“And There Was Great Joy…”

31 And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message. — Acts 15:31 NLT 

Acts 15:24-32 NLT

“There was great joy” when the people were told that they had done the one necessary thing they needed to do to be saved.  When we are first saved in today’s society, we need to be very careful who we listen to.  As Paul said, “if anyone, including an angel from heaven and/or me, comes to you and gives you some different message, that person should be cursed.”  Gal. 1:6 (my paraphrase}. The letter did go on to give the new converts some guidelines as to what they should or should not do. The letter did not claim that these guidelines had to be followed to complete their salvation.  It is still the same today, when we personally witness to someone who accepts Jesus as their Savior, we need to take a few minutes and give them some encouragement and guidelines as well.  We need to explain to them that satan will waste no time in trying to discourage them and make them doubt their salvation.  We need to encourage them to find a good Bible teaching church and a good mentor to help them along the way.  After the initial acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, we need someone to help us understand that the Holy Spirit will come alongside us and help us learn to “walk in paths of righteousness”.  

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Here’s My Instruction:”

16 Here’s my instruction: walk in the Spirit, and let the Spirit bring order to your life. If you do, you will never give in to your selfish and sinful cravings. –– Gal. 5:16 Voice 

Gal. 5:16-21 VOICE

Once a baby learns to stand alone, then it is time for the baby to practice toddling. You know those first shaky, unsure, unsteady steps.  The baby will start, maybe make a couple of steps and fall.  The baby needs someone there to catch him/her so he/she is not harmed.  It is a struggle and it takes a patient parent to watch as the baby falls over and over.  A good parent realizes that if the child never falls, he/she will never learn to walk by themselves.  It is the same in our spiritual walk.  First we crawl, then we learn to stand and then we start to take a few, unsure steps.  But never fear, just like an earthly parent is there to catch the toddler, God the Holy Spirit is there to catch us.  But just like the toddler, we will never develop strong spiritual legs if we are not allowed to try and fail.  Just as the toddler must be encouraged and learn to keep their eyes on the goal and not on their feet, we too must keep our eyes on the goal and not on our failures.  We need to be Jesus conscious and not sin conscious. The Holy Spirit will always be there to catch us, encourage us and cheer us on in the rough times.  Just as a child takes time to learn to react to his senses so that he/she can stay balanced, we must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit to keep our lives balanced. He will keep us on the path and away from those things that would do us irreparable harm.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“…Through Faith”

8 God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith.  — Acts 15:8-9 NLT

Acts 15:3-11 NLT

The  believers of the sect of the Pharisees wanted to require that all of the new believers who had not been circumcised must do so.  Peter stated that that was a requirement under the law and the law had been too heavy a burden for the Jews to bear.  So, he asked, knowing this, why would you lay this same unbearable burden on the new believers?   Throughout the history of the church, there have always been those who wanted to add requirements to God’s simple plan of salvation.  God says that “we are saved by grace through faith”  There is nothing else that is acceptable in His sight.  Nothing less and nothing more. That’s it.  When the thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him, Jesus assured him that they would be together in paradise.  Nothing less, nothing more.  That is the key that unlocks the gates to heaven.  Once that step is taken, there are things that need to be done to enjoy the abundant life that Jesus said He brought to us. Those things do not add to the salvation plan, they just make for a more purposeful, abundant lifestyle here on earth and more rewards when you get to heaven.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“And Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit…”

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. — Eph. 4:30 NKJV

Ephesians 4:25-30 NCV

Maybe because His name is Holy Spirit we tend not to think of Him as a person.  But the third person of the Trinity is just as much a person and just as much God as Jesus, the second person and God the first person.  Each has a different office and duty but they are One and the Same.  When we ignore God or reject Jesus, we are doing the same thing to the Holy Spirit.  When we grieve God, we cause sadness in the whole Godhead.  When we are obedient and faithful, we bring joy to the Trinity.  There is a person living inside of every Christian who feels grief, sadness, pain and joy just as we feel those things.  None of us like to be ignored, neither does He.  How long would a friendship last if we walked with a human friend 24/7 and never acknowledged his/her presence or spoke to them?  What if we never invited them to join in our conversations and our mealtimes?  What if, for all practical purposes, our words and actions denied that we had a friend with us?  Yet, hour after hour, we treat the Holy Spirit exactly this way.  We deny that He is within us by our actions but more often by our lack of actions.  How many times and places do we have an opportunity to introduce our Friend but we don’t?  How many times does He ask us to introduce Him by that little nudge we feel but we won’t?  If we say that we have never felt that nudge, what does that say about our relationship with our Friend?  Let us all pray that the next time we feel that nudge, we will have the boldness to introduce Him to our other friends and acquaintances.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“…No One Else!”

12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”  — Acts 4: 12 NLT

Acts 4:8-13 NLT

This verse is probably one of the best known verses in the Bible.  It may be very well-known but we had best not get complacent about it.  Do we believe what this verse says?  Is there really only one Name under heaven whereby we can be saved?  Would you stake your life on it?  In today’s society with its anti-Christian bent, we had better be sure we believe it if we are going to stand up for Jesus because there are thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world who are doing just that–giving their lives for Jesus.  If we believe then why do we get so mealy-mouthed around the religious people of the world? There is not one religion that makes this claim, only Christianity. Our beliefs had better be rooted in Jesus and our lives built on Him.  Otherwise, when the storms come and the winds of doubt and fear start beating us up, we will fall.  If you read the full passage above, then you will know that verse thirteen says that the council of leaders knew that Peter and John “had been with Jesus”.  Isn’t  that what we want others to see in us?  Enough of the likeness of Jesus that they will know that we have spent some time with Jesus.  Jesus died for all sinners, we owe it to Him to let the whole world know.  Are we ready to stand up, speak up and die if we have to?  Let us all pray that if that time comes in our lives that we will be ready to meet the challenge and joyfully go home to be with Jesus.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“…Leaning On Jesus’ Bosom…”

23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.  — John 13:23 NKJV

In a society where “real” men don’t show this kind of affection for each other, this verse can cause some confusion. We must remember that this occurred in a time and place where men greeted each other with a holy kiss. So, get past the first impression and see the picture as it is really meant to be seen.  See it as pure love with no lust involved.  Try to put yourself in John’s place and feel the comfort and joy that he must have felt right then. Remember the times in your early years when you would be frightened about something and your Dad would pick you and hold you against his bosom.  Do you remember the safety, and in a few minutes, the peace and the joy that you felt?   Or maybe, you were ailing and your Mom would hold you against her bosom to comfort you.  Isn’t it wonderful that we can still have that kind of relationship with Jesus?  We can run to Him, sit in His lap and He will wrap His arms around us to comfort and cheer us.  Get this picture in your mind and focus on it until it becomes real to you. Then, in those trying, difficult, scary times, run to Him with your arms wide open and simply say “Abba”, I love you!  He will be thrilled and you will have a time of peace that passes understanding and joy that overflows your heart.

15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” — Romans 8:15 NKJV

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“By the Blood of the Lamb…”

11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb  and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. — The Revelation 12:11 NLT

The Revelation 12:7-12 NLT

Oftentimes when I read this verse, I am reminded of summer revivals out in the country.  The revival services were usually scheduled for a week but would oftentimes run longer because there would be a move of the Holy Spirit and God kept adding people to His Kingdom.  The thing that I remember most about these revivals were the testimonies of the good people that came. There was a testimony service every night of the revival. Since the people usually gave pretty much the same testimony, I wondered why they did this night after night.  Now I know there were at least three good reasons.  First of all, it is very encouraging to other Christians to hear a brother or sister testify about the saving grace of Jesus and all of its benefits.  Secondly, it is good practice for learning to talk to others about Jesus in a public setting.  Thirdly and most importantly, our testimonies, not just the spoken ones but the way we live every day, are a huge part of overcoming satan and his demons.  We defeat satan by reminding Him daily that Jesus shed His blood for our redemption and we do that with the spoken word and our actions.  Brothers and sisters, you may have never stood up all by yourself in a public setting and declared your love for Jesus and thank Him for all that He has done for you.  But, believe this, we testify to what we believe every day.  The outsiders are watching and they see our testimony everywhere we go every time we go.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“The Church Prayed…”

5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. — Acts 12:5 NLT

Acts 12: 5-11 NLT

Jesus had instructed Peter to feed His sheep. He was basically appointing Peter as the leader of the church after His ascension.  He had also told Peter that satan desired to “sift him as wheat”.  That is a metaphor meaning that satan wanted to separate Peter from the others like a farmer separates the chaff from the wheat when he winnows it.  By stirring up King Agrippa to have Peter arrested and put in jail, satan was attempting to sift Peter.  The leaders of the Jews were recruited by satan and joined by encouraging Agrippa in his acts of persecution.  Peter was chained in prison with sixteen guards assigned to do nothing but watch him.  God sent an angel to free Peter from his chains and they walked right past all of those guards.  Peter thought it was a dream or a vision until the gates to the city swung open of their own accord and the angel left Peter.  I can imagine that about the time Peter realized that it was for real, he probably remembered that Jesus also said “but I have prayed for you”.  Jesus  had prayed, was now at the right hand of God praying and the whole church was praying late into the night.  God had a plan for Peter and Jesus had prepared Peter for that plan.  The enemy’s plans to thwart God’s plans were defeated because of prayer. All the demons of hell and the earthly recruits were not enough to overcome the prayers of a handful of saints.  We need to be prayer warriors and spend more time praying fervently for God to rescue our nation and keep our families safe. God is able to protect us and provide for us when He selects us for Kingdom work.  We will not be defeated!

The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“In the Morning, I Earnestly Seek You…”

9  In the night I search for you;  in the morning, I earnestly seek you.  My soul wants to be with you at night,  and my spirit wants to be with you at the dawn of every day. — Isaiah 26:9a NLT

Isaiah 26:7-12 NLT

Do you remember the first person you were infatuated with or really in love with? Do you remember how often and how much you thought about them?  From morning to night to morning, they were the last person on your mind before you went to sleep and the first person on your mind when you woke up. You couldn’t wait to get to school just to see that person.  Do you remember walking down the hall carefully watching to see that person and to see if they were looking for you?  If they smiled at you, do you remember that feeling you got?   As that relation grew and liking turned into loving, do you remember never wanting to let a day go by without telling that person that you loved them. That is what God wants from each of us.  He wants us to go to sleep talking to Him or thinking about Him and wake up in the morning with our hearts and our spirits longing to spend time with Him. Do you imagine God watching you sleep and smiling?  We should because He really is a “good, good Father, that’s who He is”.  We should make sure that we speak to Him early and often. We need to tell Him out loud that we love Him and thank Him for all of His goodness throughout the day. If we practice doing this, we will have that “peace that passes all understanding” and the joy way down deep inside that no one can take away.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“And You Will Bite His Heel…”

15  I will make you and the woman enemies to each other.Your descendants and her descendants will be enemies. One of her descendants will crush your head, and you will bite his heel.” — Genesis 3:15 NCV

Genesis 3:13-15 NCV

God made satan a promise before He cast him out of the garden.  God always fulfills His promises. That descendant of the woman that God spoke about was Jesus.  When Jesus died on the cross and said “It is finished”, the final blow was dealt to the head of all evil at the foot of the cross. It was crushed by the weight of the love of Jesus as He died for all mankind.  We need to bring all of our sins, doubts and fears to the foot of the cross and allow Jesus to crush them for us.  Lay them down and leave them there, Jesus will take care of the rest.  But there are some good things that we need to bring to the cross and ask Jesus to watch over them and protect them.  When we bring these things to Jesus we don’t leave them at the foot of the cross, we place them in the palm of His hand.  When He receives those things from us they are placed under the loving care of the Father and legions of angels.

16  “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. — Isaiah 49:16 NASB

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous