Word of the Day

The Gentiles and the Spirit

Acts 10: 44 – 45

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Peter, once brash and impetuous, matured into a grand spiritual leader. In this passage we see the perfect model of a New Testament preacher. The best message one can deliver is the one which invites and gives space to the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us the Spirit would teach us, guide us and be our constant helper. Jesus’ departure ushered in the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit is on the scene, miracles happen, people are healed and the blessings of the Lord touch the hearts of believers. The presence of the Spirit of God is what is needful because he is the power of God.

How do we know, however, when the Spirit is present? In today’s passage the circumcised believers (Messianic Jews) were amazed because they witnessed the pouring out of the Spirit upon the Gentiles. How did they know God poured out the Spirit on these Gentiles? Verse 46 reads, “For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.” The manifestation of speaking with tongues comes with the Holy Spirit. These people began speaking with tongues and exalting God and the Jewish believers recognized the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon them. Apparently, as they listened to Peter’s message about Jesus, the Spirit fell upon all who listened and the Spirit’s presence was obvious to those who accompanied Peter.

It must have been quite an occasion for celebration in Cornelius’ home that day. His family was saved, adopted into the family of God and they received the out pouring of the Holy Spirit. I would say Peter did his job.

It is not important that we say lofty, eloquent prayers or deliver sophisticated sermons. Jesus said only one thing was needful. That needful thing is the Divine Trinity. Where they are allowed freedom and communion, they charge the atmosphere with power and the glory of God. We just need God in all three persons. In this generation, we have given ourselves to the lordship of Christ. Through him we have met the Father face to face. Now we need to actively pursue the same sort of relationship with God’s Spirit. That relationship takes the same thoughtful and purposeful seeking which we each employed in coming to know the Father and the Son. If we do not pursue Him, then we will never know him or the power of his might. We will not have all Jesus died to give us. We can spend our entire lives never knowing him. Our Christianity will likely remain intact but will we be two-thirds Christian? How can we be fully united with God if we do not know one-third of the Triune Divinity?

I think these are troubling questions, theologically. The fix, however, is perfectly simple. It is our responsibility to seek the Spirit and come to know him as we do the Father and the Son. Second, as we wander through this world, engaging with others, our relationship with the Spirit brings him into association with those we encounter. We are the vessels which carry the Holy Spirit into all the world. It sounds trite but it is, none the less, God’s plan. Let us devote ourselves, therefore, to knowing the Spirit or, indeed, coming to know him better. Let us pursue him relentlessly. He is the teacher Jesus spoke of so importune him to teach you about himself and about all the things of God.

Holy Heathen

Acts 10: 4

Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”

This is from the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. It is a story of faith and devotion. Cornelius garnered God’s attention, which is remarkable in that he was a Gentile. This soldier, though, is responsible for a major change in the church.

The Messiah was the promise of the Jews. There was a great debate in the first century church about Gentiles becoming members of the fold. It was a radical idea, to say the least. For all time, there was great separation between the Jews and everyone else. The Jews were set apart as God’s chosen. Most of the Old Testament is the chronicle of God’s people opposing and be opposed by the Gentile nations. God led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of promise clearing out the nations before them. At times, He even gave Israel explicit instructions to slay every person, even women and children. He not only condoned, but in specific situations, ordered genocide. You will understand, then, how opposed the Jews were to share the Messiah and salvation through him with Gentiles.

As if that is not enough incentive for the Jews to exclude Gentiles, consider also that the Romans were an occupying army. They were rulers over Israel, military oppressors. The Jews were under Roman rule as defeated foes and Rome exerted great control over the Jewish nation. In most meaningful ways, Israel was again captive to a foreign power. Imagine, then, when some of these Gentiles began clamoring to join the church of Jesus. Cornelius was worse than the garden variety Gentile. He was an officer of the oppressor army. He was part of the power structure which allowed the Jews Messiah to die a horrible death on a cross. Could anyone be more vile to a Jew?

None the less, God heard this Gentile officer. Cornelius’ gifts of money and his devotion to prayer ascended to the throne room of God. Cornelius moved God through his faith and devotion. God was so moved that He summoned the Apostle Peter and sent him to Cornelius.

Peter was one of those who argued for the sanctity of the Jewish elect. In this bold move, though, God gave Peter a vision that forever changed the complexion of the Christian church. Upon his arrival at the home of Cornelius, Peter broached this very subject saying, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him,” (Acts 10: 28). None the less, there he was, standing in this heathen’s home. Why? It could not have been easy for him to depart from cultural norms and laws.

Gentiles are now welcomed members of God’s holy family but it began with one man’s devotion to prayer and the giving of alms. His prayers and his giving caught the attention of heaven. God sent an angel to him and a vision to Peter. God roused the leader of the church and sent him to the home of a Gentile so that salvation could come upon Cornelius’ household.

What will God do for those who are already of the household of faith when we emulate Cornelius by dedicating ourselves to prayers and to giving alms? How would you like the report about your prayer life and gifts to God ascending to the throne room? We need to understand that from our position here on earth, we can cause a stir in heaven. Perhaps God will send an angel to you or stir a prophet to visit you. Cornelius was as unlikely a candidate for divine intervention as one could imagine and yet because he was faithful, God literally moved heaven and earth for him. What a splendid testimony!

This is a call for us all to dedicate ourselves to greater devotion. It is early in the year; still a good time to make a New Year’s resolution. What would life look like, what would the church look like if we all resolve to be known, by heaven, as people of prayer? What if we each set a personal goal to distinguish ourselves through our giving?

Post your thoughts below in the comment section or visit our site at www.iveyministries.org. What does this story tell us and how might it impact our lives as well as the church?

Rest and Comfort

Proverb 3: 32

For the crooked man is an abomination to the Lord; but He is intimate with the upright.

I cannot think of anything more wonderful nor anything more satisfying than an intimate relationship with God the Father, His son and His Spirit. No matter what else goes right or wrong in life, a close, personal relationship with them, where you know them and have time with them, really anchors all of life. Your brokenness, or other people’s, is no longer the master of your life when you have your Dad to turn to and to talk to. Just being in His presence is joy itself, and life abundant. It is better than the best day at Disney World or even raising the championship trophy over your head. And when you are broken and defeated, He will breathe air into your lungs. He is everything and knowing Him as your friend and as your Father is all things. So many things become easy when He is your constant companion. I am not saying that there are not still challenges in the world. As long as there is a devil he is going to try to find some way to upset you but when you have God as a Father and Jesus as a big brother, believe me, they can do some real damage to your enemies. Just keep your eyes and attention on them and allow the Holy Spirit to completely fill you up. You will find the rest and comfort you need.

Proverbial Wisdom

Proverb 4: 1

Here, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding.

The book of proverbs is packed with wisdom, instruction and encouragement. There is no way, in daily excerpts, that I can give you any taste of the richness of the Proverbs. I would wish for you to spend a day in there or a lifetime because after all these years of reading them, I still find jewels embedded in those chapters. The proverbs were written by the wisest person ever to live, at least until Jesus. He had an intimacy with wisdom unlike anyone before or after him. He shares those deep insights with us in these pages. As you find wisdom, you find life. You could spend a month in the fourth proverb alone.

In the selected passage, God is tells us that if we will be attentive to his Word, we will receive understanding. He will give us wisdom. And really, if you want to know the whole truth, He already has given us wisdom. It is up to us to appropriate it by reading His word. It is like a field that He has already planted and cultivated such that a very bountiful and rich harvest has grown. All we need do is go reap His harvest. It is there awaiting us. And believe me, there is a lot of good fruit in the proverb section. If you want to start there you could feed yourself for a very long time.

Come. Enjoy the fruits of His labor. Eat and be filled in Jesus’ name.

Gift from God

John 14: 16 – 17

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

When Jesus left the earth, life altered for his disciples. They had to learn a new walk. Jesus began to prepare them before he left, knowing that their lives were about the change dramatically. It was a new time for them, a new beginning.

We are at a new beginning also, the beginning of a new year. Each year we look at the course of our lives and often plot out some new coordinates. How will this year be like last year and how would you like it to be different? There seems no better approach for us than that which Jesus paved for his disciples, that being a new start with the Holy Spirit of God. What better way for us to begin our thoughts about a New Year with the Holy Spirit than to see how Jesus introduced the idea to his disciples.

Jesus laid the groundwork for their introduction to the Holy Spirit in these two verses. The Spirit is a gift, that gift is from the Father and the gift is that of a helper. The disciples must have been devastated at the idea of Jesus’ departure. It is telling, I believe, that Jesus direction to the future is the path with the Holy Spirit. Here is where we need to abide. Why was this coming of the Spirit so important? What does it mean for our daily lives? What did Jesus intend to impart to the disciples that we, too, should be participants in? Jesus distinguishes believers from the rest of the world. Life with the Spirit is only for those who belong to Jesus because the world is unable to receive him, the Spirit. That means we can receive him. Jesus said the spirit was abiding with the disciples but that he was going to ask the Father and then believers would be able to receive the Spirit so that the spirit would not abide with but rather “in” the children of God.

There is a third person of the trinity who wants to have an abiding relationship with us. We are learning about the Father and the Son. Now we can invite the Spirit to participate in our lives in a very dynamic way. There is more to him than we have discovered so far but 2018 is a great year for us to dedicate to the Spirit of God: to learning more about him, to spending more time with him and to walking in the power of his might. This could be the year that changes our spiritual atmosphere forever. I believe that environmental change is in the person of the Holy Spirit. Let’s get to know him better this year. Let’s seek him and abide with him. It is a guarantee that we will have a great year.

Finding God

Deuteronomy 4: 29

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

Yesterday, we saw that God gave us power to create wealth. One of the intended results of this power is that God may confirm His promises to us. His promises are designed to create wholeness in every area of life. God has and is giving us power to create success in all facets of life.

There are some key things which will facilitate your reception of all that God has for you. Yesterday we were told to remember the Lord our God and that it is He who pours blessing into our lives. Today we are instructed to seek the Lord, our God. We also receive the promise that we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart and soul. I can attest to this. I chased Him and was found by Him. I was already a Christian and had been for many years but I wanted more of God. In fact, I wanted all of Him and was frustrated that I didn’t seem able to hear or feel Him the way some people did. So, I determined in my heart that I would have all there was to have and I sought God. He was good to His word and my life and our relationship were dramatically altered from that time on. Everything in our relationship change because I sought Him with my whole heart.

Most of us lead busy lives these days. There are not possibly enough hours in a day to do everything I must do much less all the things I want to do. So, I had to make some choices. Honestly, we all have to make choices daily. I saw in the lives of other people that which was missing in my own. I remember reading books about people whose lives demonstrated the anointing of the Lord on them. I wanted that for myself. I still want it so, one of the primary ways to position myself to receive everything I want from the Lord is to seek Him. Therefore, I have to decide to set aside time that is just for seeking His heart and His thoughts. You know it is not easy to find the time for such exploits but what am I going to do with my time which is more important? What better can I do to move forward in my life?

Ultimately, we must all make these daily choices which will, in the end, determine what kind of year we have this year. I adjure you to make the single most effective choice you can. Seek God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul. Seek Him with all your strength. Do not let Him rest. Be relentless! I make you this promise. If you seek Him, if you really and truly determine to pursue Him, not only will you find Him but you will have the best year of your life. I join you too. I have committed to seeking Him more this year than last year. So, I know I am going to have a good year, well, as long as I actually do what I have resolved to do.

Let’s go to great heights this year. Let’s grab handfuls of clouds. Seek the Lord, seek His face continually.

Covenant Keeper

Deuteronomy 8: 18

But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ swan song, if you will. The Israelites were poised on the banks of the Jordan, ready to cross over into the promised land. This marks the end of Moses’ ministry and life. This book also represents a contract, or covenant, between God and His people. You can see that in the language of today’s verse. God reminds His people of the promises He made them and which He desires to see fulfilled in their lives.

God means to confirm His promises and His covenant to us as well. Every day we have the opportunity to cross over from the desert into the land of promise and Father wants us receive the benefits of His promises as a confirmation to all people that He is an awesome God. He wishes to bless us at least as much as we desire to have blessing flow through our lives.

At what point, though, did it become taboo to expect God to keep His word regarding wealth? The language is perfectly clear in this passage that God, Himself, is giving us power to make wealth. Sure, His design is that we do that, not in our own strength but, in unity with Him, but it is through this display of His goodness that all people will see His glory.

We have a role in this, though. We must first believe that it is God’s will to make wealth in our lives. Second, if we don’t receive this promise or its fruit, then God will appear to be an oath breaker.

For many years the church has wallowed in the false piety of poverty. We have charged God with the guilt of our sicknesses and with every other misfortune of life. The church has made excuses for failure rather than stand on God’s living Word and demand that He perform His Word. However, there is new life in the church. Believers are emerging and demanding the fullness of the gospel. They are investing their hearts, faith and even their money in the promises of God. They are living in expectation and belief and they will see their God. He has waited for a people who will believe Him and trust Him. That is us.

Let’s turn our believers and receivers to full power expecting our Father to show up and show out. The ancient Israelites certainly had no more than we, and yet look at the promise God made them. Read the twenty-eighth chapter and see the expectation level we should have. Let’s fulfill our destinies and allow the Father to confirm His Word to us.

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