Got a Stiff Neck?

I hope not. Sometimes mine is stiff, sometimes it is even red. But I really do not want one that is too stiff, too stiff to bend. The Pharisees had stiff necks. They refused to see Jesus for who he was, the Christ. Stephen accused them sharply before they decided to kill him.

“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” Acts 7:51-53

God chastised the Israelites over and over for being stiff-necked. I am no different. I do what I want, when I want, see what I want to see, hear what I want to hear. Moses wrote long before Steven was stoned, these encouraging words.

Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. Deuteronomy 10:15-20

Stephen described just the people Moses asked the Israelites not to be. Resisting the Holy Spirit and not obeying. Instead of being stiff-necked I need to submit to this Awesome God.

God Bless

Jesus Raised from the Dead

Peter full of the Holy Spirit got up and testified to the facts surounding Jeus’ life and death. Here is some of what he said in Acts chapter 2.

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
   ” ‘I saw the Lord always before me.
      Because he is at my right hand,
      I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
      my body also will live in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
      nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
      you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Acts 2:22-28

The purpose of Luke’s writings is that we may know for certain who Jesus was, what he taught, and what he did. So in some way we might understand God who sent him.

It comes down to this, will I believe what the bible says about Jesus. It is extreemly simple. Yes man has argued about it and will continue to argue. But to I take it at face value or not. Is Jesus the Son of the God or not. My choice. The choice makes all the difference in the world.

God Bless. Make the choice.

The Convenient Christ

What happens to a group of men try to invoke Jesus’ name to cast out demons? They get preached to by the demon!

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 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.

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. (One day) the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. Acts 19:11-16

I know if I had been there I would not have thought this funny. However, I am sure the local Christians got a good chuckle and then they probably took a very serious look at their relationship with Jesus. I really believe that being a Christian is all about our life. Being Christ like, faithful, trusting, obeying, living a life of submission to God. I cannot help but wonder if I am trying to invoke Christ instead of living Christ.

That was the mistake these Jews made. They did not believe in Jesus. They just wanted to use his power without all the trouble of really being Christians. You can really see that in what they said to the demon possessed man. They said “I command”, they referred to Jesus and even Paul but they were not of Christ.

I know I am stretching this verse a lot. I am sorry. Today, I see a world that want a convenient Christ. One that we can use when we are in trouble, a name to invoke when the baddies are around. We do not want to be inconvenienced by a God who wants to have a relationship with us. Who wants us to get to know Him, spend time with Him, and actually change our behavior for Him! (What could he be thinking!)

Lord, forgive me for wanting a convenient relationship. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and have fellowship by sharing in his sufferings. I want to become like Christ in his death and by doing, somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead. Amen. Philippians 3:10-11

God Bless

Luke Acts a Two Volume Set

Luke wrote to Theophilus in Luke “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:4) His purpose was to build up the faith of this man and to tell all that Jesus began to do and teach.

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. Acts 1:1-2

Luke follows his Gospel with a history of the Apostles after Jesus’ assent into heaven. Following a little background in Acts chapter 1 he begins to tell of the adventures of the Apostles. More importantly what the Apostles accomplished through the Holy Spirit sent by God to teach them what to do and say.

Luke = What Jesus taught and said.

Acts = What the Holy Spirit did through Jesus’ Apostles.

Together we get a singular picture of what Jesus and his Apostles accomplished during their lives. A historical document for us to study, question, and learn from.

How Much Does it Cost?

How much does salvation cost? How much trouble can you pay your way out of? Money can fix everything. Funny how I get to thinking that sometimes. Simon thought he could buy his way into fame and status in an early Christian community.

Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” Acts 8:18-24

It is so easy to think that we can atone for our sins with money. Not been the person I should be? I will just give more to Church or a worth cause. Maybe thinking I can buy the gift of God. What is the gift of God? In this case probably the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, I think ultimately the gift of God is a life with Him.

What does God really want? My heart. Your heart. Right before God.

God bless.

What to be different?

What would you risk your life for? Okay, well make it harder, how about your credibility? After, I think I would rather die than be judged a fraud and lose the respect of my peers.  I begin to feel pressure more an more from the world to give up and conform. HA, conform. I remember my struggles as a teen ager not wanting to conform to my parents way of life. Now I realize I was conforming, conforming to the world. Want to be different, believe in something. Believe in something to the point you would be willing to lose.

Here is the situation. Jesus is dead. The rulers of the time have squashed any hope the apostles had of Jesus being the christ. As far as the rulers were concerned it was over. They had made a public spectical of Jesus, bribed the guards who “lost” the body, and now they could move on to more pressing matters of church and state. Why would a rag tag bunch of uneducated men risk life, ridicule, and credibility to continue to fight? Well they did.

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4

The simple answer. Resurrection of the dead! They had seen Jesus’ final miracle, the Jonah sign.

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. Luke 11:29-30.

After Jesus apeared to these men after raising from the dead, they finally realized who was Jesus. The Son of God who came to show us his Father and to become the first born of all who believe. Even now to this day, the promise of ressurection of the dead is made to you and me.

Am I willing to lose? Maybe a better question is what do I stand to gain?

God bless

Scripture from the New International Version, Acts 4:1-4, Gospel of Luke 11:29,30

Amazing Grace

Ever wondered how much God will forgive you? Think God’s grace has limits? Well consider this…

At the end of Jesus’ ministry just before his crucifixion, Pilate tried to get Jesus released. However, the Jews would not hear of it. So Pilate washed his hands of the matter (not that the act released him from any guilt). The Jews responded this way in Matthew,

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Matt 27:24-25 (NIV)

Pretty serious words from the people responsible for the death of God’s son. But this is not where the story ends. Now we go to Acts chapter two. Peter (the apostle who betrayed Jesus) is preaching to the Jews at Pentecost. He reminds them of their participation in Jesus’ crucifixion.

This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. Acts 2:23 (NIV)

After his sermon they were convicted of their sin and asked what they must do to be saved.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:37-39 (NIV)

I know these people had no idea that the blood shed by the man they killed would soon wash their sins away. The first converts at Pentecost in Acts were the very people who put Jesus to death. Twist of fate? I think not.

Do not ever think you are too far removed from the grace and love of God. Take comfort in knowing your sins are forgiven. Thank God!