Pondering the Word – Acts 12

ponderingtheword2Peter’s story in Acts 12 about his escape from prison has always been a favorite of mine. It comes under the categories of “you can’t make this stuff up” and “Wait, what?”

Evidently Herod considered Peter to be a very real threat to his kingdom. He had him thrown in prison and posted  16 soldiers to make sure that he didn’t escape. Peter was bound with 2 chains, he had guards on both sides of him, and sentries on lookout at the prison entrance to make sure that no one busted him out.

And no one did. He just walked out – following an angel.

I believe in angels. Not the kind of angels that are generally depicted on TV – the kind that look like people and are just nicer versions of humanity. I have never seen an angel – at least not that I am aware of. But lots of others have. There are actually quite a few angel sightings in the Scriptures. Here are a few examples…

Daniel … while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. (Daniel 9:21, NIV)

John  Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” (Revelation 19:9-10)

Philip 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)

Ezekiel  18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. 19 While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. 20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim. (Ezekiel 10:18-20)

But I digress. The thing that I have always like about this story in Acts 12 is what is said about prayer.

  1. It would seem that the angel rescued Peter because the people of God had been praying diligently and desperately. (12:5) – It is not often that I see this kind of prayer reflected in my own life or in the life of the church. Perhaps if we as a community of believers learned to pray diligently and desperately then we would also see God working through his angel army.
  2. It would seem that those who were praying were as surprised as anyone that God actually answered their prayers. (12:12-15). I kind of see a picture of a group of people praying diligently and desperately – but not really expecting that anything will come of their prayers. Even when they were told that Peter was at their house they found it hard to believe – choosing to believe instead that it “must be his angel” (12:15) – whatever that means.

To conclude – I would really like to have an angel experience. At least I think that I would. But I’m pretty sure that I will not until I learn to pray diligently and desperately. So first things first and then perhaps we shall see.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

QuotesWorthPondering“All forms of idolatry involve us deeply in folly. All idolatry is not only treacherous but also futile. Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy.

If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but undernourished, and we find that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being.”

Articles Worth Pondering – Bruce Ashford

Articles Worth P

The 1 Thing That Could Tip the Balance in the First Presidential Debate
Bruce Ashford

There is one thing that could tip the balance in an increasingly tight race for the presidency, and it is the one thing that probably will not be mentioned—much less emphasized—during Monday night’s presidential debate. Here’s to hope.

How the Nominees are Preparing for the Debate

The debate is the most significant head-to-head since Carter v. Reagan (1980). The two candidates are taking vastly different approaches in their preparation for it. Their divergent strategies reveal who they are as candidates and what they think of their opponents. Mrs. Clinton and her team are devoting four days to mock debate sessions, while Mr. Trump and his team will do debate drills for only one day.

(To read the rest of this article click the link below)

The 1 Thing That Could Tip the Balance in the First Presidential Debate

Pondering the Word – Acts 6 (Stephen)

PonderingtheWordStephen was obviously a man that the early church had a lot of respect for. He evidently had a heart for God and a heart for people. This is why he was chosen as one of the first servant leaders in the Jerusalem church. I think I would have enjoyed hanging around him and letting some of what was in him overflow to me. I use the word overflow because of what Acts 6 says about him.

  • He was full of the Spirit (v.3)
  • He was full of wisdom (v.3)
  • He was full of faith (v.5)
  • He was full of God’s grace (v.8)
  • He was full of power (v.8)

No need for me to say anything about each of those as they speak for themselves. What I will say is that this would not be the way that other people would describe me. For that matter, I can count on one hand the number of people that I might even think about describing that way.

I have always been intrigued by a verse in Ephesians 3 where Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus and concludes by saying “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (v.19) Acts 6 gives a picture of a man for whom this is true. Stephen lived a full life – not in the sense that we tend to think of it today – but in the sense that he was full of God. And those who are full live lives that overflow to others. Their influence is a result of the “spill effect” as they bump up against other people. Note what Acts 6:7 says about Stephen and the others who were chosen…

“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

It would seem that the “secret” to church growth has nothing to do with great buildings or well-designed programs or even powerfully delivered sermons but with men who live full lives in the way that Stephen did.

Quotes Worth Pondering – John Piper

QuotesWorthPonderingNone of us has arrived at perfect satisfaction in God. I grieve often over the murmuring of my heart at the loss of worldly comforts. But I have tasted that the Lord is good. By God’s grace I now know the fountain of everlasting joy. And so I love to spend my days luring people into joy until they say with me, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Articles Worth Pondering – Seven Principles for Angry Parents Disciplining Angry Children

Articles Worth PI hate to admit that the title of this blog post too often describes my household. I never (or at least it seems that way to me) lose my temper with my wife, my staff, or my congregation. But sadly, I too often feel (and act?) like that little Anger guy from Inside Out when it comes to my kids. Too many frustrated sighs and raised voices and sharp tones (and that’s just from the parents!).

In Ephesians 6:4, God tells fathers—though I think it’s okay for moms to listen in—to raise children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. He also warns against provoking our children to anger. So how do we do one without the other? How do we discipline exasperating kids without in turn exasperating them unnecessarily?

To read the rest of this article by Kevin DeYoung click HERE

Pondering the Word – Acts 1:21-26

PonderingtheWordSo evidently the 2 guys that were being considered to replace Judas as an apostle had been a part of Jesus’ entourage from the very beginning of his public ministry (vs.21-22). Already they had been passed over once to be a part of Jesus’ team of 12. But, nevertheless, they continued to demonstrate faithfulness and love for Jesus and ministry despite what we might would consider major rejection. It would have only been natural to ask questions like, “Why did Jesus pick him and not me?”, or “What’s wrong with me that I didn’t make the team?”

Fast forward 3 three years and now an opening on the team has come available. Matthias and Barsabbas have been nominated and after prayer and the casting of lots (which is a interesting way to determine God’s will) Matthias is chosen and again Barsabbas is not.

At this point nothing else is said in Scripture about either of these guys. So nothing definitive can be said about how they reacted and responded. But here’s what I suspect. I suspect that Matthias accepted his new role as an apostle with grace and humility and trust in the sovereignty of God. And I suspect that Barsabbas accepted not being chosen with grace and humility and trust in the sovereignty of God. Why do I suspect this? For two reasons: 1) They had been hanging around Jesus for the last 3 years and seen Him model grace and humility and trust in the sovereignty of God. 2) Their track record suggests this as well. Even when they were not chosen the first time they still followed closely and proved themselves to be not just tag alongs who wanted glory and recognition but disciples who were willing to “lose their lives” for the sake of the gospel.

There are several lessons to be learned here when we face rejection and disappointment.

1) Rejoice with those who rejoice – Human nature makes it difficult to celebrate other people’s successes when we experience defeat. The gospel however makes it possible for us to do so because of the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Not necessarily easy, because we are always fighting against our sin nature… but possible as we abide in Christ.

2) Remain faithful – It is a test of our character to remain faithful in the midst of defeat and disappointment. It has often been said that you can learn much more about a person’s character from the way they handle disappointment than from the way they handle success. Barsabbas was evidently a man of great character.

3) Grace, humility, and trust in the sovereignty of God are the fruit of those who are followers of Jesus.

We do not know much about either of these guys – but no doubt the reason that they were even considered was because for several years the other disciples had recognized that they both had what it takes to do the job of apostle. My guess is that even though Barsabbas was not chosen to be an official apostle that he did the work of an apostle without the title or recognition. That says a lot about the man!

Quotes Worth Pondering – Augustine of Hippo

QuotesWorthPonderingHere are 3 quotes from Augustine of Hippo – if you are unfamiliar with him you can read a brief bio HERE.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

“I was in misery, and misery is the state of every soul overcome by friendship with mortal things and lacerated when they are lost. Then the soul becomes aware of the misery which is its actual condition even before it loses them.”

“For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?”

Articles Worth Pondering – What Does the Bible Say About Transgenderism?

Articles Worth PSome would argue that the Bible says nothing about the explosion of the transgender phenomenon in the Western world. After all, there is no verse that says, “Thou shalt not transition from a man to a woman.” But neither are there any verses that talk explicitly about gun violence, anorexia, waterboarding, fossil fuels, vaccines, GMOs, HMOs, or Pokemon Go. We should not expect the Bible to speak in 21st century terms to every 21st-century eventuality.

But that hardly means the Bible provides no guidance for Christians trying to make sense of our transgender moment. In fact, when it comes to transgenderism, the Bible actually has a lot to say—not by a prooftext here or there but by a rich and pervasive understanding of gender and sexual identity….

To read the rest of this article by Kevin DeYoung click HERE

Pondering the Word – John 17

PonderingtheWordIn John 17 we see Jesus praying within hours of his arrest and subsequent journey to the cross. He knows that His death is imminent. This got me thinking. If I had my family gathered around me and I knew that I would soon die – and I had one last opportunity to pray for them – what would I pray? There are 5 things in this passage that Jesus prays both for His disciples and all believers that I think are very instructive in this regard. But I would not limit these prayers to death bed supplications. I would pray them regularly for those who are near and dear to us.

He prayed for protection from the evil one (v.11, 15) – Note that he was not just praying that they would be safe while traveling or protected from disease and dis-ease. Jesus knew they were in for the fight of their life – that a spiritual battle was being waged around them. One of my favorite quotes by John Piper goes like this: “You will never know what prayer is for until you know that life is war.” Protection from the evil one is a great prayer to pray.

He prayed that they would be filled with ever-increasing joy (v. 13) – Jesus was not praying that they would be happy. He was praying something much better. He knew that they would face much difficulty in the days ahead. He prayed that in the midst of the harshness of life that they would be filled and fueled with the joy of the Lord. And that this joy would then sustain them through everything that they would face. Joy in the Lord is a great prayer to pray.

He prayed that they would be sanctified by the Word of God (v.17) – To be sanctified means to be made holy. We were justified when God saved us and now He is in the process of sanctifying us – getting us ready for the day that we will be glorified upon death as we are escorted into the presence of the Lord – the Holy One! The Word of God is not only God’s primary instrument of salvation; it is also His primary instrument of sanctification. Jesus was praying that God would use His Word to daily make His disciples more and more holy. Sanctified by the Word is a great prayer to pray.

He prayed that they would enjoy unity as group (v.23) – There is nothing that turns unbelievers away from the church more than when they see believers who can’t get along with one another. Why would anyone want to be a follower of Jesus when Jesus’ followers don’t even like each other? So Jesus prayed that his followers would “be one as we are one.” There was a glorious unity among the persons of the Trinity that exemplified the unity believers are to have with one another. Unity is a great prayer to pray.

He prayed that they would experience God’s incredible love (v.26) – It is one thing to know that God love’s you. it is yet another thing to enjoy and experience the width and length and height and depth of the love of God – this love that surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19). This is what Jesus’ wanted for His followers. So he prayed for them diligently in this regard because He knew that they needed this as they prepared for the mission that they were about to embark on. Experiencing God’s love is a great prayer to pray.

5 great ways to pray for those we love and care for. So let’s do more than just know what we should pray for – let’s actually pray!

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