1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV)

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Point of Contact

Pocket Devotions

Day 301:

Acts 19:12
...so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Thoughts for Today:

In the Middle East the work day starts in the early morning, then breaks through the middle and hottest part of the day, again resuming in the late afternoon and into the evening. Paul worked for a living as a tent maker, yet he took the down time during the middle of the day to teach in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Paul did not want to be a financial burden to the people of Ephesus -- so he worked and as a result he perspired and got dirty -- he needed handkerchiefs and aprons.

It is interesting to me that the "handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him" had become instruments of healing. It wasn't as if the material of the handkerchief or apron were imbued with any particular power--rather it was what they represented--a point of contact with the supernatural power of God. In Matthew chapter nine we read about a woman who was subject to a blood disorder (she had been bleeding for twelve years), who came up behind Jesus thinking, "If I can only touch His cloak I will be healed." Verse 22 tells us, "Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' he said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed from that moment." Jesus' cloak by itself had no power to heal, nor did Peter's shadow (Acts 5:15), or Paul's handkerchiefs and aprons from our passage today. For that matter neither does the physical properties of the oil used in the anointing of oil, or the water of the baptismal. All represent, by faith, a point of contact with the etern! al God.

So how did Paul's things -- his handkerchiefs and aprons become a point of contact with God? Because they represented not only the healing power of the Word of God spoken through Paul; but also the visible sacrifice made by Paul (to bring them the message); and the tangible nature of the work he did for them (as a tent maker to support himself -- the people of Ephesus did not have to provide financial support for Paul). Paul's faith as demonstrated through his words and his work (including all the sweat and dirt), was so strong that just touching his handkerchiefs and aprons -- people felt, sensed and experienced God -- and they were healed accordingly. Wow!

Questions to Ponder:

How long has it been since your faith was so strong that people believed because you believed?
Are you allowing God's Word to be communicated through you (speaking and teaching Scripture)?
What sacrifices have been made by you recently to bring God's message of redemption and salvation to His people?
What tangible work have you done lately for God's people?
Do you want to have the kind of faith that reaches and changes people's lives -- that has the power to heal? If so, the answer is simple -- yield to God. Pray and ask His Holy Spirit to fill you completely; repent (change your thinking) and choose to follow God (rather than the world); ask Him what you can do right now to serve Him; (this next part is the most important) and then do it. Will you allow your faith to become so strong, that like Paul it becomes "A point of contact with God"?

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Woman and the Fork

A woman that was diagnosed with a terminal illness was getting her things in order. She contacted her Pastor to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted at the service, what outfit she wanted to be buried in, and that she wanted to be buried with a fork in her right hand.
The woman explained, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course are being cleared, someone would always say, 'Keep your fork'. This was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like cake or pie or something sweet and wonderful !'

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my right hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you Pastor to tell them: 'Keep your fork, “the best is yet to come”.
At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the fork in her right hand. The Pastor would hear the question, 'What's with the fork?' and he would smile and tell them about the fork and that this woman has always tried to pass along this message to those she loves and those who need a little encouragement.
So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, that the best is yet to come. So tell this to everyone and they too will remember, every time they pick up a fork, “The Best is yet to Come”!
Remember...keep your fork and your faith !
The BEST is yet to come!
God Bless You

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Opening the Right Gift

Acts 19:2b-5
They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Questions to Ponder:
Are you living with joy and excitement as if you just received the greatest gift of all?
Or is that gift unopened and unused sitting on a shelf somewhere?
Have you become a new creation in Christ or are you still living in the same old chains?
The gift of Jesus is available to each of us;
all we need to do is receive Him.
Our passage today concludes with these words, "On hearing this they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus."
What is your response to what you've studied today?
The Pocket Testament League is a 119 year old Christian outreach ministry that promotes Scripture reading and personal evangelism.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Good Old Fashioned Public Debate

Pocket Devotions

Day 294:

Acts 18:27b-28
On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Thoughts for Today:

Previously, Apollos had just completed "finishing" school under the tutelage of Priscilla and Aquila. With the support and encouragement of the brothers in Ephesus, he pursued his first mission and had now arrived in the province of Achaia. I find interesting the phrase, "he was a great help to those who by grace had believed." It implies that the great need in Achaia at that time was for a teacher (probably because there were many new believers), so the Lord prepared and sent Apollos.

If you remember back to when you first became a Christian, I'm sure you can relate to that incredible hunger and thirst you once felt to just be at church with other Christians, reading and studying the Word. You just couldn't get enough. I'm sure the believers in Achaia were no different, so the Lord brought forth Apollos to not just feed them, but to also come to their defense in the public debates. "Wait a minute," you might say. "A public debate of Christian principles versus Judaism? It seems so intolerant." But is it?

Throughout the Bible we see case after case of the Lord preparing and bringing forth a spokesperson: Moses, Jonah, Elijah, and John the Baptist to name just a few. In the cases of Moses (when confronting Pharaoh) and Elijah (pitted against the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 hundred prophets of Asherah), the Lord communicated His will through spectacular public demonstrations of His power. Although the Lord regularly performs miracles, it is also through words (His Word -- Scripture and the Word -- Jesus) that He chooses to speak to us and to the world. Most of the time, the words of the spokesperson the Lord has chosen are intended to come directly against and in opposition to the teaching of the world, in a very public forum.

We see this in our passage today, when Apollos was not only a great help through his teaching but also as "he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." Have we, as "modern Christians," bought too much into the current dribble about religious tolerance that we are no longer willing to come out in public debate to defend our beliefs and refute other religions and practices? Perhaps when an antagonist comes out against something as fundamental as the words on our currency, "In God We Trust," rather than silently listening to a one sided presentation, a more public debate is needed so the Christian viewpoint might be more thoroughly voiced and heard. Are there any Apollos' out there?

Questions to Ponder:

God raised up Apollos who "vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate."
Why are we so afraid to do the same?
Our real mission is to reach and save the world.
Are you ready for a public debate?
Where has God put you as His spokesperson ?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Doing Something With What You Have

Pocket Devotions

Day 293:

Acts 18:27a
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him.

Thoughts for Today:

Previously, Apollos had been speaking boldly in the synagogue about Jesus as the Messiah. Although he taught accurately and thoroughly about Jesus, the one really big part he was missing was the part about Jesus being the resurrected Son of God. That is a really big hole in anyone's knowledge. Enter Priscilla and Aquila. Taught by Paul himself, they took Apollos under their wing, and in verse 26, "...invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately."

In our passage today, God has now called the fully prepared Apollos to serve in Achaia. Let's look at how God did so a little more closely:

1. God prepared him. In previous devotions we've discussed many factors involved in Apollos' preparation, beginning with his birth and education in Alexandria (the center of culture and academic pursuits), and ultimately with the "fine-tuning" of his training by Priscilla and Aquila.

2. God called him. How do we know God called him? Because he wanted to go. If you love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37), it stands to reason that wherever the Lord needs you, He will give you the desire to go. Apollos wanted to go to Achaia.

3. God's people sent him. Apollos was fully encouraged and supported by the church ("the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him").

In retrospect, all of the events that led Apollos to Achaia may look rather intricate, and indeed they are. However, it is all in the Lord's design and rather than worry about how it all fits together, we function much better when we just focus on the here and now. That's one of the things I really like about Apollos, he always seemed to stay in the present.

Questions to Ponder:

Apollos was trained in the Scriptures so
he went to the synagogue;
he was taught about Jesus' baptism so
he accurately spoke about Jesus the Messiah;
he then learned about the Resurrection and wanted to go to Achaia.
Apollos always did something with what he had.
He didn't wait for something more before he began.
That is a really great lesson for us all to apply in our own lives.
What are you waiting for before you begin to serve the Lord.
What has the Lord placed upon your heart ?
Where do you want to go ?
Maybe it is time to get started right now.
Trust the Lord, He will provide whatever you need.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Where We Need To Be and Where We're Neeeded

Pocket Devotions

Day 292:

Acts 18:26
He [Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Thoughts for Today:

Here we see mentioned again, Priscilla and Aquila who were the friends, confidants, and supporters of Paul. But where do we find them? Were they at home, thinking they already knew everything they needed to know directly from the great teacher himself, Paul -- so why go to church? No, rather they were at the synagogue in the presence of fellow Jews and other believers. That's a really good example for all of us because in the body of believers is where we always need to be.

We know that Priscilla and Aquila were important to the church in Ephesus, yet in our passage today, they humbly take a talented and educated preacher under their wing to share with him the complete story of Jesus. What I also like is how they did so. They didn't speak out against him publicly, embarrassing Apollos and disrupting the assembly. Rather, they quietly invited him to their home. I also like the idea that Apollos was teachable despite the fact that he was described previously as "...a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures... instructed in the way of the Lord... [who] taught about Jesus accurately." I have met many people with fewer credentials than Apollos who are completely unteachable. The willingness to be taught really says a lot about one's heart.

Questions to Ponder:

There is a lot of good information we can take from our passage today. Here's what we learned from Priscilla and Aquila:

* We need to be and are called to be in the company of other believers (no matter how much we think we know);

* We're needed by the church, although not always in a public capacity (sometimes it's simply through quiet counseling).

And from Apollos:

* The willingness to speak boldly and accurately about what we do know;

* Regardless of our educational background and training, having enough humility to be teachable.

Which of these examples speaks the most to you?
In what area do you need to improve?
Will you begin today?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sharing What You Do Know

Acts 18:24-25
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.

Thoughts for Today:

In the Roman Empire, Alexandria was second in importance to only Rome. Over one third of the city's population was Jewish. Known for its cultural and academic pursuits, it had one of the finest libraries in the ancient world with over 500,000 volumes. As a result scholars were attracted from all over the world. Alexandria was the city where famous Greek philosophers and mathematicians such as Euclid Aristarchus and Eratosthenes worked. And it was the city that Apollos was from. Our passage today describes Apollos as:

* A learned man;

* With a thorough knowledge of Scripture;

* Instructed in the ways of the Lord;

* Well spoken and passionate;

* And he taught about Jesus accurately.

What I find particularly interesting about Apollos is, despite his knowledge, training, accuracy, and gift as an orator, he knew only that Jesus was the Messiah. He didn't know anything about the other really important facts of Jesus' life, death or resurrection, yet that didn't stop him from believing and teaching! All too often I find myself wanting to explain to someone everything there is to know about Jesus, when maybe to believe, knowing everything isn't really required at all (I know it wasn't for me). The story of Apollos also gives me great hope, because it tells me that I can still be useful and valuable to the Lord, even if I have some gigantic holes in my knowledge.

Questions to Ponder:


Who have you not spoken to about the Lord ?
what ministry have you not joined because you felt lacking in some way?
Do you feel like you have to know everything before you can be useful to God?
This is not true.
If you believe in and practice what you know God can use you right now?
What can you do now to jump into ministry?
(Pocket Testament League Devotional)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Who is Ministering to Your Pastor?


Acts 18:18a
Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila...

Thoughts for Today:

Eighteen months after meeting Priscilla and Aquila (initially working for them as a tent maker), Paul now leaves Corinth in their company (parting after they reach Ephesus). All together, Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned six times in the New Testament (Acts 18:2,18.26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). Clearly they were very close to Paul personally, and were especially important to him in his ministry.

As I thought about the nature of the relationship Priscilla and Aquila had with Paul, I couldn't help but think about the relationship I have with my own pastor. Is my pastor merely a figurehead of the church, who teaches on Sunday morning's, or is he a real person, with real likes, interests, and yes -- problems. If my pastor ran into difficulty, would I employ him in my business, or provide a place for him to stay, as did Priscilla and Aquila? Would I support him in confidential and non-judgmental friendship during a period of emotional or financially distress that he might encounter? Would I be one he would turn to in difficult times?

Pricilla and Aquila did all of the above for Paul and much more; and not just for a day or two, but for a lifetime. I believe their given ministry was to minister to and be in support of their pastor -- Paul. With their help Paul was supported in a way that allowed him to accomplish many great things for the Lord. Taking care of our pastors is a much overlooked yet extraordinarily important responsibility. Who is looking after your pastor?

Questions to Ponder:

Too often we consider our pastors to be "bigger than life," spiritual giants who need little from us, the typical church attendee. But is that true? Maybe you are just the person your pastor needs to reach out a hand in real friendship. The three problems most pastors have in developing deep friendships and relationships with people are: trust, confidentiality and the ability to be human (happy, sad, etc.) just like everyone else without being judged. Who is ministering to your pastor(s)? Could it be you? Where could you begin in establishing a real friendship with any of the pastors at your church?
The Pocket Testament League Devotions

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cowboy Ten Commandments

1. Just one God.

2. Honor yer Ma & Pa.

3. No telling tales or gossipin’.

4. Git yourself to Sunday meeting.

5. Put nothin’ before God.

6. No foolin’ around with another fellow’s gal.

7. No killin’.

8. Watch yer mouth

9. Don’t take what ain’t yers.

10. Don’t be hankerin’ for yer buddy’s stuff.

from Ronna Stanley

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Disciple Making Pastor

By Bill Hull

You do not have to be a Pastor to benefit from the gems of wisdom found in this book. Book reviews usually vary from opinions to a general description. However, I prefer to reveal the works value with a sample of what I found in my prospecting for treasure.

These are the gems of thought I found in Chapter Three:
The Great Commission represents the commanded work of the church. The three important actions called for are; going, baptizing, and teaching.
Disciple making is necessary to obey that Great Commission.  Jesus specified the work product of the church with the command, ”Make Disciples”.
By Jesus’ definition, disciples reproduce themselves through evangelism. Those are the reproducers that create the multiplication for an exponential growth of the church.
The teaching of believers to obey the Great Commission is a vital work of the church. It will require commitment to a accountable learning mode. The evidence of such a commitment will appear in the training of people to do evangelism, showing them how, and doing it with them, then letting them do it.
The disciple is the committed follower of Jesus Christ who communicates with God through the Word, Prayer and demonstrates his belief by action.
offered with love through the Holy Spirit, brother george

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Simply Teaching the Word of God


Acts 18:11b
...teaching them the word of God.

Thoughts for Today:

When the Lord appeared to Paul (previously in verses 9-10), the Lord gave him words to:

* Strengthen: "Do not be afraid..."

* Instruct: "...keep on speaking, do not be silent..."

* Encourage: "...For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you..."

* Provide: "...Because I have many people in this city."

Paul believed God, so he stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, doing exactly what the Lord had told him to do: "teaching them the Word of God." That is exactly how a church gets planted: the Lord calls a pastor (like Paul) to His work in a place (like Corinth) where the Lord has people who need to hear about Jesus. A church not only gets started, but also grows exponentially. And what is the key to growth? Straightforward teaching of the Word of God. It's really very simple. We don't need to do anything else, for it is God's Word that calls people to repentance and a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Over time, if things begin to get a little off course, it's usually because people enter in to try and "help" God. A building is needed, so a committee is formed to look at suitable locations; donations are flowing into the church so a finance person is needed to manage it and a committee is needed for oversight; the number of children attending are growing so a children's pastor and youth pastor are hired to minister to their specific needs; some complaints surface about the lack of worship music so a worship leader is hired who organizes singers and forms a band; service times and other schedules are established, and as a result the pastor is limited to 30 minutes for the message so there is adequate time to conduct other business; etc. I think you can probably see where I'm going with this -- we have to be very careful that through our desire to be organized and serve the needs of our members, we don't stray too far from Bible based teaching and into so many activities and programs that we begin to look more like a social club than a church.

Questions to Ponder:

When you look in your church bulletin at the cornucopia of activities planned for the week, ask yourself: Of all the stuff we are doing as a church, how much of it is actually spent teaching the Word of God?
I'm not saying we should not have programs and activities to support our membership, we need them; what I am saying is that everything we do must revolve around our primary purpose which is simply to teach God's Word.
If Paul looked at your church's bulletin today, would he have difficulty finding your purpose?
What was the last thing you suggested to your church, a new program or a desire for more Bible based teaching?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Do You See in Your City?

Acts 18:10b

[The Lord continuing to speak to Paul in a vision] "...because I have many people in this city."

Thoughts for Today:

When I first read our Scripture today, I said to myself, "Wait a minute; Paul's ministry had only just begun, so there couldn't have been a lot of Christians in the city." So why would the Lord say, 'I have many people in this city?' Then the light went on and I realized that the Lord sees a Christian before they become one, and I thought, "What would I have seen had I looked at Corinth back then? And more importantly, what do I see right now in my city? Do I see floundering people who have not yet met the Lord, or do I see just more people-waste?"

Isn't that an interesting term: "people-waste"? Clearly that is my word and not the Lord's because He sees future Christians mixed in with all the people who are caught up in pursuing careers, crime, material possessions, egotism, the occult, drug use, sensual gratification, alcoholism, etc. I see the trash that people are making of their lives and wonder how to make a difference. God sees the gems. He knows whose heart is open to hear the Word and asks, "Who will I send with the message of salvation?"
Questions to Ponder:
We don't need to bring Christ to church because He's already there, yet that is where we spend the majority of our "Christian" service, ministering to other Christians.
Where Christ is truly needed is in the work places and street corners of our cities.
God sees the heart; not the activity, location, or behavior of people.
What do you see?
Who will He use to reach out to those who need the gospel the most?
Will it be you?
How can you make yourself available?
What do you need to do to prepare your heart?
Are you willing?