Open Their (Our) Hearts

In Acts 16 we read an interesting statement which is found in v. 14: “The Lord opened her (Lydia’s) heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

We find that Lydia was a “worshiper of God” and was a business lady whom Paul crossed paths with. However, she had not been baptized and possibly had not clearly understood the Gospel up to this point. It is obvious that God was working in her heart, drawing her to Himself and had set up this divine appointment with the Apostle Paul.

The word here for worship means to: “hold something in high respect, to adore and to revere.” (http://biblesuite.com/greek/4576.htm) However, it seems there was something still missing in Lydia’s life. It is possible she had yet to understand the message about the “Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.” Regardless of what was missing, she had responded to God in love and faith and God responds to her in ensuring she hears the Truth.

Scripture tells us that God opened her heart so she could pay attention to what was being said by Paul. The word “open” has a couple of different connotations. First it carries with it the idea of “opened up fully.” However, it can go much deeper than that and can also mean “to rouse in one the faculty of understanding or the desire of learning.” (http://biblesuite.com/greek/1272.htm)

My question to us is this: “What if God would do the same thing in the hearts of everyone that will be sitting under Gospel preaching on Sunday? What if God would do the same thing every time we pick up His Word and read it? What if God would do the same thing every time we share the Gospel with a lost soul?”

The God who loved Lydia is the same God who loves the souls in your family and mine, in your congregation and mine, and in your city and mine. Sure, we need more Lydia’s who will respond to the light they have, but we also need more messengers like Paul who will faithfully proclaim God’s Word and be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.

Would YOU join me in prayer for the countless confused and/or misinformed souls that will have an opportunity to hear God’s precious Word? Let’s pray together that God would “open their hearts to pay attention to what is said from God’s Word.” God’s Word is Truth and it is the Truth that sets people free! Faith comes through hearing and hearing from the Word of God!

Prayer: “Father, I come to YOU today and I ask that YOU would open the hearts of everyone who will sit in the pews of Flagship Church and every church that preaches the Gospel tomorrow. Open their mind and the window of their soul to YOUR Truth. Give them understanding of YOUR great love for them and YOUR desire to save their souls and reconcile them to YOURSELF. Give to them a desire to learn YOUR Word and YOUR ways. Give us men like the Apostle Paul who will faithfully discharge their duty to be ambassadors for Christ in their Jerusalem, their Judea, their Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. Encourage the laymen and laywomen with the Truth that YOUR Word can change lives for eternity. Finally Lord, though we may know YOU as Savior and Lord our hearts need to remain open as well. Please keep us tender and sensitive to the leading of YOUR Holy Spirit, the Truth of Scripture and the power of the Gospel.

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Short Term Mission Trip–What to Expect

Ok we are going on a mission trip this summer! Yeah! Here is what to expect:

  • We aren’t going to have enough people so pray for more
  • Expect to be bullied, harassed, attacked, injured and to possibly die
  • You cannot bring:
    • Extra Money
    • Extra Clothes
    • Cell Phone
    • Toiletries
    • Electronic Devices
  • You will eat and live with total strangers
  • You are going to be expected to preform miracles

So who wants to sign up?

I’m not sure how many parents will sign the permission slip for this one! For that matter how many adults would be willing to go?

This is the short term mission trip requirements found in Luke 10:1-12. Jesus was going to send out 72 people (36 teams of two). However, He indicates there are still more people needed, so the first matter of business for his recruits is to PRAY! The same is still true for those who are interested in taking short term mission trips today. Prayer is vital. If you are planning a short term mission trip bathe it in prayer. Bathe the participants in prayer, bathe the city in prayer and bathe those who you are going to minister to in prayer!

Secondly, Jesus lets them know that He is sending them out “as lambs in the midst of wolves” (v. 3). All they that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. For most of us and for most of the mission teams that we host in America, that simply means someone saying, “I’m not interested…get off my property, etc.” However, what if it meant more? Are we any better than the martyrs who willingly shed their blood to take the Gospel to the heathen? Make sure your mission team knows there will be opposition and prepare them to face that opposition with a Christ-like spirit.

Thirdly, Jesus instructed them not to carry any excess and to depend upon Him to provide them with a place to stay and food to eat (vv. 4, 7). I’m not suggesting you go on your next mission trip without any hotel reservations, money or food. However, pray for creative ways to help your group learn to depend on God to do something great! Jesus wanted these 72 disciples to strip away any dependence they had upon themselves and their belongings and depend wholly upon Him! Find a way to let this trip become a way to put God to the test (not tempt Him, but rather test Him…see Malachi 3:10).

Fourthly, Christ enabled them to have the power to heal the sick (v. 9). Though God still heals, these apostolic sign gifts are not for us today. However, if a mission trip does not have the supernatural touch of God upon it, what spiritual mission has it accomplished? Let this be a time when those who are involved depend upon the power of Christ to get out of their comfort zone! This summer, one young man had never taught a lesson before. However, he was willing to do so and the Lord used him to share the Gospel and a young man received Christ as his Savior! In a sense this young man was a vessel whom God used to bring healing (spiritual healing) to this lost soul!

If Jesus’ invitation were extended to your church or mine in hopes to recruit a short term mission team the volunteers may be few. However, the harvest is still plentiful and we need to pray that the Lord of the harvest would continue to send forth the laborers into His harvest field!

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!

 

 

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.