Growth Problems

…the number of disciples was increasing… (Acts 6:1).

Growth is a nice problem to have. But it is still a problem that needs to be addressed, or else the growth can implode an organization. 

In this instance, the early Christian church was growing rapidly and attempting to address the need for getting food to widows. Apparently, some of the widows were being overlooked in that food distribution. 

To start the ball rolling on solving this growth problem, the apostles gave some simple parameters: We will focus on preaching, the rest of you should select administrators to oversee the food ministry (vv. 2-4). The job description was pretty simple too—they must have a good reputation, be full of the Holy Spirit, be wise, and (this is implied) be willing to serve.

Notice the trust the church leaders placed in that congregation: 

  • seek out from among you
  • they chose
  • they set them [the candidates] before the apostles

The congregation was pleased by both the apostles’ plan and the level of trust that was conferred on them. It appears that seven men were the unanimous selection of both the congregation and the church leaders. 

After these men were installed in their new administrative roles, look at the results:

  • more preaching
  • more salvations
  • more inroads into the Jewish religious leadership sect
  • more people fed
  • more miracles performed
  • and more persecution from those threatened by the church’s rapid growth

It’s interesting to note that Luke uses the word added to talk about the church’s growth in chapters 1-5, but after this growth problem is successfully resolved, Luke stops using added and only uses multiplication terminology. 

When handled the right way, growth problems—or any problems, for that matter—lead to more growth. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who handles growth problems correctly. 

This is part 36 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Infographic Bible (book review)

I love studying the Bible! I enjoy reading it in different translations, consulting my atlas to see where certain events took place, studying the culture of the biblical settings, and even diving in to the Hebrew and Greek definitions of words. But I’ve never seen the biblical story portrayed as uniquely and so visually beautiful as Karen Sawrey has done it in The Infographic Bible.

The subtitle of this work is “visualizing the drama of God’s Word,” and Karen does this in ways you have never seen before. 

The Infographic Bible flows in the same order as the Biblical text, except that there is very little text involved. You will see how the biblical books were compiled and then walk through God’s story in both the Old and New Testaments.

In graphics that typically span the full two-page spread (and sometimes even more), you will see in vivid colors, bold designs, and memorable graphics how God set about to redeem His people and tell His story. You will see the two Genesis accounts of Creation portrayed side-by-side, you will understand genealogies better by seeing their timelines flow through generations, you will appreciate the biblical themes and fulfilled prophesies, and you will look forward to the hope of things to come in Revelation. 

There is so much to discover in this book! The Infographic Bible is a coffee-table-size book, and the beautiful graphics inside will definitely make it a conversation piece to leave on display for your guests. I commend Karen Sawrey for her outstanding work, and I highly recommend this book to you.

The Empowerment Of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost was an annual celebration for Jewish people for a long time, with nothing really noteworthy happening. Until…

…on the Day of Pentecost that took place just 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven, a new breed of Christian was unleashed on the world. Those followers of Jesus who were baptized in the Holy Spirit on that day begin living a lifestyle that we now refer to as Pentecostal. 

Most people were familiar with water baptism is an outward sign of an inward commitment. It’s not something that was new to Christianity: Greek philosophy teachers and Jewish rabbis baptized their followers. So did John the baptizer (or the Baptist). 

But John, as the forerunner of Jesus, promised that there would be something more—a baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus would bring. Jesus Himself said this baptism was so important that He didn’t want His followers to even attempt to begin to evangelize the world until they received this baptism (Luke 3:3, 16; 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-8). 

What is important about this Holy Spirit baptism? What are its origins? To answer these questions, we have to go back to the very beginning of Time itself. When God created humans, the Holy Spirit was breathed into us, giving us a living soul (Genesis 1:26, 2:7). This Spirit-breath set us apart from all other living creatures (Job 33:4, 32:8; Proverbs 20:27).

We were created to be intimately connected with God, but our sin severed that. Our hearts became sin-calloused and selfish and stone-hard toward God. 

The Cross of Jesus allowed us to be reconciled to God. By placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the Cross, we could receive forgiveness of our sins. We were now saved from the penalty of our sins, but Jesus wanted more for us—He wanted us also to be saved to a new life that was as intimately connected to God’s heart as His life was. 

So Jesus told His followers to wait and pray for the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit. 

They prayed. And on that Day of Pentecost, they were indeed baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Actually, the word filled literally means “fulfilled”—the baptism in the Holy Spirit fulfilled what Jesus had promised. 

From that day forward, those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit are called Pentecostal people. I know there are some who would argue that was only for “back then,” but let me tell you from personal experience that there is no other way that I would try to live the Christian life than by being an unashamed Pentecostal! 

Jesus wants us to not only be water baptized to announce our faith in Him for forgiveness of sins, but also to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy, extraordinary, fulfilling lives. If you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can be simply by asking God (Luke 11:13).

Join me next Sunday as we continue to explore what it means to live the Pentecostal lifestyle.

Poetry Saturday—Our Sins The Cause Of Christ’s Death

Infinite grief! amazing woe!
Behold my bleeding Lord!
Hell and the Jews conspired His death,
And us’d the Roman sword.

O the sharp pangs of smarting pain
My dear Redeemer bore,
When knotty whips, and ragged thorns,
His sacred body tore!

But knotty whips, and ragged thorns
In vain do I accuse;
In vain I blame the Roman bands,
And the more spiteful Jews.

‘Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.

It was you that pulled the vengeance down
Upon His guiltless head;
Break, break, my heart! O burst mine eyes!
And let my sorrows bleed.

Strike, mighty grace, my flinty soul,
Till melting waters flow,
And deep repentance drown mine eyes
In undissembled woe. —Isaac Watts

Thursdays With Oswald—Hear And Do

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Hear And Do

     The emphasis in these verses [Matthew 7:24-29] is laid by our Lord on hearing and doing. … We hear only what we listen for. Have we listened to what Jesus has to say? Have we paid any attention to finding out what He did say? Most of us do not know what He said. If we have only a smattering of religion, we talk a lot about the devil; but what hinders us spiritually is not the devil nearly so much as inattention. We may hear the sayings of Jesus Christ, but our wills are left untouched, we never do them. … 

     Pay attention to His words, and give time to doing it. Try five minutes a day with your Bible. The thing that influences us most is not the thing that we give most time to, but the thing that springs from our own personal relationship, that is the prime motive that dominates us. … 

     “Build up your character bit by bit by attention to My words,” says Jesus, then when the supreme crisis comes, you will stand like a rock. … If a man has built himself up in private by listening to the words of Jesus and obeying them, when the crisis comes it is not his strength of will that keeps him, but the tremendous power of God. … All you build will end in disaster unless it is built on the sayings of Jesus Christ; but if you are doing what Jesus told you to do, nourishing your soul on His word, you need not fear the crisis whatever it is. … 

     There is a tendency in all of us to appreciate the sayings of Jesus Christ with our intellects while we refuse to do them. … 

     The Holy Spirit’s voice is as gentle as a zephyr, the merest check; when you hear it do you say, “But that is only a tiny detail, the Holy Spirit cannot mean that, it is much too trivial a thing”? The Holy Spirit does mean that, and at the risk of being thought fanatical you must obey. … What does it matter what anyone thinks of us as long as Jesus Christ thinks we are doing the right thing, as long as we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?” 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Hear/read God’s Word → Listen to how the Holy Spirit tells me to apply it to my life → Then apply it to my life → Repeat this process again tomorrow… 

We Are: Pentecostal

Pentecost for over 1000 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. 

We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity! 

Please join me this Sunday as we begin a series of messages called We Are: Pentecostal. You can find a map here, or if you live too far away to join us in person, be sure to check out our Facebook Live broadcasts every Sunday morning.

14 Quotes From “Studies In The Sermon On The Mount”

Oswald Chambers has unlocked the Sermon on the Mount for me like no other Bible commentator has before—deeply and practically. Check out my full book review by clicking here. I have already shared numerous passages from this book in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” series, but here are some other quotes that caught my eye as well. 

“Beware of placing our Lord as a Teacher first instead of Savior. That tendency is prevalent today, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know him first as Savior before His teaching can have any meaning for us, or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. … If Jesus is a Teacher only, then all He could do is to tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above we know Him first as Savior, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.” 

“The disadvantage of a saint in the present order of things is that his confession of Jesus Christ is not to be in secret, but glaringly public. It would doubtless be to our advantage from the standpoint of self-realization to keep quiet, and nowadays the tendency to say—‘Be a Christian, live a holy life, but don’t talk about it’—is growing stronger. Our Lord uses in illustration the most conspicuous things known to men—salt, light, and a city set on a hill—and He says, ‘Be like that in your home, in your business, in your church; be conspicuously a Christian for ridicule or respect according to the mood of the people you are with.’” 

“Our Lord goes to the root of the matter every time with no apology. Sordid? Frantically sordid, but sin is frantically sordid, and there is no excuse in false modesty, or in refusing to face the music of the devil’s work in this life. Jesus Christ faced it and He makes us face it too. Our natural idea of purity is that it means according to obedience to certain laws and regulations, but that is apt to be prudery. There is nothing prudish in the Bible. The Bible insists on purity, not prudery.” 

“All our righteousness is ‘as filthy rags’ unless it is the blazing holiness of Jesus in uniting us with Him until we see nothing but Jesus first, Jesus second, and Jesus third. Then when men take knowledge of us, they will not say that we are good men, that we have a wonderful whiteness, but that Jesus Christ has done something wonderful in us.” 

“The Spirit of God comes through the different writers with the one steady insistence to stir up our minds (Philippians 2:5; 2 Peter 1:12-13). … Unless we learn to think in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s teaching, we will drift in our spiritual experience without thinking at all. The confusion arises when we try to think and to reason things out without the Spirit of God.” 

“Jesus does not use the illustration of the birds and the flowers by accident, He uses it purposely in order to show the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being so anxious about the means of living. Imagine the sparrows and blackbirds and thrushes worrying about their feathers! Jesus says they do not trouble about themselves at all, the thing that makes them what they are is not their thought for themselves, but the thought of the Father in heaven. A bird is a hard-working little creature, but it does not work for its feathers, it obeys the law of its life and becomes what it is. Jesus Christ’s argument is that if we concentrate on the life He gives us, we will be perfectly free for all other things because our Father is watching the inner life. We have to maintain obedience to the Holy Spirit, Who is the real principle of our life, and God will supply the ‘feathers,’ for are we not ‘much better than they’?” 

“We enthrone common sense as Almighty God and treat Jesus Christ as a spiritual appendage to it.” 

“At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements are those of a fool; but bring them to the bar of faith and the Word of God, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God.” 

“No man is born with character; we make our own character. When the man is born from above a new disposition is given to him, but not a new character; neither naturally nor supernaturally are we born with character. Character is what a man makes out of his disposition as it comes in contact with external things. A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence.” 

“The Holy Spirit does reveal what is wrong in others, but His discernment is never for purposes of criticism, but for purposes of intercession.” 

“Prayer is not only asking, it is an attitude of heart that produces an atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural, and Jesus says, ‘everyone who asks receives.’” 

“Fasting is much more than doing without food, that is the least part, it is fasting from everything that manifests itself-indulgence.” 

“When we are saved by God’s grace, God puts into us the possibility of not sinning, and our character from that moment is of value to God. Before we were saved we had not the power to obey, but now He has planted in us on the ground of Redemption the heredity of the Son of God, we have the power to obey, and consequently the power to disobey. The walk of a disciple is gloriously difficult, but gloriously certain. On the ground of the perfect Redemption of Jesus Christ, we find that we can begin now to walk worthily.” 

“Never trust the best man or woman you ever met; trust the Lord Jesus only. … We are never told to follow in all the footsteps of the saints, but only in so far as they have obeyed God.” 

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