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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

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Acts Day 121 - Not All Days Are Alike

9:26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.
31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

Life is a roller coaster. Last week I sat down with a woman who is 87 years old. She escaped east Germany in 1950 eight months pregnant and came to Canada. Her story is both fascinating and surreal. She made a comment I will never forget. She said "Life is interesting. Some parts are very intense and some very monotonous." I'm sure the prairie life north of Grande Prairie was pretty quiet compared to the war torn way her life began in Germany. Still the prairie life with winter storms and summer fires had it's moments too.

Like the life of an individual, the life of the early Christian church had it's own roller coaster ride. Jesus came on the scene of Jewish life and their monotony was shattered. After His death and resurrection it was really quiet for a few weeks and then the church small as it was received the Holy Spirit and turned the city upside down. Thousands who had heard and seen Jesus understood fully who He was and what they had done to Him. In and out of jail went the disciples until finally Gamaliel convinced the leadership to let this new religion takes it's course. For months peace returned to Jerusalem as the believers in Jesus grew and continued sharing.

Then a dispute between Stephen and some Jews lead to another flare up. Stephen found himself before the council. When asked to respond to the accusations against him Stephen began with Moses and explained from the sacred Jewish texts that Jesus was the Messiah. Refusing to surrender to what they knew was the truth they blocked their ears and ran at Stephen, eventually stoning him to death while Saul watched. Inspired by this event and zeal for the Jewish religion Saul became the leader of a fresh round of persecution. The temporary period of peace was over.

Then Saul himself encountered Jesus and the hunter became the hunted. So violent was the desire to kill Saul that the church sent him all the way to Tarsus and peace again returned in Judah and the surrounding region.

Storms and peace. Ups and downs. Tragedies and triumphs and the mundane. Life is not consistent. It is our nature to get complacent in times of peace and then we are overwhelmed by even the smallest of storms. The church had times of peace and they used them to push forward and share Jesus with as many people as possible. Athletes don't sit down in the off season, they train. Bamboo appears to not grow at all for the first seven years but underground it's roots are pushing deeper and wider and then suddenly the plant explodes and grows at an unbelievable rate.

Every day is a gift from God. Use your peaceful days wisely so that storms will only serve to show how deep your roots are and how strong your faith is. Despite the repeated resistance and opposition to faith in Jesus His church marches on. It may appear to be in poor condition right now but the coming storm will reveal who used these years of peace wisely.


Today. That's all we ever get. Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Acts Day 120 - Bridge Builders

9:26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.

Saul's early experiences as a believer underline a very real truth - our past follows us. In Damascus the Jews were confounded by his sudden switch. In Jerusalem they were afraid of him. One minute he was rounding up the followers of Jesus and throwing them in prison. Now he is preaching Jesus? The change was too quick. The memories were too fresh. Trust doesn't come that easily. A man may stop drinking but that doesn't mean people stop seeing him as a drunk. A woman may stop sleeping around but her reputation will still linger. Liars may reform but that doesn't mean anyone will believe them. This phenomenon is real and not all bad. What if Saul was just using a new tactic to hunt the faithful? What if we was trying to infiltrate so he could find out how who was really involved in this "new heresy"? Jesus never commanded us to trust everyone all the time.

Sin of any kind breaks down trust. Trust is hard to rebuild. The more severe the violation, the more difficult it is to rebuild.

God provides a bridge. His name is Barnabas. Later he becomes known as the Son of Encouragement. He is one of those guys who is a bridge builder. He sees the potential in everyone. He believes in people. He is loved and trusted by everyone. Barnabas becomes the bridge that allows Saul into the church. People begin to allow themselves to entertain the idea they can trust Saul because they trust Barnabas.

Have you ever had someone believe in you when no one else did? Have you ever built a bridge for someone else? Trust restored is a beautiful thing because it is so rare. Deep down we want to see the happy ending after a broken relationship because it awakens hope in us. It helps us believe for better things. It builds bridges.


One of the most important reasons to feed on the stories of Jesus' life is because He was the ultimate bridge builder. He saw potential and value in absolutely everyone. He changed lives no one thought could ever be changed. If you lack hope, look to Him. Every. Day.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Acts Day 119 - Proof Is Not the Difference Maker

9:20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
23 Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.

I was wrong. I thought proof mattered. I thought people just needed evidence and if you could get them to listen long enough to hear the evidence they would believe. Saul became a believer. He immediately went out preaching. The text says he could prove to a Jew using their own sacred texts that Jesus of Nazareth was their Messiah.


However the results were not faith. The Jews didn't all become believers. Instead it says that at first they were confounded and after a while decided enough was enough and plotted to kill him. Think about it. Why had Saul headed for Damascus to begin with? He was coming to hunt believers. Why Damascus? Obviously word got back to Jerusalem that the "heresy" was spreading quickly to Damascus and needed to be stopped. Now the very men who summoned his help are being subjected to his proof that they are indeed rejecting their True Messiah. I'm sure many believed but many didn't. Instead their resolve to squash this movement only intensified despite the proof they were in the wrong.

Jesus had told his disciples that if they entered a town and the people were resistant to their message, to kick the dust off their feet and continue on to another village. He also said not to cast pearls before swine. He also said "If they hate you it's because they hated Me first."

Proof does not cure hatred. Rather it intensifies it. Satan had all the proof the universe could offer yet he and his angels have only intensified their hatred. Cain was spoken to by God himself and still went out and killed Abel. Belief is not about proof. It's about surrender to the still small voice.


Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart...

Acts Day 118 - Hunter to Hunted

9:20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
23 Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.

How things changed quickly. The hunter became the preacher and then the preacher became the hunted. It seems hard to believe that a man convinced that all followers of Jesus must be rounded up and imprisoned or killed could change so quickly. No training. No education to become a preacher of The Way. How is that possible?

You have to remember Saul had all the information already. As a highly educated Jew he would have had to memorize all the books of Moses and likely much if not all of what we call the Old Testament. We often think people lack information and sometimes that is the case but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the issue is blindness. Jesus spoke of this blindness often especially when addressing the religious leaders. Think of how silly and pointless it would be to keep placing more and more visual evidence in front of a physically blind person.


Years ago I was chatting with a blind fellow on the phone. I asked him about his life, about his blindness etc... He told me he was born blind. Like a dumby I responded and said "so you have never seen any colours?! If I say red or blue to you it means nothing?"

To this he replied "I know what black looks like."

"How do you know what black looks like George?"

"I see it all the time" he said.

I'm sure the silence was unusually long. George only ever saw black. It hit me hard. Not only had he never seen anything but black, but he couldn't relate to anything but black. Black was his world. To describe anything to him using visual cues was pointless. He could only communicate in terms of touch - hard/soft or smell, sound, taste.

George taught me so much more than I ever taught him. His world was limited to 4 senses rather than 5. No amount of piling on descriptions could change the fact that blue and red meant nothing to him.
Saul was blind too. Blind to anything but 1st century Jewish thought. He knew all the words and sentences in all the books of the prophets but he couldn't see what they were saying. He could see the words and hear the sounds but was blind and deaf to their meaning. Seeing he could not see and hearing he could not hear.

These concepts are profound. Saul was not really in rebellion against God. He was blind to Him. He actually believed hunting Christians was doing God a favour. He believed he was working for Him when he was actually working against Him.

Once when George was at blind camp he stepped over one of the guide ropes thinking he was going to a building when in reality he almost fell off a cliff into the ocean. What we believe does not alter reality. Blindness is serious. Thankfully one of us who could see rescued him before the ill-fated plunge.

God rescued Saul that day on the way to Damascus. He "opened his eyes" so that Saul could see and then choose. You can't choose what you can't see. The reason the hunter was able to immediately switch roles and prove from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah was because he had already memorized all the information. He just couldn't see what it all meant.

Last week I got glasses and now I can see things I couldn't see before and immediately was able to read signs at a much greater distance. I didn't need to learn to read. I already knew how to read I just needed to be able to see.

Have you ever considered the deep implications of all this? Regaining sight requires a miracle or a medical intervention. We need to stop arguing with blind people and instead pray they receive their sight. We need to pray we too receive our sight...

Acts Day 117 - Uncomfortable

9:17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

No one likes to be uncomfortable. No one likes to be in an awkward situation or an unpleasant one.
So far we have looked at this bizarre situation from two angles. We have Saul who was so blind and so sure he was right in persecuting the "Jesus followers" that God had to intervene personally to get his attention. The encounter left his eyes closed but his mind open.

Secondly we have Ananias, a seemingly humble follower who we are meeting for the first time. He is aware Saul is headed for his town looking to arrest any believers he can find and perhaps kill them. How would you feel in his shoes? Then God asks him to meet with Saul. Not just meet with him but heal his blindness. Talk about an uncomfortable and awkward situation. Frightening and incomprehensible are also words that come to mind. However Ananias knows His voice and humbly obeys.

Now I want us to consider a third angle to this encounter between the hunter and the hunted. The Bible says after the healing Saul spent several days with the disciples (followers of Jesus) at Damascus. These others never saw the bright light on the Damascus road or heard God speak to Saul. These others never heard God speak to Ananias either. By faith they had to trust Ananias. What an open opportunity for distrust and division! How awkward and uncomfortable must it have been for Ananias to explain that the hunter was coming to join the hunted! Talk about possible tension! Talk about reasons to fear and turn on each other.

Clearly the trust they had in God had also lead to a deep trust in each other.

Trust. Isn't that what was missing in Eden when Eve believed the serpent? Isn't that what is missing in too many hearts and homes today?


Trust can be uncomfortable, awkward, even terrifying but no restoration of relationships broken can occur without it. It seems with the gift of His Spirit came the gift of trusting even in impossible situations. Boy do we need His Spirit now...

Friday, 24 June 2016

Acts Day 116 - He Went His Way

9:17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

To simple but critical truths were brought to my attention this morning. The first is that "Ananias went his way..." And what way was that? He went straight to Saul the hunter of those following Jesus. It's a subtle and simple point but absolutely imperative to understand. God never forces us to do anything. He gave Ananias an assignment but carrying it out was entirely his choice. When Ananias went to meet Saul it was his choice. He went his way...

People often wonder why the world is in such a mess if God is so good and loving and all powerful. The reason is simple. God gives us instructions and then we are free to "go our way". It started with the instruction to avoid one tree and then Eve ignored the instructions. She was free to do so because love never ever forces. The world being a mess has nothing to do with God and everything to do with our choices.

The second point is beautiful to me. God wants us to have a part in what He is doing to rescue us from ourselves. He didn't need Ananias to be involved. He could have continued working with Saul. The truth is that God's direct involvement in Saul's life with the bright light and the voice from heaven is an exception to the rule. He had to intervene because there was no human on earth Saul would have listened to. Saul needed an "intervention". However as soon as God had Saul's attention He reverted back to His preferred plan. He connected Saul with the body of Christ. Do you remember back in Eden after God had created Adam and before sin was a problem God said "it is not good for man to be alone"? We were designed for community, for companionship, for team work. New born babies can be given proper nutrition and will still die without human touch. God’s number one way to work with us is through us. He sends people to help people. Divine intervention either through angels or through God Himself is an exception used only when absolutely necessary. He wants us to have a part in His plans. He wants us to feel the thrill of helping people and seeing miracles happen. He wants us to have personal connections and the human touch. We can't hug God yet but He can send someone to give us a hug or send us to hug someone else.


His way is to involve us in the great work of restoring His image in us. The more I contemplate that simple idea the more incredible it is. What a patient and loving Father!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Acts Day 115 - Trust

9:10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”

And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”

13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house...

What would you have done if you were Ananias? Obedience is a funny thing. Most of us only obey if we agree.

I heard a story about a farmer many years ago who was about to retire. His son had just returned from Agricultural College and was full of new ideas a techniques. His father told him he was taking his mom on a tour of the world and they would he gone for most of the year. He was leaving him in charge to run the farm. He also left him with clear instructions on what crops to plant and where. He told his son that he would return in time for the harvest and if everything was as he had instructed the farm would become his.

In college the young man had learned about soil sampling and now had a tool that measured the various nutrients in the soil and what told you what kind of crop would grow best in that soil. Just before seeding time he went around to each field and tested the soil. To his amazement every test matched exactly what his father had told him to plant. He was impressed. Finally at the last field the tester said to plant corn but his dad had instructed barley for that field. Finding it odd he tested the soil again. The result was the same. To make matters worse barley was way down on the list of crop types for that kind of soil. What should he do? He knew what his dad wanted but the tester was so accurate. Surely a healthy crop of corn was better than a weak crop of barley. Hoping to impress his dad with a huge crop from his new soil testing skills he went ahead and planted corn.

Fall came and his parents returned. The fields were rich and full and would soon be ready for harvesting. Proudly the son took his dad from field to field. Every crop was just what he had asked for and were doing so well. They came to the last field and as the tall stalks of corn came into view the father's face and heart sank. "Son I asked you to plant barley..."

"I know dad but I tested the soil twice and it said corn was the best crop and barley was way down on the list."

"I know son but I asked you to plant barley. I asked you to follow my instructions. I told you that if you followed my instructions I would give you the farm. The truth is you never followed any of my instructions. You only agreed with me when my instructions matched your tests..."

Isn't that how we are? We have no trouble obeying when obedience matches our point of view but what happens when obedience crosses our opinions? God asked Ananias to go and meet a murderer and a hunter of Christ followers. It was like God asking a Jew to go meet Hitler and pray for him. Ananias was horrified and he told God exactly how he felt. God asked him a second time to go and this time he went. Would you? Would I?


Obedience isn't obedience until it demands the sacrifice of our will and full trust in God. Obedience can be frightening and when it is we know that our trust in Him is not yet absolute. Like s muscle trust/faith develops with use. Each decision teaches us to trust more or hardens us against trust.

Next time you are tempted to flee from something God is asking you to do I encourage you to consider this question: When has God ever failed someone when they put their trust in Him? You can also consider this question: How many times have you trusted yourself and it ended badly?


Trust Him - even when it seems insane.

Acts Day 114 - Love Your Enemies Part 2

9:3 As he (Saul) journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Would God strike a man blind? Would love do that? And why blindness? Why Saul? Why now? And if He is going to strike people down why doesn't he do it more often? So many questions...

Yes God did strike him blind and yes love would do that because God is love. That is a point that needs to be dwelt on perhaps more in our day than ever before. We all agree love is good. We all agree we need more love in our world. Countless songs have been written about it. Love stories abound both in books and on the big screen.

What we don't agree on is what love actually is. A guy will say "I love you" and be gone before the sun comes up, never to be heard from again. Clearly that was lust, not love. That's too easy. The hard area today when it comes to defining love is the area of pain. Does love inflict pain? I'm not talking about physical torture, I'm talking about doing things the person does not like. Saul I'm certain did not like the blindness. I'm certain Miriam didn't like having leprosy. I'm certain Zechariah didn't like losing his voice for over 9 months. I'm sure Nebuchadnezzar didn't get warm and fuzzy over losing his mind for 7 years. I know my children hate discipline and I don't like it either yet God said "Those I love I rebuke and chasten."


In our day it seems we judge God by our personal definition of love rather than judging our definition of love by God's character. He is love. Everything He has ever done and will ever do is a proper and correct manifestation of love. Our often passive and permissive and feelings based view of love is actually disguised selfishness. It is easier to give in or let slide but it isn't love. Taking the path of least resistance is nothing more or less than selfish.

God is love. His only objective is to get us Home and by Home I don't mean dragging us into His kingdom, I mean bringing us to understand and appreciate the nature of His kingdom. Saul was on a "holy" rampage. He was in a turf war. All he could see was the need to defend the "church". He was completely blind to the reality of what he was doing. He thought he was working for God when in reality he was working against Him. Blindness is a major theme of the Gospels. When we really believe what is not true we are in the truest sense blind. Arguing will not cure us. If anything we just dig in deeper.

God could leave us in our delusions. He could wash His hands like Pilate did with Jesus, but love never quits. Love even brings pain when necessary just as a surgeon wields a scalpel when necessary.
Love our enemies? Love has no enemies. Love has no limits. Love is never selfish. Love never takes the path of least resistance if it means leaving someone behind. Love fights to save at all costs, even the cost of being misunderstood or hated.

The bottom line is don't judge God by your definition of love. Judge your definition by the love of God.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Acts Day 113 - Love Your Enemies

9:1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

The case of Saul is an interesting one. Why would Jesus even bother with him? He was the most obsessed hunter of the followers of Jesus. He stood by holding the cloaks of the men on the council who stoned Stephen. He heard Stephen explain who Jesus was beginning with the writings of Moses. He heard Stephen explain how in every generation the true men of God were ridiculed, rejected, and even murdered. He saw the men of the council block their ears and attack him like madmen. It didn't affect him in a positive way. It didn't bring him to his senses. It had the opposite effect. He became determined, driven, obsessed to squash the entire movement. His goal was to extinguish the Name from the city of Jerusalem and eventually from the face of the earth. From house to house he went with a group of men hunting out any who believed in Jesus.

This Saul, the greatest enemy of the followers of Jesus was on Jesus' list as a candidate for His kingdom? Jesus was running towards him faster than Saul could run from him?


Clearly the love of God is far more radical than we comprehend. When He said "Love your enemies" He wasn't asking us to anything he wasn't willing to do Himself. Radical indeed.


Tomorrow we'll explore what it might look like to love our enemies. Love itself is a concept we barely understand...

Monday, 20 June 2016

Acts Day 112 - He Is Way Ahead

9:1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

It is critically important to always remember what the Bible is not. It is not a detailed historical account of everything that has ever happened. It isn't even a detailed account of what has happened to or been done by the followers of God. What it is, is a collection of books and letters and poems/songs about the Story. We were created by a loving God. We rebelled against Him and now He is working overtime to rescue us.

With this in mind consider what has happened in chapter 8 and what is now happening in chapter 9. In chapter 8 Saul began hunting believers in Jesus in Jerusalem. As a result many left the city which literally spread their faith in Jesus all over the place, from Samaria even to Ethiopia and Azotus. Now chapter 9 opens with Saul seeking permission to extend his man hunt from Jerusalem to the synagogues in Damascus.

What does this mean for you and I?

It means God is always way ahead of the devil. His solutions are in place before the problems even surface. That's why He says "Before you call I will answer and while you are still speaking I will hear."


God can't be surprised or caught of guard. Evil never gains a step on Him. We may not be able to see His solution in the midst of our storms but that changes nothing about the fact He was prepared to solve the storm before you ever knew there was one.

So why the storms then? Evil must be free to be evil. The universe will never recognize and reject the lies of Satan unless they are permitted to see the light of day.

A friend of mine was born and raised far from church, religion, faith, or any kind of positive influences. It was actually the pervading presence of evil in her life that brought her to the realization there must also be good and she began to seek it. Who do you think was guiding her from the darkness into the light? Who was guiding that Ethiopian to read and seek answers? Who is guiding you to read this right now? Every day in every way God is forty steps ahead of evil. He's bringing His light and hope to Ethiopia and Samaria and Azotus and beyond before evil gets out of Jerusalem.

No matter where you are or what it may seem like to you, God wins. Love Wins. Good triumphs over evil. Happily ever after will come. God designed the plan to bring it about before evil ever raised it's ugly head. The decisive blow in the battle has already been struck. We're just living in the aftermath of that key victory.

Wars are like that. Key battles are fought and even after the war has been won it takes time for the message to get out. Perhaps you have heard of the Japanese soldier Hiroo Onada who refused to believe the war was over and held his post in the Philippines jungle for nearly three decades after the war ended.

It's time for Christians to recognize the truth that the war is over and live in that realization. Satan was fully defeated nearly 2000 years ago. The end has been written. The future is guaranteed. He may be refusing to quit but it's all in vain.


God has won. Love has won. :)

Acts Day 111 - I Believe

8:34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

Man I love this story. I love the simplicity of it. I love God's passion for this one searching man. I love Philip's willingness to share Jesus with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I love the prerequisite for the eunuchs baptism. As soon as he realizes who Jesus is and what He has done he immediately wants to be baptised. As soon as he sees water he csn no longer contain himself. Not sure what the process is he asks Philip. These men have never met until this day. Philip doesn't know him. Lead by the Spirit of God Philip asks the only question that matters. "Do you believe with all your heart? If you do you may."

The man who's name we never find out says "I do. I believe Jesus Christ (Messiah) is the Son of God."

Without hesitation Philip leads him down into the water and after sealing his new relationship with Jesus in the waters of baptism Philip is caught away and the Eunuch returns home.

This story speaks to me of how we tend to over complicate things. We want to make sure couples are ready to get married and that individuals are ready to get baptised. We forget that the foundation is not preparedness but belief and commitment. Two committed people who believe in marriage will far out last another couple who is perhaps prepared but lacks that belief in two becoming one for life. No one knows when they enter any relationship what the future holds. When I read Hebrews 11 two things become crystal clear. One is that the men and women of faith described there are in two distinct groups. Some by faith had lives of great victory. The others faced great opposition, some imprisonment, and some death. By worldly standards they were soundly defeated. The other clear truth is that no two of them walked identical paths.

For a brief time Philip and the Eunuch walked together. It's highly likely they never saw each other again. It's also a guarantee that their walks with Jesus were very different. We are not told how either of their earthly journeys ended. It matters not really. When Jesus' voice booms through our galaxy like the sound of a trumpet and the dead who went to sleep believing He would return hear His voice both of them will wake up. Both of them will see the face of the One who died for them. Their faith will be rewarded and they will go Home.

It's really so simple. "I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and I will follow wherever He leads me."


If this is what you believe nothing hinders you from being baptised.

Acts Day 110 - Jesus

8:32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this:

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”
34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

I hope you watched the video yesterday. 

The message is not complicated. To prove that I mean it I'm going to say very little and yet a whole lot.

When you find someone who will sit down with you and the main thrust of all they have to say is Jesus Only, then you have found one of God’s messengers sent to help you find the answer to the emptiness in your soul.

Jesus. Only.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Acts Day 109 - Isaiah Still Speaks

8:30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
33
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.”
Yesterday I promised a video. Here it is. A young man sharing the same passage from Isaiah 53 about the One. His audience are Jews. They are hearing the truth from their own sacred writings 2000 years after their ancestors rejected Him. Isaiah still speaks...
Did you know that there's a "forbidden chapter" in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)? What's been hidden from us all these years? It's changed the lives of hundreds ...

Acts Day 108 - What A Story!

8:30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

I can't describe how beautiful this scene is to me. When I read God’s Word I try and look at each scene from every angle possible and take into consideration each character and each nuance. This eunuch from Ethiopia who is in charge of the royal treasury came to Jerusalem to worship. That in itself is amazing. Last night we had warm dry vehicles to drive the short distance to the church for worship. This man had to travel over 2500km in a chariot through mostly desert to get to Jerusalem. Imagine the atmosphere when he arrived! The city is divided. The massive curtain in the temple is perhaps still under repair. Half the city refuses to even talk about Jesus and the other half is being chased from their homes and thrown in prison for believing in Him. With no clear answers the Nobleman begins the long journey home pouring through the sacred writings of Isaiah trying to find answers.
God has no intention of leaving him without answers. He whispers to Philip to head for the wilderness. This brings us to a new angle in the story. Philip is busy. Really busy. The people of Samaria are eager to hear about Jesus. In the midst of his successful preaching God tells him to head for the wilderness. On no logic scale does this make any sense except for one. The simple logic that following God is always the right move no matter how illogical it may appear. Philip goes. That is the secret of his success. When God called him to preach to the "half breed" Samaritans he went. Now he's about his Father’s business again. We next find him running to this lone chariot. He hears the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah. He asks him if he understands. This nobleman in charge of the royal treasury of Ethiopia admits to a fisherman from Galilee that he does not and invites him into his chariot to help him.
Walls of pride and prejudice have no power in this story. The power of God’s Spirit wins the day. Two strangers find themselves in the most bizarre situation reading together words penned hundreds of years before. Words that are still changing lives today.
Tomorrow I'll share a video to show you just how powerful those words were as God's Spirit still is pursuing us in the wilderness of sin and hopelessness even today.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Acts Day 107 - Running on Full

8:26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

How much is one person worth to God? What if that person is a foreigner, an outsider, a Gentile, a eunuch, black even? God takes Philip from preaching to large crowds and baptizing hundreds and maybe thousands and sends him into the desert to find one man. One man who will never have children. One man though considered a foreigner and gentile in so many ways is actually a child of Abraham in the sight of God and perhaps even by birth but that's another story for another day.

The remarkable point to the beginning of this account is how much God values every single person. The disciples were angry and confused when Jesus was gathering large crowds and gaining in popularity on the "good side of the sea" where "God's people" lived and then suddenly packed up and left. Worse still is that He got in their boat and told them to cross to the other side. The "other side" was Decapolis. A cluster of ten foreign towns. Evil unGodly towns. Worse than crossing the tracks. This place was bad. To add insult to injury they landed on a beach next to a cemetery. In the cemetery were two men possessed by demons. It was as bad as the worst they had imagined before they ever left the "good side" of the sea. These men were more like animals than humans. As they came running at them Jesus stood calmly while the rest scattered for safety. When the encounter was over the men were healed and whole and sane. Jesus left hundreds of the "good people" to come to a cemetery to heal the living dead.

How much is one person worth to God? How equal are the "unequal" to God?

When I consider stories like these I can't help but wonder how many people are out there across this globe looking for Him? How many of them are in my town? How many are within walking distance? How many of them present on the outside as so undesirable or far from Him that I would just pass by convinced they would never want Him?

Do you see now why having His Spirit is so critical? The same Philip who ran from the guy in the cemetery ran to this dark skinned foreigner. Philip ran away was he was running on empty. He ran towards when he was filled.

Do you see? We don't need to fight racism and prejudice and inequality. We need to be filled. We need His eyes and His heart. We continue to battle externals not realizing we are running on empty.


I can't help but wonder if the story would have been different if someone had listened to the call of God and reached Omar Mateen before last weekend. Maybe nothing would have changed. Whatever his particular case may have been I know I need to stop running on empty.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Acts Day 106 - Impossible?

8:25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

Just one verse yet when you consider the Story it is a most remarkable one. Some would say unbelievable. Others would flat out call it impossible.

As we continue to reel from the worst mass shooting in recent US history as well as what might have happened on the same day in southern California it's obvious the level of hate in society is rising. This fact is evidenced not only by the tragic attacks themselves but by our varied reactions to them. Racism in America between blacks and whites is rising again. The right and left have never been further apart in my lifetime. The emergence of the LGBTQ movement further divides it seems. Everywhere we look someone is hating someone for something.

The reality is that cultures of hate are not new. When Jesus was walking the dusty roads of Judea and beyond one author described it as the darkest hour of human history. The hatred was palpable. It was not only culturally acceptable but encouraged. Within Judaism itself there were deep and clearly defined lines. To the far right were the Pharisees. To the far left were the Sadducees. The Herodians were considered traitors for cozying up to the Romans and the Essenes handled it all by withdrawing from society. All of them hated each other. All of them couldn't believe how stupid and ridiculous the rest of them were.

The only thing that exceeded their hatred for each other was their hatred for outsiders. The half breed Samaritans were treated worse than animals and the Gentiles (everyone else) were dogs. Less than human. In a word the entire situation was toxic. Jesus told a story about being a good neighbour in which a priest and a Levi saw a man dying in the street from a beating and crossed the road to avoid being made "unclean". The church taught that if you had problems or illness it was because God was punishing you for your evil. The disciples themselves were racist and prejudice to the core, even asking Jesus to call down fire from heaven on an entire Samaritan village! John was one of the ones who made that request. So full of anger was he that he was known as a "son of thunder".


Now do you see why that singular verse is so remarkable? Peter and John traveled through Samaria testifying and preaching the good news. They shared with the previously hated half breeds what God had done for them and then what He longed to do for everyone.

Talk about a change of heart! It's what Jesus called conversion - becoming a new person. Hate gets replaced with love. Anger becomes joy. Bitterness becomes gratitude. The love of God eclipses everything else and spills over onto everyone around.

Last week a US senator quoted the Bible in a prayer wishing for Obama to die. The man considers himself a Christian yet the evidence shows He does not know Christ. He has not discovered the Truth that turned a son of thunder into a lover of his "enemies".

As the song says "What the world needs now is love, sweet love... It's the only thing that there's just too little of."


We need Jesus desperately. Nothing else has the power to stem the tsunami of hatred that is building...

Acts Day 105 - Healing or Harm

8:21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”

Do you see the problem? Simon did not desire the character of God, just the power of God. He didn't want God's Spirit so he could be a blessing to others. He wanted the power of God’s Spirit so He could bring attention to himself and make a name for himself.

When Peter exposed his true motives and the consequences of such a selfish heart Simon asked Peter to pray for him. On the surface that seems like a good thing but notice what he asked for. He did not ask for a new heart and pure motives. He only asked for freedom from the consequences of the heart that he had.

The difference between the two is huge. Worse is that it underscores that we just don't get it. God does not arbitrarily impose consequences when we don't do what He wants. That is manipulative controlling human behaviour. When God calls something sin it is because it carries with it its own natural consequences. We can't escape them or pray them away. No exception can be made because we ask for an exemption from the consequences. Simon wanted to stay the way he was without experiencing any of the side effects. It is essentially like throwing yourself from a skyscraper without any safety gear or precautions and asking God to spare you from harm.


The bottom line is this. Sin is destructive. Always. If God says something is bad it is not because He is arbitrarily putting restraints on us. It is because it really is bad. We can pray for healing or prepare for hurt. There are no other options.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Acts Day 104 - Poisoned by Bitterness

8:18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”

Simon meets Simon. Before Peter met Jesus his name was Simon. Peter is the name Jesus gave him. Follow Peter's life closely in the gospels and you will find that whenever Peter is off track Jesus calls him by his old name - Simon. Why?

Simon means "God has heard". The most revealing time that Jesus calls Peter Simon is when warning him about his coming betrayal. In fact he calls him by his old name twice "Simon Simon the devil has asked for you... but I have prayed for you..."

God has heard everything. He hears words we don't speak. He hears the thoughts and motives of our hearts. Peter insisted and believed that he would never deny Jesus but he did. God had "heard it all" before it ever happened.

What does this have to do with Simon the sorcerer? God has heard him as well. God knows all about his self obsession. He knows how Simon craves attention and power. He knows how Simon longs to be superior and "above" the people. So powerful is the Spirit of God in Philip that Simon has no choice but to marvel. None of his tricks and/or demonic gifts could compare to what Philip had. When Simon saw Peter and John laying hands on "the commoners" and them receiving God's Spirit he couldn't contain himself. He longed for the power and position he had before Philip showed up. He wanted that power!

Peter was given a glimpse into the heart of Simon for "God has heard". His diagnosis was quick and firm: poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.

I once read the tragic life story of a serial rapist. As a child he had been raped forcibly by an adult. He was powerless to free himself. Powerless to escape. In that moment of terror he vowed that when he was able he would make others feel his pain and helplessness. He became poisoned by bitterness which in turn made him bound by iniquity. He became that which he hated.

We don't know the back story of Simon’s life but somewhere along the way he was made to feel small, inferior, and inadequate or something of the sort. The bitterness grew and he became determined to become powerful. He found his solution in the occult. He made a name for himself. He became "someone", that is until Philip showed up. Now he wants to buy the power from Peter so he can again become "someone" again.

Here's the sad reality: If our worth or identity is tied to anything but who we are in Jesus we are going to crash. If we are a runner someone else will inevitably run faster or further. If we are a mother our children will grow up and not "need" us anymore. If we are trying to extract our value as a person from something we do or from a position we hold we are bound to lose that thing and then what?

Simon was suffering from bitterness, bitterness from his past, bitterness against Philip, Peter, and John. Bitterness because the thing that gave him worth had been taken away.

Somehow he saw the miracles but missed the Story. He missed that God so loved Simon that He gave His only begotten Son to die for him.

There is our worth. We have been bought with a price - a priceless price.


Don't get caught in the trap of seeking your value as person anywhere else.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Acts Day 103 - Running On Empty? Part 2

8:14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday we explored the reality that baptism in water for forgiveness is only half the story. The New Testament, beginning with the baptism of Jesus and the testimony of John the Baptist makes it clear that beyond water baptism is Spirit baptism. When a forgiven believer in Jesus is filled with the Spirit of God fear is replaced with boldness. Self-preservation gives way to self-sacrifice. The believer's life is marked by overwhelming evidence that he or she is no ordinary person.

Jesus had told his water baptised forgiven followers to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Spirit. He said after they received this gift they would become His witnesses starting in Jerusalem and spreading across the globe. They waited, they received, and they went.

One of those who waited was Philip. He was one of the twelve. So radically different was Philip after receiving God's Spirit that Samaria was turned upside down. Miracles were taking place, Jesus was being uplifted and seemingly everyone wanted to follow Him. They were baptized with water. News spread back to Jerusalem. Peter and John came to see what was happening. When they arrived something was missing. God's Spirit had not fallen on any of them. The obvious question is why? Clearly Philip was filled by His Spirit. Clearly he would have prayed for them to receive His Spirit too.

What was God up to? Why did He delay until Peter and John came?

Even though the immediate context offers no explanation I am going to propose one based on other evidence from Peter's life. Soon in chapter ten we are going to discover Peter struggling mightily with his racism. In the book of Galatians we find him still covered with the stubborn residue of prejudice.
Man classifies men. God knows we are all His and all equal. He knows the same blood runs through all our veins and arteries. Still today in our imagined sophistication racism and prejudice run rampant. At the core of the worst war this planet has ever seen was the belief that some of us are naturally superior to others.


What I believe happened in Samaria is that God hit the pause button. Philip prayed for them to receive His Spirit and nothing happened. God wanted Peter and John there. The same John who had asked Jesus to bring fire down from heaven and nuke the Samaritans. They came and laid their hands on them. The human touch.

Picture the highest representatives of the KKK coming into an all black community and laying their hands on them not in violence but in prayer. Prayer not to curse them as a white senator did toward Obama yesterday but prayer for God to fill them. Prayer for them to become fully and equally filled and blessed by God.

This was more about God changing Peter and John than about the Samaritans lack. He could have easily filled them with His Spirit through Philip. He wanted Peter and John there. He wanted them to reach out and touch these "half breeds" and come to the undeniable realization they were full children, full heirs of the Promise, full children of Abraham.

What a moment. What a giant step toward restoring the image of God in broken, prejudiced, racist, and hate filled people. The Good News is the power of God for healing. (Romans 1:16,17)


To be Spirit filled is to be filled with the heart and mind of God. It's the last phase of healing and we need it desperately. The rising angst in society today being fueled even by our leaders will become the fertile soil in which God teaches us we are one.