Monday, August 20, 2012

Acts 5:27-32 - We Must Obey God

Scripture: Acts 5:27-32

Summary: (Previously, the apostles had been arrested, thrown in jail, an angel released them from jail, and they returned to preach in the temple) They are brought before the council and questioned by the high priest. He says we told you not to preach about jesus but here you are filling the city with your teachings. Peter's reply is "We must obey God rather than any human authority." Then he explains that Jesus was raised by God after he was killed by them and they are witnessing to him.

Thoughts: Peter says, "We must obey God." How would my life be different if I followed these simple words? Although I claim to be a follower of Christ, am I really obeying God in all that I do? Unfortunately, the short answer is no. All too often I let myself be carried away by things that I think I need. My current "need" is an iPhone, because my current Android phone is old and incredibly slow! But how does that need stack up against the need of the homeless man outside the church who needs new socks? Or the need of the young lady whose grandmother is hours away from dying? I pray every morning that God will use me in the place where I am most needed. I long to follow God, to serve each day in the way that God is calling me to serve. I want to obey God but often I let my own desires get in the way. But being a part of a faith community helps me to return my focus to God so that I might follow God's path more closely.

Prayer: God, you are always present to lead me where you want me to go. Help me to open my eyes and ears and mind to your guidance so that when the high priest of today questions me about my actions I can honestly answer "I must obey God." Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Acts 5:21b-26 - What is God going to do?

Scripture: Acts 5:21b-26

Summary: (Previously, the high priest had arrested the apostles and put them in prison but an angel set them free and they went directly to the temple to teach) That morning the high priest sent to have the apostles brought to him from the prison but they weren't there. The doors were locked, the guards were there, but the prisoners were gone. Someone arrived saying that they were at the temple teaching so the police went and brought the apostles to the high priest.

Thoughts: The high priest and his council are said to be "perplexed, wondering what might be going on." They have no idea that God might be behind the oddness of the situation. Then someone arrives, telling them "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" The temple is probably the last place that they expected the apostles to be when they didn't find them in prison. The priests most likely assumed that they were in hiding since they had escaped from prison. But instead, the disciples are in the temple teaching people about Jesus Christ. The priests council had left out a crucial factor when considering what would happen to the followers of Jesus. What was God going to do? I often find myself surprised when God has acted in the world around me. I too easily discount God's influence in our world when I try to figure out what is going to happen next. And it is in those times that God turns things around, bringing light to the darkness, bringing hope to the hopeless. So I encourage you to watch today to see what God is going to do next!

Prayer: God, even though we often forget the fact, you are the most important actor in our world. Help us to see you working in the midst of our lives in this world you have given us for a home. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Acts 5:17-21 - Are you sharing the whole message?

Scripture: Acts 5:17-21

Summary: The disciples had been preaching and healing and it was making the people in charge jealous. They arrested the apostles and put them in prison. But that night the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and told them to preach in the temple. So they went at daybreak to teach in the temple.

Thoughts:  The angels instructions to the disciples were: "Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life." Even though they had been thrown into prison for preaching already, they went to the temple and began preaching again. And the angel was very clear that they were to teach the whole message. What does this mean? Well, I think that they were being called to tell the entire story of Jesus Christ, his life, his works, his words, his death, and his resurrection. Too often when we tell people what it means to be a Christian, we don't deliver the whole message. We don't tell them how hard it can be to follow Christ. We don't tell them that they might end up in jail, or worse. But even this is not the whole message. Because the most important part is that God is with us. We are not alone. We are not being called to do God's work on our own. We not only have other Christians to help us but we have the Holy Spirit with us. Are we telling people the whole message about this life?

Prayer: Speak through me as I attempt, with my insufficient words, to share with others the message about life with Jesus Christ. Help me to share the whole message of his witness. Amen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Acts 5:12-16 - healed by a shadow?

Scripture: Acts 5:12-16

Summary: There were many signs and wonders done among the people by the apostles. The people held them in high esteem and many believers were added to the Lord. They carried the sick into the street in order that Peter's shadow might fall on them as he came by. Many from surrounding towns brought their sick and all were cured.

Thoughts: There are lots of references to great numbers in this scripture. Many signs and wonders, great numbers of believers added, and a great number of people from surrounding towns. And at the end of all of this, the scripture says "and they were all cured."  All of them were cured. Not just those who believed. Not just the lucky few who were noticed by the apostles. But all of them. To the point that even the sick people who laid in the shadow of an apostle were healed! This is an amazing story! And it's only a short story in many chapters of amazing stories in Acts. What if each of us believed as these people obviously did? What if we were willing to put ourselves out there like the apostles did? What miracles could we perform in the name of Jesus Christ? And so I find myself wondering, if Peter could heal people with his shadow, what can I do if I really put my mind to it?

Prayer: God of power and amazing miracles, help me to see the people in the shadows around me who need healing. Help me to use your power to change their lives by loving them as they are and lifting them up out of the shadows and into the sunlight. Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Acts 5:1-11 - Giving Until it Hurts?

Scripture: Acts 5:1-11

Summary: A couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a piece of property. They decided to keep some of the money for themselves. They brought the rest of it to Peter to share with the church, pretending that it was all that they had received for the land. Peter asked him why he was lying, that he could have kept part of the money without lying about it. He said "You did not lie to us but to God!" Then Ananais fell down and died. When Sapphira came in and told Peter the same thing, she also died.

Thoughts: I have always wanted to use this scripture to preach from during a stewardship campaign. Give everything you can to the church or you will die! I suppose, though, that it is a little extreme. I think that the real purpose of this scripture is to get people thinking about honesty. The problem with Ananais and Sapphira is not that they did not give all of their money to the church. The problem is that they wanted everyone to believe that they had given all of the proceeds but kept some for themselves. How do we approach giving to the church? Do we give whatever is left over at the end of the month? Or do we determine ahead of time how much we want to give and give it at the beginning of the month? I confess that I have too often followed the first option, giving only what remains at the end of the month. It's easy to use the excuse that we have to make sure that we can make the house payment and pay the electric bill. But there are many things that I get each month that I don't really have to have. What would it take for you to give generously to the church at the beginning of the month? What is God calling you to give?

Prayer: God, give me the courage to take a leap of faith and give generously to my faith community. I want to be a part of this congregation and I have pledged to support it with my prayers, my presence, my gifts, my service and my witness. Help me to do so generously! Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Acts 4:32-37 - Let's Return to the Early Church!

Scripture: Acts 4:32-37

Summary: The group of Christians was of one heart and shared everything. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of Christ. There was not a needy one among them.

Thoughts: How did the church go from this picture of the early church, where everyone is taken care of and they share all things together, to the situation that we have today with needy people on almost every street corner? Sometimes I find myself longing for those days when everyone in the church took care of each other. But then I begin to think of the reality of that scenario and find that my selfishness comes out and I don't really want to share all of my things with other people! Our apartment in Wichita Falls is downtown, six blocks from First United Methodist Church where I work. Every day I drive down 13th Street and turn on to Travis, driving right past the parking lot where the day labor workers gather. Each time I go by I wonder what I can do to help these people who do not have full-time employment. As a part of the church, shouldn't I be helping them find work so that they can support their families? But looking at the number of people gathered there, I feel discouraged and give up. Perhaps, however, I can find some work for one person for a day. Or maybe I can stop and talk with them and just hear their stories. Each of us can make a difference, we just have to be willing to do so!

Prayer: Creator God, oftentimes the church has not done a very good job of being the hands and feet of Christ. There is so much suffering in this world, even in my neighborhood, that we often feel overwhelmed. Give us faith and hope that we can make begin to make changes around us. Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Acts 4:23-31 - Multiplication by the Holy Spirit

Scripture: Acts 4:23-31

Summary: When Peter and John were released from prison, they went to their friends and told them what the elders had said. The group "raised their voices together to God," asking God to help them speak God's word with boldness while healing and signs and wonders are performed in the name of Jesus. When they prayed the place was shaken and "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Thoughts: Peter and John not only told the elders that they couldn't keep from speaking about Jesus, but they went back to their friends and prayed with them. The result of this prayer was that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and they all spoke God's word with boldness. Notice how God takes two men speaking about Jesus and multiplies it with the Holy Spirit! If we believe in Jesus and want to share his story with others, then through the Holy Spirit God can multiply the work that we can do. As human beings, there is very little that we can do on our own to change the world. But with the Holy Spirit multiplying our work, amazing things are possible! What can I do today to advance God's kingdom, that God might multiply?

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, come! Use me to change the world! Amen.