Category Archives: Devotional

Shout Outs: John Mark

In Colossians 4:7-18, the Apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Colossae, with ten “Shout Outs” to friends who were with him on a mission across Asia Minor. A Shout Out is simply a public acknowledgment of good. Paul closed most of his letters with a list of shoutouts. These were one or two-sentence acknowledgments of their contribution to his ministry and life.

These shout-outs from Paul remind us that he was not alone. And neither should we try to be as we live life and participate in God’s mission. Christianity is about relationships. The church is simply a group of friends that are pursuing God’s mission together. Jesus had the twelve. Paul had around 35 that he mentions across all of his letters. The model is Friendship + Mission. There is no such thing as solo Christianity.

Paul’s fourth Shout-Out goes to Mark. Evan McGinty gave a great message on John Mark’s life at my church recently. Here’s what we know about Mark:

  • Mark is on the 1st missionary journey with Paul, but for some reason, he abandons the team.
  • On the second missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul disagree about Mark’s usefulness. Paul did not want him to go. Barnabas (possibly his cousin, and the encourager in chief) did. Their disagreement leads to a split. Two teams form. One with Mark and one without Mark.
  • Years later, Paul, who we last see rejecting Mark, is writing his epistles and he shares some words of redemption. He calls Mark a “fellow worker” in Philemon. And he comes right out and says that he is “useful” in 2 Timothy.

So what can we say about Mark? He got back up. Though he abandoned the team once, he proved his usefulness once again. He didn’t let the regret, the awkwardness, or the fear of others’ opinions keep him from getting back on track with God and the mission. He grew through his own failure and regained the trust of his companions. He didn’t stay down.

Also, Paul didn’t keep him down unnecessarily. Though Paul expressed doubt about his character. His doubts weren’t permanent. He allowed Mark to return to the team.

You may have experienced both sides of this story.

  1. We’ve let our church or group of friends down and worried about what might happen if we try to go back.
  2. Or, we’ve had a friend or partner let us down and wanted to banish them from our circle of trust forever.

Neither is the wise path. Redemption is at the heart of the gospel and believing in redemption means we can get back up when we fall and we can trust and partner again with someone who has fallen.

God has a long history of using people who fell down. If we actually believe in the gospel and in the power of God to restore, we must be committed to helping others get back up and allowing others to get back up and be used in ministry again.

No one can say – I’ve never fallen down. No one can say – I can never get up. We will all need grace and mercy and redemption at some point in the journey. Let’s be grateful to God for its abundance. And let’s abundantly share it with others as needed.

7 Types of Christian Suffering

Throughout the New Testament, persecution and suffering are presented as foundational elements of the Christian faith. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11 – You are Blessed when you are insulted, persecuted, falsely accused. He says that we should, “Be glad and rejoice” Matthew 5:12, and “leap for joy” (Luke 6:23) when this happens. Really? A few other verses: 

  • 2 Timothy 3:12 – “all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
  • Acts 14:22 – “It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”
  • Philippians 1:29 – “it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him”

What are we to make of these and other words of Jesus and the Apostles on the issue of suffering? 

Defining Christian Suffering

First of all, it’s worth noting that we’re talking about suffering and being persecuted because of your relationship with Christ and his work in and through your life. We can make ourselves martyrs in a prideful way, pointing out how hard we work compared to others and in attempts to get the recognition of others. This usually is not about the righteousness of God but the self-righteousness of man. Jesus gets little glory from prideful martyrdom.

Also, some are persecuted because of rudeness, annoying behavior, or for being jerks, not necessarily for representing Christ. When we set out to offend for the sake of offense, we are not following the way of Christ.

Jesus warns us over and over about the reality of suffering for his followers. He is preparing us for the collisions that are inevitable for those living out his values in a hostile, foreign land.

Christian Suffering Around the World

Did you know? In just the last year, there have been…

  • Over 260 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution
  • 4,305 Christians were killed for their faith
  • 1,847 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked.
  • 3,150 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned

There are many Christians that are suffering persecution around the world. They lead the way for us in standing up for Christ and representing Christ, even in the face of threats. Find out more about modern-day persecution and ways to help at OpenDoorsUSA.org and Persecution.com.  

7 Types of Christian Suffering

Life in Christ may bring you face to face with at least 7 types of suffering and persecution. You can also see levels of maturity in these 7 types as well. Or degrees to which you are willing to say “Yes” to following Jesus, and no to self and the world.  

1. Discipline and the Natural Consequences of Sin – Revelations 3:19; Romans 6:23; Proverbs 12:21; Isaiah 57:21; 

There is a fair amount of suffering in the world, just because of sin and the reality of life in a fallen world. We suffer oftentimes because of our sinful and foolish choices and/or the sinful and foolish choices of others. God also promises discipline for followers that step out of his will. This may mean he allows consequences in our lives that lead to suffering and pain so that we may learn a lesson. There are costs, painful costs to disobedience and choosing the way of the flesh and the world. Many people are stuck in the painful cycle of sin – consequence – start over —- sin – consequence – start over. The suffering we feel at this level is meant to help us want to break out by God’s power.  

2. Self-Denial and Humility – Mark 8:34; Philippians 2:3-4 

One of the first level, basic calls of life in Christ is to deny self. This includes saying no to entitled living and making life about God’s glory and the needs of others. When we’re immature in the faith, this can be painful and a type of suffering. We must say no to our fleshly nature, to the ways of the world, to relationships that may lead us astray. Denying self leads us to spiritual maturity and life on mission. We discover that joy is found in life that is about God and others. But there may be painful breaks with the sin nature and its ties before this discovery. Necessary pain for those who desire to grow in Christ. 

3. Risk-taking and Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone – 1 John 3:16-18; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7

Beyond self-denial, the Christian begins to take opportunities to live unselfishly with intentional choices that make life easy for others but harder for ourselves. As it says of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-8, he chose the good of others every chance he had, even to the point of death. This may include simple things like hospitality and opening your home for others, taking a mission trip to a third world country, living with radical generosity in financial decisions, mentoring or taking in a child that is without a family, teaching a small at church, sharing the Gospel with a friend or neighbor. These things are sometimes risky, intentional steps of generosity and servanthood that are inconvenient and uncomfortable. For the growing Christian, serving God and meeting the needs of others is becoming more important than his/her own discomfort. So it may only seem like suffering in the eyes of others.   

4. Being Misunderstood and Misrepresented. 

The relational aspect of following Christ can be hard. All relationships are hard. But when you put yourself out there in love with others, you will likely get hurt. Jesus’ closest disciples caused him some of his greatest grief through their betrayal and abandonment in time of need. Sheep bite. Hurting people, hurt people. Leaders and people that are serving have a target on their backs. In stepping out to shepherd and serve others, you can expect to be misunderstood, misrepresented, gossiped about, betrayed, and treated unfairly. It is painful every time, no matter how well prepared you believe you are for it.  

5. Experiencing Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6:11-12; Revelation 2:10 

Spiritual Warfare could be related to each of these seven types in some way. When you get out of the sin – consequence – start over the cycle, and began denying yourself, taking a risk for the sake of the gospel, you will get the attention of the spiritual forces arrayed against God and his glory. They can’t touch Him, but they can influence you. We must be aware that spiritual warfare is a reality, but it’s one that we can overcome in the power of Christ and his work in our lives (see Revelation 12:11). 

6. Being targeted for What You Say and Who You Are – 2 Peter 2:2-3; John 3:13

Around the world, believers experience social persecution and isolation. Imagine if just because you’re a Christian, you can’t get a job, go into a store, or access certain services. We may experience some of this in our country or in isolated places, like being targeted for gossip or not included because of our faith. And some may lose social standing for choosing to follow Christ. Are you ready to follow Jesus, even if you lose social standing?

7. Being Tortured or Killed for What You Say or Who You Are – Acts 5:40; Revelation 12:11 

Many believers throughout history and still today experience the threat of physical pressure and persecution because of Christ. Many have been arrested, punished, or killed for being Christian. Are you ready to follow Jesus, even if you lose your life? 

Responding to Suffering and Persecution:

  • Embrace it as a lifestyle. 1 Peter 4:1. From breaking out of the clutches of sin, saying no to self, taking a risk for the good of others, and the growth of the gospel, suffering is a way of life for those who follow Christ. 
  • Recognize its benefits. Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 4:17. Suffering produces! It produces endurance, character, hope, and longing to see and experience more of Jesus’ power. When you’re suffering, you’re in good company as well. Spiritual giants through the ages have faced suffering with great faith and are promised a reward in eternity.   
  • Trust God to bring justice. 1 Peter 2:23; Romans 8:18. When we suffer, our natural tendency is to consider the unfairness or maybe respond in revenge. The example of Jesus reminds us that it’s not our place. God will bring justice and a reward awaits those who suffer for righteousness and because of Christ. 

Next Steps: 

  • Is your Christian life all about avoiding suffering instead of embracing it? 
  • Is the fear of losing worldly pleasure or relationships keeping you from fully following Jesus? 
  • What entitlement do you need to deny or what risk do you need to take to grow in your Christian life this year?

Shout Outs: Aristarchus

In Colossians 4:7-18, the Apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Colossae, with ten “Shout Outs” to friends who were with him on a mission across Asia Minor. A Shout Out is simply a public acknowledgment of good. Paul closed most of his letters with a list of shoutouts. These were one or two-sentence acknowledgments of their contribution to his ministry and life.

These shout-outs from Paul remind us that he was not alone. And neither should we try to be as we live life and participate in God’s mission. Christianity is about relationships. The church is simply a group of friends that are pursuing God’s mission together. Jesus had the twelve. Paul had around 35 that he mentions across all of his letters. The model is Friendship + Mission. There is no such thing as solo Christianity.

Paul’s third Shout-Out goes to Aristarchus. Here’s what we know about Aristarchus:

  • He was from Thessalonica (Acts 27:2). A busy seaport city along the Roman Road.  
  • He was with Paul during the Ephesus riot (Acts 19:21-29). The silversmith Demetrius, out of fear of losing his business making statutes of Artemis, riled up the city against Paul and his companions. Aristarchus was drug through the city and threatened.
  • He traveled with Paul all the way to Rome as a prisoner or just a companion (Acts 20:1-3; 27:1-2). Which meant he went through a harrowing experience with the sea, that ended in a shipwreck on an island called Malta.  
  • He was a fellow prisoner and fellow servant of Paul’s. It’s unclear if he was also arrested and sent with Paul to be tried or if he was just traveling with Paul as a friend and an aid on the harrowing journey. The latter seems more plausible, making Aristarchus an even greater friend. He chose imprisonment with his friend over himself.
  • A loyal friend to Paul through thick and thin. How loyal? Dragged through the streets of Ephesus by a mob loyal. On a harrowing boat trip to Rome loyal. Shipwrecked on a foreign island loyal. Under house arrest facing execution at the hand of a Romans Emperor loyal.
  • Through trials and hardships. Through thick and thin. Aristarchus SUFFERED with Paul.

If you read the New Testament, you’ll find suffering is a foundational element of the 1st century understanding of Christian belief and practice. And suffering TOGETHER can also be said to be a foundational Christian belief and practice. Among the 40+ “one another” verses in the New Testament, we find challenges to suffer together. I see three levels of Suffering Together. Each requires a depth of character and unselfishness as we do life together.

1. Concern for One Another – 1 Corinthians 12:25 – Suffering together starts with a basic concern or interest in the needs of others. This means we devote time and attention to what another is experiencing, putting ourselves in their place, imagining how we might be of service to them in their time of need. And this concern should be as great as your concern for yourself (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 10:24). Is there room in my heart to consider and devote time and attention to the needs and suffering of others?

2. Suffer with One Another – 1 Corinthians 12:26 – The next level of suffering together is entering into that suffering with another person. Paul challenged the believers in Rome to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Concern can be applied from a distance, but suffering together means we make an effort to be present with the person during their time of need. Do I have the strength of character and unselfish willingness to sit and stand with another person in their suffering?

3. Carry one another’s burdens – Galatians 6:2 – A final level of suffering together is making an effort to lighten the burden of suffering another is experiencing. Whether it’s physical, emotional, financial, or spiritual, there are things we can do to lift another person who is experiencing difficulty. Am I willing to sacrifice and give time, resources, and energy to help a fellow believer who is suffering?

Aristarchus definitely did all three of these for his friend Paul. His concern led him to suffer with and help carry Paul through the struggles of early apostolic ministry. Tradition tells us that Aristarchus became a Pastor in Syria and eventually suffered execution himself during Nero’s reign.

I’m glad I can say that I’ve experienced Christian friendship at each of these levels. Fellow believers regularly communicate their concern for my well-being. Fellow believers have walked with me, listened to me, and prayed for me through difficult seasons of life. And fellow believers have sacrificed themselves to lift my burdens. I want to be faithful to do the same for others. Let’s keep the Aristarchus spirit alive in the church today.  

Shout Outs: Onesimus

In Colossians 4:7-18, the Apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Colossae, with ten “Shout Outs” to friends who were with him on a mission across Asia Minor. A Shout Out is simply a public acknowledgment of good. Paul closed most of his letters with a list of shoutouts. These were one or two-sentence acknowledgments of their contribution to his ministry and life.

These shout-outs from Paul remind us that he was not alone. And neither should we try to be as we live life and participate in God’s mission. Christianity is about relationships. The church is simply a group of friends that are pursuing God’s mission together. Jesus had the twelve. Paul had around 35 that he mentions across all of his letters. The model is Friendship + Mission. There is no such thing as solo Christianity.

Paul’s second Shout Out went to a young man named Onesimus. Onesimus’ name means useful. However, indications are that the trajectory of his life was headed the opposite way when he met Paul. In the book of Philemon, we learn that Onesimus is actually a runaway slave. We’re not sure of all the details of his enslavement or the reasons for his attempted escape, but somewhere along the way he meets Paul and becomes a believer in Christ, brother in Christ, including a brother in Christ to his Christian enslaver, Onesimus. Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon with a letter urging him to forgive and restore him. We don’t know Philemon’s response to the letter, but we can infer that he received it positively, because Paul is counting Onesimus as a useful friend on the mission in Colossians 4. Also, legend tells us that Onesimus later becomes a pastor in Ephesus.

Larry Johnson preached a great message at our church on Onesimus in June 2022. Here are three points he made about Onesimus’ story:

1. Christ Changes Relationships and People.

When Onesimus found Christ, he was forever changed (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). And his relationships were forever changed. Philemon and Onesimus were now brothers in Christ. Paul used the nature of their now new relationship to urge Philemon’s forgiveness. And Onesimus’ relationships were changed. He would have to reconcile his past to move on with God. This leads us to the next point.

2. Christ Changes the Past.

The past does not automatically get wiped away. It must be faced honestly to move forward with God. But Onesimus now had the power inside of him to help him live up to his name. No longer useless, fugitive, slave. Now a useful, brother in Christ, empowered by God for servanthood in His kingdom.

3. Christ Changes the Future.

Indications are that Onesimus engages in a life of faithful ministry from this time forward. Paul calls him a faithful, dearly loved brother. These words speak of Onesimus’ shift from disloyal, runaway, undependable to the loyal, steadfast, dependable, faithful servant. The trajectory of Onesimus’ life was changed through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul’s investment in his life, and Philemon’s forgiveness and acceptance.

A few questions to ask in thinking about Onesimus’ story:

  • Am I Onesimus – Have I dealt honestly with my past? Are there people that I need to forgive? Are there relationships that I need to reconcile? Have I faced my past, even at a risk? Avoiding forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemptive risk means we may jeopardize or limit the full impact we can have as a servant of Christ.
  • Am I Paul – Can I help two brothers reconcile a relationship? Paul went to bat for Onesimus. Paul believed in Onesimus. Paul took a risk to vouch for Onesimus, probably before he had proven himself. Who can I vouch for, believing in the power of God living inside of them, not in their ability to follow through? Paul’s actions tell us he believed in the power of the gospel.
  • Am I Philemon – Is there someone that I need to forgive and release from guilt or shame? Philemon held Onesimus’ life in his hands and evidently choose forgiveness. Could your effort to reconcile release someone today into a life of ministry?
  • Who am I counting as useless? Who am I judging only by their past and not by their future potential in Christ? The Gospel can move people from useless to useful. Do I believe that? If so, there are no lost causes. Today’s fugitives can become tomorrow’s disciple-makers.

Shout Outs: Tychicus

In Colossians 4:7-18, the Apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Colossae, with ten “Shout Outs” to friends who were with him on mission across Asia Minor. A Shout Out is simply a public acknowledgement of good. Paul closed most of his letters with a list of shout outs. These were one or two sentence acknowledgements of their contribution to his ministry and life.

These shout outs from Paul remind us that he was not alone. And neither should we try to be as we live life and participate in God’s mission. Christianity is about relationships. Church is simply a group of friends that are pursuing God’s mission together. Jesus had the twelve. Paul had around 35 that he mentions across all of his letters. The model is Friendship + Mission. There is no such thing as solo Christianity.

Paul’s first Shout Out went to a young man named Tychicus. Who was Tychicus? Here’s what we know from the four, possibly five, mentions he receives in the New Testament.

  • He was from Asia, possibly Ephesus (see Acts 20:4).
  • He traveled with Paul and served as Paul’s mailman, delivering Paul’s letters to the churches. 
  • He’s mentioned in Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21-22; Colossians 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:12. Also, possibly 2 Corinthians 8:22, where an unnamed person fits the other descriptions Paul gives of Tychicus.

If we could describe Tychicus in a sentence we could say – Tychicus was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, who delivered good news to the churches, and encouraged the hearts of believers everywhere he went.

These three statements about Tychicus describe the kinds of people we need in the church today.

1. He Was a Faithful Servant.

This speaks to his character and dependability. In 2 Corinthians 8:22 (if that’s referring to Tychicus), Paul says, we tested him and found him faithful. Paul depended on Tychicus to deliver his letters. He also sent him to take care of churches so that the established leaders could come to Ephesus to be encouraged and trained. Tychicus could be depended on.

Today, many people seem to value autonomy more that dependability. We want the freedom to show up when we can and pick and choose opportunities to serve that fit our schedule. Dependability and faithfulness require a depth of friendship and commitment that requires maximum unselfishness. That’s why its called servanthood.

Are you considered a Faithful Servant to your church and community?

2. He Delivered Good News.

Paul said, “Tychicus will tell you” (Colossians 4:7). Count on Tychicus for the truth, the good news, the good words. Tychicus carried the letters from Paul, and since illiteracy was so high in the first century (potentially 80-90%), he was probably the first to read the letter to the believers as well. So, the first time people heard the word of God from Paul, it was likely from Tychicus’ mouth.

In a day and time of difficulty and struggle, a good word was and is life to the soul of the church. What good words have you brought to people lately? We like to talk about the latest on our doom scrolls and the gossip around town. What if we focused on good words, truth, and words that build up. That’s what Tychicus was known for. (See also Proverbs 12:25; 15:23; 16:24).

And when was the last time someone heard the word of God from you mouth? We need modern day Tychicus’ who will know the word of God and speak it into everyday conversations, who will open their homes for Bible Study and have Gospel Conversations with people as a way of life.

Can you be counted on to bring the good news to your community?

3. He Encouraged the Hearts of Believers

Tychicus was a trusted encourager. En-courage can simply be defined as adding courage to someone. Through your words, example, attitude you can add or take away courage from others. Paul noted Tychicus’ ability to add courage to the churches.

Hebrews 12:24-25 tells us that one of the main reasons for church is encouragement – “And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

Does your words, lifestyle, attitude add or take away courage from other believers? Dan Cathy said, “Do you know how you can tell if someone needs encouragement? They’re breathing.” Everyone you meet today and everyday is in need of encouragement. Think about your life and words and consider how you may add courage to others today.

Let’s be like Tychicus this week. Faithful servants, bringing good news, and encouraging hearts for the sake of the Gospel.

Shout Outs

In Colossians 4:7-18, the Apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Colossae, with ten “Shout Outs” to friends who were with him on mission across Asia Minor. A Shout Out is simply a public acknowledgement of good. Paul closed most of his letters with a list of shout outs. These were one or two sentence acknowledgements of their contribution to his ministry and life.

These shout outs from Paul remind us that he was not alone. And neither should we try to be as we live life and participate in God’s mission. Christianity is about relationships. Church is simply a group of friends that are pursuing God’s mission together. Jesus had the twelve. Paul had around 35 that he mentions across all of his letters. The model is Friendship + Mission. There is no such thing as solo Christianity.

Paul’s Shout Outs also beg the questions:

1. Who Deserves a Shout Out from Me?

Who do I need to acknowledge for my growth in godliness, effectiveness on His mission, and partnership in the gospel? To not say thank you and recognize the good others have blessed you with and added to your ministry and life is to live in arrogance. No one is self-made. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We all benefit from the generosity and encouragement of those around us.

  • Make a list of ten who have helped you in ministry and life. Consider dropping them a line to say thank you today.

2. Who Would Give a Shout Out to Me?

Am I living my life in such a way to be a benefit to the life and ministry of others? What would people at my church, workplace, or neighborhood say about me if my investment in and impact on their lives were boiled down to one or two sentences? Am I an encouragement to those like Paul, who are risking their lives for the gospel?

  • Make a list of ten people who you can encourage and partner with on God’s mission. Invite some friends to join you on a particular mission in the world.

The story of New Testament Christianity, beginning with Jesus, continuing through Paul is Friendship + Mission = Eternal Impact.

Our church recently did a series on these ten friends. Find the audio here.

Six-Month Spiritual Checkup

The year is half way gone. Here’s a good list of questions to journal or reflect on and get refreshed for the 2nd half:

  1. Is my devotional life consistent?
  2. Has my prayer closet or private room seen me regularly?
  3. Have I prayed with other believers regularly?
  4. What Bible reading plan have I followed or completed? Do I need to restart or start fresh in Bible intake this week?
  5. What verses or truths have been especially meaningful so far this year?
  6. What books or articles have been especially helpful so far this year?
  7. What personal growth or victory can you thank God for?
  8. What victory or challenge do I need to seek God for?
  9. Who have I sought out for wise counsel? Have I ignored or heeded the counsel of others so far this year?
  10. How many times have I shared the Gospel?
  11. How many lost people am I currently praying for?
  12. How many new relationships have I built with potential new disciples?
  13. Who am I currently discipling and training into godliness and disciple making?
  14. Who am I encouraging through difficulty and affliction?
  15. What have I given away? Have I been faithfully generous with money? Time? Possessions? Words? Wisdom?
  16. What is working? What is exciting? What has momentum? What is bearing fruit?
  17. What is not working? What does it seem like I am pushing up a steep hill? What do I need to give up on? What is robbing me of energy?
  18. What have I neglected? What have I ignored? What am I hoping will just disappear on its own? (But I know it won’t)
  19. What is worth doing, but I’m out of my league? What do I need more power, prayer, people to help with?
  20. Check screen time on my phone. What does it say about my heart and priorities? What does my internet history say about my heart and priorities?

Launch Day – Pentecost Sunday

50 Days after Jesus’ resurrection was the festival of Pentecost. Pentecost just means fifty. It was a harvest celebration. For the church, it was launch day for the mission of Jesus that he defined before his ascension – Go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and be witnesses… to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). What were some of the elements that made launch day for this church successful?

The Church was United in Prayer

They waited on God’s promise in a posture of prayer. Prayer is a posture of humility and apparent weakness to the world. But when God’s people unite in prayer they are postured for power from God.

The Church was Empowered by God the Holy Spirit

God poured out his Holy Spirit on these leaders, enabling them to do far beyond what they were able on their own. They raised their sails by believing and praying. The Holy Spirit filled the sails with His wind, putting the church on the move.

The Church proclaimed the Gospel

The Holy Spirit’s power wasn’t for them, but for the mission of proclaiming the gospel. And they did. Peter preached a bold, offensive, redemptive message and 3,000 were saved. Proclamation continued everyday in the temple and from house to house.

The Church mobilized and expanded

In the days following, the church would experience persecution and scatter to other cities and towns repeating this pattern – prayer, power, proclamation. God did the rest.

Why not keep it going? Every believer and every gathering of believers has the opportunity to continue the harvest celebration. We can humble pray for God to reveal himself to us and the world. We can experience the wind of the Holy Spirit in our lives for transformation and enablement for ministry. We can proclaim the gospel through our networks and spheres of influence. The expansion of the church should continue until the restoration of all things. Let’s keep it going!

Proofs + Power + Promise + Prayer

Acts 1 begins the post ascension life of Jesus. He brought the kingdom near with his words and miracles. He brought sin and death under his reign through His death and resurrection. Now he empowers his disciples to spread the Gospel to the known world. What did he give them that drove this mission forward?

Proofs – Jesus is Alive

“he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs” Acts 1:3. They had seen a man die a traumatic death and come back to life. That is an extremely motivating proof of the validity of a thing. We need less that that to be motivated to do a lot of things. The reality of the risen Jesus, alive today, should motivate us still.

Power – The Holy Spirit

“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you” Acts 1:8. Jesus’ teaching and victory over sin and death was a lot. His promised presence through the Holy Spirit would add great power, authority, boldness, wisdom, and so much more to their witness. Still today, the power of the Holy Spirit should be a game changer for our witness and works in the world.

Promise – Jesus Will Return

“this same Jesus… will come in the same way” Acts 1:11. As the disciples stood there looking up, an angel appeared and essentially said, “Don’t just stand there! He’s coming again! Get out there and get busy!” The promise that Jesus will return should give us a sense of assurance, but also urgency. Assurance of ultimate victory over evil. Urgency, because we have only a short time for people to hear and respond to his invitation to eternal life. No time to waste looking up at the clouds. We’ve got to get busy.

Prayer – Continually United

“They were all continually united in prayer” Acts 1:14. As they waited for the promised Holy Spirit, they united in prayer. And the early church continued to be united in prayer. They believed Jesus’ promises about prayer, demonstrated by their commitment to it. Prayer says that we know that we need the Lord. It’s not in our own power, but in dependence upon God that we go forward. Our commitment to prayer will say a lot about our belief in and commitment to the mission of Jesus.

  • Proofs – Do you believe that Jesus is alive?
  • Power – Do you know the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • Promise – Do you live with the assurance and the urgency that Jesus will return?
  • Prayer – Do you demonstrate a belief and dependence on God through prayer?

Armed with these things, the first disciples changed their world. Let’s do it again.

The Resurrection was Just the Beginning!

A neat, often untold part of Jesus’ resurrection story is its festival. We know about Passover festival’s relation to the crucifixion of Christ, but there was also a festival happening on the day of the resurrection. It was called the Festival of Firstfruits. On the first day after the Passover Sabbath, which would have been Sunday, every Jewish male would be bringing a sheaf of barley to the temple. That barley would be offered to God, whose acceptance of the offering was a pledge for a greater harvest to come. Fifty days later, the Jewish people would celebrate the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost to celebrate that greater harvest of wheat that God provided.

Seeing any parallels?

Paul helps us out in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23:

“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Christ resurrection, among many other provisions, serves as a pledge of a greater harvest to come. A harvest of people who are dead in sin, but will be made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Fifty days after the resurrection, during the Festival of Pentecost, Jesus had ascended, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, and 3,000 were added to the kingdom (see Acts 2). A truly greater harvest.

So What? A few takeaways:

  • The resurrection was just the beginning! The resurrection of Christ is God’s pledge to bring a harvest from our lives as believers. The life of Christ within us is power to produce fruit for God. The fruit of godly character and a harvest of disciples made. What is my life producing?
  • The harvest doesn’t come without laborers and labor. Fields still have to cultivated, seeds still have to be planted, weeds must be dealt with. He pledges resurrection power to us. We should pledge to work the fields and to do our part to assure a harvest of disciples made for him. What am I doing to prepare for a harvest?

Fifty Days Until Harvest

What will you have to offer God? How many could God add to your church if you, in dependence on Christ, allowed him to use you for a harvest? Get started:

  • Ask God everyday to make you fruitful.
  • Prepare the fields through identifying who you can reach.
  • Plant seeds by sharing the gospel in every way you can.
  • Get equipped HERE.
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