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From the Heart

I Fell Upon The Stone

Posted by Bonnie
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on Sunday, 13 August 2017
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Last night full of conflicting emotions and depleted of physical energy I flung myself on my pillow. Then at that exact moment hearing from somewhere deep in my spirit “surrender” which I did. I felt completely spent. Maybe that made it easier to recognize that it was time certain emotions needed to be dealt with at the feet of Jesus. The only one who really can feel, experience and take on those emotions that were of such intensity and rendering me exhausted.
Next I found it a bit strange to hear coming up from deep within myself, “fall upon this stone and be broken to pieces.” It went simultaneously with my inner surrender of giving Jesus my emotions and my unresolved issues. I was pleasantly surprised to find that as I surrendered or gave up my struggles they were melting away and that stone was melting into me with such an incredible, inexpressible peace. Peace continued to envelope me. It felt so amazingly good. I would describe it as feeling the strong presence of God surrounding me. I felt so perfectly safe and content. I did not want to leave being in that state for well …. never. It is so wonderful!!! Exactly what I needed and wanted.
In that peace I was devoid of fear and realized that verse in Matthew 21:44 had kind of scared me. But now I understand what it truly means. At least to me.
When I willingly fall on Jesus the Rock I will not be crushed into dust. Certainly, He has the power to crush when it is needed but that wasn’t what He had planned for me. He had a different outcome in mind.
Falling on the stone to me means giving the hurting pieces of my heart to Jesus. All of them. The broken pieces landed on Him and melted into Him along with my exhausted spirit. Jesus the one who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, Psalm 147:3. The one who (Acts 10:34-38) went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. The one whose everyday life when walking on this earth was not only sharing the good news, touching lives but healing bodies and hearts from enemy oppression.
Jesus is many things to me and now I have experienced even more with Him, He not only is an unwavering rock in my life but a rock that also can melt me with peace. He really can do anything. To me He is the only one with the answers and solutions. Now I am not just hanging on for dear life to the Rock as stormy waves come relentless, with my hair whipping in the wind. My reality is that in the midst of any storm I must slow down, be calm enough even if it is only for a split second to hurl myself upon Him. My image of this is my darling granddaughter as she with complete abandonment hurls herself on us with her hugs and kisses. She holds nothing back whether she is feeling joy, pain, fear or laughter. She already knows who in her young life is her “safe” place to run to and she does not hold back to release whatever her emotional need might be. She knows where to run to for love, comfort and protection. She teaches me so much about pure and unconditional love. My heart is very grateful for her. Very blessed and grateful for such a gift.
John 6:37- Matthew 21:42- 44 and Mark 12:10 will never be the same to me ever again. Being broken is going to happen. It is who we are as imperfect, vulnerable, humans without a comprehensive view of all things. It means living life, taking risks to love, share our lives with other imperfect humans and stepping out of our corner to care, also to be who are destined to be in the best possible way. Not all will receive us the way we hope, desire or even intend. Communication may get crossed, misconstrued, or even be maligned against us. Accusations can be flung in our faces. I know what that is like and have experienced how it feels…. at least how it feels when it happens to me. Even more reason for me to fling myself upon Jesus. My Savior. My Leader. My Deliverer. My Rock. My Healer. The one who gets me. Who helps me deal with my multi faceted emotions. The one who Loves me. Unconditionally- no matter how messy it gets. The one who receives the pieces of my brokenness and is making me whole. The one who has my blueprint.
I know that being a rock doesn’t have to mean being stone cold and hard. Being a rock can also mean being a powerful advocate, a safe harbor, peace that melts fear, and an ocean of love that reaches into the recesses of my broken heart that actually needs tenderness and fewer words. A heart that is on a path to be restored. Gently. Maybe it even needs to be replaced with an authentic heart with a greater capacity to love and extend love. The journey to wholeness may involve surrender, resignation of doing it in my own power and way but it also requires the tenacity of courage. Yes, surrender can be a sweet thing and even bring that healing that has been out of grasp.
Keeping on it.
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Lifting the Fog of Despair

Posted by Russ Snyder
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on Friday, 11 November 2016
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Living near the beach allows us to see the fog roll in. In May it is called "May Gray" and in June it is referred to as "June Gloom". The fog seems to roll in from the ocean and cover the land seeming to cover the sun while bringing a chilling effect on those who live and work along the coast. 

Despair is like the fog these days. It has rolled into people's lives over the past weeks and months. Unlike fog it has not been seen rolling in, yet like fog it is bringing a chilling effect throughout America. It has been attacking people's view of life. Sadly it has been allowed to distort the vision of our children no matter our race, color, sexual orientation or religion. It is despair that is causing people of faith to fear other people and despair has become the filter through which so many are viewing the future. 

Wherever one lands on the map of what has happened because of American politics in the past months and this week, despair has had an influence. According to Webster's Dictionary "despair" means: to no longer have any hope or belief that a situation will improve or change. While President Obama ran for President eight years ago on the platform of HOPE, this year's Presidential primaries and election cycle have run from the platform of despair. 

The news media has fanned the flames of despair to help it spread throughout the land. The candidates have thrown gasoline on the fires of despair in an attempt to "get" people to vote for them. All sides politically have used despair and now the United States lives in the midst of the strategy to get out the vote. The "shocking" victory this past week of President Elect Trump has left both sides in a fog. While some call for him to drain the swamp as he said he would, others quickly point to the same group of individuals within the establishment who are helping plan his transition. Others have decided it is time to protest and riot to overcome the democratic manner in which the President Elect has been chosen. Their level of despair, of believing they no longer have any hope or belief that their situation, their friends and family will see improvement or changed lives has overcome them. 

While people around us view each other through the perspective of what they have heard, seen and in many cases experienced, God does not. His word tells us that He loves everyone and that He wants us to love our neighbors, not hate them. So what do we do to see despair rolled back and hope restored? Here are some practical steps for everyone to consider, even those who do not put their trust in God.

1. Begin speaking into the lives and homes of the people of the United States God's joy, sense of peace and calm. 

2. Recognize when despair tries to slip into your life and the lives of your family and friends. Watch for it in what you, your family and friends and yes even those who are not in your immediate circle of influence say. Be aware of how you and others are viewing what is taking place. 

3. Choose not to give into despair. To do this you will need to recognize it creeping in or even rushing into daily life. How do you not give into it? 

- Tell it you won't listen to it. 

- Speak the opposite into what you see, hear and experience. Literally say "I release peace, hope and calm into this situation, into this person's life and home." 

- When others are giving into it, when they are being attacked by it, use your hope to comfort others. The easiest way is to turn to God and trust Him yourself. If you are not a follower of God your thoughts of hope and peace will impact others by not pouring gas on the fires of despair they are experiencing. If you are a follower of God trust Him (Proverbs 3:3-6). Stop giving into the fear despair has been using to steal your hope. It has been the path of the Church to listen to those who would lead us into despair, even those who pastor us, by focusing on examples from the Bible of judgement rather than examples of God's love blessing those who trust Him. Choose instead to be one who speaks and lives from a heart of love instead of despair. Focus your thoughts on the words in Philippians 4:8. 

By choosing to live out these steps the fog of despair will lift off you, your family, your friends and the people around you. Begin speaking these words of hope over those protesting and see who God turns their despair into hope. 

If what I've said here disturbs you or even causes you to form reasons not to stand against despair, please consider that perhaps despair has begun slipping into your life and it's time to see it pull back from you like the fog does when the sun shines through and it is lifted from the land.

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Being Brilliant Light

Posted by Bonnie
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on Thursday, 17 December 2015
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Being Brilliant Light

Interesting scripture reading this morning. Isaiah 30:26.

The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven days, on the day the Lord binds up the fracture of HIs people and heals the bruise He has inflicted.”

Fracture, echoes that we are all broken or fractured as we go through lives events, circumstances and situation. Stuff happens. It’s inevitable that we are going to get hurt. Then what do we do in our wounded state? Many are the things people try to soothe the pain within themselves. Sometimes a temporary relief of the pain comes. It may take some time. Some wounds may last a lifetime. There is a power and love greater than ourselves. Jesus who loves the brokenhearted. The Lord is our healer. He heals the wounds inflicted by our disobedience, sin, other peoples sin and iniquity. He has not left us alone or without remedy.

The Church in the world is made up of people. Many of those people still carry untreated wounds. Many are still fractured even though they “know” Jesus as Savior. Do they know Him as healer of their whole heart? Do they let Him heal their wounds of their spirit and hearts? Some do yes. Many still are struggling - often looking in other places for their healing.

As the Church is healed person by person God’s glory and splendor is revealed through the release of the darkness within them that lodges in their wounds and hurts. A healed heart has God’s love and light in it. That draws others to the light.

John 8:12 - Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

There is nothing like a bright, sunny day to bring hope to our spirits. Light makes things clearer. Yes, as we let more of the Light of Jesus shine in our hearts it exposes dark things in us. Just like light on what you are reading God’s light brings the answer to those dark areas. As we admit them, ask Him for forgiveness and allow Him to take it away- whatever it might be He releases us, frees us from that pressure or bondage. Yes, there is a price we pay. But it is SO worth it.

The price of confession, forgiveness, repentance, condemnation, criticalness, shame, control and humility to name a few. As we recognize we need help it is easier to let go of those things.

He desires to flood us with the warmth of His light. In His light we see who we really are. Sons and Daughters of Mighty God, King of Kings. Notice the difference in our vision after we give up to Jesus the deceptive views of the enemy. Don't miss this powerful insight.So valuable to Him He sent Jesus to die for our sins so we could be totally reconciled to Him. He doesn’t stop there. He wants an ongoing relationship with us. A two way street, two way conversation relationship with us.

John 4:23-24-God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

As our hearts are cleansed and receive the truth of who we are, we become a reflection of our Father. Like Father like Son. Just like Jesus who is our example. When we come out of the dark into Jesus’ light we find He accepts us as we are, loves us and heals us. It is then we know and experience Him. The brilliance of God is irresistible.He doesn’t condemn us. Rant at us. He already knows what’s in our hearts anyway. Still He wants us. He will never leave us. Loves us unconditionally. Truly. Now that is a love that is irresistible.

Philippians 2:14-15

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

The Church is to be the Light of the World. A light on a hill. A light in a dark place. Light that draws others to the source of that Light. Jesus.

The Church must get in the right condition to be the light of the world. Out with the infections of the soul and spirit and in with the light comes the love of Jesus. Seven times brighter on the day the Lord binds up a fracture of His people and their wounds. Jesus who cures our hearts of ALL. As God’s wonderful people truly let go and let God shine through them many in the world will be drawn to our God. Now there is something to think on. How worth the price each individual pays. Be filled with the Love of God.

Nothing is Impossible with God.

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Battle of the Mind

Posted by Bonnie
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on Thursday, 18 June 2015
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When in pain, whether it is physical or emotional, it can easily cloud our better judgment and perspective. Recently while sitting in a hospital emergency room with a loved one for hours I was able to observe how people handled their pain. Some looked fearful. I believe in some cases it was more a manifestation of the person's fear and pain or both. Others looked miserable. Impatience was also rampant apparent in grumbling and in some cases chewing out the medical staff.

I really see a correlation between pain and fear. Speaking from my own life perspective, the majority of pain I've experienced has probably been emotional pain. Yes, I have experienced physical pain from illness or bones I've fractured which God has blessed me by healing my body in those seasons. My fiercest reoccurring battles involving emotional pain have been with my mind. now that can encompass a broad gamut from disappointment to the loss of a loved one. One of my roughest times emotionally was being depressed fro about 2 years. This was painful time for me. It was a time of daily battling negative and dark thoughts. Fear masqueraded as a giant in my mind.

Depression had other effects on my life. Over time my physical energy decreased, sleep eluded me and I found little joy in my life. While I was steeped in self pity and being focused inwardly (otherwise being selfish) my family suffered. It is difficult to live with a person with a negative outlook on life.

They never wavered to encourage me, to pick up the daily slack when I retreated from daily chores and they never complained. They always believed I would come out of that dark place and be victorious. They also knew my savior Jesus. So they just kept loving me.

One day the light of truth broke through my dark, negative, depressive thoughts.

I knew I needed a breakthrough. I went into the bedroom with my Bible and my laptop to play worship songs. I was determined not to come out until God had changed me. I was desperate. The Spirit of God gently, persistently spoke and showed me Truth. Worship filled with Praise and Truth went deep in my heart and spirit. I rallied. I cried. It hurt to see how much of the darkness of the enemy I had allowed into my thinking and heart. I knew better. I chose to own up to my wrong, ungodly thoughts and actions. This revelation led to lots of confession and repentance first before my God. My wonderful God forgave, freely and liberally. It is hard to put into words how it feels to receive forgiveness when you know you desperately want and need it but also know you don't deserve it. How does one describe feelings of unconditional love? Or freedom from condemnation? The best way I know to do it is to introduce you to my Father God through Jesus. They are the definition. They are incredible. They are all you need.

My eyes now saw that my actions were affecting others. And hurting them. Wow that was a wake up call. I saw my stubborn heart. i saw other things i did not like. Jesus never left me. he sustained me through the process of cleansing my heart. he heard my complaints and still loved me. I experienced His guidance. He helped me renew my mind and thoughts on His Truth. He was my rock. He led me out of the darkness into the light. Jesus reminded me that He is within me and greater than anything in this world, together we dealt with many fears I had allowed to harass me. As i did what he taught me and kept renewing my mind on Him (Romans 12:2) fear was dealt a heavy blow. Many fears scurried away that day. As I applied Isaiah 26:3-4, choosing to receive the peace of Jesus and trust in Him not in fear or oppression, life turned around for me.

First hand I experienced the power in my words. The power in my tongue to either bind myself through negative words to darkness or as I express words of truthful praise to bind myself to the Light. The Truth indeed set me free, delivered me from darkness into the light. In Truth indeed I am bound to Jesus. Bound in Jesus I know boundless love.

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Choose Faith Over Fear - Pt 2

Posted by Russ Snyder
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on Saturday, 06 June 2015
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Jesus acknowledges our faith, and blesses us for stepping out and trusting Him, even when the darkness of fear comes in an overwhelming way. In Mark 5 a woman is healed by touching Jesus' cloak, just touching the clothes He is wearing. Everyone is amazed and with amazement faith rises to new levels.

Faith can be overwhelmed as we wait. When we wait so many opportunities for our hopes and plans to crash against the rocks begin to show themselves. Fear can rise up quickly and overwhelm the faith that has been growing steadily. The faith is still there, it may just be overshadowed by fears loud and boisterous voice yelling "No way! It's not going to happen! It's too late now!"

Fear has at its heart the issue of control. What we cannot control, do not understand in order to control, is feared.

In the middle of all this celebration of a woman whose issues go back over a decade, bad news arrives from Jairus' house. Do you remember? "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?" What must this news do to Jairus? To his faith? Do these words steal his faith and hope?

Have the "facts" of what others shared ever caused you to doubt the "truth" of what God has said? There is a difference between facts and truth. Facts are based on the perspective of what someone sees or experiences. God's truth is based on His word and nature. When God tells us to believe, it is important even essential to believe to the end. Fear will always, yes always, try to rob you of the faith to believe God's truth.

Jairus must be devastated. Jesus hears what is said and exhorts, encourages, almost demands Jairus with "Do not be afraid, only believe."

Do not be afraid, only believe. It's another way of telling us to "Choose Faith over Fear!" Jesus tells him not to be afraid, only believe because for so many of us our tendency is to step back into the destructive habit pattern fear uses to overwhelm us.

Jesus limits the people who He allows to come with Him to Jairus' house. He chooses to have people of faith come with Him. Interesting thought: would he choose me to go with Him? Does He choose me to go with Him to encourage others, to strengthen others, to ask for a miracle on their behalf? What about you? Tough question? Let's move on then. But think about it . . . .

When Jesus and company arrive at the house there are already so many people there who are choosing fear. Don't get me wrong, grieving is a natural emotion that comes with someone dying, especially someone so young. But when Jesus brings up the issue of faith they laugh at Him. At times fear can be displayed in mocking someone, even laughing at their faith. Fear and faith cause us to look at situations, circumstances and life differently don't they?

Jesus takes five people with Him into the little girl's room. He chooses people who have faith, have seen Him do amazing things before. He chooses her parents who so want to have faith and believe. Remember the account of Jesus telling a man whose son was possessed: "Don't be afraid, only believe?" The man responds with "I do believe, help my unbelief." Or "I choose to believe and have faith, help me overcome my fear!" You see faith, even a little faith, can get you in the room. While choosing fear can cause you to miss out completely. You either choose faith or fear. And when we choose faith, fear tries exceptionally hard to knock us off balance. But with faith, we get in the room where Jesus is about to do something incredible.

We find ourselves with Jesus in the little girl's room and He simply takes her hand and declares in faith "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" Have you ever considered how much Jesus did in faith? 

Well it brings the little girl to her feet and Jesus gives her back to her parents. All five with Him, the people of faith, were completely astonished. Just because we have faith it doesn't mean what God does will not astound us. I love it when God completely astonishes me. It is so much fun!!!

Let's choose faith over fear. Being completely astonished over laughing and mocking people who choose faith. Does God always move in accordance with our faith? He hasn't always moved the way I've chosen to believe, but I still choose faith. After all, God is God and I, well I'm Russell. A man who chooses faith over fear. Don't let fear drive you away from faith. Keep believing, keep trusting God, keep wanting to be like Jesus. There's a difference between faith and trust. Give that some thought this week. And watch for fear to raise it's ugly head. When it does, because it seems it always does, embrace faith in God, tell fear to go where Jesus Christ sends it and be completely astonished. It's a great way to live abundantly.

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Faith or Fear - Pt 1

Posted by Russ Snyder
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on Thursday, 28 May 2015
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Choosing faith or fear is a daily part of our lives. There is constant pressure within us to choose fear over faith. It can be blamed on the media or even the pulpit where fear may be used as a tool used to get our attention. It can also be found in how we are raised from childhood. There are so many possible places fear originates, but where ever the pressure is from the result of fear is always a choice we make.

Jesus gives us several examples within Mark 5 of how He personally encourages people to choose faith over fear, of how people respond, and what happens because of Jesus’ words and actions impacting the lives of each person.

Never mind the towns people who become frightened because one of their own has been delivered by Jesus of a legion of demons in the first twenty verses. They come and see him sitting with Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. The choosing of fear in this instance brought them to the place of imploring Jesus to leave their area. Fear is a powerful emotion that can be used to turn us away from what God does to point us to His love for us.

When a synagogue ruler whose name is Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet begging Him to come and heal His little daughter before she dies, Jesus immediately goes with Jairus. Jairus is afraid for his daughter’s life. He chooses faith by coming to Jesus for help. If he doesn’t believe a little in God’s miraculous power, he isn’t going to come to Jesus. But faith compels him. When someone is compelled by faith or by fear they are driven forcibly to do something. If it’s fear sometimes we can be frozen in place. If it’s faith, we must believe and at times take action. Being compelled means “to be driven forcibly”.

At this point in the story so many people are following Jesus they are even pressing in on Him. There’s a woman who has had a hemorrhage for twelve years who is compelled by faith to touch Jesus. Do you remember the story? She’s been enduring so much at the hands of physicians and she’s spent all her money in the process, yet she’s only gotten worse. When the doctors who she gives all of her money to can’t help, her fear has to increase.

She hears about Jesus and by choosing faith recognizes Him as her only hope. She says: “If I just touch Him, then I’ll get healed.”

That is faith. She believes she will be healed. Pushing her way through a crowd to touch Jesus’ clothes from behind Him shows she has faith. Yet you can almost hear fear screaming “Don’t do it! It won’t help! Even if it works you will get caught and lose your healing!”

But she doesn’t listen to fear. Because as someone said; 'Fear does not stop death, it stops life'. She works her way through the crowd and touches his clothes. Jesus feels the power go out of Him. (That whole thing of feeling power go out of Him, that’s another blog)

Her faith reminds me of the saying: “Believe God for something so impossible that unless He is in it, it’s doomed for failure.” Huge faith on her part. Everything else, everyone else has failed her. Yet she has the faith to go to Jesus. What a gutsy move. To touch Him from behind, pressing in through the middle of the crowd, she has the faith to pursue Him.

Knowing something or believing it to be true is the first step in faith. Knowing or believing doesn’t always make something happen in our lives. We often are called upon to take some form of action. It may mean waiting for God instead of making something happen or it may mean doing what God’s Spirit tells us to do. In the woman’s case she needs to reach out and touch Jesus clothes.

Then comes the reward of her faith. “Immediately” the flow of her blood is dried up; and she feels in her body that she is healed of her affliction. There are great rewards for stepping out in faith. As long as it is the steps God wants for our faith to be coupled with action.

In the midst of her celebration of healing Jesus turns around and wants to know who’s touched Him. Fear raises it’s head again screaming “I told you that you’d get in trouble! Now you’re going to lose your healing!” Even though the disciples who were closest to Jesus didn’t have a clue what was going on (another blog for another time), the woman knows she has to speak up. Jesus looks at her. Fearing and trembling, aware of what has happened to her, she comes and falls down before Him and tells him everything. Did you catch the fearing and trembling? Such a common reaction for people.

Jesus says to her, “Your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed.” He acknowledges she has chosen faith. Jesus blesses her with peace.

In the battle between faith and fear, and it is a continuing battle in our lives, Jesus acknowledges our faith, and blesses us for stepping out and trusting Him.

I want to be like Jesus. So I’d like to ask do we affirm people or doubt them when they choose faith? Do we encourage people and bless them and their faith? Or do we feel the pressure of fear to try to prepare them for the possibility of their faith failing, just in case?

If we give into fear instead of having faith to encourage others, is it possible our own faith diminishes?”

Let’s not be afraid to believe God for something so impossible if He’s not in it then it’s doomed to fail. And let’s be people who believe by faith our God is able to do abundantly beyond all we think or ask so as a result we are becoming the encouragers of faith instead of the supplanters with fear.

I choose faith. Help me Lord to choose it in all the areas of my life knowing I trust you.

(Like the little trailer at the end of the movie credits: “There’s more to come”)

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Normal People in the Book of Acts

Posted by Russ Snyder
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on Thursday, 10 January 2013
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So many of us talk about the NT church as if the people in it were so much different than we are. We see the miracles, signs and wonders, the day of Pentecost and think - if only! But we overlook the fact that being filled with Holy Spirit, being baptized in God’s Spirit, did not immediaely mature these people of God. They were empowered yes, but they were not necessarily anymore mature because of it. And neither are Christians today.

 

Look at what we sometimes overlook. We recently heard a well known Preacher sharing about how Peter kept opening his mouth while with Jesus and blowing it. He brought up several examples of Peter’s mistakes. When we get to the book of Acts Peter is the same man he was two months earlier when he denied Jesus, gave up and went back to fishing, and who Jesus pulled aside and told to “feed my sheep” at the end of the Gospel of John. Yes Holy Spirit came on him and he was baptized in Holy Spirit. Yes he became the leader of the church. But remember, that doesn’t mean he had a massive character change. It means he was given an anointing by Holy Spirit. The point? These are normal people like us who still had anger issues, shame fear and control issues. Why would we think everything they did was in response to the leading of Holy Spirit? Don’t our souls masquerade as Holy Spirit sometimes? Of course they do and so did the leaders of the early church. 

 

So rather than look at them as perfect and mature, let’s take a second look at the “New Testament Church” with eyes that honestly recognize these people. Perhaps our perspective will change and we may recognize we are like the New Testament Church so many people over the years have been crying out to be.

 

In Acts 5 two of the disciples lied about the price of a piece of property they had sold to win the favor of other people. In Acts 6 one group of believers in Jesus were not sharing food with another group after we were told in Acts 4:34 “there was not a needy person among them . . . .” Apparently between chapters 4 and 6 something had changed. We’d call it racism today, when one race of people deliberately overlook the needs of another race because they are different. Was it? Just a thought.

 

In Acts 6 we are told of Stephen the man full of grace and power who was performing great wonders and signs among the people. When a group of men rose up and argued with Stephen he argued back. While they weren’t able to cope with the wisdom and spirit with which Stephen spoke, it did not win them over. In Acts 7 when he was brought before the Council he shared an impassioned message full of truth they accepted. Right up until verses 51-53. He used name calling to anger them. Was what he said the best way to win someone over or was it judgmental? If someone spoke to you in that way would you like it? As a result he was martyred and the rest of the church in Jerusalem came under a great persecution. Wonder if this could have been avoided if Stephen had responded more like Jesus did when He was brought before the Council? Just a thought.

 

In Acts 8 believers fled Jerusalem to escape the great persecution seeming to be led by Saul (one day to be called Paul). He began ravaging the church. The story then swings to Phillip who was ministering in Samaria where many Samaritans believed and were being baptized - men and women alike. Even a former sorcerer named Simon believed and was baptized. He had not matured yet and was fascinated with the signs and great miracles Holy Spirit was performing through Phillip. Simon was following Phillip being constantly amazed the Book of Acts says. 

 

The apostles in Jerusalem heard Samaritans were receiving the word of God and found it hard to believe. Non Jews were being let in on the gospel so they sent Peter and John to check it out. Not a great deal of faith there, but certainly a doubting if not judgmental spirit. When they arrive they started praying for people who had been baptized in the name of Jesus. God’s Spirit, had not fallen on any of the Samaritan believers yet. When they began laying hands on them, they were receiving Holy Spirit. 

 

Simon was so excited he wanted to learn how to release Holy Spirit so he offered them money. You see, that’s how he had gained his other power (8:9-10). It was the normal way it was done, or so he thought. 

 

Peter became angry, some would call it righteous indignation. But was it from God’s Spirit or was it Peter’s maturity level? Don’t get mad, just consider this may be something we have overlooked? Instead of gently correcting Simon, Peter jumps in his face, releases a word of judgment over him and Simon repents. Did he really understand why Peter was so upset? While we ask that, please consider this question. How different is it today when people who want to do signs, wonders and miracles pay money to go to schools? Or pay money to go to Bible College or Seminary to learn how to preach? Or give money in offerings to receive an impartation or an activation to receive Holy Spirit’s power and gifts? Yet no one gets in their face and accuses them of having a heart that is not right before God. Again, just a thought?

 

Then Saul/Paul had his encounter with Jesus. He was an angry man, full of threats and murder (Acts 9:1). He is met by Jesus on the road to Damascus and this encounter changes his perspective. Please remember he was on his way to kill followers of Jesus Christ. When someone has been come into a relationship with Jesus today, does their character instantly change? No, maturing in one’s faith takes time, even when they have been baptized in Holy Spirit, or filled by Holy Spirit. It’s not about Bible knowledge, it’s about maturing in who they are.

 

Saul begins immediately proclaiming Jesus in the Synagogues in Damascus. He was new in his faith, and after many days of confounding the Jews they decided to do away with him. Was he using his intelligence and apologetics to win people or to argue with them, because they wanted to kill him. So the disciples snuck him out of town and sent him on to Jerusalem. The disciples in Jerusalem were afraid of him, and rightly so after all he had already done. He began “arguing” with the Hellenists who tried to kill him. Is it possible he was trying to win arguments instead of bring people to Jesus. Had that type of discussion won him over? It seems he had swung from one being angry with Christians to being angry with the Jews who now disagreed with him. 

 

When the brethren learned there were people who wanted to put him to death they stood up for him. No, they did not. They sent him away to Tarsus. The next verse (9:31) tells us the result of sending this angry arguing man away. “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of Holy Spirit, it continued to increase”. After they sent Saul away. 

 

Was Saul a bad guy? No, he was a young Christian and his tendency to argue with people that had brought on the beginning of their persecution in chapter 8 was continuing until he was sent away in chapter 9. He was human, he made mistakes, he was not perfect in what he did or how he did it. 

 

Peter’s example in chapters 9 and 10 demonstrates again he was growing and making mistakes. After seeing God heal two people he was staying with a tanner - against the Old Testament law. Realize this was before our insight by Paul that we don’t have to follow Old Testament law. Besides Paul confronted Peter on a similar issue according to Galatians 2:11-14. He was human, he made mistakes, he was not perfect in what he did or how he did it. 

 

Peter did not believe Gentiles should have the good news of the Kingdom shared with them according to Acts 10, so God sent a vision to Peter. Then God brought Cornelius’ men to bring Peter to share the good news. Before Peter could finish his message God’s Spirit fell on the Gentiles. The circumcised believers were amazed. 

 

This is just a sampling of my point. Try going back and reading the book of Acts with the perspective that these were not trained or necessarily emotionally mature men and women leading the New Testament church. They were just learning these things themselves. Paul went out on his “missionary journeys” arguing with the Jews in every city he came to and was run out of town again and again. 

 

Realizing Jesus said in this world we will have persecution, but shouldn’t we think about the possibility we sometimes bring on the persecution by our actions instead of it coming against the move of God. We need to understand these people the church holds up as mighty godly and powerful people are the same ones who themselves said: “Why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” 

 

Is it possible the church today looks at these human beings of the book of Acts as if they were something more than they were? Perhaps we should try to look at these people and those around us with compassionate eyes instead of lifting them up onto pedestals as “great examples” of how we should do ministry? Because sometimes they didn’t get it right, or don’t get it right. Just a thought . . .

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You are a Gift

Posted by Super User
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on Thursday, 26 July 2012
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You Are a Gift I would like to share with you something the Lord did and said one recent special day. I believe it is not just for me but a message from our Father to all His children. “Put your hands out before you, in a way that you can hold something. Now in your hands place whatever you have today that is a concern, issue, problem, burden, anything that is weighing on you. Our Father says to you, “I will hold it for you. I want your full focus on me and my voice for the next 24 hours. At the end of that time whether or not I give your burden back to you is completely up to you.” Now visualize a beautifully wrapped gift box, wrap and bow. This is a gorgeous package, one that is extraordinary.


Next the wrapping paper is off to the side of the box. It is now crumpled, the bow is off but both are still quite pretty. The wrap represents a time and purpose in your life. A time that you were in a bright, shiny, special season. It is still a special season in time- it is just to the side like the crumpled wrapping paper. Look now at the unopened gift box. It is you. Maybe the box is opened partially. Regardless the entire gift is not yet out of the box.


The Lord says to you, “You are a special gift to the Body of Jesus Christ. I want to use you in this season. No more are you an unused gift. I paid dearly for you- my gift and spared no expense so that you would thrive. You are not a cheap gift. There was a time others only saw your shiny, attractive packaging. Yes, in that time I was brought glory, honor and praise. That was then. This is now. Now my desire is for you to allow the rest of who you are in me to come out of the box. It is time to use the fullness of the gift that you are. You have set aside the gift of yourself like a special occasion. “ “Who are you? You know who you are. I have placed your destiny in your spirit from the beginning. It is in this season, your season of maturity that I call your forth to live a life of excellence before me. Who are you I ask? You are who you truly are when you are alone with me and no other person watches.” “You are my gift to the rest of the Body. Will you be who I made you to be? My precious gift.” Blessings, Bonnie

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