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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Monday, 30 May 2016

Acts Day 91 - Don't Fall Into the Trap

6:12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

Some days I feel like I have been a pastor forever. It actually won't be that long before it's been more than half my life. If I include my internship it already has been more than half. However no matter how long I continue to serve in this capacity or walk this earth I will never forget the first profound lesson I learned as a pastor: not all adults are grownups. It happened at a board meeting. For the sake of those involved I won't give any details but a man who at the time was nearly three times my age had a full blown temper tantrum in front of the whole board. It was quite shocking actually. In hindsight it was quite obvious what he was doing. He was trying to get everyone stirred up to do what he wanted. Guess what? It worked...


The Bible tells us a few men from a particular synagogue who were non locals, what we would today call immigrants, didn't like Stephen. We are not told why. It is clear they wanted to control him and/or the church in some way but Stephen saw through it and they couldn't argue or persuade around his wisdom. Angry that they couldn't get their way they start spreading rumours.

The thing is when a few people are disgruntled it's manageable. They don't have the numbers to take control and they know it. So what do they do? They use subtle slander to get the masses to turn on Stephen too. The Bible says they "stirred up the people".

Sadly stirring people up sometimes isn't that hard. Here is what I want us to think about. Should followers of Jesus ever be stirred up? Think about what stirred up means? Think about your thoughts and emotions being spun in a blender. It's confusing and unsettling and nothing makes sense. One day Stephen is highly respected and the next day his character is on the chopping block and the next day he is trotted out as public enemy number one.

Decisions of any magnitude should never be made in these conditions. You wouldn't build a house during a tornado so why would you build conclusions about someone during a storm of emotions and conflicting information? Trace history back to the beginning and you'll find one disgruntled angel stirring up the other angels in an effort to discredit and slander God. In one out of three angels he succeeded.

The next time you feel stirred up and you can see a mob mentality forming check yourself. Take a step back. Chances are you are being manipulated to take part in something dark that you would never do if you were thinking clearly and/or had all the facts. A storm of emotions is no time to make impacting decisions or draw conclusions about others.


We are followers of Jesus and He was always calm in the storms. Follow Him.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Acts Day 90 - Think Again

6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

There are things we believe that simply aren't true. One of those things is the idea that doing right or being faithful will produce success and a smooth path through life. I hear people often reasoning like this: "I prayed about it and everything lined up perfectly so it must be God's will."

Or: "I prayed about it and things just aren't working out so it must no be His plan for me."

Really? Imagine if Moses had the "pray then follow the path of least resistance" strategy. Have we forgotten we are in a war? Have we forgotten that in war the enemy concentrates his efforts where he feels most threatened?

Stephen turns out to be far more than a guy who can oversee the daily distribution of food. He is a force for God. His faithfulness does not produce success or a smooth path. Rather he gets increased resistance. A group of Jews resistant to Jesus make Stephen their target. This is nothing new. Daniel ended up in a den of lions for similar reasons. As Stephen became more and more filled with the Spirit of God, the target on his back got bigger and bigger.

Finally his enemies (enemies only because they were first enemies of Jesus) resorted to gathering men willing to lie about him so they could get him in trouble with the religious authorities while at the same time planting seeds of doubt about him in the minds of the people. Simply put they launched a campaign of slander.

You see the opposite is true. If we are cruising along without resistance and enjoying peace and popularity, chances are we not working for God. Chances are we are strategically playing politics and specializing in pleasing people rather than pleasing God.


Make no mistake. Jesus didn't run around trying to make enemies and neither did Stephen. Simply being faithful in a world largely hostile to Jesus is enough to create enemies.

Don't judge your choices based on the reactions of others or how little resistance it creates. Just be faithful and be prepared for resistance.


"They hated Me first and they will hate you also." - Jesus

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Acts Day 89 - Is Organized Religion Bad?

6:3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
It's popular today even among Christians to bash organized religion and essentially "fly solo". The only problem with that point of view is that it isn't Biblical which in the end means you are not a follower of Jesus but rather a follower of your own ideas.
Don't misunderstand me. Organized religion is far from perfect. Much of it is downright demonic. However the misuse or abuse of something does not negate the genuine. I don't see everyone becoming celibate because sex is often abused.
Think about this. Subway has franchises everywhere. So do countless other businesses. I can go to Subway anywhere and know exactly what I'm going to be able to get before I ever enter the building. Here in Grande Prairie alone there are probably ten Subway stores. Why? Because Subway is organized. It is structured for self replicating growth.


See the only alternative for organized religion is disorganized religion and if you think organized religion has some issues (it does), disorganized religion is far worse. Disorganized religion has no structure, no accountability, and is fertile ground for cults and events like Waco and the Jim Jones massacre.
However that is by far not the real tragedy of disorganized religion.
Let's come back to Subway. It's a sandwich shop. If the original creators of the concept were disorganized it's likely their store would have remained the only one. You and I would never have heard of them and when we were in a hurry and seeking a healthy meal, Subway would not have been an option.
Are you seeing it now? Disorganized religion prevents even the possibility of growth. It is selfish and self serving and treats belief in Jesus as something for me and cares little if you ever find out about Him.
It was Jesus who organized the twelve and later seventy and sent them out to heal and preach in pairs. Organization facilitates growth. It develops leadership. It multiplies talents and abilities. It doesn't matter if you can make a delicious sandwich. That's really the easy part. Getting organized and structured to make that delicious sandwich available to millions and millions of people is what transforms a simple meal into a money making franchise. Structure and growth are not enemies.
One of the things I love about my church is that when I give money most of it does not stay in my local church. It literally gets spread around the world. Organization and structure is a powerful force both for good and for evil. That's why in wars the first thing that gets attacked are communications. Knock out your enemies ability to communicate and suddenly they become disorganized and much easier to defeat.
As the early followers of Jesus rapidly grew in numbers, structure and organization became a necessary component and the result of organizing well was increased growth.
If you are against organized religion you need to seriously consider the reality that you are against the very teachings of the One you claim to follow.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Acts Day 88 - Godly Leadership

6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
I used to be an idealist and I hate disagreement and confrontation. Put those three things together and the role of being a pastor has really kept me outside my comfort zone. Why? Because there is the way the world should be and there is the way it actually is. There is the way the church should be and the way it is.

The truth is the conflict over how the food was distributed never should have happened. I mean why are Christians having such issues to begin with? And did you notice we are never told what the source of the conflict actually was? Were the widows of the Hellenists really being ignored or did they just perceive that they were being cheated? See it doesn't really matter because whether the problem was real or perceived it was still a problem. Yesterday we saw that behind it all was a clever ploy of Satan to distract the apostles from preaching yet the problem demanded attention and a solution. 

Here is what we need to notice. The point of this story is not the problem itself but how it was handled. First it says the apostles (the 12 original disciples) called together the multitude of the disciples. This means the 12 were not hoarding power but rather developing leaders. This is critical to the growth and success of any endeavour. Second they acknowledged the problem and exposed a deeper problem that perhaps they had not thought of. You see these other disciples still saw the 12 as being the leaders and so brought the problem to them. Without being rude or demeaning the 12 took the problem, exposed a deeper problem (dealing with this will prevent us from prayer and preaching) and handed the problem back. However when they handed it back it was not without a plan. Notice the brilliance of the plan. They were to choose from among themselves seven capable, trustworthy, Spirit filled men to handle the situation. The 12 could have appointed seven men but they didn't. They gave the task of choosing the men to the group. This is not top down leadership. They are giving responsibility, freedom, and decision making power to the people. The Bible says this plan pleased the people.


I have learned that people act more responsibly when they are entrusted with responsibility rather than treated as second class. It brings growth to the individuals and a sense of ownership in the plan and process. Many of us struggle to delegate. We struggle to share "power". We struggle with control issues.

Here at the very beginning as the budding movement of Jesus followers begins to experience growing pains and internal conflict God lays out for us the successful strategies of servant leadership.

1, Know your role and stick to it despite distractions and demands that could easily side track you.
2, Work as a team, not as a lone wolf.
3, Be constantly developing leaders
4, Give those leaders autonomy to handle tasks, make decisions, problem solve, etc...
5, Let new leaders emerge from the group by consensus, not by appointment.
6, Leave them free to function in the role for which they were appointed while you stick to your role.
7, Trust God to lead His church and after responsibly putting a structure in place let go of the need to micromanage or control.

These principles don't just work in the church. They work everywhere that people are called to work as a team.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Acts Day 87 - Distractions

6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Things aren't always as they seem. What appeared to be a problem about food distribution was actually a veiled attempt on the part of Satan to derail the preaching of the gospel. Clever. What is fascinating is that the disciples saw right through it. They immediately sprang into action to both solve the immediate dilemma and at the same time prevent that dilemma from thwarting their mission.

Somewhere along the way that clear sense of mission faded and the lesser dilemmas took over in the Christian church. I'm not sure when or how or why but they did.

It doesn't just happen in churches. It happens to business owners. It happens in marriages. It happens everywhere. When we forget to keep the main thing the main thing we can get busy in all kinds of directions. Our business or focus can be legitimate, even urgent, but if it causes us to stop doing what is most important it will in time destroy everything.


Ask God daily for the wisdom to see what distractions Satan is bringing into your life and the ability to manage them without taking your focus from that which matters most.

Jesus got up early while it was still dark and went off to a solitary place to pray. (Mark 1:36) He knew if reliance on His Father ever took a back seat in His life everything else He did would be futile. Never allow yourself to be taken away from the main thing. It's deadly.
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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Acts Day 86 - And So It Begins...
6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
I hate starting my day like this. If there are two things that are killing us today it is food and ignorance. Put the two together and you have a serious problem.
Jesus instructed the disciples in Acts 1 to take the good news to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Had He been speaking to Canadians He would have said to take the good news to Ottawa, to Canada, to North America, and around the globe.
In Acts 6 they haven't even left Jerusalem yet and there is already a problem. The problem centers around food and ignorance. Hebrews are Jews, the descendants of Abraham, those who have been living in Jerusalem for generations. The Hellenists are also Jews but they are not "pure". Their ancestors moved away from Jerusalem in the past and they speak Greek instead of Aramaic. They are "from away". I suppose it would be like me moving my family back to Ireland. My roots are there but the locals would see me as "from away".
Apparently this "cultural divide" was too much for the gospel to cure. Or rather it would be more accurate to say that they couldn't see past their own egos and ignorance to the Jesus who had no borders and tore down every wall He came across.
The worst part is that it was the Hebrews who were withholding food from the Hellenists. How could they take the good news to the world if their hearts weren't even open enough to include their closest relatives and fellow Jews? If a Hebrew Jew has an issue with a Hellenist Jew how will they ever go to Samaria let alone beyond?
It would be nice to think this problem is an ancient Jewish problem. However the talk of walls and strengthening or borders and withholding food from some but not from others has not gone away. The truth is that this talk is strengthening. Only one thing makes it possible for racism, prejudice, ignorance, and fear of others to increase. That one thing is a disconnect from Jesus.
Think about it. The church was growing at a fast pace. This growth prevented or at least made it difficult for those who knew Jesus best to make Him known more fully to the new believers. This means they came into the church with their old ideas, their cultural bias, their inherited prejudices etc... and it wasn't long before the devil found tools he could use to divide and conquer.
This much I can say with certainty. If we allow ourselves to put humanity into boxes and prejudice them by categories and treat them differently based on these prejudgments we don't know Jesus very well and are taking His name in vain.
"I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven having the everlasting good news to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation, every kindred, every language, and every people..."
Jesus sees us as one. It's time to see as He sees.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Acts Day 85 - Empty?

5:40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

The other day I saw a picture of men being tortured and killed and it said something like "The disciples made up the story of His resurrection to take advantage of all the perks."

It isn't that I envy them or want to see those days and events repeated. What takes my breath away is not what they had to go through but their attitude in it. Lots of people even to this day get beaten and tortured for political reasons and religious reasons. That is nothing new. It may be fairly foreign to our North American culture but in some places it is fairly commonplace.

What is not common is for men to count such suffering a privilege and to boldly put themselves in harms way over and over because for them nothing else matters. That is the part I envy, the "nothing else matters" part. They were excited that they could suffer for His sake. They would not cease making Him known in every way and in every place they could.

Somewhere along the way, and I'm not sure where, Christianity became a private matter. When I was beginning my ministry as a pastor in Cape Breton I joined the local ministerial. The leaders of the 4 largest churches in town belonged to it and then there was me. I could tell lots of stories about that but the only one I'm going to tell today was that a proposal was made to ban any church in town from sharing their beliefs publicly. They would not be able to take literature from house to house, rent a public building to hold meetings or do anything to share their faith beyond their own walls. Thankfully it never amounted to anything but this proposal came from a pastor, a preacher, a man who should be walking in the footsteps of Peter, James, and John.

That proposal sounded more like what the council came up with. It sounds like the idea of someone who is trying to protect their turf.

I envy the disciples. They came to the profound realization that nothing but Jesus matters. Self-preservation was not even on their radar any more. Building a religion was not their goal. Being popular was not their goal. Making money was not their goal. None of those things were even on the list. They had one singular focus. Jesus must be revealed to everyone and anyone who will listen. If it meant inconvenience or suffering or even death it didn't concern them in the least. We can tell by their prayer life that the only concern they had for themselves is that they weren't being bold enough.

Radical.
Extreme.

Typically those are words we think of as negative but not in this case. The people were drawn to them just as they had been drawn to Jesus. Are people drawn to Christianity today? Are we attracting people simply because of who and what we are?

If we aren't there can be only one explanation. We are not like Him.

My prayer is that God will do whatever it takes to change that. It's time for His people to become His people and reignite the fire that turned Jerusalem upside down in Acts 5. The world needs Him and we can't share Him unless we have Him bursting from every pore in our bodies.

Pray.