Is Anything Too Hard for God?

The atmosphere was electric. Herod was being praised, the unbelieving Jews were thirsty for more blood and Peter happened to be a convenient scapegoat. This is the summary of Acts 12:1-4. Peter has been arrested, and he is surrounded by 16 well trained soldiers in a locked prison behind a locked gate. Surely his destiny is sealed and all hope is gone. It would take a miracle…it would take divine intervention for Peter to walk out of this prison a free man. However, that’s exactly what happened. Notice verse 5 of Acts 12 and notice the word “but”-

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

The word “but” in the preceding verse is a word of contrast. It links the impossible situation to the improbable solution. That solution is prayer to God! Notice several things with me today:

What Did They Do–They Prayed!

There are many things they could have done. They could have went to Herod’s palace and tried to come up with a solution. They could have tried some type of attack on the prison to set Peter free. They could have given up hope and just walked away. However they chose to PRAY!

Secondly notice:

How Did They Pray–They Prayed Earnestly!

The word “earnest” is an adjective that means “stretched out.” The KJV translates this word “without ceasing.” However, it means more than just a prayer that is stretched out in length. It is a prayer that is stretched out in intensity and earnestness.

Picture a family surrounding the bed of an accident victim and they have just been told their loved one will not make it through the night unless a miracle takes place. Imagine the “intense and earnest prayer” that may go on as a result. This is the picture we have here. They did not recite a meaningless prayer, but they cried out to God with a broken heart.

Thirdly:

Who Did They Pray For–They Prayed for Peter!

They were interceding on Peter’s behalf. They realized he was in prison and realized that in a matter of hours he would probably be dead. However, we understand that because of Peter’s faith in Christ, his execution would only land him in Heaven.

We all know of people who are in far worse prisons than what Peter found himself in. They are in a spiritual prison. They may be in a prison of drugs, alcohol, greed or some other thing that Satan is using to blind them to the Truth of the Gospel.

If the early church was willing to have a passionate prayer meeting for a Christian, how much more should we pray for those who do not know the hope they can have in Christ.

We also see:

Who They Prayed To-They Prayed to God

They did not pray to Herod.

They did not pray to saints.

They prayed directly to God.

They did not go to God as a last resort, but rather a first resort!

Finally:

Who Prayed–The Church Prayed

The church is not brick, mortar, pews or windows. The church are those who have placed their faith in Christ and have been adopted into the family of God.

Because of sin we cannot expect God to hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:1-2). However, when we trust Christ to forgive us and cleanse us of our sin we have access to God through prayer! The reason we have this access is because of our mediator–Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).

If you read the rest of the story you find out that God did intervene on Peter’s behalf. God opened the door to Peter’s freedom and allowed him to continue to live.

I do not know what type of prison you or your loved ones may be facing today. However, I know that Jesus Christ holds the keys and can set you free to enjoy the life He has planned for you!

 

 

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Not a Fan-Chapter 3: Knowledge About Him or Intimacy With Him

Chapter 3 of Kyle Idleman’s book is another great one. He uses the key texts of Matthew 15:8 and Luke 7 as a great launching pad for this chapter.

Matthew 15:8 says: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…

Idleman says that this verse shows the difference between “knowledge and intimacy.”

In Luke 7 we have the story of the time Jesus went to eat at Simon’s home. Even though Simon had Jesus in the home, he was extremely rude and neglectful to his guest. He offered Jesus no kiss of greeting, no water to wash his feet and no olive oil to anoint his head. As a Pharisee Simon had spent his life studying the OT Scriptures, but he did not recognize the Promised One that was standing right before him. He knew all about Jesus (the Messiah), but he did not know Jesus!

That is the question we must answer as well. Do we know about Him or do we really know Him? We find later in this chapter a sinful prostitute had more respect for Christ than this highly religious man did.

The author of the book asks a very thought provoking question when he says: “Who are we most like?” Do we just know Him, or have we poured out ourselves at His feet desiring to know Him?

Truth Is: God Knows Your Heart

Truth is God knows YOUR heart!

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when He said in Matthew 15:8-This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me… 

This verse indicates that it is possible to say the right things on the outside but be wrong on the inside. God also reminded the people in the OT that man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.

What does God see when He looks at our heart? When the mask is peeled away and He sees us as we really are, what does He see? Thankfully, if our faith is in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He sees our sins have been cleansed and He sees Christ’s righteousness in the place of our wickedness. However, He knows what we struggle with, He sees our false motives and He is aware of our waywardness. We need to remember that God is not looking for us to pay Him “lip service” but rather He desires a heart that is madly in love with Him and motives that are pure.

If you have a Bible read 1 John 1:9 and let the truth of that verse soothe your soul as you bring to Him the things in your life that He already knows about.

Help for the Helpless

Someone once said, “God helps those who helps themselves.” I’m sure in the context of that conversation some well meaning person was possibly looking at a lazy individual who refused to work, but was also struggling financially. However, that statement has been used in all kinds of ways and has been used to lead many people away from the Lord. In reality, the greatest help we need is not something we can do to help ourselves at all. The greatest help we need is to be reconciled to God…and we are helpless to make that happen. God helps those who realize they can’t help themselves and turn to Christ for the solution.

We cannot work our way to reconciliation and forgiveness. We cannot do enough good things to make reconciliation or forgiveness take place. It is only God’s mercy and grace that will enable us to experience the help we need that comes as a result of placing our faith in Christ.

In Mark 5 we see three helpless situations. These people could try to help themselves, but nothing was changing. The answers they had hoped for had only left them empty and hopeless. They needed a touch from the Master, and they needed His touch desperately!

The first individual we are introduced to is found in Mark 5:1-20. Jesus interacts with a man who is demon possessed. We will find later that this man is possessed with a multitude of demons. He is a terror to his community. He runs around nude, cutting himself and has super human strength. He is living in the graveyard. Imagine trying to bury a loved one with this guy running around. But then Jesus steps on the scene. The man runs and bows before Jesus and as Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs that jump to their death. It isn’t long before this man is clothed and in his right mind. And just like anyone who has been forgiven and changed by the power of God, this man has a desire to spend time with Jesus. However, Jesus has a mission for him. Go back home and let your friends and family know what I’ve done for you! That’s our mission too.

Then Jesus gets word that Jarius’ daughter is deathly sick (v. 23). Immediately Jesus begins to head to Jarius house, but before he can get there he meets someone else with a desperate need (vv. 25ff). She has had a disease for twelve years. She has spent all of her time and money looking for a cure, but no one could help her. She had heard of a man named Jesus. She heard that He was able to touch blinded eyes and maybe she had even heard what He had done for the man possessed with demons. She thinks, “If he can help them then surely He can help me. I won’t bother Him, I will just touch the hem of His garment and I will be made whole.” As Jesus passes through the crowd she stretches out her arm and touches his clothing and immediately she is made well. Jesus rewarded her faith with healing!

But then tragic news! Jarius’ daughter has died. Jesus got distracted and He is too late. No! Jesus is never too late, He is always right on time. Jesus reached down on this little girl’s death bed and raised her back to life (v. 41).

You see friend all of these people were helpless to help themselves! There was nothing they could do to change their circumstances. The needed the touch of God! The same is true for us! Sin has separated us from God and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to change that. However, Jesus came and took upon Himself the curse we deserved because of our sins and offers to us forgiveness, reconciliation and peace with God. You may look for it in other places, other things and other people, but Jesus is your only hope! Turn to Him today and let Him make you whole!

Not a Fan-Chapter 2: A Decision or a Commitment

In this chapter Author Kyle Idleman deals with the story of Nicodemus in John 3. When Nicodemus first met Jesus was he a follower or a fan? The author makes a good case that Nicodemus started out as a fan but later became a follower.

Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, who were the religious elite. He admired Jesus and believed that Christ was definitely sent from God. However, if he were to follow Jesus it would cost him dearly. Many of the religious leaders of that day would ostracize him. He would have to choose between a relationship or religion.

Following Jesus means that He will interfere with “our life.” It would eventually cost Nicodemus a great price. However, according to the author most people want Jesus without following Him.

Kyle concludes this chapter by asking a thought provoking question: Have you made a decision for Jesus or have you committed to Jesus? Jesus’ invitation was to follow after Him, to believe upon Him. Biblical belief leads to following Him, not merely a mental acceptance of certain facts. If we truly believe Christ, we will follow Christ.

Chapter 2 is another thought provoking read.

Seven Attributes of a Successful Church

The Apostle Peter had the wonderful privilege to share the Truth with thousands of souls in Acts chapter 2. In response to his message of God’s offer of salvation through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3,000 souls received the Gospel message and were added to God’s family that day! Acts 2:42-47 shares with us what these new Christ-followers chose to do after making this wonderful decision. Their actions set the example for us and for what local churches need to become.

The Bible says they “continued stedfastly” in some things. The phrase “continued stedfastly” means they devoted themselves to constantly. The following things not only became a part of their life but they became predominant in their life.

If you have a Bible you can turn to Acts chapter 2 and follow along. We will begin in verse 42. The first thing we see is that they were:

Driven by Doctrine (v. 42)

The early church was constantly devoting themselves to the Apostles doctrine! Another word for doctrine is “teaching.” Today we have the Apostle’s doctrine found in the New Testament Scriptures that have been inspired and preserved by God Himself! 2 Timothy 3:16 saysAll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching (doctrine), for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

For any church to be truly successful it must also be devoted to the Word of God. Secondly we see the church was:

Focused on Fellowship (vv. 42 & 46)

The word fellowship here means “participation and communion” with one another. How do we participate in other people’s lives

  • Scripture says to: “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”
  • God’s Word also goes on to tell us to “bear one another’s burdens.”
  • Christ-followers have not been called to be “Lone Rangers.” God has designed us to need friendship and fellowship in order to encourage one another on our spiritual journey. Everyone is on a spiritual journey and no one should take that journey alone!

Verse 46 sheds some light on their fellowship:

  • They fellowshipped regularly (in this case daily)
  • They were unified
  • They fellowshipped in specific places—in the temple and house to house
  • They enjoyed meals together with glad and generous hearts
Thirdly we see they:

 Made Prayer a Priority (v. 42)

The early church saw God answer many, many prayers. They believed in prayer and they believed in the God that answers prayer. They prayed for one another. They prayed for those who were being persecuted for their faith. They prayed for their spiritual and political leaders. They devoted themselves to prayer!

They Experienced: 

Seeing the Supernatural (v. 43)

Verse 43 tells us they were filled with “fear”—in other words they were filled with “awe” when they saw what God was doing! God was working through the apostles through apostolic signs and miracles. Even though we no longer need apostolic signs to authenticate the apostle’s message…a successful church will still see the supernatural take place. Alcoholics can be delivered from the tyranny of alcohol, marriages can be restored, atheists can believe, God still chooses to supernaturally heal people at times. If the only thing the church is doing is in the physical realm then we are no different than the Social Club down the street. The church deals with the spiritual and eternal and God chooses to change lives and set people free and provide people with eternal hope!

 Another attribute the early church had was:

Great Generosity (v. 45)

Their generosity went to the extreme! When they heard of a need they were even willing to sell their possessions and give to meet the needs of the family of God! God never asked them to do this, they simply wanted to.No one made them, they did so willingly. God has chosen to use His people as CONDUITS. He blesses them so they may bless others! Give and it shall be given unto you…God desires to use the church as a CONDUIT! As God entrusts us with resources, we will use those resources to bless others!

These attributes led to the church having a 

Tremendous Testimony (v. 47)

As people got to know the “early church” and see them in action they realized there was a genuineness. As we become known in the community people need to know:

  • This is a place where they will tell me the TRUTH in love
  • This is a place that is a “friend to sinners”
  • This is a place where love lives and grace exists

Finally we see this was a church where you found:

Souls being Saved (v. 47b)

As Christ’s Church

  • Preaches, teaches and shares the right doctrine…and
  • Promotes fellowship and encouraging friendships…and
  • Make prayer for needy souls and the needs of our city and world a priority…and
  • Walks by faith and not by sight enabling us to the see the supernatural…and
  • Has great generosity toward others…and
  • Develops a great reputation in the community…
  • A natural overflow is God building His church through souls being saved and lives being changed.

 

Take Up Your Bed and Walk

Take Up Your Bed and Walk

We live in desperate times. Our nation is in need of a spiritual awakening and a revival among her churches. The Word of God tells us that there would come a time when that which is evil would be called good, and that which is good will be called evil…WE ARE LIVING IN THAT DAY! We live in a day where addictions run rampant…pain killers, drugs, alcohol, pornography, other immoral addictions, addicted to acceptance by one’s peers, addiction to greed and power, and the list goes on and on and on. We live in a world that is spiritually sick and dying, because it is made up of people that are either spiritually dead or spiritually sick. We need help! We need spiritual renewal. We need a real revival. We need GOD!

In today’s passage of Scripture we are introduced to a group of people, and one man in particular, who seems to be representative of the scenario I just described on a physical scale. However, I believe there is more than just a physical application here. No doubt, Jesus can heal physically if He so chooses, but His greatest desire is to heal us spiritually! In John 5:1-9 we see the (1) Sick Man, the (2) Sympathetic Messiah, and the (3) Striking Miracle

The Sick Man

In John 5:2-3 we find the setting of this event. The TIME is around a Jewish feast day, more than likely one of the three main Jewish feasts during the year. The PLACE is close to a pool of water situated near the “Sheep Gate.” Albert Barnes says that the sheep gate was the area through which sacrificial animals were brought into the city, therefore this gate was probably located near the temple.

The WHO is found in vv. 3 & 5. There are a multitude of people at this pool who cannot help themselves. They are what we would call “invalids.”

  • Some are blind and they, nor anyone else can rid themselves of the blindness they have
  • Some are lame. They are incapable of walking. They cannot change their condition and neither can anyone else.
  • Some are paralyzed. Once again their condition is unchangeable.
  • However, Scripture calls our attention to ONE MAN that stands out from all the rest.
    • This man is DISABLED (see v. 5a)
      • One man was there who had been an invalid (John 5:5a)
    • This man is DESPERATE (see v. 5b)
      • …who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years(John 5:5b)
      • “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool…” (John 5:7b)
  • This man is DISSAPOINTED (see v. 7)
    • Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed and he replies: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going down another steps before me.” (John 5:7c)
    • He had been sick for 38 years and had come to a place that offered hope. Yet he is still hopeless!

Application: YOU might not want to admit it, but we are no better spiritually than this man was physically. As a matter of fact we are much, much worse!

  • We are not just spiritually disabled apart from Christ, but we are spiritually DEAD apart from Christ!
    • But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)
    • And you were dead in the trespasses and sins(Ephesians 2:1)
  • Apart from Jesus we have a Desperate Need!
    • John 3:18b- …but whoever does not believe in Him is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
  • Apart from Jesus we will always be Disappointed

Application-Your sin problem isn’t going to get any better on its own. You can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does. You can look for your own solutions, but the problem will be there as real as ever. It will not go away when you get older, it will not resolve itself, it will not heal itself and there is only One cure. We see the Cure coming walking by in verse 6.

The Sympathetic Messiah

  • Jesus knows his place
    • “When Jesus saw him lying there…” (John 5:6a)
    • Jesus knows his predicament
      • “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time…” (John 5:6b)

Explanation of Verse 6-Do you want to be healed? It seems like an obvious answer to the question.

Application-I think there is a desire in everyone’s heart to be free from this blight that curses us and separates us from God. There are all kinds of false hopes out there that are given to others. Some try to find an answer through religion, but religion only leaves them empty and still laying at the pool. Some have chased after so many answers they have given up hope. Some want to ignore their condition and it seems that they believe if they will only ignore it, it will go away. Others want to beautify their condition with “good works” and “good deeds” in hopes that these things will slowly erase their problem.

Verse 7-The man begins to give an indirect answer to Jesus’ direct question. “I want to be healed but…” I’m depending on someone to put me in the water, but someone else always gets there first.

Application: This man had a legitimate problem and the selfishness and problems of others hindered him from experiencing the pool of water that his hope rested in. We also have a legitimate problem. There are also many roadblocks and obstacles that keep us from experiencing the restoration of the soul that we so desperately need. Sometimes our problems persist and grow worse because our hope rests in the wrong place or person. Sometimes our problems persist because of the selfishness and problems of others that confuse us and hinder us from finding the healing and freedom that only Christ can bring.

The Striking Miracle

  • The Astonishing Command

Verse 8-Then Jesus just blows the man away with a command… “take up your bed and walk.” He commands the man to get up. This man hadn’t gotten up in 38 years. He was an invalid. Yet the solution to the man’s problem was standing right in front of him. The solution to this man’s problem wasn’t a little pool of water…it was an overflowing fountain of water! This man didn’t need someone’s help to get him to the pool…this man had the divine Son of God speak healing to his body and would enable him to “get up, pick up his bed and begin walking around!”

  • The Amazing Change

Jesus’ healing did not leave him lying where he was and did not leave him how he was!

Verse 9-The man got up. The man was different, the man was changed. This all took place through the power of Jesus Christ!

Final Application:

  • What does this miracle have to do with us?
    • Just like his disease has messed him up physically, our sin has messed us up spiritually.
    • We are in a helpless and hopeless situation apart from Jesus Christ who can take our sin away and give us abundant and eternal life.
    • The mass of humanity is represented by all here at this pool. Needing desperately God’s healing touch. Looking for something to satisfy their soul. Trying to find answers and hope in all the wrong places. Under the wrath of God because they refuse to turn to and trust in their only HOPE!
    • Jesus stretches His nail-scarred hands out to YOU today and says, “Take up YOUR bed and walk. You can have forgiveness. Your soul is broken and NOTHING, NOTHING else can repair it except ME,” Jesus says.
    • There are many Christ followers who have stumbled and fallen along the way. They live in constant fear, they feel like they can never overcome their past and can never overcome certain habits or addictions. Let me ask YOU this…if it is God’s will for YOU to live a holy, godly, Christ-honoring, God-glorifying life, don’t YOU think He is going to provide for YOU the power to GET UP AND TAKE UP YOUR BED AND WALK?
      • He says to the drug addict…through ME take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to the girl addicted to the approval of others…through me take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to the men and women deceived and disappointed through empty religion…take up your bed and walk
      • He says to those who are consumed by lust and have their lives scarred because of past sexual sins…take up your bed and walk!
      • He says to those who are trusting in their good deeds to get them to Heaven…You can only take up YOUR bed and walk through me!
      • He says to those who try to laugh away the pain inside their hearts…take up YOUR bed and walk!
      • He says to those who feel inadequate and do sinful things to try to please others…take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to those who are being destroyed inwardly by bitterness…take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to those who are living a double life and would hold their heads in shame if anyone found out…take up YOUR bed and walk

Philippians 4:13-I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:19-And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.