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.

Undeniableness

…we cannot deny it (Acts 4:16)

The healing of a 40-year-old man who has been lame from birth is truly undeniable! But the Sadducees (the truly religious elite) took issue with the fact that Peter and John were then telling people about God’s resurrection power (which they did not believe).

It was undeniable that…

  • … the lame man was healed
  • … Peter spoke boldly with the help of the Holy Spirit
  • … Peter and John’s eloquence in spiritual matters was not bookish learning but divine illumination
  • … Peter and John had been with Jesus
  • … Peter and John could not be silenced by threats
  • … the admiration of the crowd following the healing and Peter’s sermon
  • … God was glorified

So what did the church do? They prayed for more “undeniableness” to be demonstrated by God through their lives!

They knew none of these threats took God by surprise, but they all happened as God had “determined before to be done” (v. 28). So they said, “We are Your servants in this—do more undeniable things through us. Enable us to speak Your Word boldly, and empower us to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus” (vv. 29, 30).

And God answered that prayer!

What about us? Are we willing to pray that prayer today? Will we allow God to do undeniable things through us? Persecution may follow, but so will God’s glory, and saved souls, and healed people!

What Do The Good Works Of Jesus Mean?

“Jesus was well-known for His many good works, which were primarily works of restoration. The good works of Jesus restored a measure of the good order God intended when He created the world and all things, and point forward to a day of complete renewal, of heaven and earth and all things. People, who are the image-bearers of God, were not meant to be deaf or blind, bent or beset by demons, riven with diseases, or at one another’s throats. Indeed, they were not even meant to die.

“Good works were an essential component of Jesus’ plan for restoring the goodness of creation, and He promised His followers that they would do many more good works than He had done, as they seek His Kingdom and live in the power of His Spirit (John 14:12). …

“And Jesus told His followers to tune up a similar harmony of words and works in their own lives, to follow Him as His witnesses, living and speaking the truth in love. For it is in such harmony, consistently sung into the world by every follower of Christ, that the Kingdom of God and His goodness advances on earth as it is in heaven.” —T.M. Moore

10 Quotes From “Praying The Promises”

There is something special about turning God’s Word into a prayer to our Heavenly Father, and Max Lucado shows us how in his book Praying The Promises. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“We do not need more opinions or hunches; we need the definitive declarations of our mighty and loving God. He governs the world according to these great and precious promises. Let’s be who we were made to be: People of the Promise. Let’s keep these promises handy. Praise Him out loud. Fill our lungs with air and hearts with hope and declare our belief in God’s goodness.” 

“Everything in creation gives evidence of God’s existence. The intricacy of snowflakes, the roar of a thunderstorm, the precision of a honeybee, the bubbling of a cool mountain stream. These miracles and a million more give testimony to the existence of a brilliant, wise, and tireless God (Psalm 19:1-4). Everything shows evidence of a purposeful design. The facts lead to a wonderful conclusion. God is…and God is knowable. … We can know more than simple facts about our Creator; we can know His heart, His joy, His passion, His plan, and His sorrows. … The mark of a saint is that he or she is growing in the knowledge of God.” 

“As we fellowship with God, read His Word, obey His commands, and seek to understand and reflect His character, something wonderful emerges. Or, better stated, Someone wonderful emerges. God comes out of us. We say things God would say. We do things God would do.” 

“When we pray, we engage the power of God against the devil. When we worship, we do what satan himself did not do: we place God on the throne. When we pick up the sword of Scripture, we do what Jesus did in the wilderness. He responded to satan by proclaiming truth (Matthew 4:1-11).… satan will not linger long where God is praised and prayers are offered.” 

“We don’t need a large army. We don’t need abundant resources. God’s presence tilts the scales in our favor.” 

“If you have taken on the name of Christ, you have clout with the most powerful Being in the universe. When you speak, God listens. … Your prayers matter to God because you matter to God.” 

“When nothing quenches your deepest thirsts, when droughts turn your fields into deserts and retirements into pocket change, what can you do? Evaluate your priorities: Is God’s big thing my big thing? 

“Guilt simmers like a toxin in far too many souls, but you don’t need to let it have a place in yours. Internalize this promise: ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Not ‘limited condemnation,’ ‘appropriate condemnation,’ or ‘calculated condemnation.’ That is what people give people. God gives His children no condemnation.” 

“The greatest news in the world is not that God made the world but that God loves the world. He loves you. You did not earn this love. And His love for you will not fade if you lose your way. His love for you will not diminish if your discipline does. You have never lived one unloved day. God loves you, and because He does, you can be assured joy will come.” 

“I will fix my eyes on things above. Because I know that this world is not my home, I will keep eternity in sight.” 

These are quotes from the section of Praying The Promises called “unshakable hope.” Stay tuned because I will be sharing soon some of the model prayers Max gave us in this helpful book. 

7 Prayers From “Praying For Muslims”

Throughout 2017, I joined with other prayer warriors around the globe in praying for Muslims every Friday at noon. Our prayer guide was found in Sobhi Malek’s book Praying For Muslims. Here are a few prayer thoughts that may help you in your prayer time.

“As Abraham pleaded for the lost in Sodom and Gomorrah, we ask You to give Muslims a chance to accept Christ. You love them. Jesus died for them. Rescue them from the doom of sin.”

“Lord God, You have been patient with the peoples of Europe and America. They are rich in material goods but poor in spiritual matters. They are advanced in technology but backward in things pertaining to God. Save them from the slippery path they have chosen by turning their back on Christ. Have mercy on them. Help them to repent. By faith I claim many Muslims in the West for Christ. May they become tools in God’s hand to bring many nominal Christians in post-Christian Europe and America to the Cross of Calvary. O God, Supreme and Mighty Potentate, Master of heaven and earth, You can do such feats! In the name of Jesus, I pray for a great revival for your Church in the West. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

“Compassionate and merciful God, our Father in heaven, glory and majesty belong to You. You have shined Your light into my heart through Jesus Christ my Lord. You have forgiven my sin. Thank You. I am very grateful. That is why I bring Muslims before You.  For although they call You merciful and compassionate, they have never understood the depth of Your great compassion and mercy manifested at the Cross of Christ. Grant them the desire to know Jesus and experience His redemptive power. Fill them with your Holy Spirit. Encourage them to be active in bringing others to your Kingdom. Keep me true to my responsibility to pray for them without ceasing and trust You for miraculous acts among Muslims.”

“Help the church in Europe and America to see the influx of Muslims as a God-given opportunity to bring multitudes of Muslims to Christ the Savior.”

“I pray for the missionaries who have left families, security, and comforts of life to go serve among Muslims. Lord God, You are their reward. Fill their lives with Your presence, and show them Your glory. Empower them with the Holy Spirit. May they speak with boldness and wisdom to proclaim the relevant, eternal message of the Gospel. Grant them a productive and fruitful ministry. May they lead many Muslims to Christ and plant the Church triumphant in countless communities. Make them valiant as they proclaim the truth. O God, stop satan from inflicting disease, discord, and disunity among Your servants. In prayer, I come against satanic attacks on missionaries to Muslims in interpersonal relationships, morals, finances, family, health, and children. May they not become weary in the work they are doing for You (Galatians 6:9).” 

“Father, by Your divine power, tear down the walls that satan has erected to keep people from hearing the Gospel. We look to the Cross where Jesus died to redeem all, including Muslims. We draw our victory from Calvary. And we rest at Your feet in faith with expectation.”

“O God Almighty, be with those who are enduring a nightmare of mistreatment, beatings and abuse. I bring their plight to Your attention, merciful Father. Visit them. Soothe their pain. Comfort their souls. Encourage their hearts. May Your face shine upon them. In prayer I ask You to wake up the Church around the world to pray for persecuted believers and come to their assistance. Christians who occupy influential positions could act to alleviate the pain of our suffering brothers and sisters. Father, help them to not be silent. Move them to respond to the tragedy of the persecuted Church.”

Here are some other resources for you:

The Christmas Candle (book review)

Max Lucado is a storyteller par excellent! His craft is on full display in the engaging short story The Christmas Candle.

Lucado takes us back to Victorian-era England, to the small village of Cotswolds. Nothing much seems to happen in this little village, except for a visit from an angel every 25 years to one specific family. The Haddington family have been candle-makers for as far back as anyone can remember. Every quarter-century, just before Christmas, an angel appears in the Haddington’s shop and points out one special candle. When this unique candle is given away by the Haddingtons to an individual, they can pray for a miracle and expect that God will answer that prayer.

Lucado’s story centers on a time when the angel should be appearing soon. But Mr. and Mrs. Haddington are older now, and worried that they don’t have an heir to which the candle-making trade can be passed on, the townspeople are in more desperate need than ever before, and the village’s new pastor is highly skeptical about the so-called “miracle qualities” of an ordinary looking candle. And all the while, the time of the angel’s appearing is getting closer and closer.

The message Lucado is able to drive home through this story is truly a God-given gift that will encourage your faith. Whether you read this book at Christmas time or not, you will be uplifted in your faith in God’s power to do the miraculous!

Silent Night? Holy Night!

A little boy wanted to do something special for his family, so he thought he would do something he had seen his mother do dozens of times: bake a cake. Quickly he looked through a cookbook and got to work.

Dad was the first one to come home and heard an unusual clatter in the kitchen. Peeking around the corner he saw his son wearing his wife’s apron, slightly dusted in flour, and vigorously stirring a big bowl of batter.

“What are you doing, son” Dad asked.

Without looking up from his work the boy proudly answered, “I’m making a cake, Dad!”

Dad looked around the kitchen and saw all the proper ingredients out, so he was somewhat assured when he asked, “So how’s it going?”

The little boy paused and looked up at him, “Pretty good I think. I’m just having a little trouble with the ‘tbls” and ‘tsps.’”

For those of you who have done any baking, you know that “tbls” are tablespoons and “tsps” are teaspoons. If you get those mixed up, the cake might not turn out very well. For instance, adding a teaspoon of baking powder when the recipe calls for a tablespoon might result in a flat cake. Or adding a tablespoon of salt when the recipe asks for a teaspoon might making a rather salty cake.

Abbreviations only work if everyone is on the same page with you. If they’re not, it could be rather unsavory or maybe even dangerous.

In 1816, Joseph Mohr penned the words to what some have called the best-known Christmas carol in the world: Silent Night! Holy Night!

I’m not really sure how “silent” the night Jesus was born really was: a village so filled with people that no bedrooms were available, a mother in labor, a crying newborn, animals in a stable disturbed by the mother and child, singing angels, and curious shepherds. But let’s leave that part alone for a while.

Although it may not have been a silent night, it most assuredly was a Holy Night! That full title gives us the full impact of what happened at Christ’s First Advent.

Holy means something unlike anything else; someone or something devoted to God; something divine; something with God’s fingerprints all of it. I see at least three divinely holy things in this carol.

  1. The virgin birth of Jesus. 

Not only was the birth of Jesus a fulfillment of prophesy (see Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:18-25), but it was also an indication of God’s miracle-working power. The fact the Luke gives so many specific details about that birth night (see Luke 2:1-2) also lets us know that this isn’t a “once upon a time” myth.

  1. The involvement of angels in the affairs of humans. 

Angels bring messages to key people before the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:11, 26; Matthew 1:20) and on the night of His birth (Luke 2:9-14). John also gives us a peek behind the scenes of the massive spiritual warfare taking place the night of Christ’s birth (see Revelation 12:1-5). Paul tells us that we, too, are involved in this spiritual battle, but that because of Christ’s Advent we’re more than conquerors through Jesus (Ephesians 6:12; Romans 8:37).

  1. The full deity and the full humanity of Jesus. 

Jesus was fully Man and fully God (see Philippians 2:5-7; Matthew 26:63-64; John 8:54-58). This is so important, because without this we would be lost. If Jesus wasn’t fully Man, He wouldn’t know how to help us; if He wasn’t fully God, He couldn’t help us.

So when you hear this carol playing, ask someone if they know the title. More than likely they will say, “Silent Night.” To which you can easily reply, “Actually it’s Silent Night! Holy Night! and I’d like to tell you three amazing, holy things that took place!”

Let’s never abbreviate away the miracles. It may or may not have been a Silent Night, but it most certainly was a Holy Night! These supernatural miracles surrounding Christ’s First Advent provided us freedom from sin, and a rock-solid hope of our eternal reward in Heaven at Christ’s Second Advent.

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