Let’s Sing

Re:Verse reading–Acts 16:11-34 (day two) 

And suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. vs. 26

It’s hard to imagine, but prayer and praise can break bonds that hold you captive. We don’t  know what sort of mental state Paul and Silas were in after being arrested. Worried, angry, sad? Perhaps all or none, but scripture is silent in regards to that. What we do read is their response to setbacks and adversity. When they were ostensibly at their lowest we read that they chose to sing. With all the scriptures that call us to worship God, and all the Psalms that are devoted to just that is it any wonder when the Lord literally breaks the chains that bind Paul and Silas when they turn their praise to God through adversity?

You may not be locked in the inner cell of a prison, but your heart may be. You may not feel like singing, but that is just the time to start. Sing through the frustration, the pain, the rejection, and turn your heart to praise. There cannot be room for both. God will break your chains. Let’s sing.

The power of “We”

Re:Verse reading–Acts 16:11-34 (day one)

“So putting out to sea from Troas, WE ran a straight course to Samothrace.”–v 1.

Important sentence in Acts.  Easy to miss.  In Acts 16:8, Luke says , “THEY came down to Troas.”  By v 11, he begins to speak first person “WE”.  Subtle shift?  Not for Luke, it wasn’t!

It is one of the great moments in spiritual development– you stop being a spectator and become a participant.  Stop talking about “the church” and “their goals”.  Start talking about “my church” and “our mission”.

Paul knew the strategic importance of always adding new talent.  He was constantly enlisting new people to help.  We don’t know how/when he met Dr. Luke (see Colossians 4:14). We do know at some point Paul invited him to come along.  It was an invitation that changed Luke’s life and the world!

Know anyone you could ask to help you do Kingdom work?  There is great gospel potential in the word “WE’.

Still Joyful

Re:Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day seven)

I am amazed at the resiliency of the early church, and the resiliency of Paul.  They went through trial after trial, but joy remained.  From the outside, they were ran out of most every town they visited, and from the inside, they could not agree on what life in the church was supposed to look like.  Strife surrounded the church, but the Holy Spirit was in it.  The Holy Spirit kept the peace and gave them joy in the most joyless situations.

This week’s text is a prime example.  After a church fight, Paul and Barnabas were sent down to Jerusalem to get their opinion, and along the way we get verse 3.  Between the two great debates that happened in Antioch and Jerusalem we get a glimpse of Paul and Barnabas on the road.  They weren’t sulking, they weren’t bulking up their arguments, the text says they were sharing their stories of joy, encouraging the church all along the way.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

High Stakes

Re:Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day six) 

The stakes were incredibly high. For some Jewish believers it may had more to do with self-preservation than salvation (gentile believers would soon outnumber them). But for Paul the stakes couldn’t have been higher; the very salvation of humanity depended on the church elders in Jerusalem getting this decision right. For Paul it was simple, you cannot hold on to Jesus, if you are clinging to something else, i.e. circumcision or the Law. Telling gentiles that they must be circumcised in addition to believing in Jesus to be saved is like insisting someone carry an anvil while hoping to stay afloat wearing a life vest. The anvil is not meant to be a life saving device, nor the Law of Moses or wearing a nice tie on Sunday. This why Paul would declare to the Galatians, “If anyone teaches you a different Gospel than the one I taught you, let him be accursed.”

The stakes are still high. What obstacles are in the way of saving faith today? What kind of gospel do we articulate to those who are not like us? Maybe one of those obstacles is our silence.

The Goal

Re:Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day five)  Acts 15:11 “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” In verse 11, Peter changes the focus group in the work of salvation. The primary example in his closing statement was the Gentiles, NOT the Jews. The Jews would have said verse 11 in a different way, “Gentiles believe they are saved just like us”. In other words, Peter is proclaiming that the goal of salvation was NOT to be like the Jews. We often have the same mindset. We misunderstand the message and goal of the gospel. It is not that people become like us, but that they become like Christ. Any other goal falls far short of the promise and power of the Gospel. But, the possibility and opportunity to become more like Christ brings hope and joy to the human heart. That is GOOD NEWS!!


An Outward Sign

Re:Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day four)

V. 8 – “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us;

When a covenant or promise is made, it is often accompanied by a seal, a ring, or a document.  This outward sign of a pledge made, gives witness of the bond between two parties.  For instance, in a marriage ceremony, a ring is given to testify to the relationship established by the sharing of the covenant.

This is one of the roles of the Holy Spirit…He is a testimony of the pledge of a relationship between a believer and God.  It is a covenant relationship!  Peter had seen it back in chapter 11…now he reminds the elders of that role of the Holy Spirit.  The Gentiles would not have the seal of the Holy Spirit if they did not have the covenant relationship.  The Spirit bears witness.

Is that true in your life?  Does the Spirit bear witness in you of a covenant relationship with God?


Re:Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day three)  

“Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Ours is a sentimental society, that is, sentiment—feelings—have a cachet of authority.  If one is sincere, nothing else matters.  Paul will later teach a “circumcision of the heart”.  When Paul speaks of heart circumcision, though, he doesn’t use “heart” like we often do, as a synonym for “feelings”.  By “heart”, Paul means the very core of one’s being—the will or spirit of a person.  In rejecting circumcision as a prerequisite to the Christ-life, the Jerusalem council could have simply placed Christianity on a foundation of feelings.  That seems good if you feel good, but what happens when you don’t?  On what do you depend when you feel conflicted and confused?  No, they declared.  Christ transforms the spirit, and gives us sure footing.



Let It Go

Re:Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day two)  

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” vs. 5

Every morning when I get Jessica in the car she begins to ask Elsa? Elsa? Which translated means: “Daddy, I would be most grateful if you would please play the soundtrack to the animated movie Frozen.” The hit song from that movie, is titled “Let it Go.” If you have walked by anyone under 25 in the past 4 years, you know this. As I read this verse this morning that title kept running through my head.

These new believers had a lot of religious baggage that they brought with them. They were well-educated, and knew the customs of the people. Peter had already had to deal with this for himself, but it would be the theme in the early years of the church. We cannot expect to have a conversion experience and bring every thought, action, and custom from our old lives. It just won’t work. What are those things you are still holding on to? Let it go.

Fair fighting

Re:Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day one)  

“If you cannot go back to your mother’s womb, you better learn to be a good fighter.”–Anchee Min.

“I have fought the good fight”–the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:7)

It happened in the early church.  It will happen (has) in our church.  We will come to a point/place of disagreement. About truth.  About direction.  We will need to fight.

We will need to fight fairly.  Work hard to address issues and truth rather than personalities and feelings.  The same skills we use in marriage.

Acts 15 will serve as an example.  We will engage in honest and courageous debate–v 2.  We will seek wisdom from the apostles–v 3 (our application will be to “search the scripture”).  We will give testimony–v 7-12.  We will submit to our leaders–v 13-22.

I don’t know which is harder to teach.  The courage to fight for truth or the kindness to do it fairly.  For Christ-followers, neither is optional.


Specific Model

Re:Verse reading–Acts 13:1-52 (day seven)

Paul witnessed with surgical precision.  He left Antioch with a specific model to reach devout Jewish men in their natural synagogue setting.  It made sense to Paul because they were his tribe, he knew them as well as anyone.  Paul was a Jew of Jews, he was a Pharisee, he had unique access, and now he was armed with the Gospel instead of indignation.  Being familiar with their order of worship Paul knew that as a guest rabbi he would have the opportunity to offer encouragement at the end of their service.  He was ready.  He restated their shared story and led them to the person of Jesus Christ as the culmination of all they believed.

Paul had a specific word, he had a specific place, he had a specific time, he was fully prepared to witness that day.  I hope that we can look around our spheres of influence to recognize people that we can specifically reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  You have a unique access to people that you can witness to just like Paul.  I hope that we can pray for a specific model that we can use to witness to our own tribes for the sake of the Gospel.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews…To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.  I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.  1 Corinthians 9:19-23