An Apostolic Fellowship – Part Six

The Scripture exhorts believers to avoid the following negative ways of relating when sharing apostolic fellowship:

1> “Let us not judge one another” (Romans 14:13). We are to bless and encourage, not unduly criticize.

2> Do not “go to law against one another” (1 Corinthians 6:7). Settle differences and conflicts peacefully and among ourselves.

3> Do not “bite and devour one another … lest you be consumed by one another” (Galatians 5;15). Do not tear each other down with words.

4> Do not get involved in “provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26). Do not let pride create unnecessary conflict.

5> “Do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3:9). Do not mislead one another with words.

6> Do not be “hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Do not seek to harm one another.

7> “Do not speak evil one of another” (James 4:11). Rather protect and promote one another’s good reputation.

8> “Do not grumble against one another” (James 5:9). Do not spread discord and complaints throughout the fellowship.

In every case, the commandments and exhortations of Scripture regarding how Christians are to relate to one another can be summed up in one phrase: Love one another. Jesus calls and empowers His saints to love each other as He loves us. He asks believers to commit themselves to selflessly pouring out their lives for one another. This is the new law, the law of love.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12 “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.”

1 Peter 1:22 “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart…”

1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

All Christians are part of the same body of Christ. They are members of each other. They belong to each other. They have been given to one another by the Lord for mutual love, encouragement, and strength. 

“… we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5)

Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.”

The New Testament apostolic fellowship was not just Sunday religion. It was an entire way of life. It brought Christians together into the presence of the Lord and then sent them out into the world to seek and save the lost (Luke19:10) and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). 

SOMETIMES I LACK BOLD OBEDIENCE

Sometimes I Lack Bold Obedience

When I was a young Christian – I had a young family and I made very little money each month

In fact – the amount I earned was totally inadequate to meet the rapidly increasing needs of my young family

The man through whose ministry I was healed and born again was in the area still and so I went to listen and receive

The time for the offering came and I asked God what I was to give – He said $100.00

I had $150.00 in the bank and it was still three weeks till pay day and that in itself was inadequate but take away $100.00 and it was past seriously inadequate into dangerous

So I’m thinking – no way Hosea

So, I turned to my wife – more spiritual – and asked her what God had told her we should give – $100.00

We wrote a cheque for $100.00 boldly trusting God

The next day – went and picked up the mail and there was a letter from another town – where I also had a small church which I was working with

From a man I did not know and had not met YET

Inside the envelop was a cheque for $1,000.00 and a note saying it was something he promised God he would do the year before and God reminded Him about it a week before and told him to send it specifically to me

A week before I obeyed the prompting of the Lord He was already blessing me because of my yet-to-be obedience to His prompting and giving of $100.00

“Your Heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask” 

I want to talk about BOLD OBEDIENCE today… Read more

An Apostolic Fellowship

With zeal 3,000 new believers turned towards their new opportunity to live out their faith. The first Christians hungered for the apostles’ teaching, prayed with tenacity, and worshipped wholeheartedly. They were not passive or neutral about it. They “continued steadfastly” in their commitment to God and to the apostolic fellowship. They had a passionate commitment.

Luke describes the believers’ zeal with a Greek word that is fairly rare in the New Testament. The word communicates an intense, consistent dedication. It means to persist in adhering to something, to be intently engaged, or to attend constantly. A verb in the imperfect tense, it signifies continuous action: ‘They kept on continuing steadfastly” in day-to-day commitment. These believers possessed wholehearted devotion.

Luke used this powerful word several other times. The 120 disciples who gathered in the upper room “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). The first church members were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple” (Acts 2:46). After the congregation grew into a so-called ‘megachurch,’ the apostles declared their intention to “give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4)

As a result of Peter’s preaching, many present on the Day of Pentecost declared themselves to a whole new way of life. The Amplified Bible translates verse 42 as: “And they steadfastly persevered, devotion themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles.”

Believers’ lives were marked by:

      • The apostles’ doctrine
      • Fellowship
      • The breaking of bread
      • Prayers

Read more

An Apostolic Fellowship – Part Five

We are talking about apostolic fellowship. And a simple phrase in the New Testament leads to an understanding of how Christians are to relate together in true fellowship. That phrase is one another, the Greek word alleles. Verses that contain this phrase speak of believers lives together and how they are to treat one another.

The basis of their relating to one another is the relationship they have with God. As a result of being born agin they have received the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23b). This gift of ‘eternal life’ is defined in John 17:3 which states: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” As a result of this intimacy with the Lord and our heavenly Father we can then have fellowship with one another. We can then share the most precious things together.

1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Christians are to fellowship with one another in the following ways:

    • “Have peace with one another” (Mark 9:50) In this way we will be the salt of the earth.
    • “Be kindly affectionate to one another” (Romans 12:10) We are to love one another as members of one family.
    • “Giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). We are to prefer others in specific acts of service.
    • “Be of the same mind towards one another” (Romans 12:16). We are to be unified in values and goals. (See: Romans 15:5)
    • “Receive one another” (Romans 15:7). Fully accept one another.
    • “Admonish one another” (Romans 15:14). Caution one another, reminding each other of the dangers that might lie ahead.
    • “Greet one another” (Romans 16:16). Embrace one another in a full-hearted welcome. (See: 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14).
    • “Wait for one another” (1 Corinthians 11:33). We aren’t to selfishly move ahead of one another.
    • “Have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:25) Treat every member with the same concern and affection.
    • “Serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). We are now free to dedicate ourselves to one another, being a blessing, serving in practical ways. (See: 1 Peter 4:10). Koinonia may also have reference to the collection and distribution of gifts (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13; Hebrews 13:16).
    • “Bearing with one another” (Ephesians 4:2). We are to bear with one another’s weaknesses,. Standing strong in our devotion to one another no matter how offended we might get. (See: Colossians 3:13)
    • “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32). Be gracious and easy going with one another.
    • “Tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32). We Must be filled with compassion for one another, graciously forgiving one another from our hearts. (See: Colossians 3:13).
    • “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). Bring the presence of the Lord into the center of our fellowship.
    • “Submitting to one another” (Ephesians 5:21). Respect one another and respond to one another with a word of encouragement in times of crisis and discouragement. (See: 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25).
    • “Edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Always build each other up and not tear down; be a blessing and not a curse.
    • “Consider one another in order to stir up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Positively provoke one another to press forward in the will of God.
    • “Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16). Be open and honest with one another.
    • “Pray for one another” (James 5:16). Stand in the gap for one another in the presence of the Lord.
    • “Having compassion for one another” (1 Peter 3:8). Be sympathetic for one another, identifying with each other at the point of need.
    • “Be hospitable to one another” (1 Peter 4:9). Have a sincere desire to host one another in our homes. 

These are summed up in 1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

An Apostolic Fellowship – Part Four

The apostles’ doctrine included six foundational elementary principles of Christ, according to the book of Hebrews:

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2)

These six doctrines actually involve the following there pairs of truths:

      • Repentance and faith
      • Baptisms and the laying on of hands
      • Resurrection and eternal judgment

The Jerusalem church experiences all six foundations truths in a measure:

1> Salvation by repentance and faith – Acts 2:38; 16:30-31

2> Water baptism by immersion – Acts 2:38-39; 10:44-46; 10:2-6

3> Laying on of hands and prophecy – Acts 13:3

5> Resurrection of the dead (Acts 9:36-40)

6> The judgement of God – Acts 5:3-6; 13:10-11

Initially, the laying on of hands related primarily to receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit; however, later, the laying on of hands was used in a variety of contexts. The doctrine of resurrection and eternal judgement have a future fulfillment, but they also cover the new convert’s present experience of turning from death to life.

To see the dynamics of the first New Testament church restored, Christians today need to understand and experience the foundational doctrines of Christ. Bible doctrine should be studied because:

      • It gives substance to believer’s faith confession
      • It stabilizes Christians in times of testing
      • It enables the saints to handle the Bible correctly
      • It equips the believers to detect and confront error
      • It makes Christians confident in their walk
      • It calms their fears and cancels their superstitions
      • It gives saints objective beliefs that form the foundation of their every day Christian lives

With elementary doctrines understood and experienced, Christians can “go on to perfection” or maturity. 

As soon as the saints in Jerusalem entered covenant relationship with Jesus, they began associating with each other often and regularly. Believers need fellowship with their brothers and sisters. They are not like marbles in a bag — gathered in one place but not bonded together. Rather, they are like pieces of a beautiful puzzle that fit together just right.

Acts 2:42 links fellowship with the apostles’ doctrine. The verse could be translated as: “The apostles’ fellowship that is a result of the apostles’ doctrine.” The Beck New Testament translates the first part of the verse as: “They were loyal to what the apostles taught in their fellowship.” The Living Bible renders it: “They joined with the other believers in regular attendance at the apostles’ teaching.”

Christians enjoyed two dimensions of fellowship:

1> Fellowship with God

2> Fellowship with each other

The basis of Christians’ fellowship with each other is their fellowship wth the Lord. Believers are to have ongoing communion with Him. Being saved cannot be reduced to mental assent to a doctrinal creed; it involves personal relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ Himself.

1 Corinthians 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

1 John 1:3 “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. It means association, community, joint participation, intimacy, joint contribution, or a collection. It refers to using something in common.

True koinonia involves:

      • All believers
      • Dynamics that bind the church together
      • Unconditional love and acceptance
      • True honesty with humility
      • Restoring fallen and stumbling believers
      • Wise confession and cleansing
      • Heartfelt encouragement and availability
      • Open houses and a spirit of hospitality

On the other hand, the Bible forbids Christians to fellowship with:

      • The world – Ephesians 5:11
      • Satanic spirits and cults – 1 Corinthians 10:20
      • Unrighteousness – 2 Corinthians 10:20
      • False religion – 2 Peter 2; Jude 4
      • False doctrine – Galatians 1:7-10; 2 John 9-11)

An Apostolic Fellowship – Part Three

The Doctrine of Christ

The apostles’ doctrine emphasized the centrality of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of Christ is the first, last, and central of all truths. He is the Truth. Leaders today must continually point to Jesus and lift Him up. Lost souls must be directed to come to Him, and believers must be admonished to abide in Him. Jesus is not a hope. He is the only hope for this world, so he must remain the central  point of all teaching.

Acts 5:28 “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

Acts 5:42 “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”

Acts 9:20 “For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”

Acts 15:35 “But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”

The Bible gives the pattern for balanced Christian living. Local churches fed a diet of basic truths and foundational doctrines and so the people were settled and grounded in God’s Word. When this is true, they are less susceptible to being controlled by feelings or led astray by curiosities. To make it faithfully to the end, they need balance.

Colossians 1:22-23 “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

The Bible says doctrine is like the dew of heaven (Deuteronomy 32:2), yet so often church leaders and church members get carried away with so many other things some of which are not biblical in the least. It seems that Jesus is no longer enough but we need Jesus + angels, or Jesus + the third heaven teaching, Jesus + talking to dead saints, and on the list could go. I have simply found that I can (and do) fill my life with Jesus and little else. He is enough to occupy both my personal time in the Word and prayer as well as in my teaching ministry. He was THE central doctrine and focus of the early church and should still be today.

Critics object to an emphasis on doctrine claiming:

1> It is divisive. Critics say doctrine divides the church into denominations/ Really doctrine existed before the Church began. God originated it. The Church did not. Doctrine is not divisive; people are. The way people use doctrine causes conflict in the Body of Christ. 

2> It is irrelevant. Some say, “What you believe does not matter; what matters is who you believe in.” Jesus said, “False Christs … will arise” so when people say they believe in God or in Jesus, which Jesus do they believe in? Where do they get their information about God? Knowing God personally requires knowing truth — doctrine — about God and thus accepting the beliefs of the early Church as written in the Bible.

3> Being right in doctrine is not acceptable to God is you are wrong in spirit, yet being right in spirit while wrong in doctrine is acceptable. The world is filled with people who are sincere — sincerely wrong! Why not determine to be right in spirit and doctrine?

4> Doctrine is dry, dull, dead, useless. Doctrine is not as exciting as dancing and shouting. It does not draw big crowds like miracles and loud music. But only doctrine builds genuine strength and sustains growth.

Here is a true saying: If you have the Word with the Spirit, you will dry up. If you have the Spirit without the Word, you will blow up. If you have the Spirit and the Word you will grow up.

Healthy churches with life and power always have a combination and balance of the Spirit and the Word, true to the New Testament pattern. 

The Bible identifies four sources of doctrine:

1> The doctrine of God. This doctrine is refreshing and the foundation for growth. “May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass,

and like showers upon the herb” (Deuteronomy 32;2)

2> The doctrine of Christ. Jesus was accepted as a Rabbi in His day. He was a Master Teacher. He spoke with authority and clarity. “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribe” (Matthew 7:28-29).

3> The doctrine of the apostles. The apostles’ doctrine guided the New Testament church. They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).

4> the doctrine of devils (demons). Doctrine can be empowered by evil spirits speaking through evil men. Not all teaching comes from the mind of God. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons …” (1 Timothy 4:1) Believers know the doctrine of demons by discernment and by examining it in the light of Scripture. 

An Apostolic Fellowship – Part Two

We have begun looking at Acts 2:42 and the practice of the early church where apostolic fellowship was of prime importance.

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (doctrine, and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

The word doctrine in Greek is didache. It refers to teaching, instruction, or the subjects taught. In the Great Commission, the Lord gave the Church a mandate to teach. He instructed the apostles to make disciples, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Luke refers to doctrine three other times. The Jewish Sanhedrin condemned the apostles, telling them,. “Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine” (Acts 5:28). On the island of Cyprus, Paul preached the Gospel to the Roman proconsul who was “astonished at the teaching (doctrine) of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). The Greek philosophers in Athens requested of Paul, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which your speak” (Acts 17:19).

The ministry of the apostles and the lives of the disciples revolved around the preaching and teaching of the Word. Note the following: 

Acts 4:4 “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”

Acts 4:31 “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Acts 6:7 “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”

Acts 8:4 “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

Acts 12:24 “But the word of God increased and multiplied.”

Acts 13:44 “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.”

Acts 13:49 “And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.”

Acts 15:35 “But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”

Acts 18:11 “And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

Acts 19:10 “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

Acts 19:20 “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”

Acts 20:32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

One requirement of every elder (leader) is that he be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). Paul exhorted Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:2 “… and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

Handing down good doctrine from generation to generation keeps the Church strong. Psalm, chapter 119, stresses over and over how vital good teaching is to believers’ lives

Verse 1 “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!”

Verse 9 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”

Verse 11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Verse 105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Verse 130 “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”

Verse 165 “Great peace have those who love your law (doctrine; Word); nothing can make them stumble.”

Christians who enjoy the moving of the Spirit must also develop a love for teaching from the Word of God. The Word makes believers grow. I have been in gatherings considered outstanding because :the Spirit moved and we didn’t have time for the preaching.” The Church needs to return to the New Testament pattern of gatherings centered on the Word. 

A New Testament Church, an apostolic fellowship, is well-taught. It offers ongoing, systematic teaching of the Bible. Everyone who comes into the house of the Lord, the Church, should learn basic doctrine. In other words, know what they believe and why they believe it. Members as well as new believers need to know what the Church believes and why it does what it does. They must understand the household of faith. Hearing the Scriptures taught, believers grow strong in faith (Romans 10:17).

Many people today read the Bible only to meet emotional needs in a personal crisis. They do not read it to discover truth and understand its doctrine. They read it superficially when they could gain strength from its depth of wisdom. They need to do more than just read, they must study to show themselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15).

Winds of false doctrine will blow Christians off course if they do not have a good background and solid foundation in the Word of God. Their faith and commitment to the Word of God sustain them in their day of battling with personal issues and doubts. People who stand for nothing will fall for anything. They are susceptible to being deceive by this evil generation.

Leaders must renew their emphasis on the Word of God. Do not just read it devotionally but study it to learn the ways of God. His plan for your life and His plan for the Lord’s people. A church that is not well taught and giving itself to the apostles’ doctrine will not endure the test of time. 

An Apostolic Fellowship – Part One

With zeal 3,000 new believers turned towards their new opportunity to live out their faith. The first Christians hungered for the apostles’ teaching, prayed with tenacity, and worshipped wholeheartedly. They were not passive or neutral about it. They “continued steadfastly” in their commitment to God and to the apostolic fellowship. They had a passionate commitment.

Luke describes the believers’ zeal with a Greek word that is fairly rare in the New Testament. The word communicates an intense, consistent dedication. It means to persist in adhering to something, to be intently engaged, or to attend constantly. A verb in the imperfect tense, it signifies continuous action: ‘They kept on continuing steadfastly” in day-to-day commitment. These believers possessed wholehearted devotion.

Luke used this powerful word several other times. The 120 disciples who gathered in the upper room “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). The first church members were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple” (Acts 2:46). After the congregation grew into a so-called ‘megachurch,’ the apostles declared their intention to “give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4)

As a result of Peter’s preaching, many present on the Day of Pentecost declared themselves to a whole new way of life. The Amplified Bible translates verse 42 as: “And they steadfastly persevered, devotion themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles.”

Believers’ lives were marked by:

      • The apostles’ doctrine
      • Fellowship
      • The breaking of bread
      • Prayers

There was a priority of doctrine …

First, the new congregation dedicated itself to the apostles’ doctrine. Daily reading and teaching built strong foundations in believers’ lives. The sought the Word of God for guidance and did not think it was optional as many do today. They found answers to their questions in the Scriptures. They did not rely only on their experiences as many do today. All 3,120 members studied the ways of God. No wonder they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom with clarity in the whole world, beginning in Jerusalem, and gave reasons for the hope that was within them. 

One commentary states: “This work went on continuously, and all these people not only attended the meetings faithfully but also earnestly adhered to what was taught.” In other words, they applied what they were taught to their daily lives and lived it out in practical and realistic ways.

To enjoy the same experience today, Christians must believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. It not only contains God’s Word; it is God’s Word. The very words and phrases of the Bible are inspired by God.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

The word “inspired” means God-breathed. The Lord breathed out by His Spirit and gave specific, written revelation of Himself. This sacred writing is the only objective, authoritative revelation God has given and is the absolute truth of God.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.”

Man’s search for truth starts at the Word of God. Objective, absolute truth is found only in God’s written Word. Man cannot begin with his own experience, interpret it to make sense to him, then search the Scripture for support of his interpretation – finding a “proof text” to back up his subjective experience. Instead he must interpret his experience in light of the Word. This pattern works for studies in philosophy, psychology, and theology.

More and more people in western culture do not believe absolute truth exists. They think every individual has the luxury of defining truth for themselves. That would be true if God had not revealed truth in the Bible.

Principles found in the Bible build maturity and stability into Christi’s disciples. They stand on the unchangeable Word of God and do not live by impulse and feelings. They have the only authoritative source of truth and principles for faith and morals.

Any church that accomplishes great things in the Kingdom of God must have a firm foundation in the Scriptures. Member must know the ways of God, the mind of God, and the eternal purpose of God. They must center ministries around biblical priorities — like the first church — and not around man’s charisma. 

Acts 8:35 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”

Acts 17:2 “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures…”

Acts 18:24, 28 “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures … for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Paul gave the Bereans a very high complement.

Acts 17:11 “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

More next time….

NOMINAL OR PHENOMENAL 

Click Here to Hear the Teaching

LOOKING AT BELIEVERS … (Their life – not their ministry) 

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ

As a disciple of Jesus

As someone who is following the way of the Lord

You can choose to be nominal and thus insignificant in impact and a Christian “in name only”

Or – You can choose to be phenomenal – extraordinary, exceptional, unusual and out of the ordinary – having a major impact for the King and Kingdom on those around you

You choose …

The box that you have created for yourself to live in with self-imposed limitations and boundaries

OR

The adventure that God calls you to live which is without limitations because all things are possible with God (Luke 1:37)

Your choice – Nominal or Phenomenal

Here is what I know for certain:

God wants us to be phenomenal and not nominal

God desires His people to be supernatural and not to just walk in the natural

God wants believers to be extraordinary and not simply ordinary Read more

Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God

An apostle from North America was meeting with a group of leader of the underground church in China
During the evening there was a fellowship time among the leaders as they shared what was happening in their lives and how God was moving in their homes and in their ministries
The apostle from North America took the opportunity to ask a question of these Chinese leaders of underground house churches … He asked:
“If I were to visit your home communities and talk with the non-believing families, friends, and neighbours of the members of your house churches — and if I would point out your church members and ask, ‘Who are these people? What can you tell me about them?’ — what answer would I get?”
The apostle writes: Many people started to answer at once. The response that jumped out at me, though, was the answer of a man who told me that his church’s neighbours would probably say, “Those are the people who raise the dead!”
As we read the gospels we see that Jesus raised the dead…
These believers just assumed that because Jesus did it that they too could do it
After all, Jesus was living in them and working through them
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14)
“I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father! For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask me anything in my name, and I will do it for you!”  (TPT)
“The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do” (MSG)
Sometimes I am disappointed with God
Because I believe these verses and have prayed in line with what I see Jesus doing in the gospels … and from my point of view, nothing happens a lot of the time
I have prayed overseas to raise the dead a number of times … and nothing happened
I pray for the sick … and sometimes they are healed and sometimes they are not … and I am disappointed with God
I read the book of Acts and wonder why the things that happened in the early Church don’t seem to be happening in the Church today … and I am disappointed
I desperately want to see multitudes saved and I work hard at being a good witness of His grace and His mercy … and few respond and become believers – disappointing
The list could go on…
The same apostle was in Ukraine and as his time there was drawing to a close…
The believers had been sharing their testimonies and stories of prison, persecution, and God’s provision for His people
He writes: “Once again I was struck by the power of their testimonies and stories that I was hearing. As we came to the end of our time together, I asked: ‘I just don’t understand why you haven’t collected these stories in a book? Believers around the world ought to hear what you have been telling me here today. Your stories are amazing! These are inspiring testimonies! I have never heard anything like them!”
An older pastor reached out and took my shoulder. He clamped his other hand tightly onto my arm, and looked me right in the eye. He said, Son, when did you stop reading the Bible? All of our stories are in the Bible. God has already written them down. Why would we bother writing books to tell our stories when God has already told His story. If you would just read the Bible, you would see that our stories are there.”
He paused and then he asked me again, “When did you stop reading your Bible?”
Without waiting for me to answer, he turned and walked away. There was no friendly smile, no encouraging pat on the back, and no kiss on the cheek.
His convicting question still echoes in my mind.
This older pastor was simply living the faith the way Jesus said we could and should … doing today the things that Jesus did 2000+ years ago
For him it was not something special to write a book about … it was simply normal Christian living
As we read the Bible – Old and New Testaments we see God doing amazing things…
Releasing His people from prison – Peter in Acts 5
People being saved in the thousands – Acts 2
People being baptized in the Holy Spirit – Acts 2
People being healed
The lame beggar – Acts 3
Aeneas – Acts 9
Dorcas – Acts 9
Believers being bold in the midst of life and death persecution – Acts 4
Building shaking in answer to prayer – Acts 4
People dropping dead for lying to the Holy Spirit – Acts 5
Miracles, signs and wonders – Acts 5
Angels opening prison doors and setting leaders free – Acts 5
People martyred for the faith – Stephen in Acts 7
Holy Spirit sending Philip and a revival breaking out in Samaria – Acts 8
Confronting a powerful sorcerer and seeing multitudes saved – Acts 8
Philip sent by the Spirit and bringing new life to the Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8
God knocking Saul off his horse and speaking audibly to Him – Acts 9
 The dead being raised
Visions directing believers
Peter on the rooftop having a vision – Acts 10
Ananias receiving a vision and going to Saul to bring healing – Acts 9
Churches being planted – Acts 11 and onwards
Believers dying for the faith – James – Acts 12
And that was not even the first half of the book of Acts
And the older pastor in Ukraine said the the young apostle … “When did you stop reading your Bible”
With the point being that the same God who did these things in the early Church is still working with and through believers today
And, reading the stories in the Scriptures should build our faith to believe for and walk in the supernatural as a part of our regular, daily life
“I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father! For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask me anything in my name, and I will do it for you!”  (TPT)
And Sometimes I’m Disappointed with God because this is not happening on a regular basis in my life and I wonder why
I want to know why!
A True Story From Russia…
The young father and husband had been arrested for teaching the Bible to others …
He had recently been saved – a miracle in itself – and began to read a Bible that he had obtained – a second miracle in Communist Russia
He began to teach his wife and children the Scriptures – reading them together late at night and discussing them together … they received Jesus
In time neighbours joined them, and then more neighbours … until the house was full every night – people hungry to hear the Word of God … and they got saved
It’s like reading a story straight from the pages of the book of Acts
He was arrested – just a believer, not a pastor nor a leader – and moved a thousand kilometres away from his family and locked up in a prison because he was influencing people for the Kingdom
His cell was so tiny that when he got out of bed, it took but a single step either to get to the door of his cell, to reach the stained and cracked sink mounted on the opposite wall, our to use foul smelling open toilet in the “far” corner of the cell. Even worse, he was the only believer among fifteen hundred hardened criminals.
He said that his isolation from the body of Christ – his house church – was far more difficult than even the physical torture. And there was much of that. Still, his tormentors were unable to break him. Dmitri (not his real name) pointed to two reasons for his strength in the face of torture.
There were two spiritual habits that he had learned and that he took with him into prison. Without these two disciplines, Dmitri insisted, his faith would not have survived.
For seventeen years in prison, every morning at daybreak, Dmitri would stand at attention by his bed. As was his custom, he would face the east, raise his arms in praise to God, and then he would sing a HeartSong to Jesus
HeartSong … a song he had learned that was very meaningful to him and expressed his heart and his love for the Lord
The reaction of the other prisoners was predictable.
Dmitri recounted the laughter, the cursing, the jeers. The other prisoners banged metal cups against the iron bars in angry protest. They threw food and sometimes human waste to try to shut him up and extinguish the only true light shining in that dark place every morning at dawn.
There was another discipline too, another custom that Dmitri told me about. Whenever he found a scrap of paper in the prison, he would sneak it back to his cell. There he would pull out a stub of a pencil or a tiny piece of charcoal that he had saved, and he would write on that scrap of paper, as tiny as he could, all the Bible verses and scriptural stories or songs that he could remember. When the scrap was completely filled, he would walk to the corner of this little jail cell where there was a concrete pillar that constantly dripped water — except in the wintertime when the moisture became a solid coat of ice on the inside surface of his cell. Dmitri would take the paper fragment, reach as high as he possibly could, and stick it on the damp pillar as a praise offering to God.
Of course, whenever one of his jailers spotted the piece of paper on the pillar, he would come into his cell, take it down, read it, beat him severely, and threaten him with death. Still, Dmitri refused to stop his two disciplines.
Every day, he rose at dawn to sing his song. And every time he found a scrap of paper, he filled it with Scripture and praise.
This went on year after year after year. His guards tried to make him stop. The authorities did unspeakable things to his family. At one point, they even led him to believe that his wife had been murdered and that his children had been taken by the state.
They taunted him cruelly, “We have ruined your home. Your family is gone.”
Dmitri’s resolve finally broke. He told God that he could not take any more. He admitted to his guards, “You win! I will sign any confession that you want me to sign. I must get out of here to find where my children are.”
They told Dmitri, “We will prepare your confession tonight, and then you will sign it tomorrow. Then you will be free to go.” After all those years, the only thing that he had to do was sign his name on a document saying that he was not a believer in Jesus and that he was a paid agent of western government trying to destroy the USSR. Once he put his signature on that dotted line, he would be free to go.
Dmitri repeated his intention:”Bring it tomorrow and I will sign it.”
That very night he sat on his jail cell bed. He was in deep despair, grieving the fact that he had given up. At that same moment, a thousand kilometres away his family — Dmitri’s wife, his children who were growing up without him, and his brother — sensed through the Holy Spirit the despair of this man in prison. His loved ones gathered around the very place where I was now sitting as Dmitri told me his story. They knelt in a circle and began to pray out loud for him. Miraculously, the Holy Spirit of the Living God allowed Dmitri to hear the voices of his loved ones as they prayed.
The next morning, when the guards marched into his cell with the documents, Dmitri’s back was straight. His shoulders were squared and there was strength on his face and in his eyes. He looked at his captors and declared, “I am not signing anything!”
The guards were incredulous. They had thought that he was beaten and destroyed. “What happened?” They demanded to know.
Dmitri smiled and told them, “In the night, God let me hear the voices of my wife and my children and my brother praying for me. You lied to me! I now know that my wife is alive and physically well. I know that my sons are with her. I also know that they are all still in Christ. So I am not be signing anything!”
His persecutors continued to discourage and silence him. Dmitri remained faithful., He was overwhelmed one day by a special gift from God’s hand. In the prison yard, he found a whole sheet of paper. “And God,” Dmitri said, “had laid a pencil beside it!”
Dmitri went on, “I rushed back to my jail cell and I wrote every Scripture reference, every Bible verse, every story, and every song I could recall.”
“I knew that it was probably foolish,” Dmitri told me, “but I couldn’t help myself. I filled both sides of the paper with as much of the Bible as I could. I reached up and stuck the entire sheet on that wet concrete pillar. Then I stood up and looked at it: to me it seemed like the greatest offering I could give to Jesus from my prison cell. Of course, my jailor saw it. I was beaten and punished. I was threatened with execution.”
Dmitri was dragged from his cell. As he was dragged down the corridor in the center of the prison, the strangest thing happened. Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard — before stepping out into the place of execution — fifteen hundred hardened criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all those years.
Dmitri’s jailers instantly released their hold on his arms and stepped away from him in terror.
One of them demanded to know, “Who are you?” Dmitri straightened his back and stood as tall and as proud as he could.
He responded: “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His Name!”
The guards returned him to his cell. Sometime later, Dmitri was released and he returned to his family.
Prisoners being set free by the Lord… like in New Testament times
The apostles all in prison and set free by an angel – Acts 5
Peter in prison awaiting execution in Jerusalem – Acts 12
Paul and Silas in jail in Philippi – Acts 16
As the old Ukrainian pastor said to the young apostle:
“When did you stop reading the Bible?”
What happened then is still happening now …  But, do I really believe that?
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
And so if I really believe that — do I act / live like it is totally true?
But, if I can be so bold to ask: Why does it happen “over there” and not happen “over here?”
Sometimes I’m disappointed with God
It seems He is working hard “over there” and not working much at all “over here”
And so Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God
You read the Bible and see so many amazing stories of God moving, guiding, directing, intervening, touching lives…
You read about God intervening in regular life and revealing Himself in powerful ways…
People being saved
Prisoners being set free
Those being persecuted being warned by the Spirit of imminent danger
People being openly directed by the Holy Spirit
The sick being healed
Demon-possessed people being set free
The dead being raised to life
Churches being planted
Cities being changed and challenged by the Gospel
Jesus appearing to people and directing them
Miracles, signs, and wonders
Visions and dreams
God directly strengthening and encouraging believers
People dying for their faith – strong witnesses to faith in Christ
So, I asked myself …
Why is all of this not happening in my daily life?
Is there something I need to change or do differently?
Is it just a matter of not having enough faith?
Is it because I live in North America?
Is there sin in my life that prevents the moving of the Holy Spirit?
Do I need to change the way I am praying?
Are my priorities all wrong and thus preventing the move of the Spirit?
Do I have a wrong worldview?
Is there compromise in my life?
Do I simply not trust God enough?
Maybe I don’t really understand the Kingdom
Maybe deep down inside I don’t want my lifestyle to change?
Am I simply too comfortable and safe and secure and not wanting to be disturbed?
Maybe I am complicating the faith and making it something it is not?
Are I just being disobedient?
Am I so busy that I am missing the voice of God and direction of the Holy Spirit?
The young apostle moves on to a Central Asian country…
During my time there, a forty-three-year-old-Muslim-background believer somehow heard through the oral grapevine that a Westerner had come to his country wanting to discover how Muslims were finding Jesus and what challenges these converts were experiencing as they lived out their faith in hostile environments. I still have no idea how he learned that I was coming or where I would be.
It turns out that Pramana traveled 29 hours to find me. He had lived his entire life in a remote, tropical, and rural region of his third-world country. He had never before been on a bus. He had not even traveled on a paved highway. Yet, somehow, he found me in one of his country’s major cities. Upon his arrival, he matter-of-factly announced: “I have heard about what you are doing. You need to hear my story also.”
This man had been born into a people group with a population of 24 million. In his people group, there were only three followers of Jesus, and no church. The only religion that he had ever practiced or known while growing up had been a sort of folk Islam. Pramana knew the Quran by rote. He couldn’t actually speak Arabic, so (as an oral communicator from an oral culture) he simply memorized the words of the book as if they were part of some sort of magic formula. He knew the story of Mohammad, of course. But he had never heard of anybody called Jesus, he had never met a believer, and he had no idea what a Bible was.
“Five years ago,” he told me, “my life was in ruins. My wife and I were always fighting; I was ready to divorce the woman. My children were disrespectful. My animals were not growing or multiplying. My crops were dying in the fields.
“So I went to the imam of the nearest mosque for help,” Pramana continued.
The imam, who also functioned as the local spiritualist, told him, “Okay, son, here is what you need to do. Go buy a white chicken. Bring it to me and I will sacrifice it on your behalf. Then, go back to your village to meditate and fast for three days and three nights.  On the third day, you will receive the answer to all the problems that you are having with your wife, your children, your animals, and your crops.”
Pramana did exactly as he was told. He went back to his village. He meditated, he fasted, he waited. Then, as he explained it: “I’ll never forget, on that third night, a voice without a body came to me after midnight. That voice said, ‘Find Jesus, find the gospel.’”
This Muslim man had no clue what that even meant. He didn’t know if Jesus might be a fruit or a rock or a tree. Pramana told me that the voice without a body also said, “Get out of bed, go over the mountain, and walk down to the coast to name of city (a city where he had never been). When you get to that city at daybreak, you will see two men. When you see those men, ask them where such-and-such a street is. They will show you the way. Walk up and down that street and look for this number. When you find that number, knock on the door. When the door opens, tell the person why you have come.”
Pramana did not know that it was an option to be disobedient to the voice (Holy Spirit). He simply assumed that he was required to obey what he had been instructed to do. So he went. He didn’t even tell his wife that he was leaving, let alone where he was going. It turns out that he would be gone for two full weeks. During that time, his family had no idea where he was.
Pramana simply got out of bed, hiked over the mountain, trekked down the coast, and arrived at the specified city the next morning at daylight. He saw two men who told him where to find the street he wanted. He walked up and down that street until he found a building with the right number on it. He knocked at the door. A moment later, an older gentleman opened the door and asked, “Can I help you?”
The younger man declared: “I have come to find Jesus; I have come to find the gospel!” In a flash, the old man’s hand shot out from the darkened doorway. He grabbed Pramana by the shirt, dragged him into the apartment, and slammed the door behind him. The old man released his grip and exclaimed, “You Muslims must think I am a fool to fall for a trap as transparent as this!”
The very startled and confused traveler replied, “I don’t know if you are a fool or not, sir. I just met you. But here is why I’ve come.” Then Pramana told the older man the story of how he had come to be there that day.
The Holy Spirit of the Living God had led this young Muslim man through his dream and vision and his obedience to the home of one of the three believers in his 24 million people group. Stunned, the older man explained the gospel to this young Muslim man and led him to Christ. For the next two weeks, the old man discipled this new convert in the faith.
That had been five years ago. Now, Pramana had made another journey. This journey was to find me and to tell me his remarkable story. He had travelled 29 hours to share how his life had changed since he had found Jesus. There had been blessings and trials and tribulations during the last five years, but his life had clearly been changed in startling ways.
You know — that sounds so much like the story of Saul of Tarsus finding Ananias to instruct him in the teachings of Jesus – Acts 9.
I read these stories and something inside me starts to cry…
There is this hunger for the New Testament times to become real once again in this day and time … and, if I may say, in my life
There is this desire for the adventure to start in a fresh and new way
There is a deep dissatisfaction right now – inside of me – that what I have, what I’m experiencing, what I know as Christianity is no longer enough
It is like my spirit is crying out “there has got to be more”
Deep inside there is a ‘divine discontent’ letting me know that major change has begun for me in my walk with Jesus and in my every day life
I am seriously “Sometimes Disappointed With God” but it is a good thing because it motivates me to move forward regardless of the cost
And, I have begun to think through what needs to change for me to experience more of God in my life
And my desire is that you will also experience this hunger if you haven’t already
And that you will think through what needs to adjust and change for this type of lifestyle to become real and an every day occurrence in life right here and right now
May I tell you one more story?
The same young apostle writes…
Before I had even arrived at the first stop on my planned Southeast Asia tour, I received an e-mail from a European doctor living and working on the border of two Central Asia countries that were experiencing a great deal of violence and unrest. The words of his e-mail were guarded and carefully worded. The message read: “Dr. Ripken, I have heard about the research that you are doing from a friend I knew and worked closely with in Somalia some years ago. I believe that the Lord needs you to come to name of country and he names his border town.”
My wife had already booked and purchased my plane tickets for the entire, tightly-scheduled trip. I responded to the man’s e-mail, explaining that my itinerary included not only Vietnam and Thailand, but also Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Then I explained further: “These are the last of the countries that I have already made plans to visit this year. I am expecting to be in your region late next year, so please be patient. I will be sure to get back in touch with you and I will gladly consider your invitation at that time.”
After another stop to see the killing fields of Cambodia (where very few believers survived the Khmer Rouge reign of terror), I landed in Bangkok. From there, I went up and stayed for a time among the Karen people group living in the Golden Triangle region where Thailand’s borders meet the borders of Laos. Then, I attempted to travel to what was once called Burma (now Myanmar). Several days later, I came back to Bangkok where I had another e-mail from the same doctor.
This second e-mail was more insistent, “I really think you should come now,” the man wrote.
At that point, I responded with a slightly less gracious reply: “I am sorry, but I will not come your way until next year.” At that point I set out for another country on my itinerary. Just before arriving there, however, I received a phone call informing me that all 18 pastors that I had lined up for interviews there had been arrested and were currently in jail. My primary contact in that country said, “This will not be a good time for you to visit us, unless you want to stay a lot longer than you had planned!” I certainly wanted to visit that country, but I had no interest I spending time in prison.
I wondered about the strange turn of events. Even more, I wondered if maybe it was some sort of a sign. I changed my plans immediately and returned to Bangkok. I am not sure if I was really surprised or not, but I received another e-mail from this same annoyingly persistent doctor.
This time I replied even more bluntly. Didn’t want to sound rude, but I was confident in the plans that I had made. In effect, I said to him: “Please stop asking me to visit; I am not coming to your country at this time.” A few days later, I prepared to leave Bangkok for my next destination. After leaving Bangkok and before I reached my next stop, however, I received a phone call from an in-country contact. This phone call informed me that some of the pastors who were planning to talk with me has been in an automobile accident. Several others were sick in the hospital, and ever others were under tight surveillance.
“I am sorry,” I was told, “but this is no longer a good time for you to visit. We will contact you to let you know when you might try again.”
Once again, I returned to Bangkok. Arriving there, I was startled to find yet another e-mail from the European doctor.
Again, he insisted strongly: “I really believe God wants you to come here now.”
Given the recent events and the apparent closed doors that I was facing, I was suddenly more open to his request. I broke down, swallowed my pride, and called the doctor. After introducing myself, I sheepishly admitted, “It suddenly looks like I really don’t have anything else to do for the next couple weeks. I guess I’ll be coming your way after all.”
I flew into the capital city of his country, then traveled on to a smaller city. From there, I took a smaller plane which landed on a short dirt runway outside a small border town. As soon as I exited the airplane, I spotted a man who was obviously the doctor. Standing beside him were five men in traditional Muslim dress who also seemed to be waiting at the remote desert airstrip for my plane to land.
As the doctor and I exchanged greetings, I asked him, “Who are your friends?”
“You don’t know who they are?” He reacted in surprise.
“No, I didn’t even know who you were until 30 seconds ago,” I told him.
“Well, Dr. Ripken,” he said, as he cast a furtive glance over his shoulder, “If you don’t know these men — and I don’t know these men — then we have a serious security problem. They told me that they had come to meet you.”
“So,” he continued rather abruptly, “I’m going to have to leave you now. Here’s my cell phone number. If everything turns out all right, call me, and I’ll come back and get you.”
Then he turned and walked away.
I was stunned, and it dawned on me that I was already praying. I felt that I was self-trained in being careful in the midst of danger, so there was no way that I was going to leave with these five men. As I dragged my bag towards the small terminal, I was already thinking about how quickly I could catch a flight out. The men followed me. They tugged on my clothes trying to get me to stop. I tried my best to ignore them. Finally, one of them said in broken English, “Sir, stop. Please stop. We are followers of Jesus.”
I immediately stopped and turned to listen to what they had to say. The quick summary of their story rang true. Against my better judgment, but sensing the hand of God on our meeting, I went with my five unnamed new “friends” to a room that they had rented in the nearby town.
When we got there, we sat down together on the floor in an unfurnished apartment. They simply looked at me and smiled. They seemed perfectly content to wait. I had no idea what was expected of me. I shared briefly about myself, though my words were more guarded than usual. I talked a little about where I had been. How I had been travelling around the world, the research that I had done, and why I wanted to talk to believers in different parts of the world. I even speculated a little on why I had ended up in this tiny corner of the world.
One of the men spoke English. He translated my words to the others. After he finished. All five of the men began to laugh.
I was confused and I wanted to know what they thought was so funny.
They shook their heads, smiled, and said to me, “You may think you know why you have come here. But we would like to tell you why you are really here.”
They briefly sketched out their own personal stories. They had each had dreams or visions that had raised spiritual questions and prompted a long search for answers. They had each miraculously found a copy of the Bible to study. After reading the entire book several times, they had each, on their own, decided to follow Jesus. They had each been rejected and disowned by their families. Eventually they had to flee their country. They made their way across the border to this small border town. Somehow they found each other and they realized that they all shared the same newfound faith in Christ.
They didn’t really know what to do next, but they instinctively started meeting in this tiny third-floor apartment. They met daily from midnight until 3:00 in the morning, hoping that no one would notice them. They read the Word of God secretly and tried to provide spiritual support and encouragement for one another.
Two months earlier, they explained, they had started praying this prayer: “Oh God, we don’t know how to do this! We grew up and were trained as Muslims. We know how to be Muslims in a Muslim environment. We even know how to be communists in a Muslim environment. But we do not know how to follow Jesus in a Muslim environment. Please, Lord, send us someone. Send us someone who knows about persecution, someone who knows what other believers are doing, someone who can encourage and teach us.”
Chills were running up and down my spine as they explained what had happened when they had been together in this same rented upper room earlier in the day: “At 1:30 this morning, we were here praying when the Holy Spirit told us to go to the airport. The Holy Spirit told us that we were to go to the first white man who got off the plane. The Holy Spirit told us that He was sending this man to answer our questions.”
“So,” they said as they smiled at me again, “that is why you are here. Now you can do what God has called you here to do. Before you start teaching us, however, we have one other question for you: Where have you been and what have you been doing for these last two months? We started to pray for someone to show up two months ago. And, only now are you here.”
I shook my head in embarrassment. I confessed, “Well… I guess I have been being disobedient! I tried my best for weeks not to come here at all. Please forgive me!”
They did. And we had a great time of teaching and learning from each other over the next few days. I listened to each of their personal testimonies of faith and asked them specific questions about the details of how and when they encountered Jesus and became His followers.
One of the five men told me, “I dreamed about a blue book. I was driven, consumed really, by the message of the dream. ‘Look for this book,’ the dream said, ‘read this Bible.’ I began a search, but I could not find a book like that anywhere in my country. Then, one day, I walked into a Quranic book shop and saw this sea of green books lining the walls. I noticed a book of a different colour on a shelf at the back of the store, so I walked back there and pulled out a thick blue volume to discover that it was a Bible. It was published in my own national language. I actually bought a Bible in the Islamic bookstore, took it home, and read it five times. That’s how I came to know Jesus.”
Another one told me, “I dreamed about finding Jesus, but I didn’t even know how or where to look. Then one day I was walking through the market when a man I had never seen before came up to me in the crowd. He said, ‘The Holy Spirit told me to give you this book.’ He handed me a Bible and disappeared into the crowd. I never saw him again. But I read the Bible he gave me three times from cover to cover, and that’s how I came to know and follow Jesus.”
Each one of the five men told me a different variation of this same story. Each one of them had come across a Bible in some unusual, miraculous way. Each one had read the Gospel story of Jesus. Each one had decided to follow Him.
After hearing their stories, I felt drawn to open the book of Acts. With an entirely different point of view, I began to read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. For the first time in my life, as I read that passage, I wondered: How in the world did an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a man of colour, and a foreigner get a copy of a scroll containing the book of Isaiah?
In New Testament days, even partial copies of Scripture were handwritten on scrolls. They were very rare and very expensive. What’s more the Jews had strict rules and restrictions about who was even allowed to touch the Holy Scriptures and where the Scriptures could be opened and read.
By all accounts, this Ethiopian official would not have been allowed to touch a copy of Scripture, or open it and read it, or possess it. Yet, Philip finds this Ethiopian man in a chariot on a desert road in Gaza pouring and puzzling over Isaiah 53. When I read the story on this night the fact that the Ethiopian official was actually going home with a copy of a portion of the Jewish Bible seems extraordinary and unlikely.
In fact, it was so extraordinary and unlikely that I blurted out a question: Where did this man get a copy of Your Word?
In reply, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: I have been doing this for a long time. If you will take My Word out into the world, I will get it in the right hands.
What a marvellous, miraculous, and mysterious partnership this is! We have no clear understanding of what sent that official of the Ethiopian queen on a spiritual pilgrimage to Israel, Something or someone did. How did that man miraculously get his hands on that part of the Word of God? And why was he on the empty stretch of desert road, at that very moment, reading that particular chapter of Isaiah? Of course, we know how Philip ended up there – the Holy Spirit sent him.
I had to admit that I did not know the answers to any of those questions.
Yet, now, after being among believers in persecution, I was pretty sure that God must have had to work a number of small miracles for that encounter between the Ethiopian man and Philip to take place. In God’s marvellous timing, this encounter happened in exactly the right place and at exactly the right time. Almost two thousand years later, the same thing had happened when I walked off of a plane to meet five Muslim men who had miraculously found Jesus. I had never intended to be an answer to prayer that day, but evidently I was.
Reading from the book of Acts that evening was a completely new experience. Two thoughts stayed in my mind: this is what God did then and this is what does does now. Suddenly, my modern world didn’t look all that different than the world of the Bible.
Much, much later, after years of gathering stories, I came to understand that the tales told by these five new friends were actually pretty commonplace. Time and again, in the years since, Muslim-background believers from many different countries and cultures have told me about being directed by dreams and visions. They have told me about finding Bibles through amazing circumstances. They have mentioned reading the Bible multiple times. In the reading, they have talked about feeling drawn to Jesus. They have told me of a personal decision to follow Him. Many of those pilgrimages to faith involved a Philip who miraculously showed up at exacting the right time, in the right place, with the right words that finally pointed the seeker directly to Jesus.
So, As I thought about all of this … struggling with the feelings inside my gut as I read these and multiple other stories … I wondered why God’s hand is not as evident in my life
Why does it seem that God does amazing things over there but not here?
Why does He seem more active in the life of believers in the third-world nations?
What is it that I need to change or adjust so that He is free to work in and through my life in ways that are more evident and ‘now’?
After all, God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34)
And, “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
Let’s discuss this as I would like to hear why you think we/you don’t always see the supernatural in our daily lives?
My answers:
1> I don’t live with a Kingdom perspective – Live with a worldly perspective
2> I am not as aware as I need to be of the fact that there is a spiritual reality to every day living on planet Earth
3> I am not “seeking first the Kingdom…” as I often put myself or the needs of others first
4> I am not directly aware of the absolute necessity of people coming to know Jesus and the power of the Gospel to change lives (Romans 1:16)
5> Not always sensitive to the moving of the Spirit and thus not aware of what He is doing … resulting in my not being involved in His plans
6> Often see daily life as daily and natural and not part of a bigger picture – God’s plan and purpose
7> I fail to live life in an ‘expectant’ mode … anticipating that God is moving and wanting to involve me in what He is doing
8> Not fully submitted to the will of God – Lordship
9> Not depending on God — trust, faith,, flesh / Spirit
Answers during discussion:
1> Complicate things too much
2> Disappointment from the past
3> Not looking for the supernatural and the intervention of God in daily life
4> Lack of faith
5> We think we don’t have God’s power or we don’t use God’s power
6> The desire for this type of life is not there
7> Feel that we are not ready to do what God is asking
8> Too comfortable to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit
9> Not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and so miss opportunities
10> Cares of the world and daily life simply take over and so miss hearing God
11> Confusion on the inside
12> Self-conscious and worried about what others will think
13> Simple disobedience