Monday, February 23, 2009

02 23-09 God’s Plan for Africa

So Philip started out. On his way he met an Ethiopian official. The man had an important position. He was in charge of all the wealth of Candace. She was the queen of Ethiopia. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship. On his way home he was sitting in his chariot. He was reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Holy Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot. Stay near it."
So Philip ran up to the chariot. He heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you're reading?" Philip asked. "How can I?" he said. "I need someone to explain it to me." So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Here is the part of Scripture the official was reading. It says,

"He was led like a sheep to be killed.
Just as lambs are silent while their wool is being cut off,
he did not open his mouth.
When he was treated badly, he was refused a fair trial.
Who can say anything about his children?
His life was cut off from the earth." (Isaiah 53:7- 8)

The official said to Philip, "Tell me, please. Who is the prophet talking about; Himself, or someone else?" Then Philip began with that same part of Scripture. He told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water. The official said, "Look! Here is water! Why shouldn't I be baptized?" He gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the official went down into the water. Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away. The official did not see him again. He went on his way full of joy. (Acts 8:27-39 NIrV)

Not focusing on Philip, let’s examine the Ethiopian. He proceeded in a normal way, back to his native land after his conversion. We are told no more of this man in the New Testament yet many early church fathers (Irenaeus: A.D. 130-202) viewed this man as the father of evangelism in Ethiopia. What we are told is that this man went his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39). When the gospel is presented and is received, there is great joy. Such was the case in the city of Samaria (Acts 8:8). It is the case 1 Thessalonians 1:6 and it is the joy of our salvation in Psalm 51:12. How can there not be joy when a soul is redeemed?

The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch was a very significant event, recorded in the midst of the great Samaritan revival. Samaritans, though considered half-breeds, were accepted by the church as believers. This Ethiopian was a kind of first fruits of the Gentiles. His race and if in fact he was a true eunuch, would have kept him from approaching God. Yet God approached him! God sought him out in the desert, making it clear that he was a true saint, and the first of many more to come. God is no respecter of person (Romans 2:11). He judges the heart of every man and woman. Saved through the efforts of Philip and not a highly-regarded apostle such as Peter (or even later Paul) God’s sovereign will is showcased.

God still guides. God still uses supernatural means at times. He specifically and unquestionably guides men to do that which they would not have ordinarily have done. Just as God guided Philip to set aside his Samaritan ministry for a time and to go to this remote place to bring about the conversion of an African, He may just ask you or me to step away from our plans and comfort zone to do His bidding. God will meet the needs. We have to supply the obedience! Through Philip, the Ethiopian met God in a deserted place, when he came to realize that his religion was not enough, and that Jesus was the Savior, who died for his sins. Are we willing to allow God to take us into the deserted places for His sake and the sake of others who need to experience the Savior?

(notes from: The Ethiopian Eunuch, Bob Deffinbaugh, Copyright ©1996-2006 Biblical Studies Press)

Monday, February 9, 2009

02 09 09 Caught Doing Good In Bad Times

“Don't forget to do good. Don't forget to share with others. God is pleased with those kinds of offerings.” (Hebrews 13:16 NIrV)

The Old Testament sacrificial system may be over and done, but we as believers are still to offer sacrifices of praise, wealth, and our very lives. (Romans 12:1-2) The work of Christs is finished, but the works of His followers needs to continue as an act of praise and thanksgiving to our God and a visual sign to the unbelievers that Christ is not just our Savior, but our Lord as well! God is indeed pleased with our heartfelt and sacrificial gifts to Him and to those in need. Our giving allows the Gospel to continue to be proclaimed in churches, on city streets, in hospitals, in rec centers, within mentoring programs, and in remote parts of the world.

“Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19 NET)

Paul reminds young Timothy that those who have must realize their obligation to share with those who do not have. We must be so careful to realize we are not the source of our possessions nor are the banks, our employers, or our investments. The source is God and God alone and we must not simply enjoy His blessings, but share them for the expansion of His kingdom purposes. (Matthew 6:19-22) This is the only way to send blessings ahead and reap true dividends which last for eternity!

One thing we can not do if we are to reflect our faith in the Lord, is to stop giving in lean times. While we cut back in areas of leisure, excess, and comfort, we can not make cuts in giving. Giving is a foundational symbol of our faith. If those who look to the Church as a Body to be able to help, yet we as individuals have decided to stop giving, what does that say to those in need? “Has God abandoned us? Where is He when we need Him?”

What we do with God’s money and the gifts He had lent to us is His business, not ours. Who are we to decide how much of His resources we can keep? What do we expect from God in our time of need if we refuse to sacrifice to help others? Oh yes, these are the worst of times we are going through: joblessness, wars, political battles, and more. But these are also the best and most opportunistic of times to let people see the love, mercy, and providential hand of God at work through you and me. Let’s be caught doing good in bad times!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Matter of Trust
Job replied to the Lord,
"I know that you can do anything.
No one can keep you from doing what you plan to do.
You asked me, 'Who do you think you are to disagree with my plans?
You do not know what you are talking about.'
I spoke about things I didn't completely understand.
I talked about things that were too wonderful for me to know.
"You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak.
I will ask you some questions.
Then I want you to answer me.'
My ears had heard about you.
But now my own eyes have seen you.
So I hate myself.
I'm really sorry for what I said about you.
That's why I'm sitting in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6 NIrV)

Don’t you believe me? Don’t you trust me? Don’t you love me? Three simple questions we all hear in conversations every day in one form or another. We hear children asking them of their parents. We hear students questioning their teachers. We hear spouses inquiring of their mates. Can we hear God asking us (His people), the very same questions? The degree of our relationship with God is a matter of trust.

Like Job, we know of God and believe He exists. We have a personal relationship with Him and yet we still want control. We talk of His wonderful care and provisions, yet we still complain and covet at times (at least I do!). But if we, as Job was, would be summoned face to face with God, what could we possibly say? Much like the stiff-necked Hebrews, we too are more proud of whom we are in Christ rather than who Christ is! Similar to Paul (Philippians 3:5), our degrees, jobs, education, or social status mean absolutely nothing before the Creator God. Everything we have and everything we are is because of our God. In Him we have our very existence (Acts 17:28).

May we never boast with reference to anything but the cross of Christ! (Galatians 6:14)

Monday, February 2, 2009

02 02 09 Give ’em the Evidence

“Thomas was one of the Twelve. He was called Didymus. He was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So they told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘First I must see the nail marks in his hands. I must put my finger where the nails were. I must put my hand into his side. Only then will I believe what you say.’ A week later, Jesus' disciples were in the house again. Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came in and stood among them. He said, ‘May peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him; ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me but still have believed.’" (John 20:24-29 NIrV)

Thomas couldn’t believe the others. He had to see Jesus for himself. He simply had to see Him with his own eyes. Jesus knew this also and went back to the disciples a week later. He provided what Thomas needed to believe. He did not give up on Thomas. He doesn’t give up on us.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He called Zacchaeus down from the tree. He made a visit to see Thomas. He called out to you and to me in our hiding our our ignorance. He came to us.

Here is our question: Are we seeking those who need to see Jesus? Are going out or staying in? Are we seeking others who need to see, feel, and touch Jesus; or are we satisfied with the fact that we have been rescued?

Here is our challenge: Keep bringing people to Jesus. Seek out the stranger in line, the neighbor in the driveway, or the relative at the birthday party. Let others feel him as we perform kind acts. Let co-workers constantly hear Him in our speech. Let children feel His touch through our hands. Let store clerks experience Him in our friendship. Invite neighbors into our homes to become familiar with His fellowship. Let parents from school feel His compassion in our sincere words of concern and how we react to others’ needs.

Doubting people have a need to see, touch, experience Jesus today…much like Thomas. Even believers need to be reassured that He still cares and is wiling to reach down and touch a hurt. People from every background, of every age, and from every culture need to see concrete proof that God (Jesus) is alive and well! We are living proof (Romans 12:1-2). Let’s give ’em the evidence!

Storms and Faith

Jesus got into a boat. His disciples followed him.  Suddenly a terrible storm came up on the lake. The waves crashed over the boat. But Jesu...