Month: June 2019

Peacemakers

A sign that says PEACE

Peacemakers Are In Short Supply

Some of the most devastating kinds of disagreements occur between adult family members. I know that when my Grandma died, the ensuing arguments destroyed that tenuous family – my mother mostly avoid the carnage. And, just recently, I happen to overhear what seemed like an innocuous comment. I was not eavesdropping! Sometimes we end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyway, this comment, overtly devoid of venom, was received by the hearer as crushing.

We find in Acts 7:26, where Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, spoke about how Moses acted as a peacemaker. It takes boldness to say, as Moses did, to bitter foes, “Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?” The result of Moses’ intervention was that both men turned on him!

Peacemakers Are In Danger

For Moses, his work as peacemaker placed him in danger. Still, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, for Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God…” (Matthew 5:9 ESV) Now, when I think about peacemakers, I also have to consider peacekeepers.

A peacekeeper typically is someone that is continually working to keep the status quo. Their motto is, “Don’t rock the boat.” There can be some merit in this approach, but it’s not maintainable, and Jesus didn’t call us to be peacekeepers. No, Jesus wants us to trust Him and, with love, peel away the facade of “It’s okay” so that the actual problems are revealed and dealt with.

Godly peacemakers are people who want to lance the boil so healing can begin. They see interpersonal conflicts as failures to live in the image of God. God will call you to active duty as a peacemaker. When called, you will need to be “prayed up” and in tune with the Holy Spirit for each word you speak or write will be judged. And, if we have any hidden dirty laundry, as Moses had, you can be sure that it will be brought out and thrown in your face. So, don’t have dirty laundry. Be like Daniel. Make sure that no matter how extensively your enemies search, they won’t find a valid accusation to bring against you.

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Salvation

Salvation Gate

At least once each year, I write a salvation blog. You see, I have stalkers. 😉 I always have more people that read these blogs than click the “like” button. Therefore, I think it’s essential to declare God’s plan of salvation occasionally. I pray this will help someone.

At its core, Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, relationship, and someday, resurrection. All Christians have taken this road, for there is no other way.

The nature of people is to rebel against God. God’s law requires every rebel to receive the same punishment. He created the penalty for the original rebels, the angels that rebelled against Him. This punishment was not designed for people. However, God’s law says that rebels against Him must be punished and there’s just one punishment, and that penalty is never-ending.

Steps to Salvation

Redemption – Not everyone goes to heaven. There’s only one way to get in, and that way is through Jesus. He is the “gate,” not just to heaven but to a relationship with Him and citizenship in the kingdom of God. No one can get in on their merit. So, to escape the punishment of sinners, you need someone to rescue you. Your rescuer is Jesus. He took your punishment and paid the price of your sinfulness. Jesus is not only the “gate,” but He is the Redeemer. If you commit your life to Him, He will rescue you. He will credit you with the punishment He took.

Regeneration – So, here is the bad news. You’re dead. You are like a walking zombie. You are physically alive, but you are spiritually dead. Since God is Spirit, you can’t be in His kingdom because, well, you’re dead. Here’s the good news! Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you make a binding declaration, out loud, to people, that Jesus is your Lord (i.e., Master) and if you believe in your heart that God did raise Jesus from the dead, then you will be saved! Jesus is Life. He will regenerate you. Your spirit will be made alive. You will be reborn. You will be qualified to be a citizen of God’s kingdom.

Reconciliation – Sinners are separated from God, That’s why the things of God make no sense. However, when you are reborn, you are reconciled to God. You are in a loving relationship, just as God intended and desired for you.

Relationship – Jesus is not “fire insurance.” Being reborn is dependent on your repentance. You must turn your back on the way you’ve always lived. And, you must ask Jesus to come into your life and rescue you. Jesus will do this because He loves you and intends to have a genuine, loving relationship with you. You and He will talk, He will guide you to Christians that can teach you. Ask anyone that is a born-again Christian, “How did you come to Christ?” You will find you have much in common.

The Roadmap

Every Christian individually comes to Jesus, destitute, repugnant, and untrustworthy. Steeped in rebellion against God and submerged in the muck and mire of this world. When you read or hear Jesus Christ’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit makes your condition and judgment as clear to you as Lasik surgery. You already have the necessary faith to believe, for God has given everyone a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). God provides you with all you need to be reborn. Be reconciled to God. Have an authentic, vibrant life with Him. God has provided all you need, but you need to act.

The 5 R’s of Salvation

To be saved, you need to:

  • Respond – You will know it when the Holy Spirit calls you to Jesus. You probably won’t understand it but do not delay. Even right now, He may be calling you. Respond! Tell Jesus you want to be clean. Speak to Him.
  • Repent – To be saved you need to have remorse for the life you’ve lived, And, you need to turn away from (i.e., repent) your life of rebellion against God. (Romans 2:4)
  • Receive – You need to honestly believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus is alive today, and that He will accept you, just as you are. You don’t have to be good first. Jesus didn’t go to the cross to make bad people good. He went to the cross to make dead people alive. No one can be good enough. You need to believe that Jesus is listening, Talk with Him. Confess to Him who you really are. Ask Him to forgive you. When you have believed, then you need to tell someone, and as many people as you can, that you have accepted Jesus as the Master (i.e., Lord) of your life. (Romans 10:9-10)
  • Regenerate (i.e., reborn)- The Word of God states, “For by grace (i.e., stature and in favor with God) you have been saved (i.e., rescued) through faith (i.e., belief in the truth received upon the divine testimony). And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
  • Restitution – This can be a tough one to do, but it will set you free from so much baggage. You see, restitutions are part of salvation. This process is part of dying to yourself. When it’s possible, you need to not just “own up” to the wrongs you’ve done, but you need to “make right” the harm you’ve caused people.
  • Results – Once you have been reborn there are some things you need to do. First, you need to join a local church. Ask God to guide you and to bring Christians into your life that can mentor you. You make end up going to a few local churches but when you find your “home”, you will know it. Also, there are two ordinances that Jesus established for all Christians. First, you need to be baptized. This is crucial for it is a public, symbolic declaration that you have died to your old self and be raised from the dead, by the power of God, into your new, life with Jesus. Secondly, you should take communion as often as your church performs this ceremony. Again, this is again a command from Jesus. And, it is a very special, sacred act.

Conclusion

That’s about it. There are whole books written about salvation so I just touched on the essentials for you to be saved.

Every Christian has experienced a miracle for we cannot be a Christian unless we’ve been reborn. If you are not a Christian then I pray that the Holy Spirit will call you, and you will answer. As God’s Word says, “Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

If you don’t know a Christian then use my “Contact Us” page and let me know about your decision. I will try to get you in contact with some Christians in your area.

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Dear Jewish Brothers or Sisters

Jewish Brothers and Sisters

I recently watched a five-part series produced by Jews about the lives and history of our Jewish brothers and sisters. I learned a lot. For example, I didn’t know that Israelites don’t think of themselves as Jews until the exodus out of Egypt.

I’m not sure that helps set the context for today’s important topic, but I thought you might find it interesting.

Acts 3:26 (ESV), we find the Apostle Peter preaching, “God, having raised up his servant (i.e., Jesus) sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Peter spoke these words to the Israelites (Acts 3:12).

Christianity is fundamentally Jewish. Jesus, a Jew, is the Messiah God promised to the Jews. The Apostles were Jews. The Eucharist / Communion / the Lord’s Supper, a foundational ordnance of the Church rests upon the Jewish Passover meal. I could go on, but the New Testament is only “New” because of the “Old” Testament, both fully Jewish.

The Gospel of Jesus is God’s continuation of His Promise to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Jesus is the promised Messiah (John 4:25-26). And, all who have placed their faith in Jesus are the progeny of Abraham, the father of Issac, the father of Israel (Jacob), the people who exited Egypt and are now know as Jews. We know this from Galatians 3:29 (ESV). “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Christianity Carries God’s Promise Forward

Christianity is centered on the Messiah. He is the good news, first for the Jews and then for everyone else. We know this because we see in Romans 1:16. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

I am pointing us back to an important truth plainly stated in the New Testament. This truth is largely rejected in our present world. Jews, the bloodline descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are the direct heirs of the Promise. The Promise is Jesus and His Gospel. Gentiles, too, have received the Promise but only by adoption. The Bible says that Gentile Christians are “grafted in.” (Romans 11:17)

Gentiles have cast a large shadow over Christian Jews. This isn’t surprising since we live in the dispensation of the Gentiles. But this doesn’t make it okay for the world to identify Christianity as a Gentile religion, separate from the Jews. Sadly, most people in the Church have believed this lie. So, let me plainly say this. If you are a Gentile Christian, you have been adopted. The Jews are your Jewish brothers or sisters, even if, for now, most Jews and Gentiles reject this truth.

Why Am I Bring This Up?

Why am I bringing up what you already know? Because some preachers and denominations claim the Jews lost God’s Promise. Well, they are wrong. Read Romans 11:11-12 if you doubt my statement.

The 2 billion+ people in the world today that identify themselves as Christian need to stand with the Jews and against the growing opposition against them. Once again, we find ourselves at a tipping point in history. Will the Church do the right thing, or will we drive a stake into the “apple of God’s eye” (Psalm 17:8)?

Below are just two recent examples of this problem being perpetrated against our Jewish brothers and sisters:

* A headline from here in America, on May 14th, states, “Senate expressly condemns antisemitism, after Democrat-led House ‘can’t bring itself’ to do the same. The article includes a video worth watching.” [1]

* From the New York Times, BERLIN – “The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum quit his post on Friday amid criticism that he had become too politically involved in the battle over the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which was recently designated as anti-Semitic by the German Parliament.” [2]
* The Times of Israel – Labour lawmakers rap return of [UK] MP who said party too apologetic on anti-Semitism [3]

Rabbi Stephen H. Wise

I want to close by quoting a statement made after WWI by Rabbi Stephen H. Wise during his speech to the City Club of Rochester, New York. Having just returned from an exploratory trip to Europe, he graphically described the terrible breakdown that followed the Great War. Now and then he would punctuate his description by this striking sentence, “And if you Christians had been true to the teachings of the great Nazarene (i.e., Jesus), this would never have happened!” What an indictment. Will we learn from history?

There are many more examples that demonstrate the continually growing antisemitism in America and around the world. Be strong. Reject hate. Stand with Jesus. Stand with the Jews.

  1. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/senate-passes-resolution-condemning-anti-semitism-after-house-cant-bring-itself-to-do-same
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/14/world/europe/berlin-jewish-museum-director-quits-bds.html
  3. https://www.timesofisrael.com/labour-lawmakers-rap-return-of-mp-who-said-party-too-apologetic-on-anti-semitism/

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This New Life

Teaching This New Life

While preparing to go on the mission field, a pastor told me that I should practice explaining my calling. He said I needed to have a 30-second answer, a 1-minute reply, and a 5-minute response. That’s not difficult, but it sure paid off.

I did practice that. Then, one Sunday, while simply visiting a church overflowing with people, the pastor called my wife and me down to the front. He asked me to tell the church my calling. I was prepared and provided the 1-minute version, and then the whole church prayed for us.

Being prepared is a good thing, just read Acts 5:18-20 (NIV): They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

This passage challenges me. If I had been with these apostles, what would I say? God’s command here is to “tell the people all about this new life.” I think that’s a difficult assignment.

All About This New Life

How do we tell the people all about this new life? We learn from Acts 5:21, “At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

At first light, as soon as they could, they were in the temple courts, teaching just as Jesus did on countless occasions. Preaching is essential, but teaching is how you build new Christians into capable Christians.

Local churches need Sunday school teachers that know the Bible, that don’t mistakenly teach heresies, and are “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)

Oh, before I close, have you come up with a lesson plan in case God asks you to go to your church and “tell the people all about this new life?” I’m still thinking.

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The 3.5% Rule

The 3.5% rule is non-violence

This “3.5% Rule” devotional is not at all political.

Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan did an in-depth study[1] on the effectiveness of violent versus non-violent acts for the overthrow of oppressive governments. 

They set rigorous criteria for their study. Not even Mahatma Gandhi’s protests in India against the British was as non-violent. To their surprise, purely non-violent actions were more than twice as successful as violent acts. Their science-based study was so surprising that Ms. Chenoweth was asked to do a TED talk about it, and their research has been published worldwide, from Harvard to newspapers.

For me, this result wasn’t surprising. I was blessed by having an excellent Mennonite friend when I was growing up. He took me to many church services and conferences, which helped shape my trust in non-violence. So, it was just an affirmation when their study stated that the best way for people to achieve political change was through nonviolent or civil resistance. In fact, from 1900 to 2006, genuinely nonviolent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed outright as violent insurgencies.

The 3.5% Rule

Here’s the jewel in the results of their research. No campaigns failed once they’d achieved active and sustained participation of just 3.5% of the population. Granted, that may be a lot of people for a country the size of America. However, for smaller, more close-knit countries, 3.5% is a reasonable level of participation.

Now let’s go back to Israel when the Church was young. Luke has provided us in the book of Acts with detailed accounts of the first collisions the Church had with civil authorities. 

We have no documentation about the number of people that morally supported the Church, but there were enough people to sway Jewish leadership. We read in Acts 4:25, “Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

I think it’s clear if you read Acts, chapters 1-5, that God’s hand is in all of these first confrontations between the Church and civil authorities. For me, the big takeaway is that we must follow as God leads and not assume what God will do. He may shield us from abuse or allow us to suffer so we can celebrate suffering for Jesus. However, in every situation, God’s love is with us. Still, His focus is always on His work to advance His kingdom in this broken, ineffectual, and sinful world.
 1 – https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/02/why-nonviolent-resistance-beats-violent-force-in-effecting-social-political-change/

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A good life is like a good song

A Good Song - Sheet Music

A good life is like a good song. For a life made alive by Jesus, your song is even more complex and enthralling.

He imparts a rhythm within you, a steadiness, a protecting hand keeping you from being tossed about as the problems of life assail you.

Your melody rests upon that rhythm – birthdays, babies, baseball, and countless beginnings, each soaring high and resounding low comprising your tune. And the endings; pauses within your song; some you celebrate and some you mourn but all contribute to the melody of your life — unique yet similar to all.

The song of your life will likely change time signatures, keys and harmonies from family, friends, co-workers, employers, houses, locations and so many, many others, all adding richness and texture to your life’s song. However, a timing mistake, as your song plays out, impacts everyone. All struggle to regain their place, as do you.

Rests

The rests, pauses in a song, may be the most challenging aspect when performed, but those quiet moments bring out the song’s beauty and texture. For your song, and mine, I think God may have had this idea of ‘rests’ in mind when King David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote Psalms 27:14 (NIV):

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

It’s so difficult to wait – not procrastination but a wait directed by our Lord. It takes strength, and it takes heart to hold back until the exact time to burst forth with the rhythm, melody, and harmony of the song Christ Jesus desires for you. Wait and be strong. As your life unfolds, you can have the power of Jesus to perform your song. One that will be remembered for generations to come.

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Neuroplasticity

Plastic human head showing the brain

Alvaro Pascual-Leone is a medical researcher in the area of neuroplasticity. This is the ability of the brain to change how it works based on various exercises. One thing he learned was that the brain would change the way it functions through imagination. We even find this discovery in a business called https://www.lumosity.com.

Alvo Pascual-Leone had a group of people do a simple exercise. They used all five fingers, on one hand, to play a set of notes on a piano for five days. He did brain scans on these subjects. He could see the area of their brains that controlled this action had expanded.

Next, he used a different group of people. He had them sit at a piano and over five days, imagine this same exercise. The only differences being that they did not physically touch or even move their hands. He scanned their brains and found the same area of their brains expanded at the same rate as the people that physically touched the keys.

Thoughts change our Brains

This experiment and many others prove that a person’s brain changes based on what they imagine. We may believe that neuroplasticity is true, but do we trust the Bible? Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) states, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” And, we learn in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV), “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

I find neuroplasticity very interesting but not surprising. God placed many passages in Scripture that tell us to be careful about what we think and imagine. Our imaginations physically change our brains and, as a result, change who we are.

The world teaches people to meditate, as in Zen. People even practice “guided meditation.” Christians should avoid those because they don’t draw us to Jesus. However, meditating on Scripture has a more profound aspect than many of us may have appreciated.

A Promise From God

In Jesus, we have not just hope but a promise from God to overcome wrong thinking and the sins that continually entrap us. Just look in Romans 12:2 (ESV): “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Now that’s a superior promise to Zen’ish promises of tranquility.

Finally, Christ, through Paul, tells us how to keep our minds pleasing to God. We read in Philippians 4:8 (ESV):  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” As we do these we are rewiring our brains!

Neuroplasticity isn’t new. Thousands of years ago, God in His great love placed instructions for this process in Scripture. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). He leads us into all truth and actively works with us, and in us, so we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. That’s good news!

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In a world of Enochs, we need some Abrahams.

picture of a traveler in a crowded street.

Abel, Enoch, and Noah all worshipped God. Abraham worshipped idols (Joshua 24:2). Abel, Enoch, and Noah all worshipped God but God didn’t choose them to recover what was lost by Adam; Abraham was. In our world, we need some Abrahams.

Abraham grew up worldly. He was just an ordinary guy. Then God called him. Abraham had a couple of false starts, which is typical. Our old ways die hard.

However, once he put his full trust in God, Abraham wouldn’t settle for anything less than what came from God (Genesis 14:23), and he wouldn’t keep anything that belonged to God (Hebrews 7:1-2).

We learn more about Abraham in Hebrews 11:9-10 (NIV): “By faith he dwelt in the promised land as a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Even in the land of God’s promise, Abraham wouldn’t build a house; he wouldn’t build a city. Abraham wouldn’t buy any land except a small plot for Sarah’s grave. He exercised no privileges. 

We Need Enochs

This world has many Christians that faithfully walk with God. These Christians are Enochs. They worship God, fellowship, attend men’s prayer breakfasts, or women’s retreats. They have memorized favorite Bible verses and participated in Bible Bowls, and this is good, and this is right, and this is important. We need to celebrate these fine Christians. With that said, I’ve noticed that the Church needs more Abrahams.

The Church needs Abrahams that will hear God’s call and go out into the unknown. That will carry the burden for what Adam lost. That will allow God to work through them to take back what Jesus paid for with his blood.

We need Abrahams that have a fire in them. Abrahams that look for a city built by God and not man. That see humanity’s works for what they are, pale shadows of God’s greatness.

We need some Abrahams that will leave their homeland and go into the land to which God has called them and do the work to which God has called them.

We need Enochs, but we need more Abrahams. Ask, and Jesus will give you a people, a place, and a purpose.


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Our First Response

First Response

Our nation has become acutely aware of first responders. When international troubles arise, our first response, as a nation is to  create a coalition. We want a coalition because military actions by the world’s most powerful nations are typically carried out as a coalition. The coalition is meant to show a shared agreement among the nations regarding the coalition’s actions. 

We can read a first-hand account about a coalition formed against Jesus and then extended against the Church. We find that the Church’s first corporate prayer comes from the Church’s first collision with the very coalition that crucified Jesus.

Today’s passage of Scripture:

Acts 4:27-31 (NIV), Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Now this coalition, in essence, represented the whole world. The coalition is Herod who represented the rules of the Jews. Pilate who represented Rome. The Gentiles were from many nations that were in Jerusalem because of Rome. No doubt, some of the solders from the Gentiles were the ones that mocked and beat Jesus and thrust a crown of thorns on Christ’s head. Last in this coalition were the people of Israel. 

So, what action did the Church take when challenged by the whole world? They prayed. Their first response was to pray, asking God to help them speak the gospel with greater boldness, and with signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.

Obviously, they prayed the will of God. We know this for God shook their meeting place. And, God filled them with the Holy Spirit and God gave them what they asked for.

This pattern has been the will of God both on a personal level for Christians and on a corporate level for Christ’s Church. Prayer should always be our first response, not our last hope. Be a first responder. Pray!

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Why do the nations rage?

Why do the nations rage

I enjoy discovering a verse to a Christian song as I’m reading my Bible. In today’s devotional, we’ll be looking at Acts 4, and verse twenty-five is used in a favorite song of mine by the late Rich Mullens. His song, “Why do the nations rage” is truly powerful. Here’s his opening verse:

Verse:

Why do the nations rage?
Why do they plot and scheme?
Their bullets can’t stop the prayers we pray In the name of the Prince of Peace
We walk in faith and remember long ago
How they killed Him and then how on the third day He arose
Well, things may look bad
And things may look grim
But all these things must pass except the things that are of Him

Now, to the action scene:

Acts 4:23-26 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“Why do the nations rage 
         and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
            and the rulers band together
     against the Lord
            and against his anointed one.

The Church’s Prayer:

These words are parts of the Church’s prayer on the occasion of its first collision with the civil power. The Bible provides a detailed accounting of this occasion in Acts, chapters three and four. Regarding this affair, MacLaren’s Expositions states:

The incident is recorded at full length because it is the first of a long and bloody series, in order that succeeding generations might learn their true weapon and their sure defense. Prayer is the right answer to the world’s hostility, and they who only ask for courage to stand by their confession will never ask in vain.

Prayer is the first weapon, and the best weapon Christians have for dealing with confrontation. We have the armor about which Paul wrote. And we are to wear it. Even more so, the start and end of it all is prayer. The battle is not ours to win; it is God’s.

A related post can be found here: https://rockexcavationservice.org/acts-541-counted-worthy-of-suffering-disgrace-for-the-name-of-jesus/

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