Tag Archives: Book of Acts

Accidental Evangelism

I originally shared this in another setting several years ago. The events described occurred in October 2006.

My daughter Sarah and I were in an accident this past week.

It was Tuesday night and we were on our way to pick up my 2 year old son from the babysitter. Sarah, 16, for some reason had decided to sit in the middle seat in our mini-van, and I, of course, was driving.

We came to the spot on route 322 where I needed to turn left onto Thunderbird Road. There was a lot of traffic coming from the opposite direction, so I stopped and waited for them to pass. Another car came from behind, unaware that the traffic ahead of her had come to a stop, and she rammed into the rear of our van. She apparently had been busy with a cell phone or maybe the radio, because there was no braking at all… She just drove into the back of our stopped car.

Both cars are probably totaled… although the insurance companies are still working on that end of things. As for us, we had seat belts on and, other than a bit of neck strain and some soreness, Sarah and I are fine. The ambulance trip and a couple hours at the ER confirmed that. The girl that hit us had a few more injuries, but I saw her later as she was being discharged, so I know she too is OK.

All of that is merely background.

Because when I saw her, when she was being discharged, she came to my ER room (I was last to be discharged), she again apologized and then she thanked me!

I was blown away! She simply thanked me for “being so nice.”

It’s moments like that that remind me that God really is still working on me. Family and friends can tell you that there were times in the past when my anger would have flared up and I would have expressed that anger… in not necessarily kind ways. But it didn’t even enter my mind this time… I knew that Sarah and I were pretty OK… but this girl (and her car) had taken the brunt of the damage. I literally was scared that there was something wrong with her… and afraid she might go into shock (or worse) at any moment.

Other than a praise for safety during the “giving thanks” part of our prayer time, I didn’t really bring my experience into the sermon today. Instead, we focused on the Scripture text from Acts 16 where Paul and Silas have a bad day. They had been harassed by a slave girl with a demon for days on end, until Paul finally turned around and cast the demon out of the girl… which upset the slave owners who had been making money off of her ‘talents.’ Paul & Silas were hauled in front of the magistrates, were stripped, were beaten with rods, and were thrown into the inner prison, bound and in stocks. To me, that would really be a bad day!

Frankly, I imagine I would be somewhere between loudly protesting and whining, moping, and crying. But according to Acts 16:25, Paul & Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God…”

WOW!

The thing that caught my attention even more was the next phrase: “… and the other prisoners were listening to them.” And a few verses later, after a Divine intervention occurs, the jailer himself notices the godly behavior of these men of God… and asks them how he might have what he notices in them. He says “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And we read in verse 31, their answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”

Paul & Silas, in the midst of a bad day, were godly. They prayed and they worshipped God… even in the midst of the ‘stuff’ of life that was going on around them. And everyone around them was noticing!!!

My pastor, right before I entered ministry, was Rev. David Bunnell, and I once heard him use an analogy of a teacup. He said that each of us are like a teacup… possibly ornate or ordinary, delicate or rugged, fancy or plain, small or large… but it doesn’t really matter what kind of teacup we are… it matters what our cup is filled with.

He then said that you can never really tell what’s in each other’s teacups… until your cup is bumped. When something happens that upsets you or messes up your day… then it’s like your cup gets bumped… and whatever is inside spills out a bit.

Many of us, when our cup’s bumped, have rage, bitterness, or sarcasm spill out. I’ve been guilty of this myself at times. But Jesus Christ offers us the chance to be ‘refilled’ by His Holy Spirit continually. You know this is reality when your cup gets bumped and people around you can see what you’ve filled your cup with.

This week my cup got bumped… and some of the love and grace of Jesus spilled out… But unfortunately that isn’t always the case. If it were a bigger bump, and more spilling occurred, I’m afraid the sludge and YUK that’s in the bottom of my cup might have spilled over too.

That’s why we need to make sure we’re allowing Jesus Christ to continue to fill us. It’s not enough to ‘be filled’ when we get saved and then we walk through life and the dust and dirt and debris of life settle into our cups. That’s why we need to be in a constant refilling, like a cup that’s attached to a garden hose… even if dirt falls into the cup… it’s swept away by the constant infilling from the hose…

That’s what I want. Not to be filled with Living Water or the Filling of the Holy Spirit like it was some one-time event in the past at which I can wistfully look back and remember. NO! I want to filled and refilled and renewed all the time… so the sludge of life doesn’t have a chance to settle in… and even the stuff that was already there is eventually washed away.

Guess I’ll know even better how that’s going the next time my cup gets bumped. How about you? It’s absolutely vital that we get this right, because as my week showed and Paul & Silas learned… the world around us will notice!

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A Man After God’s Own Heart

“I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”  –God, in Acts 13:22b (NKJV)

When I sat down to read the Bible this morning, I stumbled onto a devotional in the Spirit Filled Life Bible titled “A Teachable Spirit.” It is the account of Paul, before the synagogue in Antioch, Pisidia, sharing how Jesus is a continuation, and fulfillment, of the Jewish people’s encounters with their God. After sharing about Egypt, the wilderness, the conquest of Canaan, and the judges, he recounts the way Saul became, and then was removed as, king.

Which brings us to David.

Let me quote from the “Kingdom Dynamics” devotional note found at Acts 13:22…

Only one man in the Bible enjoys the designation of being a man after God’s own heart–David. To outward appearance, David is more readily remembered as a gross sinner. He committed adultery, murdered, lied, betrayed his nation, made severe mistakes in judgment, was a poor manager, and finally was unable to manage his home. Yet God said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (v.22). Almost every time we read about David, he was doing something wrong, yet God commended the heart of his leadership. How do we explain it? The answer is in the fact that with every mistake, David repented; and of equal importance, he learned from his mistakes. Not only was he humble and teachable, but he listened to his critics and his enemies as well; and, foremost of all, he heeded the prophets of God. This teachable spirit is the trait that caused God to classify him as Israel’s finest leader. (Spirit Filled Life Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, page 1651)

Two parts of that JUMPED out at me. First, “Almost every time we read about David, he was doing something wrong.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am my own biggest critic. I end many (or perhaps even most) days mentally reviewing and replaying the mess-ups and mistakes I’ve made in that day… and the day before… and the week before…

There are many days when I feel like God’s never going to really be able to use me as much as He wanted to because I blow it so often. So this sentence about reading how David, “almost every time,” messed up is eye-opening. Because God still loved David, still used David, and still had a future filled with hope for David despite the mess-ups.

That means there is hope for me too! (And every one of us, by the way…)

So how did David journey from mess-ups and mistakes to being recommended by God as an example? That’s the second quote that caught me: “with every mistake, David repented” and then “learned from his mistakes.”

Part of our national sin sickness in our day and age is the fact that we don’t believe there are sins. We have a message from God (the Bible) that explicitly identifies the behaviors God considers to be “sin.” That is to say, those behaviors are against what God wants and disappoint God and in many cases, actually are detrimental to us as human beings. But we now-a-days try to rationalize away the sins listed or discount those passages of Scripture.

Recently, in a Bible study group on the Gospel of Mark, we came to Mark 3:20-30, where the Jewish leaders opposed to Jesus start to claim that Jesus is casting out demons by tapping into the power of Satan. Jesus’ response (in verses 28-30) is to start talking about an unpardonable sin. For years that made no sense to me. Why didn’t he just tell them how they were wrong? Or at least call down lightning or something?

But the passage is clear that the reason he talks about an unforgiveable sin is “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.'”

Jesus was using the power of God’s Holy Spirit to heal, to cast out demons, and more. They were claiming Jesus was empowered by Satan or at least by a demonic (“unclean”) spirit. They were claiming that something good and godly (the Holy Spirit) was evil. The flipside then  would be to claim that something God says is evil (like sin) and then call it good and godly and blessed.

Even if the Bible calls a certain behavior sinful, there’s NO forgiveness available for us if you and I don’t really believe it’s a sin!

In my life, it’s usually the sin of gluttony that I’m struggling with. I LIKE food, and  I’ve had too much through the years. And while addicts can sometimes lick their addictions by going cold turkey, I can’t, I HAVE TO eat. (and the cold turkey is part of the problem!)

Does that mean there is no forgiveness for me? No. First John 1:9 explains that “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The problem is if we claim we’re not sinning, then there is no way to confess and repent… so no forgiveness either.

That’s where we return to David and this devotional. Even though he messed up A LOT, “with every mistake, David repented.”

If we are willing to admit our sin, repent (you know… turn away from doing that sin), then there IS hope for us as well… even though we mess up again later. And, like David, as we repent, we get the chance to learn from our mistakes.

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Memoirs & A Message to Remember

Sometime yesterday, a link was sent to me for the Memoirs section of the Annual Conference (Western PA) 2013 Journal . I have always enjoyed (that’s not quite the right word) and appreciated reading the stories of faithful men and women, clergy and laity both, who have now received their eternal reward.

The memoir for Dave Panther, who had served most recently in Butler, shared an excerpt from his journal, which was also read at his funeral. It challenged me on this Friday morning.

At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212, water boils – produces steam – that can move engines. One degree is the difference between hot and boiling. One degree can make all the difference. How does the church go from hot to boiling? What is the one degree that takes the church from “stirring” to “steaming”? What is the one degree that turns the wheels of machinery? System. Strategies. Plans. Consultants. Books. Research. What is hot – what is not? Acts – the early church had No consultants, No books, No early pioneers, No system, No research. – Yet one simple strategy…. Trust the spirit. Pray – listen – trust – act. Their steps were bigger. Their courage; much more. The risk: their lives! Pray – listen – trust – act. O God – I pray to you today – help! Help me to know where you are leading, where you are working! People watch me…. Please do not let me drown in doubt – or be swallowed up in fear. Help. …That one degree – it is You. You can make the difference between Hot and Boiling. I desire your spirit to take me to the next level – I desire your spirit to take our church to the next level.

 

Check out the entire memoirs section here.

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