Tag Archives: Acts

Where to?

Christians are not limited to any church. ~Billy Graham



I was just nineteen and out of my element. The woman I worked for as a nanny needed someone to take over a business trip for her private company. She asked me, and in my youthful naivete, I thought of it as an adventure.

It was my first plane ride, and my first experience with a taxi. The doorman at the airport, seeing my dazed look, helped me hail a cab. He loaded my things in the trunk and gave me some directions and advice.

I thanked him and climbed in the cab. It was too late when I realized that his frown was because I didn’t tip him.

The three-day conference didn’t get any better. Money was stolen from my wallet. The speaker- whom I was representing- was a drunk. And I didn’t get to eat often.

My problem was that I didn’t know where to go for help.

Herod was trying to make some friends and discovered that killing Christians was a popularity booster. He threw Peter in jail intending to have him executed.

God had other plans and sent an angel to rescue Peter from prison. The angel lead Peter out of the city, but instead of running for his life, Peter headed to Mary’s house, the mother of a disciple named John Mark.

Everyone was there praying for Peter.

Peter knew where to go.

He knew who would pray. He knew where friends would gather. He knew where safety, encouragement, and food would be found.

That’s what the church does for its members.

It cries out to God. It gathers and encourages. It rejoices and supports.

Whom do you call when your child is injured 1500 miles from home and family? Whom do you depend on to watch over your aging mother? Who brings you food when you’re too weak from the flu to cook?

And where do you go to sing and rejoice and dance when you discover you’re pregnant after seven years? Who hugs you and laughs and cries when you finally finish your degree? Who meets you with cupcakes and balloons to help you celebrate that thing you’ve been waiting for?

Do you know where to go?

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:10-16 NIV

Visions of Sugarplums

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. ~Woodrow Wilson

Sugarplums were deceitful. They were candy-coated seeds and nuts, most likely intended as indigestion remedies.

But in their heyday, children probably considered them like today’s kids do M&M’s. They were candy.  So when Clement Moore tells us that the children have visions of sugarplums, they were dreaming sweet dreams.

We tell sweet dreams to others. Sometimes we also tell our nightmares to our bunk mate or roomy.

Seldom do we tell our visions, though.

Because you just never know how people will take them. Will they believe you? Do you believe yourself?

Peter was having visions while he was praying. He followed through on the visions’ directives and traveled to Caesarea to welcome Gentiles into the kingdom.

When the Jewish apostles and believers heard about it, they believed the vision because it matched what Jesus had told them while he was still on Earth.

I have had visions as well. I don’t often throw my visions out to the public because, like Peter, I’m just a bit unsure how it will be accepted. You may ask how I know if a vision is true or from God?

I think Peter gives us some guidelines.

If the vision sounds outlandish or perhaps even against the normal “rules” of the church, does the vision occur more than one time?

If it does occur more than once, go to the second criteria: does it follow God’s word? If so, you can be reasonably sure you have a vision from God.

The last criteria is where you have to step out in faith.

When you follow the vision, does it lead you to success? Do others believe you?

God gives visions to his followers so that great things can be accomplished for the kingdom. Visions freed the Israelites from slavery. Visions kept them from entering losing battles. And visions declared that Gentiles were part of the kingdom as well.

What if Peter hadn’t obeyed the vision?

How will the kingdom be affected if you don’t obey?

You will never know what might have been, but you will always know what isn’t.


‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17 NIV

Now That’s a True Story

I love meeting new people; I think everyone has a story to tell. We should all listen sometimes. ~Kim Smith

I come from a large extended family of liars. No one is to be trusted.

You might get a phone call from “the sheriff” telling you your husband is in jail. Or, perhaps, a letter in the mail from some lost relative wanting to give you money.

Mostly the lying is good-natured; playing cards with us can be tricky, but we have fun and enjoy each other’s company. Here’s a heads up: if someone says, “That’s a true story right there,” don’t believe them.

Jesus told a lot of stories. The most well-known, culturally, is The Good Samaritan.

A man was hurt and beaten along the road, left to die. People who should have stopped to help him, walked by on the other side. Then an enemy came by. He stopped to help the man- going above and beyond the call of duty. He was the good Samaritan.

The early church was confronted with a real-life good Samaritan, and they didn’t know what to do about it.

Cornelius was a centurion in the Italian Regiment. He was trouble with a capital T. That rhymes with G and that stands for Gentile.

But Cornelius was a good man. He was generous, caring for the poor and needy. He was devout, praying to God. He was loved by God, and an angel visited him.

Cornelius and all of his family turned to Jesus. They became Christians and were given the Holy Spirit.

Some people weren’t too sure about it.  But Peter answered, ” . . . God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation . . .”

Did you know there are Christians in Congo, India, Ethiopia, China, Kenya, and Tanzania? Did you also know there are Christians with tattoos, piercings, and purple hair? There are Christians who are older than dirt and others who like to eat dirt.  There are Christians who sing and shout and some who quietly kneel.

We all have ideas of what Christians look like and how they behave. Creating book covers in our minds is what we do.

Telling stories so astounding they have to be true is what God does.


If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. James 2:8-9 NIV

What’d You Say?

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ~C.S. Lewis

I teach English to ESL students. We start with body parts: eyes, ears, mouth, face. After a while the students know so many words that I forget how strange our language must seem to them.

“You have to face the music.” “I couldn’t face my friend.” “Face it. You’re never going to see her again.”

One student’s mouth dropped open, and he slowly drew a circle in the air around his face. “Face the music?” he asked.

I tried not to laugh as I explained the abstract imagery.

God must suppress a lot of giggles as well.

He sent Ananias to heal Saul from his blindness, and Ananias explained why that didn’t make sense.

“Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

Have you ever explained something to God?

I can’t take that job right now. It would mean a pay cut and we’re barely making it on my salary as it is.

I can’t be a missionary; I only speak English.

I can’t share my testimony; they’ll kick me out of the church if they find out everything I’ve done.

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”

This is where I would be tempted to try explaining again why the Lord’s instruction is flawed.

This guy thinks he is so much your man that he imprisons and kills Israelites. There’s no way he’s going to tell Gentiles- people who don’t follow you to start with- that Jesus is the Messiah.

But instead, Ananias heads off to Straight Street to lay his hands on Saul.

Have you walked down Straight Street lately? It’s been updated and renovated.

It’s where you do just fine with the salary you receive. It’s where you speak in love and everyone understands. It’s where your background fades away as you move forward into the kingdom.

What crazy thing is God asking you to do?

Will you trust him?


Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. James 1:2-8 MSG

Gifts

Love the giver more than the gift. ~Brigham Young

During Christmas one year the adults sat in a circle opening family gifts. As I flipped the lid off of a box, I started to cry. Inside was an oddly shaped piece of wood.

“What is it?” my brother-in-law asked, looking around the room for an explanation.

Tears streamed down my face as I crossed the room to kiss my father-in-law. “It’s the ears to the donkey Pap made for me years ago. The original ears broke last summer.”

My husband’s parents had been down to visit and noticed the broken wooden planter on our porch. My father-in-law remembered when he got back home and made the ears to set atop the old donkey. I was touched.

Gifts are not my ‘love language.’ I enjoy a nice gift, but a gift that takes time and effort, that gift I will cherish.

Philip entered a foreign land to tell people about a gift that was given to each of them. All they had to do was accept it.

But Simon wanted to purchase the gift. He wanted to have control of the gift: pick it out, wrap it the way he liked, and give it to whom he chose.

Philip refused to give the gift to Simon because of his ulterior motives.

The gift Philip and God offered was the gift of the Holy Spirit. But don’t we sometimes act like Simon with our gifts as well?

We want to be able to understand scripture so we can crack someone over the skull with it. Or we want to pray like the apostles so we can have whatever we ask for- health, wealth, and fame. Maybe we want the gift of patience so we can avoid confronting people, or the gift of spiritual sight so we don’t need faith, or the gift of joy so we don’t have to deal with that grumpy neighbor.

The best gift-givers know what a person needs and in the end what he will desire. Like a cut-out of donkey ears that brought me to tears, so just the right gift can move you toward true gratitude and appreciation of not just the gift, but also the Giver.

What gift do you need to kiss the Father for today?


“You give your mouth free rein for evil,
    and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
    you slander your own mother’s son.
These things you have done, and I have been silent;
    you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50:19-23 ESV

Persecuted

“The Church is the source of joy because Jesus stayed on the cross and Syria is on the cross and awaiting the day it will be resurrected. No one in any society has this joy except the Church.”~ Syrian Pastor

Occasionally someone has said mean things to me about being a Christian. That’s it. That’s the extent of persecution that I have suffered.

Stephen was a young man who believed in truth. He spoke truth. He lived truth. And he died for truth.

The early church was not yet hiding. Disciples were telling others about the good news of Jesus. The Messiah had come. He had been tortured and killed, but he also had been raised again to life.

Now everyone could have a relationship with the Father. Now everyone could experience true life.

That didn’t go over very well.

Fear of the government made the rulers wield their power. Fear of the rulers made the people turn in their brothers.

Fear was left at the doorstep by the first recorded martyr- Stephen.

Fear is still a contributing factor to the church’s persecution. Leaders fear losing power over their citizens. Neighbors fear being drawn into incriminating relationships. Family members fear their community will ostracize and isolate them.

It has been nearly two thousand years since Stephen stood up for Christ. His example lives on in those Christians who refuse to surrender to fear.

Christians in over 40 countries face persecution. There are about 300,000 Christians living in North Korea, the most dangerous place for Christians. During 2017-18, over 3,000 Christians were killed around the world; nearly 1300 were abducted; over 1,000  Christian women were raped or sexually harassed; and nearly 800 churches were attacked.

November 4 was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Churches across America and around the world prayed for our brothers and sisters who are finding creative ways to disguise their worship.

Perhaps, like me, you have only been taunted. Suffering for the cause of Christ is as foreign to you as Monday Night Football would have been to Stephen. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

Prayer is a weapon of mass destruction. Prayer strengthens the Army of God. Prayer sinks Satan’s battleships. Prayer shields soldiers of Christ and camouflages special forces.

Will you fight for your Christian brothers and sisters?

Will you pray?


Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3 NIV

False Witnesses

So far as I know, anything worth hearing is not usually uttered at seven o’clock in the morning; and if it is, it will generally be repeated at a more reasonable hour for a larger and more wakeful audience. ~Moss Hart

My Kindergartners were excited to share in 100’s Day. The hundredth day of school was fast approaching and they were to present projects of 100 items.

The local media found out and sent a camera crew for the nightly news. The other Kindergarten teacher was interviewed. I listened to her explain what was happening at the school.

Later, on the evening news, the footage had been clipped to say what they wanted everyone to hear.

It wasn’t a big change, but the next day at school, the other teacher was upset. “That wasn’t what I said!”

We hear what we want to hear or what others want us to hear.

The members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen were arguing with one of the disciples. But every time they countered a point, Stephen made a counter-point. Finally, they persuaded some false witnesses to stir up the rest of Jerusalem, spreading lies about Stephen.

The Jews would hear what they wanted to hear, but let’s start first with what they wanted to hear.

You’ve known it to happen.

You tell your child that you can discuss a pet later, and he swears you said,

“You can have a pet later.”

The doctor says you’re very healthy for a woman your age, but you need to lose 20 pounds. You tell your husband the doctor said,

“Everything is great; I’m very healthy.”

Your boss says there will be a short meeting before lunch, maybe 15-30 minutes, and you make an order-

“Yes, I need to pick up a pizza at 12:05.”

Or is it even bigger than that?

Spirit tells you to talk to that homeless man and you think he said,

“Give some money to the shelter.”

Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself and you think he said,

“Love yourself.”

God said worship me only, and you think he said,

“Worship me first.”

Two thousand years later, and our hearing hasn’t changed much.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.


But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 ESV

Passion

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. ~Martha Graham

When my boys were little all they talked about was Pokémon.

They knew the names of all the creatures and what each one could transform into if given the right circumstances. They had pretend Pokémon battles, hiding behind the sofa and jumping out to put the Pokémon into their special balls.

They even talked their grandmothers into playing Pokémon cards. None of us ever understood what we were doing, but being with Jonathan and Amos while they tried to explain was exciting. Their eyes shone, their words gushed forth like a Squirtle under pressure, and they couldn’t sit still.

They talked Pokémon, dreamed Pokémon, and played Pokémon.

Most people’s first thought in the morning is about work. The second most common thought upon rising is what errands need to be completed that day. Health and hygiene come to mind third most often. Women will likely think of friends and family next, while the men will think about food.

Many people turn to their phones for the weather, the news, a quick social media check. Some people head for the coffee pot. And all of us are made aware of our bladders.

Where does Christ fall in your line-up of the day’s thoughts?

The early church was being persecuted and ostracized. They were making a name for themselves by their good works.

But what did they do beyond that?

They never stopped talking.

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 5:42 NIV

Day after day, every place they went, the apostles and disciples kept talking. They just couldn’t help themselves.

They had found their passion.

What occupies your every thought?


Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

Community Property

A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s. ~Richard Whately

“I know you; I grew up down the road from your dad.”

I was at summer camp, volunteering as a counselor. She was many years my senior, but that didn’t stop her from teaching the next generation with energy and enthusiasm.

“Your grandma used to send food to us because my mother was ill. She even gave us shoes to go to school.”

I was blown away.

My grandparents had thirteen children. I’m not sure how they afforded to clothe their own kids, let alone the ones down the road. But their generosity was still remembered sixty or seventy years later.

I remember the professor’s wife who invited us to Thanksgiving dinner because she had once been far from home herself.

I remember the mother of a student who passed along clothes to my little guys because she had three boys of her own and knew how  quickly they can go through a pair of pants.

Even now I think of my neighbor who keeps our howling hound free of charge every time we leave town. She does it for the sake of love.

The early church had an opportunity. They were surrounded by people in need. Travelers, widows, sick neighbors, and the constant threat of famine were common drains on the community. Many of these problem people were ignored, shunned, or exiled.

But the church seized the opportunity and goodness spread.

The hospital movement owes its momentum to Christians. Orphanages developed as early as the fourth century because of Christians. Christians promoted leprosy communities, libraries, education, and safe living quarters.

What started as a small movement- share your possessions with others- became a hallmark of the Christian church.

What started as a meal and a pair of shoes for my grandma’s neighbor turned into a lifetime of serving others.

You may not think you are doing much today, but you never know where those offered shoes may travel.

Follow in the footsteps of those first Christians, wherever they may lead you. Because good deeds are remembered, and love is recognized.


I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:36-40 ESV

At the Speed of Time

Drive slow and enjoy the scenery – drive fast and join the scenery. ~Douglas Horton

We used to live in Arlington, Texas- 18.5 hours away from our families.

18.5 hours of driving. Non-stop.

Of course we did stop. We had two small children, and sometimes the dog came along, too. That was before the days of dvd players in vans, Waze or Google maps, even before cell phones for us.

The road seemed to get longer as we drove. Usually we took a day and a half to complete the drive, but a couple of times we drove straight through, making it in less than 24 hours.

Go ahead. Say it.

We were NUTS!

I know we couldn’t do that now. I get more restless than a toddler when I’m in the car: squirming, twisting, putting the seat-back up and down. It’s just too long.

Moses led the Israelites out of bondage, through the desert, and then turned them over to Joshua for safe-keeping. He told the people that there would be another prophet coming and they should listen to him.

About 1500 years passed.

Talk about a long drive.

So when Jesus’s disciples prophesied and performed miracles in his name, people were stunned. They couldn’t believe it.

They thought the ride was over a long time ago, but now- what in the world!?

Sometimes on those long car rides across the country, I fell asleep and woke up disoriented.

“What state are we in? Are we out of Tennessee, yet?”

The Israelites had fallen asleep along the way. They were waking up disoriented.

Don’t be too quick to judge, though.

Have you prayed over a sick friend and then cried in surprise when your prayers were answered? Maybe you thought there would never be a baby, but you asked God and asked God, and now the flu is a bad case of morning sickness. You’re so stunned you stare at the test results in disbelief.

Jesus has been gone a long time. There’s no doubt that the gas is low in the tank, and we feel like a nap. It’s easy to forget that he is still  driving the car.

Instead of pulling in the rest area, pull out your map- even if you use the digital version- and get your bearings again.

It’s the trip of a lifetime.


I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 NIV