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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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.

Not a Fan-Introduction and Prologue

“Not a Fan” was recommended reading from my dad who received the book from his pastor. My dad is not a “reader” but he was very excited about the book and sent it to me. I was drawn in from the very first page. My goal is to give you a brief synopsis of each chapter of the book and share with you my review.

“Not a Fan” is written by Kyle Idleman. The complete title is, “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus.” Pastor Idleman serves the Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky.

Kyle’s prologue begins with his dilemma about what to preach in the upcoming Easter service. He realized that there would be many there who do not attend church any other time of the year and he wanted to give them a message that would inspire them to keep coming back. Then he began to think about what Jesus preached when He had big crowds.

He reads the passage in John 6 when Jesus fed the crowd of over 5,000 men plus women and children. The next day the crowd is looking for Him and Jesus suggests to them in John 6:26 that many of them were just looking for a “meal ticket.” He lets them know that He’s not handing out any more free lunches, but rather will be offering Himself as the “Bread of Life.” Would that be enough for the crowd? When Jesus is the only thing on the menu will the crowd hang around?

Here is Idleman’s observation, “Many of the fans turn to go home…Jesus doesn’t chase after them. He doesn’t soften his message to make it more appealing…As I sat in the sanctuary surrounded by thousands of empty seats, here’s what became clear to me: it wasn’t the size of the crowd Jesus cared about; it was their level of commitment.”

May God help us not to get so caught up in attracting a crowd that we reinterpret who Jesus is and what He has called us to do. He has called us to take up our “cross” and follow Him. As we take this journey together, my prayer is that we will have a clearer understanding of what it really means to “follow Him.”