The Gospel changes things.


Acts 19:18-20 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

One thing we see time and time again in the book of Acts is this: when someone gets a real dose of the Gospel, things change. There’s not really another explanation for it. And they should. But the purpose for reading Scripture is not to see what happened in others’ lives, though that’s a big part of it, but to see what should happen in my life and the lives of those I serve. So the question I must ask myself this morning is simple: what change is the Gospel making in my life?

As for the example in Acts 19, first, these people became bold in their confession of Christ. Secondly, they were willing to confess and change things in their lives that weren’t right. They came together and confessed their wrong. Then, they made necessary changes in their lives that included sacrificing things that needed removed or changed. It was as they did this, that the word of God grew mightily. How is our witness for Christ today? Are we willing to admit when there’s wrong in our lives? Are we willing to sacrifice as we realize areas of our lives that need changed or removed, even if it costs us? Let’s let having the Gospel to do the work in us that it ought to do.

Aquila and Priscilla, Discipleship 101

maxresdefaultActs 18:24-28
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

I’m excited about our theme for 2017 here at Pacific Baptist. The them is “Making a Difference”, from Jude 22. The concept is that it is everyone’s responsibility to seek to make a difference in the life of somebody. My reading this morning brought my mind right to this theme. Here we have two “laymen” – tent makers by trade, seeing a man with potential for the Lord, taking him in, and making a big difference in his life. He would, in turn, go out and make a difference in the lives of many others. Talk about 2 Timothy 2:2 in action! Here are a couple observations from this passage and this couple’s example.

First, they were attentive – Aquila and his wife came into the synagogue to hear the Word of God. But they didn’t just come to sit down and take in. While they were there, they noticed a man who had a desire for God, and with some potential to be used by Him. As soon as “church” was done, they went over to him and started a conversation.

Secondly, they were hospitable – After their conversation, they invited him to spend time with them. They “took him unto them” – most likely to their house. It wasn’t just a Sunday morning or evening conversation. They developed a real relationship with him. If we’re going to make a difference in the lives of others, we must be willing to be hospitable to them. And it must be more than just a Sunday AM or PM thing. We must be willing to have them in our homes, spend time with them in theirs, and be willing to put in the time to see them along.

Next, they helped spiritually – They realized the need, they initiated the relationship, and now, they helped him to address his spiritual condition. They started, as we all should, with salvation. This was his (and those with whom we come in contact) greatest need. However, they didn’t stop there. They continued to expound the Word of God to him. They helped to bring him along in the things of God. If we’re going to see fruit that remains, this is a must.

And finally, they followed through – Once this man began to be grounded in his faith, it was time for him to serve. They didn’t just say “go ahead, find a place to serve”. They gave direction. They wrote letters to the brethren. And they continued until he was in a place of service.

This is a great reminder of what we should be doing all the time as Christians. This couple wasn’t staff, pastors, or even deacons. They were Christians. And when they realized the need, they decided to take these steps to make a difference, and a difference they made. Might we be alert, hospitable, help spiritually, and follow through, and see the difference that is made for Christ!


Radical Engagement Request

will-you-marry-me-wedding-ring-box-proposal-box-proposal-props-personalised-trinket-box-engagement-ring-box“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”A. Judson to his future father in law, in requesting the hand of Ann in marriage. 


I wonder how many sons-in-law to be have this kind of radical commitment to the Lord, and are willing to express it to a potential suitor’s father. Adoniram Judson did.  He understood counting the cost. He understood “falling to the ground and dying” to bear much fruit. It’s no wonder there are close to 4,000 Baptist churches in Burma (Myanmar) today. Might we find (and be) men with this kind of commitment to the Lord. Might we live with eternity on our minds. The souls of countless men, women, and children sway in the balance.

Hard cases

saul-on-the-road-to-damascusActs 9:1-2 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Acts 9:11-15 And the Lord said unto him (Ananias), Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

Can one blame Ananias for his hesitancy to go see Saul? I can’t. He was just asked to go see a persecutor and “slaughterer” of Christians. This was one mean, bad guy, who just three days ago was on his way to jail and hurt Christians. However, the Lord knew the potential. And thank the Lord Ananias obeyed, for the world was changed because of it.

Sometimes the Lord will send us to work with “hard cases”. More than a couple times in my life I’ve been called to work with these hard cases. These are the ones that, others look and question why you’re working with them. These are they that, at face value, look like they have no potential for the Lord. They are rough around the edges. Their family situation is no good, or downright horrible. They have a bad background. Or there are other undesirables that they bring to the table. I thank the Lord that He didn’t choose us based on our “desirable” characteristics.

My prayer this morning is that I’d be willing to work with those Christ calls us to work with – the bound, brokenhearted, the captives, the sinners, and those that others might deem as “hard cases”. Let us remember the Word of God, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

Daisy Chains

Amy Carmichael’s Dream

“The tom-toms thumped straight on all night and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:

That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.

Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step . . . it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!

Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.

Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could only call; though I strained and tried, only whisper would come.

Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.

Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned toward the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it a rather vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. “Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven’t finished your daisy chain yet. It would be really selfish,” they said, “to leave us to finish the work alone.”

There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries set for miles and miles of the edge.

Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.

Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively, and it called-but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which they reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And then they sang a hymn.

Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was-the Cry of the Blood.

Then thundered a voice, the voice of the Lord. “And He said, ‘What hast thou done, The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’”

The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and weird, wild shriek of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.

What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it?”

“God forgive us! God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!”

How can I, except some man should guide me?

hqdefaultActs 8:30-31 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.  35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 

This passage is a powerful, challenging reminder of the need of the lost around us, and around the world. There are countless souls, in villages, in cities, in suburbs, in houses, in huts, and all over the world who are empty, and “searching”, as this eunuch was here in Acts. They know that they’re missing what life is really about. And all it will take for their salvation is someone willing to go to them, and to “guide them” to Christ. Might we be willing to go where He sends us to go, that we might guide those that are searching to the Saviour.

This is He…

pillaroffire-2Acts 7:37-38 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

One thing that has helped my Bible reading and perspective of the Scriptures started with a systematic analysis of the Gospels, for a Master’s course I have been working on. One question in every passage is this: “Where is Jesus found in the passage?” It might seem far-fetched at face value to think we can find Christ in every 3-10 verses broken up throughout Scripture, and at first it was a challenge. But I must say, not only can we, but we should look at Scripture through this lens – that the Scriptures exist to testify of Jesus (John 5:39). The Law, prophets, Moses, Psalms, and of course, the New Testament either point to His coming and work or testify of it.

In this morning’s passage we’re reminded that Jesus was in the wilderness, on the mount, and that same Jesus was the Just One of Whom Stephen testified, Who came as our salvation. I read recently that the Christian life is a lifetime pursuit of a Person – Jesus Christ. Might He be our passion, desire, reason for living, and purpose in life. For through Him all things consist (Col 1:17). Through Him we can do all things (Phil 4:13). In Him we find salvation (Acts 4:12). And it’s in following and loving Him that we find purpose and will for our lives (Rom 8:28).

Recently I had a conversation with a good young man in our church, who is doing some soul searching and seeking the Lord at this time. In talking about Christ, and the fact that the Scriptures are about Him, he made  statement. He said, “as second generation Christians, we kind of get numb to the name of Jesus…” Unfortunately, I’ve seen that too many times, he’s right. I pray that this isn’t true of me. Might we, as the song says, fall in love with Him over and over again, as we follow His leading for our lives.

Prayer and the Word.

prayer-bibleActs 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

Two thoughts come to mind in today’s reading. The first is that being full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom, isn’t just for pastors, ministers, or staff members. It’s for the man who sits in the pew as well as the man in the pulpit. And in our preaching, this teaching ought not to be neglected, for the Lord wants fellowship with and and to work in the “layman” as well as the pastor.

Secondly we see the importance of the ministry of prayer and of the Word. Especially for those of us who preach and serve the Lord full time – prayer and the Word aren’t supplements to our ministry – they are what makes our ministry. If we don’t pray, and we’re not feeding with the Word, what do we have? We may have a crowd. We may fill an auditorium. But we won’t have what the Apostles knew they needed – power from on high to feed the flock and do the work. Might we “give ourselves to prayer” and to the Word of God as we seek to serve Him and those to whom He’s called us to serve.

Worthy to suffer

persecution-circo-romanoActs 5:40-41 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

I read these words recently about Adoniram Judson:

This was the unshakable confidence of all three of his wives, Ann (or Nancy), Sarah, and Emily. For example, Ann, who married Judson on February 5, 1812 and left with him on the boat on February 19 at age 23, bore three children to Adoniram. All of them died. The first baby, nameless, was born dead just as they sailed from India to Burma. The second child, Roger Williams Judson, lived 17 months and died. The third, Maria Elizabeth Butterworth Judson, lived to be two, and outlived her mother by six months and then died.

When her second child died, Ann Judson wrote, “Our hearts were bound up with this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error, and to strip us of our only little all. O, may it not be vain that he has done it. May we so improve it that he will stay his hand and say ‘It is enough.'” In other words, what sustained this man and his three wives was a rock-solid confidence that God is sovereign and God is good. And all things come from his hand for the good – the incredibly painful good – of his children.

Judson was a Baptist when he entered Burma in 1813, even though he left New England as a Congregationalist. His mind had changed during the 114-day voyage to India and Carey’s colleague, William Ward, baptized Adoniram and Ann Judson in India on September 6, 1812. Today Patrick Johnstone estimates the Myanmar (Burma’s new name) Baptist Convention to be 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members and 1,900,000 affiliates – the fruit of this dead seed.

Adoniram Judson “hated his life in this world” and was a “seed that fell into the ground and died.” In his sufferings “he filled up what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions” in unreached Burma. Therefore his life bore much fruit and he lives to enjoy it today and forever. He would, no doubt, say: It was worth it.

Many men and women of the past knew God and made an impact for Him because they were willing to suffer for His name’s sake. And to many of them, it was not a great sacrifice. It was a joyful realization that they had been counted worthy to give back in this way to the Lamb Who had given all for them.

In an email conversation with my uncle recently in this context, he made the statement, “I’m tempted to say, ‘Oh God, do it again!'” I am too. But to be honest, I’ve literally come to a point in prayer time where I’m just about to invite the Lord to “touch me” as he did with Job or others if it be His will, only to stop short, knowing what that commitment or invitation might mean. But men of the past were willing to “fall to the ground and die” to their desires, hopes, dreams, preconceived notions, and in many cases, suffer great loss. And it was once this took place in their life, that the fruit of their lives multiplied exponentially.

My prayer this morning is that I’d be willing to do whatever it is He’d ask me to do for His sake. No sacrifice can be to great. No loss can be too much. For if the Father gave His only begotten Son for my sake, I can give my life – with it’s desires, dreams, and things of this life, for Him.

Such as I have give I thee

rise-up-and-walikActs 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

I look with anticipation to this month of reading the book of Acts. What stands out in this passage, as well as in the theme of the book is this: that the early church and early disciples looked for every opportunity they could find to preach Christ to the lost. Whether it was along the road side, at a place of false religion, to a crowd, in prison, or any other time, these men looked for an opportunity to give the Gospel to people. They lived the Gospel. And they continually shared the Gospel.

As I evaluate my life, I think that sometimes we compartmentalize our time and efforts of sharing the Gospel. We set it to the side as something we do on Tuesday night and possibly Saturday. But the model in the Gospels, Acts, and through the New Testament is that we’re to be constantly looking for opportunities to share the Gospel. My prayer is that, even today, I’d be on the lookout and ready to share the Gospel when the opportunity arises. That’s why Christ gave His life. That’s why we’re here. That’s our calling. Might we not forget it. We might not have much money. We might not have silver and gold. But we have something far more valuable – Jesus Christ. Might we be ready and willing to share Him today.