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!

9 More Quotes From “Expository Thoughts On The Gospels”

Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote a commentary on the Gospels nearly 200 years ago, and it still stands as a phenomenal Bible study resource. Check out my full review by clicking here. 

“When do men make others stumble? … Professing Christians do it whenever they bring discredit on their religion by inconsistencies of temper, of word, or of deed. We do it whenever we make our Christianity unlovely in the eyes of the world by conduct not in keeping with our profession. The world may not understand the doctrines and principles of believers, but the world is very keen-sighted about their practice. … Men will judge by what they see far more than by what they hear.” 

“Every true-hearted Christian who tries to do good in the world must make up his mind to be treated like his Master. He must never be surprised to find that the self-righteous and the worldly-minded dislike His ways.” 

“We shall discover by experience that all is not gold that glitters, and all are not true Christians who make a loud profession of Christianity. The language of Christianity is precisely that part of religion which a false Christian finds it most easy to attain. The walk of a man’s daily life, and not the talk of his lips, is the only safe test of his character.” 

“It is not in reality an astonishing thing that there should rise up so many who call in question the truth of the Bible. The marvel is rather that in a fallen world the sect of the Sadducees should be so small.” 

“Here, if anywhere, we need the heart of a little child and the prayer ‘open my eyes’ (Psalm 119:18). Let us beware on the one side of that lazy indifference which turns away from all prophetical Scripture on account of its difficulties. Let us beware on the other side of that dogmatical and arrogant spirit which makes men forget that they are students, and talk as confidently as if they were prophets themselves.” 

“To suffer patiently for Christ is far more difficult than to work actively. To sit still and endure calmly is far more hard than to stir about and take part in a battle. Crusaders will always be found more numerous than martyrs.” 

“The true cure for a dull memory in religion is to get deeper love toward Christ, and affections more thoroughly set on things above. We do not readily forget the things we love, and the objects which we keep continually under our eyes. The names of our parents and children are always remembered. The face of the husband or wife we love is engraved on the tablets of our hearts. The more our affections are engaged in Christ’s service, the more easy shall we find it to remember Christ’s words.” 

“Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole Book. So long as we keep Him in view we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.” 

“He that desires to read his Bible with profit must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Spirit. Human commentaries are useful in their way. The help of good and learned men is not to be despised. But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ. A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.” 

You can also check out some other quotes that Bishop Ryle shared on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

Jesus Prepares Us For The Path

In His final week of ministry leading up to the Cross, Jesus got the most out of every minute He had. 

After a busy Monday where He cleared the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany, where He spent the night, only to return to the same temple courts Tuesday morning to teach His disciples. 

Tuesday is a preparation day. This is His last day in public before His trial and crucifixion and He has many final words to impart to His followers. Much of His teaching comes in response to the increasing onslaught from the religious leadership, who are desperately trying to find a way to silence Him once and for all.

It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t prepare the path for us, but He prepares us for the path. 

Jesus prepares us for… 

1. OPPOSITION

Not only did Jesus face opposition, but He told His followers that we would too (see Matthew 5:11; 10:17-22). Indeed as Jesus sat in the temple courts teaching on this Tuesday, group after group of religious leaders attacked Him (Matthew 21:23; 22:15, 23, 34-35). There are many lessons we can learn, but here are a few important takeaways: 

    • Answer entrapping questions with a question of your own. 
    • You don’t have to answer everything people ask you.  
    • Either-or questions probably need a both-and answer. 
    • The better we know the Scriptures, the better we can know those both-and answers.
    • Consider the source of the questioner. 
    • We shouldn’t have an unhealthy obsession with nonessential things. 
    • Love fulfills the law. 
    • When we teach in love, some people will finally get it.

2. DAILY LIVING

Between all of the entrapping questions, Jesus taught some valuable lessons. 

    • The power of faith-filled prayer
    • Obedience to God is valuable whenever it happens and in whomever it occurs 
    • We are only stewards of God’s resources 
    • The ugliness of hypocrisy

3. END TIMES EVENTS

Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised, so He tells us upfront what is coming. Some of what He teaches here would have partial fulfillment in about 30 years when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment is still to come—Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21. 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means everything He taught us was for our benefit. To honor Him, we need to know the Scriptures and God’s power (Matthew 22:29). 

So we study the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us prepared for the path ahead of us, no matter how rough it is. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Getting The Order Right

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.

Getting The Order Right

     Beware of walking in the spiritual life according to your natural affinities. We all have natural affinities—some people we like and others we do not; some people we get on well with and others we do not. Never let those likes and dislikes be the rule of your Christian life. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” [1 John 1:7], i.e., God gives us fellowship with people for whom we have no natural affinity. …  

     Our example is not a good man, not even a Christian man, but God Himself. We do not allow the big surprise of this to lay hold of us sufficiently. Jesus nowhere says, “Follow your Father which is in heaven—that you may be good men? that you may be lovable to all men?” No, “that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 5:44-45], and that implies a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ. …  

     It takes a long time to get the full force of our Lord’s statements. “I say unto you, love your enemies”—an easy thing to do when you have no enemies; an impossible thing when you have. “Bless them that curse you”—easy when no one is cursing you, but impossible when someone is. “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.” It seems easy to do all this when we have no enemies, when no one is cursing or persecuting us; but if we have an enemy who slanders and annoys and systematically vexes us, and we read Jesus Christ’s statement “I say to you, Love your enemies”—how are we going to do it? Unless Jesus Christ can remake us within, His teaching is the biggest mockery human ears ever listened to. …

     “I say unto you, love your enemies.” Jesus does not say, “Love every one.” The Bible never speaks vaguely, it always speaks definitely. People speak about loving “mankind,” and loving “the heathen”; Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Our Lord does not say, “Bless your enemies,” He says, “Love your enemies.” He does not say, “Love them that curse you”; He says, “Bless them that curse you.” “Do good to them that hate you”—not bless them. He does not say, “Do good to them that despitefully use you”; He says, “Pray for them that despitefully use you.” Each one of these commands is stamped with sheer impossibility to the natural man. If we reverse the order Jesus has given it can be done with strain, but in His order I defy any man on earth to be able to do it unless he has been regenerated by God the Holy Ghost. When a man does love his enemies, he knows that God has done a tremendous work in him, and everyone else knows it too. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

It’s impossible to do what Jesus commands if we’re trying to do it solely in our own strength. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to remake us from within, we can do what Jesus says:

  • If someone is your enemy—love them.
  • If someone persecutes you—pray for them. 
  • If someone curses you—bless them.
  • If someone hates you—do good to them. 

When we operate this way, we know that God has made this possible in us—and everyone else knows it too!

Thursdays With Oswald—Dealing With Persecution

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.

Dealing With Persecution

     If a disciple is going to follow Jesus Christ, he must lay his account not only with purity and with practice, but also with persecution [Matthew 5:38-42]. … 

     When we are on Jesus Christ’s errands, no time is to be taken in standing up for ourselves. Personal insult will be an occasion in the saint for revealing the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus. … Naturally, if a man does not hit back it is because he is a coward; supernaturally, it is the manifestation of the Son of God in him: both have the same appearance outwardly. … 

     Our strength has to be the strength of the Son of God, and “He was crucified through weakness.” Do the impossible, and immediately you do, you know that God alone has made it possible. … 

     The miracle of regeneration is necessary before we can live the Sermon on the Mount. The Son of God alone can live it, and if God can form in us the life of the Son of God as He introduced Him into human history, then we can see how we can live it too. …  

     The Sermon on the Mount is not, “Do your duty”; but, “Do what is not your duty.” … You will go the second mile, not for their sakes, but for Jesus Christ’s sake. … The first thing God requires of a man is to be born from above, then when he goes the second mile for men it is the Son of God in him Who does it. …  

     We always say we do not know what Jesus Christ means when we know perfectly well He means something which is a blunt impossibility unless He can remake us and make it possible. … We can always find a hundred and one reasons for not obeying our Lord’s commands, because we will trust our reasoning rather than His reason, and our reason does not take God into calculation. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount 

If the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount sound humanly impossible, that’s because they are! 

I cannot turn the other cheek, give to everyone who asks me, or go the second mile; but Jesus in me CAN. I have to allow the Holy Spirit to transform me, to mold the character of Jesus into me. When this happens, it is no longer I who are trying to do these things, but the Spirit of Christ in me that is actually doing these things.

11 Quotes On The Gospel Of Mark

Alongside my daily Bible study time in the Gospels of the New Testament, I have been reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. You can check out my review of this book by clicking here. 

These are a few of the quotes I especially appreciated from Ryle’s comments on the Gospel of Mark. 

“We should always read the Old Testament with the desire to find something in it about Jesus Christ.” [cf John 5:39] 

“It will always be found that when prayers are few, grace, strength, peace, and hope are small. We shall do well to watch our habits of prayer with a holy watchfulness. Here is the pulse of our Christianity. Here is the true test of our state before God. Here true religion begins in the soul, when it does begin. Here it decays and goes backward, when a man backslides from God. Let us walk in the steps of our blessed Master in this respect as well as in every other. Like Him, let us be diligent in our private devotion. Let us know what it is to ‘depart into solitary places and pray.’” 

“What extravagant importance is attached to trifles by those who are mere formalists in religion!” 

“Christ’s service does not exempt His servants from storms.” 

“The assaults of persecution from without have never done half so much harm to the church as the rise of false doctrines within. False prophets and false teachers within the camp have done far more mischief in Christendom than all the bloody persecutions of the emperors of Rome. The sword of the foe has never done such damage to the cause of truth as the tongue and the pen.” 

“Incredible is the bondage in which men live to the opinion of the world! Let us all pray daily for faith and courage to confess Christ before men. … In spite of laughter, mockery, and hard words, let us boldly avow that we serve Christ.” 

“It is a dreadful fact, whether we like to allow it or not, that pride is one of the commonest sins which beset human nature. We are all born Pharisees. We all naturally think far better of ourselves than we ought. We all naturally imagine that we deserve something better than we have. It is an old sin. It began in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had not got everything that their merits deserved. It is a subtle sin. It rules and rains in many a heart without being detected, and can even wear the garb of humility. It is a most soul-ruining sin. It prevents repentance, keeps men back from Christ, checks brotherly love, and nips in the bud spiritual desires. Let us watch against it, and be on our guard. Of all garments, none is so graceful, none wears so well, and none is so rare as true humility.” 

“It is not so much the having money, as the trusting in it, which ruins the soul. Let us pray for contentment with such things as we have.” 

“Above all, let all who desire to walk in Christ’s steps labor to be useful to others. … Let them never forget that true greatness does not consist in being an admiral, or a general, a statesman, or an artist. It consists in devoting ourselves, body, and soul, and spirit to the blessed work of making our fellow man more holy and more happy. … Let us strive to leave the world better, holier, happier than it was when we were born.” 

“The dark ages of Christendom were times when the Bible was kept back from the people. The Protestant Reformation was mainly effected by translating and circulating the Bible. The churches which are most flourishing at this day are churches which honor the Bible. The nations which enjoy the most moral light are nations in which the Bible is most known. … The godliest families are Bible-reading families. The holiest men and women are Bible-reading people.” 

“Let us remember that for our sakes Jesus voluntarily endured the most painful, horrible, and disgraceful death. Surely the thought of this love should constrain us daily to live not unto ourselves but unto Christ.” 

You can read the quotes I shared from Ryle’s thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew by clicking here. 

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