1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV)

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV)

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Precious Christmas Gift

Each week our small staff with a big purpose gets together on a prayer call. We pray for our members, our staff, family members and more. During the call this morning we received a precious Christmas gift.

Our president, Mike Brickley, shared this story with us that came into our website just a few days ago. It was written by a precious member from Connecticut...

“My husband and I live in an apartment complex. Our neighbor's wife is terminally ill. As of yesterday they gave her 1 month or less to live. About 1 month ago my husband put a gospel of John under her door. The only interaction we have had to this point was “Hi” and “Good bye's”. Yesterday afternoon she came out in her wheelchair and knocked on our door … and asked if we could pray for her! We both prayed for her boldly in the middle of the hallway and she said we gave her the best gift ever; we gave her “Life” because of the gospel of John we put under her door. That was yesterday.

Today I am reading the gospels to her and talking to her about Jesus and the reality that we do not have to fear death and in fact have great hope and joy in Christ for healing, restoration, love and peace simply because we believe in Jesus and the work of the Cross. This is only the grace of God.”

God is good and we stand in awe of how he uses these small pocket sized Gospels for His kingdom purposes.

As the year ends will you partner with us so we can equip even more Christ-Followers and celebrate more stories like this in 2013?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Christmas Story

This is a story about a Christmas gift, our gift, Jesus’ gift, and God’s gift. 
The gift that is most wanted and the gift, that can be given and received.
First, I want to share with you an insight that some of you may not have considered.
When reading the Old Testament, consider how God is giving understanding to His children.
He is not using Word Parables like Jesus so masterfully used in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament God uses parables in action instead of words to give us understanding.

( An example would be “The Parable of Mount Moriah” the incident of Abraham’s offering up Isaac. Isaac is the only one in Scripture, except Jesus, to be spoken of as “only begotton son(Hebrews 11:17). The parabolic representation of death and his deliverance as a Parabolic representation of resurrection. Isaac was on the alter of death and Abraham received him back to life by God’s grace. The ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac and Jesus was sacrificed as the substitute for us. )
This method of action parables using life experiences that God provides; This is how He speaks to me and gives me understanding especially when I need correction or humbling. Just in this morning’s prayers, I thank God for the healing taken place in my son. I had ask this as the gift I most wanted from my Father this Christmas.

Then as I read “The Daily Bread” (Dec.20,12) called “The Gift” I could hear God speaking. You see that is the way God always speaks to me through an experience He always provides. Jesus knew the Gift His Father most wanted, “was for His children to be saved”.  I know that is the Gift I always want the most, “is for my children to be saved”.
Quoting the “Daily Bread” Thinking of ourselves as a gift to God, that should make us want to be a present worth the cost, fully pleasing to Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (ref. Col. 1:10)

Dear Lord, we thank you for our children and we ask for their salvation through your Son Jesus. As your children, we thank you and celebrate that precious Gift that you offer us on this very special Birthday. I by faith accept this Christmas Gift of your Son as my Savior from sin and I will tell others about what it means to give yourself as a gift to our Father which is in Heaven. Amen

  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16 (NKJV)

with love through the Holy Spirit, brother george

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 267: So Why Does Stuff Happen?


Acts 17:27
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Thoughts for Today:

We are in the middle of a five part series entitled The Many Faces of God. We've completed God the Creator, God the Provider, and God the Ruler. Paul pauses here for a moment and gives us the answer to one of life's really big questions: "Why does stuff happen?" Paul's not just talking about good things or bad things, but everything; and he answers, "God did this so that men would seek him..."

Take a minute and let that roll over and through you: Everything that has happened to me, is happening to me right now, and will happen to me later today, tomorrow, next week, and next year is happening so that I would seek God.

The next part of our passage today says a lot about how this happens, "and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." Let's look at each a little closer:

* Perhaps -- would indicate we have a choice and we will not always seek Him regardless of our circumstance.

* Reach out -- is an action on our part; we have to choose to go to Him.

* Find Him -- a sticky one; too often our answers come from our friends or popular opinion; what God wants is a personal relationship with Him and more importantly -- Him alone.

* He is not far -- whenever I am in trouble, when I've messed up in some way, shape or form, I really feel far from God; but the distance is from my guilt or unrepentance, not from God.

God is always as near as our humility and request for forgiveness and help allows. The question remains, will we seek Him?

Questions to Ponder:

The phrases we looked at say a lot about us and our relationship with God. Think about whatever circumstance you are in right now (whether good, bad or in between), and ask yourself, "Am I choosing to seek God?" Are you reaching out to Him? Is it He and He alone that you seek or is it money, power, or position? Don't ask, "Where is God?" Instead ask, "Where am I?" Are you bound by guilt, unrepentance or something else? How can you freely seek God? What choice will you make today when stuff happens?

The Circle Of The Wise


Read: 1 John 2:12–17

I used to serve on the elder board of a church in California. One elder, Bob Smith, who was older than most of us, frequently called us back to the Word of God for guidance.

On one occasion we were discussing a leadership shortage in the church and had spent an hour or more working through various solutions. Bob was silent throughout the discussion. Finally, he said quietly, “Gentlemen, we’ve forgotten Jesus’ solution to our leadership issue. Before we do anything, we must first ‘ask the Lord of the harvest . . . to send out workers’” (Luke 10:2 niv). We were humbled, and spent the rest of our time praying that God would raise up workers and send them into the field.

C. S. Lewis said, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” Proverbs 1:5 says, “A man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Bob’s comment is just one example of the value of wise men and women who “have known Him who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13-14) and whose minds are saturated with the Word of God.

Let’s take to heart the counsel of those who have lived in the Lord’s presence and are mature in His wisdom. They are God’s gift to us and our churches. by

The older saints who trust God’s Word
Have trod the paths that we now walk;
They’ve fought the battles we now fight—
Their wisdom teaches truth and right. —Branon
That one is truly wise who gains his wisdom from the experience of others.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 264: The Many Faces of God, Part 1 of 5: God the Creator


Acts 17:24
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands."

Thoughts for Today:

Paul previously said, "Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." In other words, "You worship an UNKNOWN GOD, and now I'm going to tell you about Him." These faces of God, or rather personality traits, tell us a lot about God and our relationship with Him. Let's look at this first one: God the Creator.

In our passage today Paul begins with the idea that God "made the world and everything in it." I think God is concerned that whenever man builds something for Him, we have a tendency to not just limit Him, but also to change His identity. That is why God says in Exodus 20:25, "If you make an altar of stones for Me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it." God wants us to see Him for who He says He is, not by our own or someone else's interpretation.

For example, if we were to go to Rome today and tour the Vatican, I'm sure we would be overwhelmed with the beauty and artistry of Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. However, the mistake we could make (which has been made for hundreds of years) is to define and limit God by Michelangelo's interpretation. It is somewhat interesting to look at this magnificent work of art and realize that by just by using man-made tools, even Michelangelo defiled this representation of God.

Paul says that God is not only the Creator of the universe and everything in it, but "He does not live in temples built by [human] hands." Why? Because if we want to understand and get to know God, we have to let God tell us about Himself; we can't start with someone else's limited perspective. If we do, we will become just as confused and disoriented about who God is as the Athenians were.

Questions to Ponder:

How have you come to know God?
Is it through Scripture and your own experience of doing His will,
or the interpretation of an artist (or someone else)?
We really have to be careful of how we have defined God;
He isn't limited to temples built by human hands.
What limitations have you placed around God?
What does Scripture say that contradicts your understanding;
your limitations?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Consistency in Your Walk with Jesus

Pocket Testament League Devotional

Acts 17:15
The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

Thoughts for Today:

Throughout Acts and much of the New Testament we see Paul as the spokesperson, the front man if you will, for much of the new Christian movement. But is that the way Paul saw himself? I don't think so. Paul had many opportunities to go it alone, and this was one of them, yet he did not. Instead he wanted and waited for Silas and Timothy to be with him.

Throughout the Book of Acts we've seen Paul's example of partnering with other Christians: first with Barnabas, then with Silas, and now Timothy is becoming an important companion. Yet in his pre-Christian days (in his "Saul" days as a persecutor of Christians), it appears he was always alone. And he got off track considerably as a result (for example, he was responsible for the stoning death of Stephen).

I think Paul found that it's through our relationship with other brothers and sisters in Christ that we become more accountable to our faith. It's how we become more consistent. It's how we stay on track. During times of weakness and tribulation, we draw our strength not only from the Lord and His Holy Spirit, but also from our friends as they provide for us their example of faith, commitment, courage and most of all -- their presence. Paul wasn't too strong, too egotistical or too anything to not acknowledge that he needed and wanted his friends to be with him. Should we be any different?

Questions to Ponder:

I think one of the biggest reasons Christians have problems with consistency in their walk with Jesus is a lack of good quality Christian friends (and it requires spending time with them).

What about you? Who are your best friends, are they Christians? Over the last week, how much time have you spent with them? God placed us in the family of God for a reason. He knows we need a relationship with other Christians. Make a commitment to be with your brothers and sisters in Christ -- regularly. Are you currently in a small group that meets regularly? Consider joining, or better yet, forming one. It will change your life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 258: What Does God Say?


Acts 17:12
Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Thoughts for Today:

"Here's what I think. What do you think?" Too often that is a typical discussion among Christians on just about every topic we encounter. I hate to tell you this, but what I think or what you think doesn't matter much. What we should be discussing is what God (through the Bible) says about it. From our passage today, that is what led many of the Jews to believe as well as a number of prominent Greek women and men. It was their independent study of what Paul said, validated by Scripture, that led to their belief (Acts 17:13, "[they] examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true").

The most authoritative answer to any question or problem is what God says about it through His Word. Are you having an ethical issue with a work project? Don't ask Dr. Phil, ask God through Scripture. Are you having problems in your marriage? Don't ask Dr. Ruth, consult the Bible. Are you having a problem with a son or daughter at home? Don't rely only on Dr. Dobson's opinion (as good as it might be); always independently validate through Scripture that it is indeed God's intended solution. Then you (like the Jews and Greeks) will believe; not in man's words but in the Word of the Father, and you will have confidence that what you are doing is right.

Questions to Ponder:

When you are confronted with a difficult decision, who do you consult with -- a friend, mentor, or spouse? How serious are you about listening to what God says about your problem? Do you find it difficult to relate Scripture to every day life and to your immediate problem?

The key here in verse 13 is in the word "examined"; this does not mean a superficial reading of God's Word, but rather a careful inspection and study in great detail in order to gain understanding. That is why I asked the question -- How serious are you about finding what God says about your problem? God's answers aren't quick and easy, but the right answers never are.

Questions to Ponder:

For those of you who are parents, how committed are you to helping your children memorize Scripture?
In Deuteronomy 4:10 the Lord instructs us to, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children."
Are you spending enough time teaching your children the Word of God?
If not, when will you start?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Sowers of Seed, appreciate this thought;
"we can count the seeds in an apple, but God can count the apples from a seed."
May the seeds you sow be blessed and fruitful.
brother george

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Building Upon a Foundation


Acts 17:1-3
When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ" he said.

Thoughts for Today:

When witnessing to a non-believer, do you find it easier to talk about Jesus to someone who has no religious background, or one who has had some exposure to the Bible growing up? As our passage today indicates, I think Paul would have picked those with a religious background to witness to first. Why? My own story might provide some insight.

I was raised in a Christian home which included attending church regularly (whether I wanted to or not), singing in the youth choir (over my objections), and going to Youth Fellowship on Sunday nights (which was okay because there were girls there). However, despite my parents' best efforts, I did not come to know Jesus.

Upon turning eighteen (which was when I got to make my own decisions about faith) my choice on Sunday mornings was to either sleep in or go surfing; certainly not get dressed up to attend a boring church service. Now you may think that I am an awful person (and son), but I had never heard God calling me into a relationship with His Son. And while this may be my story, a similar one is being played out by children becoming adults in thousands of homes across America, much to the concern of their parents. Many kids aren't choosing Jesus. But parents take heart, the story continues.

In my early thirties, I experienced a life changing event so devastating that I stood to lose everything I thought was important. During my most vulnerable moments I would pray, "God, if you are there talk to me, tell me how to make things right." Every time I prayed that prayer, Scripture would come to mind; verses I had long ago been forced to memorize and had since forgotten. For example Psalm 23, especially verse 4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Ultimately this experience led me to begin reading a Bible. Scripture then introduced me to the person, nature and purpose of Jesus Christ -- God called me as one of His "elect", and I am happy to say my name was written forever into "the book of life". The rest is history so to speak.

I do have a point in all of this and it is quite simply -- all Scripture points and leads to Jesus. My parents knew that when they took me to church and forced me to memorize Bible verses when I didn't want to. They knew the Word would lead me to Jesus one day. That is also one of the reasons Paul always started with the Jews first. They already had the Scriptures imprinted on their hearts; He only had to help them see how it all pointed to Jesus.

Questions to Ponder:

For those of you who are parents, how committed are you to helping your children memorize Scripture? In Deuteronomy 4:10 the Lord instructs us to, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." Are you spending enough time teaching your children the Word of God? If not, when will you start?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 243: What Does it Take to be Certain?


Acts 16:25
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Thoughts for Today:

I find it so encouraging that, having just been falsely accused, flogged, stripped naked, beaten some more, then thrown in prison -- Paul and Silas' response is to sit on the floor of their jail cell (they had to sit because their feet were in stocks) praying and singing hymns to God so loud the other prisoners could hear. This is a true picture of faith as expressed in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." It is from this position of certainty that Paul and Silas are able to praise the Lord despite their predicament.

An interviewer once asked renowned evangelist Billy Graham, "You have said that you think it's important to be still for a few minutes each day, and that it's important also not to take yourself too seriously. Why?" Mr. Graham replied, "Many centuries ago God said through the psalmist, 'Be still, and know that I am God' (Psalm 46:10). Why did he say this? The reason, I'm convinced, is because we get so busy and so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget God. We begin to think we are the center of the universe instead of God, and we begin acting as if He didn't even exist. Yet nothing is more spiritually and morally dangerous."

Sometimes we can find it difficult each day to park our ambition, worries, and interests long enough to "be still and know that I am God." Having a set time each day to study, pray and meditate helps a lot (mine is first thing in the morning). What then happens when a crisis occurs? We return to our source of certainty. It wasn't a fluke or the first time that Paul and Silas had turned to God -- it was their natural response. They didn't know how things would turn out in this particular circumstance, but they trusted God regardless. Despite being bruised, battered, and locked in a prison cell, Paul and Silas were the picture of faith, praying and singing hymns to God, fully at rest in the Lord.

Questions to Ponder:

Do you find it easy to rest in the Lord in your times of crisis? Do you spend time in prayer and worship when you are confused and uncertain about your future? If so it is probably because you have built your faith one day at a time through prayer, study and meditation on God's Word. If your first response is not to "Be still and know that I am the Lord," could it be that perhaps you need to spend more time each day with God?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

“Paul’s thorn in the flesh"

O.T.: Flesh;(basar),”body” (besar) “body”

N.T.: Flesh; (sarx) “body tissue”; (eshpar)”piece of flesh”;(tibehah)”flesh”


N.T.:messenger; (aggelos)”angels, demons, spies, angelic deceivers”
Paul’s thorn of which ever interpretation ( physical, temptation, evil opponent ) was allowed by God to keep Paul humble.

First interpretation considering the O.T. description of Isreael’s opponents as thorns.
God may have allowed Satans messengers (demonized angelic deceivers) to torment Paul.
The thorn may have been a false apostle causing trouble to the Corinthian Church.
So the thorn may have been one sent to proclaim evil and thus very painful to Paul.
God did not remove this torn (trouble maker) but gave Paul the grace to endure those ordeals.
God allows trails to humble and bring you to your knees for Spiritual victory.

2 Corinthians 12:7 (NKJV)
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

Another interpretation considering the N.T. flesh being body tissue as a very painful place to have a weakness, imperfection, or illness. Considering Paul was enduring a illness while he was visiting the Galation Churches. So Paul may have been suffering from the same sickness while he was visiting the Corinthian Churches. Or Paul may have been suffering from the injuries he received from being stoned.

Galatians 4:13-14 (NKJV) 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.
14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

Acts 14:19 (NKJV) 19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.

Regardless if you choose that Paul’s thorn was a worldly temptation, or physical illness, or Satan’s demonic angels these would all be of trails allowed by God. Paul in his place of weakness had God’s power for Paul’s preaching.

 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NKJV)
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Each of us will eventually have some trail that we must endure with God’s grace. So God may not remove your thorn, but God will provide the grace to bear it. This is God’s answer for you the assurance of God’s strength and grace with the companionship of the Son of God.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Beyond Just And Fair

Our Daily Bread

November 5, 2012— by Dennis Fisher

Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.Colossians 4:1

 Working conditions in England during the 19th century were abysmal. Men, women, and children labored in dangerous factories during the day and went home to dirty tenement slums at night. Many of the factory owners cared little for the well-being of their employees.

But during that time, the owners of the Cadbury chocolate company were different. Quakers by conviction and business entrepreneurs by giftedness, they focused on improving the working conditions of their 200 workers. The Cadburys built a state-of-the-art factory with heated dressing rooms, a kitchen, and recreational areas. And to care for the employees’ spiritual needs, the workday started with Bible study.

Colossians 4:1 tells us: “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” Certainly the Cadburys sought to give their employees what was just and fair. But their heavenly orientation motivated them to go a step further to meet physical and spiritual needs.

Though we may not own a company, we do have regular contact with a variety of people. As believers, it is important to be ethical in our dealings. We can also, with God’s enablement, care about others’ well-being through prayer, encouragement, and the meeting of physical needs (Gal. 6:10).

Lord, thank You for loving us and meeting our needs.
Often You bring people into our lives who need Your
love and care. Give us wisdom to creatively reach
out a helping hand that we might share Your kindness.

 God blesses us so that we can bless others.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

May I Tell You About Jesus?

Acts 16:14
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.

Thoughts for Today:

Here in very clear words is what happens when we witness to others, "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." So what was Paul's responsibility? It was simply to tell Lydia about Jesus. The Lord did the rest.

A pastor friend of mine told me about a mission trip he returned from recently to a small village in South Africa. He was given the opportunity to speak to a group of children who attended a local school. Using the head school master as translator he proceeded to tell them the story of Jesus and the resurrection. When finished, as any good preacher would, he gave an altar call, "Now that you know about Jesus, those of you who would like to accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior, please stand up." To his surprise all forty plus of the young men and women in attendance stood up.

Obviously he was a little concerned that perhaps they hadn't clearly understood him and what a life committed to Jesus Christ would mean, so he went back through the Gospel message one more time, this time with even greater emphasis, detail, and explanation. When satisfied he had thoroughly completed his testimony he said, "If you believe what I've told you is true and you want to follow Jesus, then pray and tell God that you know that you have done things that you know were wrong and God knows are wrong. Ask Him to forgive you because Jesus paid the price for those things that you did wrong. Ask Jesus to come into your life and change you. If you prayed that prayer with me, then stand up." God opened their hearts and all forty stood once again!

Questions to Ponder:

Like Paul, my friend's only job was to speak about Jesus -- it is and always will be the Lord's responsibility to do the rest. That is such a great comfort to me -- I can't mess anything up, nor do I have to have all the right answers -- the Lord will open the hearts of those He chooses (not me). Now that you know you are free from being responsible for the result, what stops you from witnessing?

The next time you are with someone and the Lord urges you to speak, ask this simple question, "May I tell you about Jesus?" Trust the Lord to do the rest. Is there anybody in your life right now God is asking you to talk about Jesus with?

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Search for God's Will (part 3): How to Implement a New Direction

Acts 16:9-10
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Thoughts for Today:

We are in the third part of a three part devotion titled The Search for God's Will. Previously you will remember, Paul had begun his second missionary journey with the intended goal of checking in on the churches that had been planted two years previously (Acts 15:36).

As missions often do, it had now morphed into the goal of preaching the gospel in Asia. However, that was not the Lord's will as the Holy Spirit stopped Paul and his mission team from entering Asia as they traveled in Phrygia and Galatia. Undeterred they came to the border of Mysia, where they attempted to enter Bithynia, but now "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to." Still determined they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

The Bible doesn't tell us exactly how the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus prevented the mission team led by Paul from entering Asia -- just they were not allowed to do so.

One thing I find particularly interesting is how sometime between the eighth and ninth verses the narration of Acts by Luke went from the third person (they and them) to the first person (we and us). This change would indicate that Luke the physician had recently joined the mission. Why would a doctor be needed? Biblical scholars have speculated perhaps Paul had become sick and therefore needed medical attention, which might have been how Jesus or the Spirit had come against the trip. Regardless, we know from our passage today, Paul received a vision, which was then interpreted to mean a change in ministry direction.

There is a lot going on here so let's look at some of the key points in more detail:

* We are more open to a new vision when we are frustrated. Have you ever noticed how stubborn and closed minded we are if everything is going well and orderly in our lives? It is just our nature to believe we are right about everything when things go well. We become unteachable in this state. I believe the Lord allows disappointment, frustration, crisis, illness, etc. to enter our lives so we learn to reach for Him, rather than rest in our own smug self-righteousness.

* The value of rest in order to receive a new vision. What was Paul doing when he received the new vision for the mission? Since it was at night it was probably in a dream, which meant Paul was sleeping or resting. You can be sure he wasn't working hard on something. Why? Because we have a hard time hearing and seeing something new when our attention is too focused.

* Visions come to leaders not groups. Did you notice that Paul received the vision not the group? Did you also notice the group (not just Paul) concluded the vision represented a change in direction for the mission. These are two really important points to realize when either leading or participating in a group. First, a group can't effectively cast a vision; there are just too many people with different talents and passions to collectively choose a goal. Second, groups are best at yes or no decisions, then working on the details of how a goal is going to be achieved.

* Mission objectives get changed one at a time. The "who," "what," "how" and "why" of Paul's mission stayed the same. The only thing that changed is the "where." In other words, just because a new vision is received, doesn't mean everything about the mission must change. In Paul's case everything stayed the same except "where" they were to preach the Gospel.

* Begin immediately but prepare thoroughly. Paul's team "got ready at once." The point is they got "ready," they then "aimed" at their new objective (to leave for Macedonia... to preach the gospel to them), and finally "fired" or executed the new mission objective. A change in direction does not justify a chaotic approach (fire, ready, aim).

These are really important components to a successful mid-course correction of a mission, however I believe the most significant part of this experience was Paul's dream. It was a dream that expressed a need. Clearly Paul's missionaries heart was touched by the need expressed in the dream, and isn't that what mission trips are all about, recognizing a need and being willing to risk personal safety and comfort to serve God by serving our fellow man?

Questions to Ponder:

Asia wasn't where God wanted Paul's missionary team. However, Paul was not wrong by choosing Asia initially because it certainly needed someone to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Instead God was telling Paul the need was greater somewhere else. We simply have to realize that God is the better evaluator of a greater need than us. Paul allowed God to re-direct the mission, are you? Despite the need you see in your "Asia," does God want you somewhere else? Are you teachable? Is your will or God's will in charge of the mission?

Making A Difference

Elizabeth’s story was moving, to say the least. Following a terribly humiliating experience in Massachusetts, she caught a bus to New Jersey to escape her embarrassment. Weeping uncontrollably, she hardly noticed that the bus had made a stop along the way. A passenger sitting behind her, a total stranger, began making his way off the bus when he suddenly stopped, turned, and walked back to Elizabeth. He saw her tears and handed her his Bible, saying that he thought she might need it. He was right. But not only did she need the Bible, she needed the Christ it speaks of. Elizabeth received Him as a result of this simple act of compassion by a stranger who gave a gift.

Jesus is our example of compassion. In Matthew 9, we read, “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (v.36). Not only did our Lord notice the pain and hurt of broken people, He responded to it by challenging His followers to pray for the Father to send out workers to respond to the hurts and needs of this dying world (v.38).

As we follow Christ’s example, a heart of compassion for shepherdless people can compel us to make a difference in the lives of others.
Father, open my eyes to see the hurts and struggles of others. Then open my heart to respond to
them, so that through me they may see You and Your love. Amen.
A world in despair needs Christians who care
"Our Daily Bread"

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sacrificing Freedom to Win for Christ

Acts 16:3
Paul wanted to take him along on the journey [speaking of Timothy], so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Thoughts for Today:

We know from our previous passage that Timothy's mother was a Jew, yet his father was a Greek. This made Timothy a Jew by birth (as religious bloodlines follow the mother's side of the family). "So why does this matter," you might wonder. "Has Paul finally succumbed to the pressure of the circumcision crowd?" You probably remember from Acts 15 that Paul (and Barnabas) had gone up to Jerusalem to argue against circumcision. Why then, would Paul now be the one to circumcise Timothy?

I think the answer lies in Paul's own words from, Romans 1:16, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." Paul modeled this order every time he entered a new town by going first to the local synagogue to worship and teach before beginning his ministry to the Gentiles. If Timothy were to accompany him, then Timothy would need to be circumcised. Paul didn't want Timothy to be a stumbling block to the very people he hoped to win.

The more we examine Paul's later writings the more clarity we gain into Paul's motivation as seen in 1 Corinthians 9:19, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible." How many of us would give up our own personal freedom to win someone to Christ? Rather I see many Christian's fighting for their rights -- winning a battle, but losing the war.

Questions to Ponder:

Are you willing to give up your rights so you don't cause someone else to stumble? Are you like Timothy, willing to sacrifice in a real and tangible way (it doesn't get any more real than submitting to circumcision as an adult male) for the benefit of the ministry team you have joined? How much freedom will you give up to win for Christ? What are some possible rights that could cause another person to stumble? Would you be willing to give up any of these rights to prevent another person from stumbling or to win another person to Christ?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fruit That Will Last

Acts 16:1-2
[Speaking of Paul's second missionary trip with Silas] He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.

Thoughts for Today:

Paul now returns to Derbe and then Lystra; to the same people who had stoned him while on his first missionary journey. I wonder if he wasn't just a little wary considering how quickly the crowd had turned ugly which almost cost him his life.
But five years had passed and his ministry had taken hold in the hearts of the people, as evidenced in the life of a young disciple named Timothy.

Jesus tells us in John 15:16, "I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last..." Paul has seen this Scripture become real in Timothy. You see the real test for us is not how many people we can baptize on Sunday, but rather how many people's lives are changed and who are still in service to the Lord -- ten, fifteen, and twenty years later -- fruit that lasts.

Questions to Ponder:

Can you name three young people in whom you have invested? If you can't, get out a sheet of paper and start making a list. There is nothing more rewarding in this life than when a young person returns years later, and allows you to see in them evidence of a seed of faith you planted that has now grown into "fruit that will last."

How do you get started? You might want to start by walking out your front door and meeting the kids in your neighborhood. Kids love adults who are friendly and smile a lot. Try it. Next, help out at Sunday school, volunteer in the nursery, or the youth group. Every church has multiple events to reach un-churched youth; all you have to do is be willing to help. How will you invest in a young person today?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Agreeing to Disagree and Second Chances

Acts 15:37-41
Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Thoughts for Today:

If you will remember from Acts 13:13, John Mark (the nephew of Barnabas) left Paul and Barnabas in the middle of their first missionary journey. No explanation was given for his departure, however the strong language of our passage today makes it is clear that Paul considered taking Mark along again to be foolish because Mark had already proven himself to be undependable ("he deserted them in Pamphylia"). A clue perhaps to the reason for Mark's departure is found at the beginning of Acts 13:13 "...Paul and his companions." Up until this time it had always been Barnabas and Paul..., Barnabas and Paul..., it now had become Paul and his companions. I wonder if Mark got a little angry that Paul had taken over the reins of leadership from his Uncle Barnabas and as a result went back to Jerusalem in youthful protest, "I'm not going to work for that guy!"

Clearly age and experience improved their relationship as later in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul asks for Mark to be sent to him, "...because he is helpful to me in my ministry." That's a pretty big turnaround in Paul's opinion of Mark. So who was right about Mark, Paul or Barnabas? I think they both were. I don't know about you, but I see the Lord's hand at work here. First, Paul goes back out with Silas on his typically intense missionary expedition. While Barnabas takes his nephew Mark with him on his own journey. They agreed to disagree and two missions instead of one were the result.

Questions to Ponder:

Have you ever needed a second chance? How about a third and fourth? Who gave it to you and why? Did you make the best of it? Who in your life has let you down? Would you consider giving him/her another chance? Do you judge others more harshly than yourself?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Questions to Ponder:

When was the last time you checked in on the seeds of faith you planted? How are they doing? Do they need some attention? Many times it is the first person who brought us to Christ that becomes our most influential memory. Who planted the first seed in you? Wouldn't it be meaningful to let that person know how much that seed has grown and how much fruit is being produced? Be an encourager -- make a call today -- Go back and check in!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Speaking Encouragement to Strengthen

Acts 15:30-32
The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.

Thoughts for Today:

As the story goes, on Valentine's Day one year the pastor of a local church decided to offer a ceremony for all married couples to renew their wedding vows. When the pastor asked one of the more elderly men in the congregation if he and his wife would like to participate, the answer was an emphatic, "No." The pastor asked, "But wouldn't you like to express your love to your wife one more time?" The grizzled veteran of marriage answered, "I told her once fifty years ago, 'I love you', and if I ever change my mind I'll let her know." Now that's a funny story, but I've always wondered how the wife must have felt about her husband's answer. Sure the wife had the original ceremony, piece of paper (marriage certificate), ring, and the presence of her husband for fifty years, and certainly actions speak louder than words; but let's face it -- sometimes it is comforting to hear those encouraging words, "I love you," from time to time.

In our passage today, Judas, Silas, with Paul and Barnabas had come to Antioch with a letter of instruction from the church in Jerusalem. The letter did much to clarify to what degree the Mosaic Law would continue to be observed by new Gentile believers (which we have covered in much detail in previous devotions). There are two things I find particularly interesting in the role of Judas and Silas in this event: the first, they "said much," and second, what they said was to, "...encourage and strengthen the brothers." Too often I see people who either say too much or don't speak at all, neither of which are encouraging or strengthening. It's sometimes difficult to understand how the right words of encouragement can be so strengthening, yet how the wrong words (or no words at all) can contribute to such defeat and emptiness.

Questions to Ponder:

Ask your friends, wife (or husband), children and parents, "Do I say too much or not enough? Do my words encourage and strengthen, or do they have the opposite effect? Your words will typically follow your intention when you begin speaking. Therefore the next time, before you speak, ask the Lord to give you words which encourage and strengthen according to His will, just like Judas and Silas.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Causing Friction

Acts 15:17b-18
[James speaking] "Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

Thoughts for Today:

James is saying that if the Law through Moses had the power to save, it would have already done so, "For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." He also says, "Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." When you look at this list (food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, meat of strangled animals, and blood), you might think it odd that sexual immorality would be included with the rest, and to a certain degree it is because it deals with a moral issue while the other three are about sensitivity to the Jewish culture. I think James is really saying, "If Gentile believers would abstain from these things, then they would not only please God, but also get along better with us, their Jewish brothers and sisters." I'm sure the Gentile believers were participating in other inappropriate activities; however these were the big four. This compromise, (one of the reasons James is known as James the Just) allowed the church to grow without the constant friction of major cultural differences between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 10:23, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." He then further explains in verses 31-32, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jew, Gentile or the church of God." Many times when we violate another person's sensitivity by exercising our own personal freedom, we cause another to stumble; which can lead to friction and a rift within the body of Christ. This is the issue that James and later Paul were addressing.

Questions to Ponder:

Is there a behavior that another Christian displays that really rubs you the wrong way? Does the Bible prohibit this behavior? Could it be that you need to be more tolerant of another's expression of their God given freedom?

Let's say instead others are offended by something you do that you believe is not prohibited by Scripture -- "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial." Is what you're doing "for the glory of God"? Is it beneficial? Do you need to re-think your approach?