“Church Growth” is a term often misunderstood. Rather than organizational expansion Acts 2 outlines it like this: a growth in personal discipleship (first followers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, communion, prayer); a fresh definition of ministry and mission as an awareness of and cooperation with the working of God (signs and wonders); a deep mutual caring for each other (no one had need); a life of faith practiced at church and at home and in the community (in the temple and from house to house); all with hearts of thanksgiving, gladness and joy (they praised God and found favor with folks). Through that shared life of faith, God touched the hearts and lives of others who wanted that grace in their own lives and they became partners in the life giving love of Jesus (the Lord added to those being saved). It’s a model worthy of asking, “What do I need to be doing to more fully share in this Acts aligned vision of God growing our church?”
Prayer: Lord, continue to open my eyes and inspire my heart and mind to the ways that I can share in the life of Christ through the life of our church.
Blessings for today!
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
After Peter’s sermon about Jesus, his power and miracles, his death and resurrection, how the prophets had foretold his being Lord and Master of all, people were clamoring to know how to respond . When’s the last time you saw people clamor to know what to do about the knowledge of Jesus Christ and all he did for us? Come to think of it, have people really heard all of those things about Jesus?
How is Jesus impacting your life? That is a wonderful starting place of sharing, it doesn’t have to be dramatic or sensational to be worth telling. Who knows, what you say may make someone clamor to know what to do with that news!
This portion of Peter’s telling of the Acts of the Apostles, is proclaiming the complete fulfillment of the Messiah through Jesus. Peter reminds the Jews and all those outside the law crucified Jesus and this puts the Jews in opposition to God and as equal to those outside the law. Peter did not say this so that we would hate the Jews, but rather to remind us that God’s chosen people helped bring forth the crucifixion so that God could bring forth the resurrection. For me the lesson in all of this is that we stop focusing on what others are doing against us and others but be aware of what God is doing. Furthermore, God working and moving in me is the greatest chance of having a significant impact in this world. Can we trust God to take the worst in us and make something beautiful? If God can take the Crucifixion of his only son by his chosen people and bring forth the resurrection, what can he do with our brokenness and pain?
Bert K. Johnson
“…God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Acts 2: 17
Frederick Buechner writes, “God also has a spirit – is Spirit, says the Apostle John (4:24). Thus God is the power of the power of life itself, has breathed and continues to breathe himself into his creation. In-spires it. The spirit of God, Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost, is highly contagious. When Peter and his friends were caught up in it at Jerusalem on Pentecost, everybody thought they were drunk even though the sun wasn’t yet over the yardarm. They were.”
Today, are you fully alive in that spirit? What visions have you seen? What dreams are you dreaming?
We all have a “need to be needed”. And as this Scripture points out there’s a “gap in the ranks”. Where Judas once stood, there is now a vacancy and Peter says, “one of these must become with us a witness of his resurrection”. Sometime during the course of today you (and I) will have the opportunity to step into that gap. Through a word of forgiveness, an act of thoughtfulness, a stand for justice, a prayer for peace the chance is there to “step onto the playing field” and be the “twelfth” disciple. You are needed – and this scripture says you (and I) are nominated and chosen.
Prayer: Lord, give me the insight, wisdom, courage and strength today to step up into the moments of witness you have for me as your “twelfth” follower.
All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. Acts 1:14
Imagine being part of an adventure that has turned your life upside down in the span of about three years. This is where the disciples were after meeting Jesus, being close to him, learning from him, seeing miraculous things happen, witnessing the crucifixion and resurrection, then suddenly, he’s gone! What to do next? In this instance, the only thing to be done was to pray, for understanding, for a new sense of purpose, for gratitude at what has happened, for courage.
What do you do when life seems terribly confusing? Follow the disciples’ lead, turn to God in prayer, and remember his promise: “Call unto me and I will answer, and show you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
“While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.” Acts 1:4
Acts, the book in the Bible that offers us an eyewitness account of the birth and spread of Christ’s church, begins with the coming of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus was preparing his followers for his final ascension, he instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. Empowered by that promise, God’s spirit, the church quickly developed into a dynamic, growing community of believers.
That same spirit indwells believers and followers of Christ today – equipping and enabling us to share the good news of God’s love with a world in need of hope.
How are we fitting into God’s plan for us to become the body of Christ and grow the church, while sharing God’s hope and healing with others?
This scripture builds a bridge across a wide span of God’s saving work. The salvation saga starts with the Old Testament (the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms), climaxes in Jesus Christ (in his death and resurrection), and now continues forward (in repentance and forgiveness proclaimed by a Power that is to come). As Luke concludes his Gospel he wants us to know that the salvation story is not over! We are to be the “storytellers” in what we say and do. The story of God’s saving love is told through our lives – “you are witnesses of these things” (verse 48). Today holds opportunities to “tell that story of God’s love” through caring, compassion, working for justice, words of peace. My prayer for me and you is that we see and seize these moments and know the joy of living into the Story now.
Blessings for today!
He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Luke 24:38
The disciples had it easy, they could reach out and touch Jesus, see his wounds, watch him eat a piece of fish. You would think that was all they needed to believe that Jesus had actually arisen from the dead, that he was still alive. Yet it wasn’t easy for them.
They didn’t know how to handle the duality of Jesus as a physical man, and as a spirit that could suddenly appear and disappear.
Isn’t that still our dilemma today? How could God have put his spirit into a physical body, both man and God at once? Through the centuries, the church has wrestled with this mystery, yet its witness continues to be to that very truth.
All the disciples had, all the church has had, is what we today have – the Spirit, guiding, leading us into the truth about Christ. Are you hearing the voice of the Spirit?
Every time I here this scripture it reminds me of this old Gaelic Poem that is around 1500 years old. What if we found the Christ in every stranger we in-countered? Would the world be a different place?
Christ in the Stranger’s Guise
I met a stranger yest’re’een;
I put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place;
And, in the sacred name of the Triune,
He blessed myself and my house,
My cattle and my dear ones,
And the lark said in her song,
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise;
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.
Bert K. Johnson