Acts 6: Synergy

“And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” – Acts 6:10

There are a few words business people love; one of them is synergy. Synergy is defined as “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements.” In other words, businesses strive to find those two things that work, and that when you put them together, their outcome increases exponentially.

As I sit here and meditate on this verse, I see synergy. Stephen’s human intellect and God’s divine empowerment collide and worked together through him to the point where those disputing with him could not resist him. Could not resist him? Yes, no matter how well educated these men were, they could not outsmart the wisdom of a man empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is so much power in that. So much more can be accomplished if we collided with the Spirit of God more often and allowed Him to create that kind of synergy within us.

We see it in Solomon. He asked for wisdom “behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you” (1 Kings 3:12), and with God’s divine empowerment, he was the wisest and richest man on earth, “thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:30), “so King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (1 Kings 10:23). The two of them, God as the source of all good things and Solomon as the physical vessel willing to be used, could do more together than any man on this planet could.

We see in in the prophet Elisha. He asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit “Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing…”” (2 Kings 2:9-10). Later in the book, we see how the King of Syria was making war against Israel, and because of Elisha, it seemed like Israel was always a step ahead, “the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing… “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?” … “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (2 Kings 6:11-12). How would Elisha know what the King spoke in his bedroom other than by revelation from God? in that same passage we see him lead the entire Syrian army to Samaria, feed them, and the raiders stop going to Israel (2 Kings 6: 16-23). The two of them together, God as the source of power and Elisha as the physical vessel willing to live by faith, were able to do more together for Israel than any king, or Elisha himself, could have done without God.

We see it in Paul. He was a very well educated man who persecuted the church, “…he spoke to them in the Hebrew language…“I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God… I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women… went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:2-5). After he converted on his way to Damascus, “immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God… Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:20-22) and what God did through him is incredible. The two of them together, God as the source of forgiveness and redemption and Paul as the vessel willing to live in reckless abandon for the Gospel, were able to do more together and save more souls than Paul could have imagined.

God’s Spirit collided with these men to create a synergy they probably had no idea was possible, as their testimonies still change lives and save souls today. The only reason that is possible is because the Word of God is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and these men, much like Stephen, were willing to use their human abilities and let them collide with God’s Spirit to create exponential results. I believe God wants to do the same with us today. If we allow his Spirit to take over our human intellect, we too, could have a greater impact on this planet for His Kingdom than if we tried on our own. God is the source of everything, we just need to be willing vessels, and He will do the rest.

What are your human abilities that you most rely upon, and are you allowing God to use them? Are you honestly allowing the Spirit to collide with all of your mind and heart? Are you letting Him increase the outcome you produce, or are you trying to do it on your own? We have to ask God more of Him and for opportunities to see Him and us come together to do something greater together than we ever could by ourselves.

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Acts 5: Black or White

“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?’” – Acts 5:3 

There is so much to say about this verse, it is really hard to even pick a place to begin.

All or nothing. There is no middle ground for God. Ananias and his wife died because after selling a plot of land and giving some of the money to the church, they kept some of it back and lied about it when Peter confronted them. This is speaking in a physical sense, but there are so many spiritual implications to this verse that we can use today to analyze our lives.

Why did they keep back part of the price of the land for themselves? maybe they were greedy  and did not feel like the church needed (or deserved) all of their money. Maybe they found security in having some money reserved just in case something went wrong. Maybe they were pretentious and wanted a good reputation without having to sacrifice anything. I don’t know, but in any of these scenarios, all I see is a couple of judgmental, prideful, faithless, and arrogant hypocrites. This doesn’t work well with God- He doesn’t want that from us. It’s all or nothing.

He wants our uttermost devotion.

When we see Scriptures, God always makes clear distinctions to show that there are two sides:

There is light and darkness, “And God separated the light from the darkness…” Genesis 1:2.

There is flesh and Spirit, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” Matthew 26:41.

There is slavery and freedom, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.

There are God’s creation and God’s children, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him” Romans 8:9

There is friendship with God or enmity with God, “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world, makes himself an enemy of God” James 4:4.

We could go on, but the point to make here is that God acknowledges there are two sides, and He is okay with that. We just must pick one side to stand on, we can’t have both.

The one example I can think of where there is a middle ground comes from Revelation 3:15, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” Wow. Middle ground is not really an option.

It is easy to sit here and judge Ananias and his wife. If they didn’t want to give all their money to the church, then they shouldn’t have bothered selling the property in the first place. However, when it comes to the spiritual implications of this verse in my life, it becomes a lot harder.

In Matthew 22:21, Jesus says “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are of Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus purchased me with the price of His blood on the cross, and I am His “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. He bought all of me, not just some parts of my life. He purchased us, and He deserves to get all of us. Why would we keep to ourselves parts of us that don’t even belong to us anymore? Let’s not rob God of what is His.

“I have lost myself in finding you.” Humility, by Andrew Murray

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Acts 4: Faithful Prayer

“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” – Acts 4:31

Boldness is the opposite of fear. Fear is what has been crippling me recently, and why this verse stood out to me. John and Peter were able to successfully speak the word of God boldly because they were filled with the Holy Spirit; they are filled with the Holy Spirit because they prayed.

Have you ever prayed with such faith that your world shakes, like it happened to them? I don’t think most of us do, sadly. I think most of us just don’t even comprehend the power prayer has when it is done in faith, yet it is so clear in the Bible. Look at Elijah, for example. He prayed it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t rain for over three years, until he prayed again, and the drought was gone (1 Kings 17 and 1 Kings 18). Again, he prayed to God “ ‘Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know hat you are the Lord God, and that you have turned their hearts back to You again.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench” 1 Kings 18:37-38. He prayed in faith, and God did a miracle. Then we see Elisha in 2 Kings 6:17, “And Elisha prayed, and said ‘ Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” These men did not just pray and hope God would one day answer, they simply expected Him to.

In the new testament, we see it very clearly in James 5:15-16 “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up…pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayed of a righteous man avails much.” This verse hits home for me, because by my parents’ obedient and faithful prayer, God did a miracle in my life. When I was two months old, I got Steven Johnson’s Syndrome where my chances of surviving were about 10% and the doctors predicted I would have third degree burns all over my body for the rest of my life and I would never be able to live a normal life. Yet here I am, with minimal scars as reminders of God’s miracle.

That’s the kind of faithful prayer that fills you with the Holy Spirit to be bold. The first example that comes to my mind when I think of this is David when he confronts Goliath. In 1 Samuel 16:13 we see that “…the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward,” and soon after that he battles Goliath, the man who instilled fear into every Israelite- but one. David confronted him because he knew God was with him: “…You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the same of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you” 1 Samuel 17:46-47. Do you think he could’ve make such a bold statement if he didn’t have the Spirit upon him? Probably not. Even within the first four chapters of Acts, you see a great change in Peter. He had just denied Christ three times not too long ago, and because of the Holy Spirit upon him, you see this instead: “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them…then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” Acts 2:14,40.

All these examples show a few things:

Boldness is a quality we must have in order to fulfill that to which God has called or will call us to do.

Boldness is something we receive when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

We are most filled with the Holy Spirit when we pray with uttermost faith, expecting nothing less of God than what we asked for, so long as it lines up with His will, of course.

In order to be qualified for our ministry, we must be bold in Christ. In order for that to happen, we must understand how powerful prayer is and how much the Holy Spirit can use you and do through you when you allow Him to. It all starts with honestly expecting Him to listen when we speak to Him, and truly believing He wants to fill us with more of Him so we can be prepared for whatever lies ahead of us.

Let’s analyze our prayer life and be honest with yourself. When you pray, are those words really coming from an expectant heart, or from a doubtful mouth? It is such a convicting question. If the answer is the latter, don’t even bother. Ask yourself that every time you pray, and I really believe it will change the way you talk to God. He desires for us to pray like Elijah and Elisha, and to be bold like David and Peter.

Let’s have the same desire.

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Acts 3: The Unspoken Miracle

“So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” – Acts 3:12

This verse screams of humility. John and Peter had just performed an amazing miracle; a lame man who had never been able to walk in his life received the strength he needed to do so. They prayed in faith, knowing that all they could do was ask God to do a miracle in this man’s life; they didn’t have the means or the strength to do anything else.

I grew up singing a children’s song about this story. I always thought it was so cool how this man went from being lame and laying on the ground begging for money outside the temple, to singing and praising God inside the temple. But the more I think about it, the more I see it this way: Yes, God did an amazing miracle by giving this man strength to walk, but the fact that His disciples are so humble about the way God used them is another incredible miracle in itself.

We all struggle with pride, and it would be easy to lose sight of the source and provider of that power and just embrace people’s praises. We are warned about this in Deuteronomy 8: 11- 18, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest… you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…”

I can’t help but ask myself if God used me to do something like this, would I really give Him all the glory, not only in my words but with my whole heart?

Would I be like Peter and almost sound insulted by the fact people think that power came from my own strength?

Acts 1:8 says, “and you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” These two men knew that they had power because the Holy Spirit was upon them. It wasn’t because of them, but because of who was inside of them. It is so clear they knew they were nothing but instruments who allowed themselves to be used for God by the power of the Holy Spirit to minister this man who had been lame.

Is our vision that clear, or are we like the Israelites who forget God and give the glory of that power to ourselves?

Better yet, when I see God do mighty things through one of His children, do I marvel at them, or do I give the glory to God?

We need to have the mindset John and Petter had: It is not by our own strength that miracles are done, but by the Holy Spirit inside of us. We have to learn to become empty so God may use us as He will, to heal those who need healing, and to realize we have no power aside from Christ.

“God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing,

He can make something out of us.” Martin Luther.

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Acts 2: No reason to fear.

“Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” – Acts 2:24 

The medical definition of death is “the irreversible cessation of all vital functions especially as indicated by permanent stoppage of the heart, respiration, and brain activity.” However, Isaiah 25:8 declares that “He will swallow up death forever…” Scripture says that it was impossible for death to hold Christ; it was literally impossible for Jesus to stay dead. What an incredible insight this is into God’s love, sovereignty, and power.

Psalm 68:20 says, “Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, The Lord, belong deliverances from death.” Our salvation and faith come from our personal deliverance from the death we deserve by not merely Jesus’ death on the Cross, but His resurrection as well. 1 Corinthians 15: 14-20 says, “and if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty… For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile… But now Christ is risen from the dead.”

We can take courage in that Jesus resurrected from the dead, and by this, we know our faith is not in vain. If we are to be confident in anything, we have to be confident in the fact that Jesus is more powerful than death itself and all that power rests within us.

This may seem morbid, but death is quite scary to some people. It is actually one of the things most people are afraid of. Even King David at one point in his life was afraid of death: “My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me” Psalm 55:4-5. However, the point I’m trying to make is that God is bigger than all those pains, terrors, fears, or horrors; He is much more powerful than that.

Yet I can’t help but ask why I find myself being scared all the time; not of dying because I know I have eternal life in Christ, but just about life in general. If the Holy Spirit resides in me with such power, why am I afraid of approaching a stranger to share the Gospel? Why am I afraid of putting myself in unknown situations for Jesus’ sake? Why am I afraid to let God shine as brightly as possible in my life? The God who could not be held by death lives inside of you and me and we don’t allow Him to reveal the full extent of His power in our lives because we’re… afraid. Yet another proof of just how short we fall of the glory of God.

Psalm 56:3-4, right after David had mentioned how much pain he was going through and how overwhelmed by fear he felt, he declares that “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”

That is a penetrating question. And it makes you search yourself.

What can flesh do to us if the Son of God who could not be held down by the power of death itself lives in us? We need to stop being afraid and take courage in Christ’s resurrection from the dead in order to do His will and fulfill the calling to which He has called us.

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Acts 1: What’s with the 40?

“To whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining the kingdom of God.” – Acts 1:3 

Have you ever asked yourself what was up with the number forty? We see it in scripture over and over again, but have we ever stopped to consider it? If you look in the Old Testament, you see Israel wandered through the desert for forty years before being delivered to the the promised land. Deuteronomy 8:2 reads: “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

As Andrew Murray in his book on humility puts it, “God’s dealings with man are characterized by two stages. There is the time of preparation…then comes the time of fulfillment” (p.98)

I believe those forty days, or years, represent the period of time when God prepares us for the fulfillment of His plan for our lives; it’s a period of testing and revealing the condition of our hearts.

Noah endured the flood for forty days “and the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights” Genesis 7:12, and after this period of testing and a period of patient waiting, God established His covenant with him. Moses was on the mountain for forty days, and then God gave him the Ten commandments “And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant” Deuteronomy 9:11. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days “and when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was hungry” Matthew 4:2, “being tempted for forty days by the devil…” Luke 4:2, and then God allowed Him to start His ministry.

It wasn’t until after this period of preparation- one where God tests and humbles you, where He searches your heart out, where He sees your obedience- that you will be ready to receive the fulfillment of the promise God had made you, in just the same way He fulfilled the promises He made each one of these men.

In the same way, I believe the forty days Jesus spent on earth after His resurrection was a period of preparation for His disciples. He was preparing them for what was to come, getting them ready for the fulfillment of His promise of the Holy Spirit, getting them ready for each one of the ministries The Father had prepared for them beforehand.

God will test and humble us, He will search us out and gage our obedience, and He will speak to us. It is only through all this that we are able to be ready to inherit the promises He has made us.

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My Psalm

While in Italy, I challenged myself to pray for a specific person everyday. What you see below is a compilation of verses God gave me for them as well as for myself!

I’m sharing this because when I put everything together, it is a beautiful message of God’s steadfast love and gentle care for all of us…

“Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord has made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations…

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love.

How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers has given you?

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and to cling to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Surely there is a future and your hope will not be cut off.

But seek first the the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.”

 

It may seem scattered, but my brain got it, and I hope yours does, too 🙂

 

(Joshua 21:45, psalm 32:8, 11-12, 18, Joshua 18:3, Joshua 22:5, Proverbs 23:18, Matthew 6:33, Job 12:10, Matthew 10:31, James 3:1-4, John 10:3)

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