Then The Spirit Came!-Acts 2 Part 1

What can make a group of scared refugees the greatest fighting force  on the planet? The answer is simple–God, this time in the form of the Holy Spirit. There sat a group of men and women, their leader ascended before their eyes to Heaven.  They were anxious, hidden and gathered in one place, out of sight of the rest of the world. Then, with the sound of a hurricane, boom–God appeared and personally enabled each of the group to begin to change the world. 

These people were not skilled theologians, they were not gifted evangelists.  They were simply faithful believers in Christ-his mission and message! Upon the Spirit’s arrival,  these once fearful disciples became transformed into an army of believers able to communicate the message of the Gospel to people all over the known world. They were empowered with boldness and enabled with the gift of speaking other languages that spanned the globe.

In our culture and time, we are also enabled and empowered to be transformed from fearful disciples to spirit-filled warriors.  We simply have to believe that Christ came to save that which is lost and confess that news to any and everyone that will listen.  It is our job to convey the truth, but, it is that same mighty Spirit’s job to change people’s heart. We are free from obligation to evangelize, but, as Christ becomes real in our lives, we are compelled to tell others the great news!

It quite simply boils down to this–It is not by might, not by power, but, by my Spirit says the Lord! Zachariah 4:6

God Bless You

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Matthias-Acts 1 Part 2

So what do you do about Judas? The apostles were dumbfounded.  One of the guys that walked among them for years turned on Jesus and betrayed him.  Now the question arose–since Jesus had 12 of us before, do we replace Judas?? After much prayer, the disciples through Peter’s leadership agreed to replace Judas.  They nominated two men and chose Matthias. I am sure it was a scary thought to be counted as one of the 12, but God led the group to this man.  Little is known about Matthias, but clearly he must have served and served well.

Often times in life we are prepared for a mission, we have no idea is coming.  We go through the journey and one day, God calls us to something unexpected and amazing.  As with Matthias, it is our job to be faithful and ready, it is God’s job to prepare us and place us.  When we are called, however, we need to be ready to do whatever it is he has called us to joyfully and faithfully–Like Matthias.

God Bless You

those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in it,’

and,

“‘May another take his place of leadership.’

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

The Church and The Spirit–Acts 1 Part 1

The Book of Acts is the history of the establishment of the church.  When Christ died on the cross, the Jewish Leaders thought they had completed the task of killing the church—they were soon to learn that just as Christ arose, so did the body of believers that would literally change the very course of time and history. The Book of Acts opens with an intimate farewell speech by our Lord to his friends.  As he was preparing to return to the Father, he encouraged them to be ready for he would send the Holy Spirit. His promise was that the Spirit would empower them to be his witnesses across the world. It was a pretty Bold promise for a group of 11 fishermen, artisans and zealots.

 In our lives, we have to realize it is the same Spirit that started the church that lives in us when we receive him as our Lord and Savior. We cannot grow in our faith without him.  It is that Spirit that leads, guides and comforts us in the midst of the chaotic culture we find ourselves in.  As one searches the book of Acts, it is apparent that this journey is not easy, but, it is manageable if we rely upon him and his leadership in navigating the journey. We can never give up or lose heart—we have to cling to the idea that Christ has indeed gone to prepare a place for us with him in Heaven and will return as he promised to take us home. We cannot afford to simply sit and watch, no we must instead push forward and be his witnesses across the globe.  Help me, Lord to allow your Spirit to lead, guide and comfort me in this journey.

 God Bless You

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Trust Me-Malachi 3

The World that has somehow seen fit to abandon God and his leadership; also wants to blame God and the church for all its ills.  While they “don’t believe in God” they do believe his leadership has ruined everything.  They rail against the Church and all its conventional rules and narrow minded attitudes—yet, they refuse to allow such convention to reset and restore order and reverence to the chaos.

God tells his chosen to simply trust him.  He, like any father, wants his kids to release their fears and trust him with their futures and the timing of their future. He told them to bring their tithes to the storehouse and see if he would not literally open heavens floodgates and pour out blessings upon them.  He promises to honor those that trust him.  He will make sure that they are set apart and distinct as the ones he blesses and has prepared for eternity.

There is little in this culture to encourage such trust.  The world is intensely working to achieve the opposite effect.  The terrific news for the Church and for us as individuals comes from the Lord, himself—“In this world there will be trouble! but, take heart, I have overcome the world!” John 16:33.

God Bless You

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

13 “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.

“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.

17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

When Covenant No Longer Have Meaning–Malachi 2

The people of Israel had grown accustom to giving God lip service without any intention of following his ways.  Sadly, the practice filtered down through his anointed priests and carried through to the spiritual leaders of the households.  While the priests still continued with their priestly duties of coordinating sacrifices and temple upkeep, they had long abandoned the true worship of God.  It became so pronounced, that it embarrassed God. The lack of reverence for God by the priests filtered through the people.  They no longer saw the point of worshipping God exclusively. 

In addition, since they saw no need to worship God exclusively, they also saw no need to keep their marriage covenants exclusive; nor, did they see any point of only marrying among those of his chosen race. In short, no covenants he had established carried any weight with the people. The result was a complete lack of order or respect for God, family or authority.

Fast forward to 2016, If we look at the culture, we see that the once holy and powerful church has succumbed to compromise and political correctness. Things that were once condemned as sin are now tolerated and in many cases encouraged. The desire to put on a great show for God often supersedes any desire to truly seek and worship him. This lack of reverence flows down through the culture so that once sacrosanct covenants are now simple ceremonies and traditions that no more bind couples and families together than would a verbal contract. The end result is the same—a national culture that has no respect for life, marriage, family or authority.  It truly makes God, our loving father, sick to watch.

We as a church must rise above the chaos and restore reverence and respect in our families, churches and ultimately our communities.  It starts in our homes, then our fellowships and ultimately can spread throughout our communities—but it requires our personal and daily commitment to make God 1st in our hearts and our lives.  If we will simply follow him, he will truly honor and once again bless our land—let’s do this together!!!

God Bless You

“And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.

“Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

“For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?

11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

17 You have wearied the Lord with your words.

“How have we wearied him?” you ask.

By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”

Do I Look Like a Landfill?–Malachi 1

As busy as each of our lives become, we have to prioritize our spiritual lives with the same intensity as we do the rest of our existence.  Throughout time, men have always been content to give God the leftovers. In the book of Malachi, God evaluates the quality of relationship between Israel and him.  The first topic discussed is what priority does God fit in giving. In those days, men would bring sacrifices to God’s alter to express their repentance for sin, or to celebrate their life events like harvest, marriages or births.  In each of those events, the expectation was that out of love and gratefulness, God would receive the best of the harvest or the prime livestock. But, in this time, it seemed that people thought it more practical to simply go through the motions and sacrifice the diseased livestock or withered crops, after all, it was just God…

That ticked God off. He called them on it.  He said simply, Is this what I mean to you? You are using my alter as a landfill. You are bringing me the worst of the lot–while you keep the best for yourselves. It was greedy and discourteous. It sent the message that the people neither trusted God to provide, nor did they value him to sacrifice the offerings due him.

It is the same struggle today. We know intellectually that God is the most important thing in our lives.  He provides life and redemption.  He gives us eternal life and cleanses is of all our sin.  He literally walked away from his God status to be among us, teach us and become the final sacrifice for our redemption.

Our response should be to give our best and 1st fruit to him. Our time and talent should reflect his glory in our lives. Our giving should be joyful—not obligatory. Our language, our attitudes and our walks should reflect his impact and his involvement in all that we do. Instead, like Israel, we often make token gestures to reflect that God is a part of our lives. We attend services, we sometimes pray at events or meals. We give a token to church or charities…but, he is never our first thought or priority.

Malachi’s message of God’s displeasure still applies—God wants our best, not our refuse.  Like any dad, he wants to bless us, but not if we ignore the relationship and deceptively marginalize him. Let’s choose today to make him priority one and treat him with the love and respect he offers us.

God Bless You

A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.

“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.

“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

“By offering defiled food on my altar.

“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.

“Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.

10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

A Woman Of Noble Character-Proverbs 31

Every Man’s dream is to be married to a woman of Noble character.  The heart of the woman is focused on making life better for her family and her husband.  Whether it is assuring that they have all they need, or if it is making sure they are appropriately cleaned and dressed; a woman of noble character epitomizes self-sacrifice.   I was very fortunate, I married a woman of Noble character.

 Mrs. Joni Lee Kafer Smith has made bricks without straw for 24 years.  She rises early and stays up late to assure each of her family is safe and where they need to be each day.  Their clothes are always clean and wrinkle free while she wears tops 5-10 years old.  She works hard and still serves as chauffer, chef, nurse and counselor each and every day. She captures your heart and guides with a velvet covered glove to push each of her family toward God and personal success.

 What’s more, she has replicated herself twice.  Our adult daughters have inherited her amazing work ethic, nurturing heart and Godly spirit.  That seasoned with diligence makes them amazing humans on any front.  I simply pray for two more—A woman of noble character for my son– as he enters adult life; and, that my sweet 7th grader will follow her sisters in becoming amazing, independent and noble herself.   There really is no greater gift or more lasting legacy.  Thank you, Sweetheart for making a dreary world and life bearable and awesome!

 God Bless You

A wife of noble character who can find?     She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her     and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm,     all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax     and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships,     bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still night;     she provides food for her family     and portions for her female servants. 16 She considers a field and buys it;     out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously;     her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable,     and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff     and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor     and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;     for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed;     she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,     where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them,     and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;     she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom,     and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household     and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed;     her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things,     but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;     but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,     and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.