will not necessarily replace the items that you’ve lost.  In many cases, even if an identical version of the item you lost could be found and paid for, it would not hold the same value as the original to you.  A lot more goes into the value of an item then the actual price paid for it.

How do we determine the value of things?  Most of us have come to understand that the true value of any item that we might have is not found in the item itself but in how we received that item.  That birthday card that your child made for you with a couple of crayons and a piece of construction paper is literally worth nothing in terms of its dollar value, yet to you it maybe one of the most valuable things that you could ever own.  That Bible that you’ve had for many, many years, you have marked in it, cried over it, and spent so much time in it.  As a physical book it is be worn out, the cover might be missing, and pages are torn.  To somebody else it might be of very little value, but to you it is irreplaceable.

Ultimately the true measure of the value of anything that you possess comes down to the value you place on the person that gave you the item.  The way that you treasure that item really doesn’t reflect the dollar value of it, but the emotional value, the meaning behind it, and how much you value the person that gave it to you.

In Genesis 25 we find the story of Jacob and Esau.

This is the account of Abraham’s son Isaac.  Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.

 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.  The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated, one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.  The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau.  After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.  Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.  Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.  He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.  So Esau despised his birthright. – Genesis 25:19-35

The story of Jacob and Esau is a very intriguing one.  The are a number of hard to answer questions.  How is it that One son is considered to be the son of the promise while the other one is not?  How is it that one son can be elevated above another when they are twins?  How is it that the son whom God chooses seems to be the one who is in the wrong in the story, while the son He rejects seems to be the victim?

Jacob comes across like a crooked weasel of a man, while Esau loses everything and apparently at no fault of his own.  Jacob rips him off, he takes advantage of his brothers weakness and then later takes advantage of his own father’s weakness.  How is it that this man is the one God chooses over the other?

Sure, Jacob stole from his brother, but in reality it was Esau who ripped off himself and all of his future generations.  It doesn’t seem right to us that Jacob used his brother’s weak moment to get a birthright and steal a blessing.  But the truth of the matter is that Esau was not worthy of what was his.  He was the rightful firstborn son and he was the rightful heir to his father’s wealth and to his father’s blessing.  He gave away something he would have had for his lifetime, something he ought to have been able to pass on to his children and children’s children for generations, he traded it all for a brief moment of physical satisfaction.

His birthright should have been his legacy forever and he traded it for a meal, he traded it to calm a hunger that would return in mere hours.  There is no way that he was that hungry.  He was a healthy, strong, rugged man and a skillful hunter, he could have gotten food.  He was the first born son of his father’s estate, the servants would have been obligated to serve him and take care of his needs, all he had to do was demand food.  He could have begged anyone for a scrap for food, enough to settle the hunger pangs, while he prepared the meat that in all likelihood he had just brought into the camp from his hunting trip.

Instead Esau gave up the most important thing that he had for something so temporary.  Sure he had the meal but No doubt that meal must have left a bad taste in his mouth when he realized how much it had cost him.  Sure he must have felt bad and must have been angry with his brother for what had happened to him, but he must’ve known in his heart that he was the one to blame because he traded something so valuable for something so cheap.  He must’ve known in his heart that it was his own fault, for whatever reason in that moment, he decided to trade his lifelong, generational blessing and favour for a brief moment of satisfaction.  We often want to blame Jacob for Esau’s loss when in reality Esau did not deserve what we had because he chose not to see the true value in it.  We wrestle with the same struggle today, and every day.

Don’t be like Esau.

That really sounds strange to us.  What do you mean don’t be like the victim in the story?

Don’t be like Esau don’t trade eternal things for temporary moments of comfort or pleasure.  You are a child of God and as a child of God you have received the greatest gift imaginable.  Jesus Christ shed His blood and gave His life for you.  He bought your inheritance for you and paid the way so you could be made right in the eyes of the living God.  This was a gift for you from the Father, who sent His Son, because He loves you so much.

What we have in God is eternal.  Often we treat the most valuable gift that we have and could ever have, our very salvation, our very relationship with our Heavenly Father through the blood of Jesus Christ our Saviour, like it is cheap.  Don’t be like Esau who never saw the value in what he had.  Don’t be like Esau who got caught up in the moment and saw his human physical urges as more important to meet then to hold onto the eternal things that were his as a child of his father.

Be like Jacob.

Again this sounds strange.  What do you mean?  You want us to be like the one who lied and cheated to steal from his own brother?  Of course we are not being encouraged to steal, cheat, and lie.  We are not being encouraged to take advantage of someone else’s weakness for our own gain.  Be like Jacob and understand the true value in the eternal things.

What we have received, when we gave our lives to Jesus Christ, must be the most valuable thing that we could ever possess.  We have an inheritance.  We have peace of mind, a very rare thing these days.  We have received joy, the removal of our guilt and shame, a fresh start, and a new life.  Would we trade all that for something so fleeting, so temporary, so carnal, as a moment of pleasure.  So many times we jump headfirst into sinful behaviour even though we’ve been there before.  We know that the pleasure and satisfaction that we receive in the flesh will only last for a moment.  A moment of pleasure that can cost so much.  We must see the true value in eternal things and choose not to trade them over truly for temporary moments sinful pleasure.  The next time we are tempted to sin let’s pray that God will help us overcome the temptation because we see the price Jesus paid for our inheritance as being worth far more.

The Benefits of Sin

We often hear people argue that they don’t need Jesus since they are fine just the way that they are.  “I like the way my life is right now. I don’t see why I ought to change,” they say.  Ah, the “benefits” of sin.  Of course they don’t want to change, why trade all that sin has to offer for anything else?  It is this great lie that so many people choose to believe, that everything is fine without Jesus and that they will be missing so much if they accept Him.   

Somehow there is a delusion that things are permissible and easy without Jesus and strict and rigged with Him.   That may be the common thought but in reality it is quite the opposite that ends up being true.  Without Christ people are in bondage to sin yet see themselves as being totally free.  They think that with Christ they will be bound by religious lists of do’s and don’t’s but the truth is that only in Christ that we are ever truly free.

It comes down to the benefits of a life with Christ or life without Him and which is most appealing.  Paul asks a rhetorical question in Romans 6:21 that is worth trying to answer, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬)  He already put the final exclamation point on the answer for us.  Paul declares that whatever else the benefits of a life of sin might be, the ultimate result is death and this is eternal death and complete separation from God the Father.  But there are other things that sin gives us before death puts the final exclamation point on life.

1) Guilt – the feeling of remorse that comes when you have done something wrong.  Here is a great benefit to sin.  Everyone loves that deep ache in the pit of your stomach that comes when you know that you have done something wrong.  The uneasy feeling of a conscience that is torn and consumed with thoughts of regret and sadness for behaviours we want nothing more than to wish away. 

2) Shame – the feeling that there is something wrong with you.  The benefit of shame takes our guilt and internalizes it, making us feel like not only were our actions wrong but that we are broken ourselves.  Shame succeeds in lower our view of ourselves to the point that we no longer believe that we are worthy of anyone else’s attention or affection.  Who wouldn’t want to experience this benefit of sin more?

3) Fear – the feeling that there will be unpleasant consequences for your actions.  Another wonderful benefit of sin is that as guilt and shame settle in they then allow fear to take a hold of us.  This deep sense of dread and the inability to rest or relax because we know that bad things are coming our way, can be ours if we choose the benefits of sin.  

Of course I’m being facetious but I think that point is clear enough.  When Paul asked what benefit we received from the things we did in sin, he meant for us to see that there is no benefit to sin at all that is worth wanting.  In contrast, a life in Christ Jesus knows the benefits of having our guilt and shame removed.  With Jesus we get to experience perfect love and we know that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).  Ultimately the greatest benefit we could ever ask for is only found in Jesus and that of course is eternal life.

Which benefit package do you want to experience?