Believing or Belonging? – Acts 11:26

“The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26, HCSB)The term “Christian” occurs only three times in the New Testament.

Besides this verse, in Acts 26:28 King Herod Agrippa asked if the Apostle Paul was trying to persuade him to become a Christian and in 1 Peter 4:16 the Apostle Peter referred to suffering for being a Christian.

The word for Christian in the Greek is Christianos and comes from christos, meaning “anointed one” with a modifier borrowed from Latin to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership.

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Getting Out of God’s Way – Acts 11:17

“And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17, NLT)

After Peter proclaimed the gospel of Jesus in Caesarea to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, a Roman officer, Peter had to explain his actions to the apostolic leadership and believers back in Jerusalem.

As Peter recounted the sequence of events, he explained it was only by God’s initiative that he took the gospel to the Gentiles.

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God’s Instruction Manual – Psalm 19:7-11

“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7-11, NLT)

In Psalm 19 David declared the eminence and significance of God’s law.

In general, God’s instructions refer to all His laws or commands but can specifically refer to Genesis through Deuteronomy, the written code given through Moses.

We should consider God’s instructions to be His complete revealed Word in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, Genesis through Revelation.

According to the psalmist, God’s instructions are relevant to your life because they are perfect, trustworthy, right, clear, true, fair, desirable, and sweet (vs. 7-10).

And, if you read God’s instruction manual, the psalmist says that these are some of the benefits you will receive from following its instructions:

  • make you wise beyond your own ability
  • bring joy and happiness to your life
  • describe how God wants you to live
  • warn about sin and disobedience to keep you on the right path
  • give satisfaction and fulfillment in this life and the life to come

We should value the Bible as God’s instruction manual for knowing and understanding Him and how He wants us to live and what He wants us to do with our lives.

Because if we want to obey God, it is necessary that we know what His instructions are and then follow them by applying them to our lives.

And, if you desire to live for God each day, then you need to consult God’s instruction manual, the Bible, each day.

God’s Merit Badges – Job 36:15

“God rescues the afflicted by their affliction; He instructs them by their torment” (Job 36:15, HCSB).

In the story of Job, Elihu was the fourth and last to speak from among Job’s friends. Elihu was younger than the others and waited to speak, giving deference to the older men.

Though younger, Elihu believed he was speaking God’s truth in confronting Job, but he claimed neither human superiority nor inferiority to Job.

Elihu had listened carefully to Job’s claims of being pure and innocent and being unjustly oppressed by God.

And Elihu reminded Job that as a human being, he was not in a position to bring accusations against God, his Creator.

Elihu declared to Job that instead of being a sign of God’s unconcern as Job had supposed, affliction was a mark of God’s mercy, keeping one from the path of iniquity.

In other words, the very thing that afflicts you may also be what saves you.

God can use your affliction to rescue and restore you to Him and His will. Your affliction can spiritually develop you into a human being that is prepared for spending eternity with God!

Admittedly, affliction is not my first choice for spiritual growth. In fact, I like to avoid affliction as much as possible. So, I often recite from the Lord’s prayer the supplication that Jesus teaches us to pray for protection from affliction: “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, HCSB).

Indeed, our affliction may sometimes be one way that God deals with issues in our lives that could potentially cause us to be unfaithful. But this verse does not say that God afflicts us, but that He rescues and restores us through our affliction. (Remember, it was Satan that afflicted Job; it was Satan that tested Job, not God.)

Because affliction causes us to throw ourselves on God’s mercy!

That which causes my pain and suffering is also that which can restore me to intimacy with God.
     That which causes me to give up and quit is also that which empowers me to endure and persevere.

So what we perceive to be our problem is actually the solution to our problem!

In fact, our affliction may even prevent evil or temptation from overtaking or overcoming us: “Be careful that you do not turn to iniquity, for that is why you have been tested by affliction” (vs. 21).

When I was a boy, I joined the boy scouts. In scouting you earn merit badges for demonstrating a useful skill or a good behavior. By earning merit badges, a scout may advance in rank. Advancement in rank acknowledges the scout’s growing ability to serve others better.

Our afflictions are God’s merit badges. They are designed to empower us to become more obedient and productive as Jesus’s disciples.

“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7, HCSB)

Destined for Greatness – Matthew 5:19

“But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19, HCSB).

Greatness is a status to which all of us aspire in some form or fashion:
     a great leader,
          a great teacher,
               a great parent,
                    a great athlete,
                         or even a great human being!

We want to climb mountains, ride the river rapids, fly high in the sky, or race fast on the ground!

We aspire for greatness; we endeavor to achieve great things!

What’s more, God wants us to be great, but He wants us to be great in His Kingdom!

But greatness in God’s Kingdom is not measured by how many souls we’ve won, how many good deeds we’ve performed, how many times we’ve read the Bible, how many scripture verses we can quote, or even how many church services we’ve attended.

One’s stature in God’s Kingdom is determined by simply practicing and teaching the commands that God gave and were fulfilled in Jesus.

In other words, God’s great ones walk what they talk and practice what they preach! God’s great ones are obedient to the commands of God’s Word and the leading of His Spirit.

And what’s great about greatness in God’s Kingdom is that all God’s people can be great!

Greatness in God’s Kingdom is not reserved for just a select few with big accomplishments. Actually, greatness should be the identifying characteristic of every citizen in God’s Kingdom.

If you are a disciple of Jesus, you are destined for greatness in eternity by obedience to God’s commands in this present life!

“I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength” (Ephesians 1:18-19, HCSB).

Without Hesitation – Matthew 4:20,22

“Immediately they left their nets and followed Him…Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” (Matthew 4:20,22, HCSB).

When Jesus called His first disciples–Peter, Andrew, James, and John–Matthew says they actually left what they were doing at the very moment when Jesus issued the invitation to follow Him.

They did it expeditiously!

They acted with urgency!

They left and followed without hesitation!

They didn’t think about it, analyze it, make comparisons, or check references. They just seized the opportunity as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime offer (and it probably was).

Before the occasion of their calling, it’s possible they knew about Jesus or even personally knew Him. After all, Jesus had moved from the obscure village of Nazareth to the bustling fishing town of Capernaum to launch His ministry. (vs. 13,17).

These men may have heard Jesus preach and teach and seen Him heal the sick on several occasions.

So, when Jesus summoned them to become His disciples, they jumped at the chance.

They all immediately left what they were doing and joined Him.

When Jesus beckons, what great possibilities await!

But don’t suppose that His requests are subject to our internal review or personal schedule.

As His disciples let us respond with immediacy to His behests.

Let’s go, without hesitation!

“Tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you'” (Luke 10:9, HCSB)

Soul Food – John 4:34

“My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” Jesus makes these remarks near the well in the Samaritan village of Sychar. Jesus had just told a Samaritan woman who was drawing water from the well that she should drink from the living water that He gives. She went and told the people of the village that Jesus was the Messiah and many came to see him and believed in Him. While all this was occurring, some of Jesus’s disciples urged Him to eat. Just as Jesus told the woman at the well He was the source of life-giving water, He told His disciples He was the source of life-giving food: “I have a kind of food you know nothing about” (vs. 32). So Jesus can supply spiritual nourishment for the hungry souls of people. Furthermore,  Jesus is our model for obtaining spiritual sustenance. He, Himself, was spiritually sustained by doing the will of God and finishing God’s work in His life. In the same way, our spiritual nourishment should be doing the will of God in our own lives to the extent that we complete the work that God intends each of us to do. When Jesus fed the five thousand men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish, He commanded His disciples “You feed them” (Matthew 14:16). The disciples responded that they had only a small supply of of bread and fish. “Bring them here” (Matthew 14:18) Jesus told the disciples. Jesus was prepared to miraculously provide nourishment for the large crowd of people by blessing the obedient action of His disciples. When you continuously offer the little that you have to Jesus, then you are enabled and empowered to do God’s will and complete the work He plans to do through your life.