At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8:1
And so it begins. The enemy now has another target. He has been trying to destroy Israel for centuries. He tried to destroy the Son of God, and now he must destroy the church. It just keeps going from bad to worse for him. But he’s tenacious, even in defeat, because he’s still a master of deceit and he finds a lot of willing accomplices.
But even his greatest efforts at wreaking havoc often end upserving the purposes of the Father who can use whatever the enemy intends for evil, for good. As all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
It has to be really frustrating to be the devil, perhaps that’s why he so angry all the time—as are his minions.
Speaking of unhappy minions:
Now Saul was consenting to his (Stephen’s) death. . . .
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest– Acts 8:1 and 9:1
Saul, one of Satan’s best minions, is portrayed as walking around in a state of perpetual anger muttering murderous threats and stirring up hate against the church— until he runs smack into Jesus. Another evil plan backfired. But that’s for next week. For now, he’s serving the purpose of scattering the church like seeds blown on the wind into fertile fields.
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Acts 8:3-4
I find it funny how blinded and ignorant the hearts of evil men are as to how they are often used by God to accomplish exactly what it is they think they are destroying. I’m sure it was not very funny for the church at the time as they lived in fear of being dragged off and put into prison, but the fruits of their commitment to share the gospel, to sow the seeds, wherever they ended up soon produced much fruit.
It’s interesting to see, and a challenge to discern, what God is doing, and will do, with our current situation as the enemy seems to have found a new boldness and some new weapons for persecuting the church in America today. But rest assured, God can use any challenges we are, or will face, to advance his Kingdom and release his Spirit to work. If we’ll just keep scattering those seeds and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:5-8
Just as the scattered church thought they had lost everything, they found they really had everything, they had the keys to the kingdom. And this scattered and battered band of Messianic refugees brought great joy to the world, because they brought Jesus.
Keep bringing Jesus!
The Lord’s heart is for you, for your heart, and for your mission. Carry on. HS
The Stephen of the book of Acts is known as the first Christian martyr. But why? Why was he so violently and unjustly pummeled to death? He was just a servant!
Stephen was one of several who had been appointed by the apostles to help with the distribution of the food to the widows and those in need after a dispute had arisen because of what some saw as an unfairness in the way it had previously been handled.
But we also learn in Acts 6 that Stephen was empowered by the Holy Spirit not just to serve food but that the Lord also used him to speak great words of wisdom and to do “great signs and wonders among the people”.
Thus proving that it is not those who aspire to lead who are the true leaders. It is the servants who are anointed to lead whom God uses. It is the faithful and the obedient who carry the sharpest swords.
But this Holy Spirit anointing was getting Stephen some undesirable attention as not everyone was ready to listen to the truth. And they soon started leveling false accusations at Stephen, accusing him of subverting the law of Moses and threatening the destruction of the temple through Jesus Christ.
These contrived accusations were in response to the unanswerable and irresistible words that Stephen had been speaking as he shared the gospel with all he could, while stumping those who would come against him with the wisdom of his answers. He was frustrating the snot out of those who refused to see truth, just the same as Jesus did. Because he is doing it by the Spirit of Jesus.
He was speaking words that cut straight to the heart and they either healed or hurt depending on the response.
So instead of arguing with him any longer on the merit of what he is saying, they falsely accuse him. And when that does not stop him, they stop their ears, then drag him from the city, and stone him to death. We’ll get him to shut up one way or another!
A little drastic don’t you think?
Well, the enemy will stop at nothing to silence the words of truth, causing those whom he has deceived, into totally irrational behavior, causing them to abandon all reason, to ignore evidence and even resist the Holy Spirit himself who would open their eyes and ears to the truth that would save them and set them free—if they would only listen.
So when this world seems to you to have gone mad, when you struggle to understand why this unnatural and unreasonable aversion to the things of the Lord—why scriptural decency and biblically based morality is disproportionately attacked and rejected when every other set of beliefs and values, or lack thereof, is embraced and welcomed— remember how they reacted to Stephen as he simply laid out truth using their own history and scripture to do so. (Acts 7) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+7&version=NKJV
When you consider that this is the very same reaction we see so many times in so many places over and over in history and the world, It becomes clear who must be behind this aversion to the truth and who is driving the lost insane with hate. It is the devil himself.
When a heart is deceived and full of darkness and lies, death and hate, words of life and light cut straight through to the core and create a crisis in the minds of the deceived—‘Believe and admit that I was wrong, or succumb to the evil within and silence or destroy the words that threaten my self-made world where I can justify my sin andselfishness?’ So many choose ignorance, that is the great paradox of mankind.
But, then ignorance is much easier to maintain and demands nothing of the adherent. Ignorance is bliss? Funny, those who cling to it don’t appear too happy to me. Because the ignorance we are talking about is not just a rejection of truth, it is an embrace of the lies, by default.
We have the truth, never stop wielding it, a warrior who gives his sword soon looses everything-freedom, family, dignity, life. You are a child of the King. No one has the right to silence you!
Find the courage that dwells untapped in your heart. Release the barbarian spirit and let God use it for His glory!
Saphira’s husband has just fallen dead at the feet of Peter for lying to the Holy Spirit, now she comes along and doubles down on the scheme.
“Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”
She said, “Yes, for so much.”
Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Acts 5:8-9
She does indeed fall down dead. OMG!
Apparently character and integrity rank pretty high on the Lord’s list.
Why it matters
Yes what happened to this couple may seem harsh. But integrity, honesty, character is important. Very important to God because he knows what we will be facing if we are truly following him.
The attacks and the trials of a Spirit filled believer who professes Jesus Christ as the Son of God in a world that is largely in control by the Prince of Darkness who hates us and our God, who knows that our words are just exclamation points on his defeat are frequent and relentless. Our strength of character and the integrity of our relationship with God is paramount to our standing and even flourishing in the attacks.
Immediately after this event we see why character is so important.
“Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” . . . and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:28, 40—42
A clean Heart
The Lord needs our hearts to be right for the trials ahead. A pretentious spirit that wants to please godly men while disregarding the Spirit within will never stand up when it matters, when they are called to proclaim the words of life to others even if it may cost their own.
What a stark difference between the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira and the Apostles here. The first two sought acclamation and attention by pretending to be sacrificially serving the Lord in obedience and thus suffered internally even to death.
The later sought only to glorify Jesus, sacrificially serving in obedience to the Lord even though it made them look rebellious in the eyes of man and thus they suffered externally. But they rejoiced and were strengthened within.
The time to play games is long past. The time to pretend is long past. It is time to be real, to be who we are in Christ and to be honest in all things to ourselves, each other and most importantly, we must be honest to God.
Because in the end, we must be found standing. We must stand in and against this evil day. To do that we must have a heart of integrity. No pretensions, no falsities, no showboating.
All the Lord wants is a heart that’s true, a heart that’s pure, a heart that‘s His
We are the bride of Christ, we are one with him, as we are one with our spouse. A dishonest marriage, a marriage where one person lies to the other with no remorse or hesitation is not a marriage that can nor should survive, it is in fact not a marriage at all as marriage is based on a covenant, a promise, a word.
If that word is no good, the marriage covenant is meaningless. The same is true in our relationship to our God. You gave your heart to Jesus, be true to him. He is always true to you.
But remember, it is the same God on both sides of Matthew chapter one. Sin is still sin and God still desires hearts that are honest before him and are appreciative of the grace and mercy given. The difference is that we now have direct access to that God through his Son Jesus Christ and we are now his Temple, and the Holy Spirit now lives in us So we better pay attention to what we do with that access and what kind of condition we keep that temple in.
Ananias and Sapphira were trying to make themselves appear sacrificially generous and thereby godly in the eyes of Peter and the church. What they did not realize was that lying to the church, the body of Christ, and to those anointed to lead in that body, was tantamount to lying to God.
The Holy Spirit of Christ was leading the church through Peter, and the other apostles, thus a lie to them concerning things of the Lord was a lie to the Holy Spirit.
And this could not be allowed. Sudden death seems a harsh thing for a small crime—small to us but huge to God. The fallen nature of man makes lying all to acceptable, but with God, not so much, especially among the newly birthed church.
And if not dealt with here and now, nipped in the bud, it would be a condition that might only worsen and spread to the rest of the body. And, if this behavior is allowed to stand, the strength of character that would be such a vital part of following Jesus in their hostile world would be destroyed.
Character cannot be faked, holiness cannot be faked. Lying and deceit is the antithesis to holiness and character.
Jesus compared this condition, when he perceived it in the Pharisees, to white washed tombs. They look good on the outside but inside they are full of dead men’s bones. That pretend holiness would not be tolerated in the fledgling church. Peter, in the Spirit, deals with it immediately and decisively. A religious spirit that fosters pretenders will not be tolerated.
A religious spirit is one that pretends to be Godly. And it is from the devil himself.
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? Acts 5:3
Satan mimics everything good and then perverts it, even holiness. It is his greatest deceit. Pretend holiness in the flesh to make one look good, as opposed to genuine heart surrender with no concern for one’s image, deceives others, and sometimes even yourself, into thinking you are godly. But, like the prophet Samuel had told Saul so many years earlier; “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”
Peter no doubt remembered the time when he became the mouthpiece of Satan when he voiced what seemed like a holy sentiment at the time as he tried to steer Jesus away from the cross. Jesus looked him straight in the eye and commanded: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
So, in that sense, it was not Ananias and Saphira who were being rebuked per se, but Satan himself, and these two were victims of his deceit, like Judas who hardened his heart to the point where he allowed himself to betray the Lord even knowing that Jesus knew he was lying to his face about his loyalty. Death became his end also.
So being honest before the Lord. Honest to God, is critical if you want to stay free of the enemy’s influences and to be in a place where you can be trusted by the Lord to be used for his purposes, to fulfill the plan he has for you and be blessed in the process with joy in your heart and a peace of mind.
It’s all kind of sobering if you ask me. How many times have I stretched the truth,led others to believe I was more godly, generous, obedient or committed than I really am? It’s especially tempting for someone who is prone to be codependent, as I am. I want to play by all the rules, make everyone happy and make myself praiseworthy—especially those in power.
Okay, maybe I’m not that way anymore so much. If you have been around me for a while, and especially if you read last week’s blogs, https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/blog.hopechapelredlodge.com/3424 you know I am largely over the submissive obedience thing for the sake of looking good. The Lord has fanned to flame the barbarian heart of the warrior in me so I am a recovering codependent. By the grace of God and the freedom found in Christ.
But it is still tempting to want to appear to have it all together for Christ, or appear to be suffering and giving more for Christ than you really are. Or at least make sure you are getting noticed and getting credit for all that you do.
Unfortunately it seems that is more the norm in the church than the exception. Churches are known as a place where people come together and act like they have it all together and that they are blessed into eternal bliss because of all their sacrifice and obedience, and oh yeah, faith.
You are not going to see a lot of that in my church. I won’t put up with it especially if it is being done in a way that knocks others down. People who are wanting to climb the “look at me I’m super godly” ladder often do so by stepping on others to make themselves look higher up that ladder than they really are.
That’s what I call a religious spirit. And I have tangled with those many times. I have cast more than one religious spirit out of our building. This barbarian preacher can spot a pious faker a mile away. And the spirit’s they leave behind leave a real sour taste. Just like the faces of those they deceive—sour.
But the main reason I won’t put up with those lying sour sprits, and why you don’t see a lot of pretension here, is because we foster an environment of honesty. If you’re a mess, we want to know you’re a mess, so that we can love on you and pray for you. If you are lying to the Spirit via your brothers and sisters in the church, and to the pastor, you cannot be prayed for and ministered to by those who are moving in the Spirit and in the authority of the Spirit.
We are all real people here who just happen to know an awesome God and we are all on a journey to know him better and to learn to follow him more closely. Pretension only gets in the way of that. Our eternal souls are too important to jeopardize by playing games. And life is too short to play at being perfect when the truth can set you free.
But to receive and benefit from truth you have to be truthful. There is an unalterable law in God’s creation—You reap what you sow.
“But, but, but, aren’t we supposed to submit to the authorities?“
So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:18-20
Peter and John found themselves in hot water with the “authorities” one day as they healed and preached Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem. Did they meekly go home and keep to themselves? If they had we would not know this story, nor any of the gospel for that matter. Jesus who?
‘But, but, but, aren’t we supposed to submit to the authorities?’ How often have you heard that in the last year?
No! A big resounding— let the deceived and the deceivers, the darkest corners of hell, and the devil and his Antichrist hear it—No!
Do not submit to lesser authorities when a higher authority is directing you another way.
Never mind the whole county, state and federal agencies overstepping their authority and demanding things of us that go against the highest authority of our land, our biblically inspired USConstitution.
Until March of 2020 no one in America would have ever imagined that an unknown and unelected county health official could shut down every food service business in a county with virtually no warning, and that a state Governor could unilaterally demand that private business close indefinitely, that people stay sequestered in their homes, that kids lose nearly two years of education and that churches close their doors while cooperate box stores and liquor stores are still packed full of people.
And we just go along with it, it’ all for the greater good after all—we must submit. Fine. The world is full of monarchies and dictatorships that strip all people of their God given rights, for the greater good of course. That’s been the way of man for eons, and one, by the grace of God and the blood of God fearing men, that we had gotten away from for almost two hundred years.
The shredded US Constitution is one thing, perhaps arguable, but I do not believe Godfearing Americans should deem it null and void and just passively allow all our God given rights to be stripped away.
Words that affirm God as the giver of our freedom founded this nation in 1776 as we declared independence from a King who would hinder those rights granted by our creator.
But that’s another matter.
We are focused on the spoken word of God today, and the right and command to share it in power. We must not submit to authorities who tell us we cannot preach Scripture and that Jesus is offensive and not acceptable in the public square.
We do not submit to the authorities when what they tell us is in direct contradiction to the word of God. The Apostles had been told by Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples of all men, and they cannot do that if they allow people with worldly power and influence to control their speech.
The followers of Christ had a story to tell, a witness to give and a fire in their hearts that had to burst forth in testimony and could not be contained. And if they were to suffer for it—they would count it all joy for it only confirmed the validity of their message and gave God more opportunity to be glorified as he indeed would be as he rescued the apostles over and over from their persecutors.
Because of their boldness and refusal to submit to those who would silence, their words would became a witness that would change the world. Those words are still just as powerful, and the enemy hates that, he fears that more than anything, and he has been on an all out assault on that truth ever since. But he keeps losing.
Let’s not be the generation that allows the word of God to be silenced because we were afraid to offend, because we were convinced that it is outdated, hurtful and hateful. The enemy is real good at changing the definition of words, of normalizing sin—‘No wait, we can’t label anything as sin—who are we to judge?’
‘We can’t claim that Jesus is the only way—that’s narrow minded and intolerant.’
‘Let’s just take that out of our discourse, let’s take Jesus out of our music, out of our sermons—’we must be more tolerant and just talk about grace in general and how much God loves us all and wants to bless us. Never mind that old fashioned notion of repentance and self-control.Holiness? What is that anyway?’
‘And all those things about immorality—who are we to say that what you do and whom you do it with is right or wrong. God is cool with it all, andso are we. You will all be fine, in fact, let’s just forget about all that confusing scripture stuff and just use generalities and the latest bestselling aren’t we wonderful books.’
‘We all know what the bible says right? It’s just the overall concepts that God wants us to know—we don’t need to get bogged down in the word for word stuff. That just causes division and scares people away. Let’s just gather together and celebrate the power of love. “All we need is love, love. Love is all we need.”’
‘If we just do that no one will be offended, more people will come to our church and all of “they” will leave us alone and praise us for our progressiveness. No one will bother us and we will continue to grow our empire, I mean the Kingdom, and we will be blessed with abundance.’
‘. . . ‘What? Shut down our church for a couple of weeks because some people might get sick. Okay no problem. Can we open yet?’ No, ‘How about now?’ No. Now?’ No. ’We’re not essential? Okay, I guess…’
‘Umm, it’s been months, can we open yet?’ Yes, just a little. But cover your faces and don’t sing or get near each other. ‘Okay, I don’t want to be like that radical bible thumping pastor down the road who refused to submit and got arrested. That’s just not a good witness.’
Are you tracking with me here church? Are you getting uncomfortable? Because we are living in an uncomfortable world right now, but you know what? This world is not our home. And it never will be until Jesus comes back to defeat the lies and prove to all once and for all that he is the way, the truth and the life and that not one jot or tittle of his word will pass away until all is fulfilled, and all who love his word and long for his return will be vindicated.
While the weak and enlightened, and the powerful who demanded we be silent and submissive are begging the mountains to fall on them and hide them.
That day will come because the Antichrist has deceived the world into worshipping the beast and turning away from the one true God because the church fell silent. And a lot of good people, who might have turned if they had heard the words, will perish.
But is does not have to happen on our watch. We must speak the words of life, in the power of the Spirit, boldly and joyfully. The world, is starving for truth.
Speak the words of life.
By the way, here is my Authority to keep my church open and to keep preaching truth:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
We have the words of life. Desperately needed, lovingly given, to be boldly shared.
“Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Acts 4:1-2
They fear our words. Is that a revelation to anyone? You all know who they is. If you don’t, you are they.
They are many and varied and wear many different hats, but they all deny the Truth of the Author of life and embrace the lies of the father of lies, claiming diversity yet acting in unison according to the approved script . And if you speak the truth often enough and in enough different circles, you will soon discover just how prevalent they are and how powerful they have become—so they believe any way.
If they truly had power they would have no reason to fear our words, right?
Think about all that is going on lately, all the emphasis on political correctness, but now under a new heading; woke-ism, whereby everything is offensive and must be cancelled– history erased and altered.
We have an unapologetically biased news media, big tech social media censorship, churches regulated, choked down or shut down, face covering mandates, honest questions and dissension shamed, and any criticism or questioningof the sanctioned experts and authorities is banned by those who control the narrative—all in the name of keeping us safe.
Compliance to the state and her anointed spokespersons is paramount. Because big brother knows best and us ignorant redneck church going little people are incapable of taking care of ourselves and we are all racist and backwards thinking anyway.
And then we go and start talking about that Jesus stuff like he is some kind of Savior that can take care of us and give us hope. ‘Those backward evangelicals teach personal responsibility, accountability and right and wrong, freedom in thought and in spirit, loving their enemies, and prayer? We can’t be having that!’
They fear our words because when we speak in Jesus name, about our Jesus, it destroys their narrative that we are ignorant, that we hate everyone who is not just like us, that we are intolerant and backwards and want to put everyone into bondage.
They fear our words because when people listen and put their trust in Jesus they no longer give up everything in return for security from the government, they start to think for themselves and understand the difference between good and evil, truth and lies, love and lust.
‘People who love God have their eyes open, and we can’t have that. People who trust Jesus don’t live for the here and now, and they have no fear of death, and we can’t have that either.’
A people who do not fear death cannot ever be totally subjugated—’and that is unacceptable in a society where power is attained and maintained by fear.’ It’s disturbing.
“being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Acts 4:2
So yes, they fear our words and are greatly disturbed when we teach and preach in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They find that offensive.
You all know there’s going to be a resurrection right? “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” 1 Thess 4:16
The enemy can scheme, lie and deceive, arrest, shut down, accuse and even execute believers in Christ all they like, but they cannot stop that archangel from blowing that trumpet.
And they cannot un-speak the word of God once it has been spoken. And that’s what we have, hidden in our hearts and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and that’s what makes us dangerous. Because we keep stealing souls away from the devil’s clutches of death.
And I don’t know about you, but I will NOT be silent.
In the first days of the new church Peter and John are walking into the Temple and take notice of a lame beggar whose life and eternity is about to be dramatically changed.
“And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:4-6
The beggar was expecting coinage, just hoping for lunch money. He saw an empty hand extended to him that turned out to be far from empty. These radical Christ followers just gave from what they were given, and it turned a hopeless lame beggar into a joy filled child of God who would soon be leaping for Joy in the Temple courts. Simply because a couple of fisherman from Galilee listened when the Holy Spirit said reach out to this broken man.
What do I have? A question we all ask of ourselves. ‘What do I have that is any good to anyone? What do I have that sets me apart, makes me someone? What do I have to give? What can I possibly give to God? What do I have that he can use to advance his Kingdom, to bless his people, to bear fruit for Jesus?’
What do you have? You have a lot of things I’m sure, many of them unique to you, and many of them you are not even aware of. Most of us would be amazed at what others see in us that they wish they had, or are grateful that we share with them. Yet we spend much of our time being envious of others or wishing we were better.
You have gifts, talents and natural abilities that are passed along in your DNA, the miraculous code embedded in every cell of your body that can contain information handed down to you from countless generations of amazing people who came before you, now suddenly coming out in you. Gifts that the creator decided he would release in you as he was forming you in the womb. Gifts you can build on and perfect as you live, pursue, and experience life.
You have passions born of God given inspirations and life experiences. Wisdom born of God, and again, life experiences—hard lessons learned and scars that remind. You have a unique personality that sets you apart from all others and an amazing brain that can learn, shape and even rearrange ideas and concepts. Understand mysteries and create new ones.
You have a unique look and a beauty that is yours and yours alone that can only be truly released from within, allowed to shine forth by a bright countenance and a confidant smile no matter what imperfections of the flesh you believe you have. You have an inner radiance that ink, make up and piercing’s can never replicate and would only distract from.
You can laugh, cry, rage and soothe—at will if you so choose. You have a tongue that no one controls but you, that can encourage, teach, build up and praise. Hands that can either build or tear down, paint, draw, write, play music, defend or heal. Maybe all of those things, depending on what you choose to do or what your gifting allows, again, in ways that are unique to you.
And if you are a believer in Christ; a born again, Spirit filled, scripture loving, child of God; you have a light that shines from your eyes, a hope that is heard in your voice, a love that is felt in your touch, and a power that is yours to command that can make the universe tremble.
What do you have to give? You have the Holy Spirit of the living God dwelling in your heart. You have the name of Jesus to release it into the world and you have the love of the Father who calls you child and gives you the authority of a prince or a princess in his Kingdom.
So do not ever say—I do not have anything to give—what you do have to give is all that He gave you—and that is everything.You have life, love, healing and hope to give. What you do have, is Jesus.
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Acts 2:2
The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it . . . The words of Jesus to Nicodemus three years earlier, finding a new and very literal fulfillment as they hear the Holy Spirit come rushing into their existence.
So the Holy Spirit comes rushing in from heaven with the sound of a mighty wind, taking on a visible appearance like tongues of fire above the heads of each, reminiscent of the burning bush or the shekinah glory that led the children of Israel at night in the wilderness, and it settles on each of them and fills them with the Holy Spirit—and they suddenly have power.
And they are only beginning to discover what that means, which is what the rest of the book of Acts is about. But the first thing that happens is, the same as what happens today when one is baptized in the Holy Spirit, they get the gift of tongues. An immediate manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with othertongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled” Acts 2:4-7
The scriptures going forward will have a lot to say about all of this, including the gift of tongues. It is the ability to speak words in a language that the speaker does not understand, yet it is a known language to someone, either men or angels. It is used to pray for oneself and for others without hinderance from ones own thoughts. It is a way to offer praise and worship. It can be a prelude to prophetic words and messages, or simply a way to calm the mind and soul of the one speaking.
I use my prayer language often when I feel stressed, when I’m about to lose my temper, or when I feel threatened. It puts my spirit back in control and keeps my emotions in check—and reminds me of who it is that is always with me—the Holy Spirit of God.
On this day, on Pentecost, tongues is a way for the Holy Spirit to, say ‘Hey—I’m here, I’m real and I can prove it.’ It is also a way to get the attention of the crowds who are in Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire, many of them speaking different languages and recognizing the words that many of the disciples are speaking as they are extolling Almighty God in their new way of doing so.
They apparently heard the sound of the wind and now hear the commotion caused by these people, whom are known to be from the backwater region of Galilee, speaking loudly and plainly in their own foreign tongues. And it draws quite a crowd.
The quiet and small group of Jesus followers who have been mostly staying behind closed doors are now apparently out in the street drawing all kinds of attention to themselves. ‘Don’t they remember what happened the last time this happened? Their leader, Jesus, got crucified. But now they are carrying on like he is the king and all is well—and this tongues thing—what is that all about?’
Mission accomplished—the tongues have glorified God, proven his presence and prepared Peter to preach a Holy Spirit inspired sermon that will rock their world and have them all begging for the Spirit of God to come on them in the name of his Son Jesus as well.
Remember—these are all Jews. The Holy Spirit has just drawn them into the church of Jesus Christ, convinced them that he is indeed the Messiah and brought them all into his Kingdom.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37—38
They repented, were baptized in water and the Holy Spirit—with fire. Three thousand of them right off the bat, as soon as Peter finished speaking. Now there’s an anointed sermon. Pretty good for a short tempered fisherman who was afraid of a servant girl just a few weeks ago.
Lord, fill all of us, your people with the power to change this world-for you! Baptize us with fire!
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Obviously, the ascension of Jesus is the focus of this opening chapter of Acts, but let’s picture this scene for a moment. The Men of Galilee, as they are addressed here by the strangers in white, are standing there on the Mount of Olives slack jawed, staring up into heaven, probably somewhat in shock as they have just witnessed Jesus, who appears to still be as human as them, though they know better at this point, has just floated off of the face of the earth and disappeared into the clouds. Leaving them alone–so they thought.
They suddenly they hear a voice and turn to see two men in white apparel asking them, seemingly somewhat incredulously, ‘Why are you standing here gazing into nothingness?’ It’s kind of like the young man in white who earlier had asked Mary; “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” It’s like ‘Come ‘on people, pay attention!‘
In both these cases these angels, as we now know them to be, appear, or are at least described as simply men— men in white. To me that sounds like they could be mistaken for just another person—who happens to be in the right place and just happens to have the right answers, in the moment.
I have to wonder how many times these men in white have inconspicuously stood by us with an answer we needed at just the right time and we failed to realize who they were—until much later, if at all. Paul reminded us of this in one of his letters.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:12
There are many great stories of spectacular angelic rescues to be heard, but often, they are just bringing a word in time, to save a weary soul.
A few years ago I was a little discouraged—okay, a lot discouraged. I had been toiling away at the church here in Red LodgeMontana for years, still working full time —at that time actually working on a project in Miles City during the week—and the church seemed to have hit a wall, or at least I had.
So I was sitting on a park bench overlooking Red Lodge, up by the airport in a little park area and I was praying, or should I say whining, to the Lord. “Lord, what am I doing here. My vision of a thriving church that supports a ministry of healing and restoration,drawing people from all over to be refreshed and recommissioned for the callings and passions you had given them to make a difference in this world for you; it just doesn’t seem to be happening.”
Not to mention my vision of having a church big enough to allow me to quit my construction job and focus more on ministry—”Lord? What am I doing here? Did I miss something?”
Suddenly I noticed an older gentleman in a jogging suit and a pair of sneakers, walking down the trail that ran right past the bench I was on. He greeted me with a big smile and said; “Nice place for some R and R!” “Yes it is.” I replied. And he just kept on walking. I sat there and thought; Yes, indeed it is, as his words seemed to reverberate in my soul.
I wish I could say the man was wearing white, I don’t remember— But he spoke the words of God to me just as surely as if the heavens had parted and Jesus had hollered down at me—’Hey!This is why you are here—remember?’
I am convinced that he was an angel.
That one sentence confirmed in me and reminded me exactly why God had sent me here, and reassured me that the vision and call to be here was still valid.
God sent me here with a very clear mission to build a church of refuge and rest, a place to recoup, rebuild and refit for wounded soldiers who are weary of the fight, who feel scorned and cast aside or who just need a little R and R. And what better place for a ministry like that then in Red Lodge MT at the foot of some of the grandest and most beautiful mountains in the world?
The very nature of a ministry like that, by design, is that people might stay for a while and then move on into the plan God has for them. Healed, forgiven, forgiving, and empowered by his Spirit. And it has been happening.
God never told me how many it would be happening with at a time—he just asked me to come. And to claim and cling to my own healing along the way.
And if it takes an occasional visit from the men in white to remind me—than thank you Jesus, I’ll take it. Why are you standing here gazing into the heavens? —’Why are you sitting here on this bench whining?’ Okay Lord, I get it. I’ll go back and do what you asked me to do.
And you know what? Anything I have ever done with and for the Lord, no matter how difficult, is still better than my old life without Jesus.
Angel is a word that simply means messenger. Are you listening to the messages?
It’s too easy sometimes to forget how miserable life was without Jesus—without his Holy Spirit—when we have been following for a while, serving, and perhaps getting too far ahead even, of Jesus.
We get tired, discouraged and disillusioned—even cynical. It’s often because we lost focus. We stopped focusing on Jesus, started doing things in our own power, or we just simply allowed our joy to be stolen away and allowed the lies of this world to overshadow us.
This story told in the book of Acts, especially in the opening chapters, reminds us of the stark difference of life before and after the Holy Spirit, before and after being born again and then baptized in the Spirit. Rescued from death and despair, born again into eternal life and then supercharged by an immersion from head to toe with the same Holy Spirit that has just given us new life—if we’ll accept it all.
The story of the gospels and Acts is the story of our return to oneness with our creator. It is the restoration to wholeness, to completeness for mankind—the completeness that is still available to us. There is a stark black and white difference between the people who sought to know God, who longed for truth, before Jesus’ resurrection, and after, when the Spirit became available—when they could be born again, and then empowered.
We are privileged to live as recipients of the grace purchased by the blood of Jesus, of his giving the Holy Spirit to his church, to us, so that we are again able to be the people God created us to be. We are no longer just an empty shell full of echoes of what could have been.
“Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3) We no longer have to hide, we are no longer outcasts. We have been restored.
We see that being played out in the first followers of Jesus, and it is something that is still being played out today.
Let’s talk about this born again thing before we get into the baptism of the Spirit because I believe the scripture makes a clear distinction between the two. One is life—the other is power. Life, is of course the first and perhaps most important thing.
So that has to be the starting point.
Remember when Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to see the Kingdom of God?
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
. . . “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
. . .‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. . .
That rebirth had everything to do with the Spirit.
So we see at the end of the same gospel of John, the fulfillment of that—the wind of the Spirit being blown where it wills by the mouth of God, right into the hearts of his disciples.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
This happened in the room where Jesus met the Apostles as they were still hiding out after the resurrection.
They had the very breath of life blown into them by Jesus. The Son of God through whom for whom and by whom all things were created (Colossians 1) was breathing life back into his beloved. Just as he had done when he created Adam so long ago, making him a living being, created in his image. That was the life that was lost when Adam and Eve ate the fruit that they had been commanded not to eat, when they disobeyed and then hid from God.
They died. God had told the; “…on the day you eat of it you shall surely die” Well, they did, thus their spirits died, the breath of life from God replaced with emptiness and longing. Leaving them seeking restoration and life from there on out. Jesus, the Son of God, came to restore that.
Those who were dead inside could now be born again. All who believe in and accept that Jesus is Lord and that he rose from the dead, who recognize the emptiness and death inside caused by their sin— those who seek him—they receive the Holy Spirit, what we often call receiving Jesus. They are born again.
And what a feeling it is. When the Spirit comes in and breathes life into our weary and lonely souls, fills our hearts and our heads with joy and peace, a feeling of invincibility—that no matter what, I am his and he is mine and will be forever!
I remember well that feeling of suddenly knowing that I knew that there was a God in Heaven who loved me, of having that nagging doubt and emptiness in me replaced with the security of knowing and feeling alive again. I was thirteen years old and just reading the gospel accounts of Jesus on my own. I believed and was born again.
It would be several years later that I would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the life that was breathed into me started me down that long, and very crooked, path to that point where I would trust the Lord enough to allow him to fill and empower me completely. But when I did get to that point, there are simply no words to describe. It is indeed power, it is so much more than just life—it is. . . —but we’ll get into that next week.
And Then Some
I just want you to understand that the Holy Spirit is not a one trick pony. The life he gives you is just the start.
It’s simple really—At the end of the gospel of John, after the resurrection, mankind is saved—they can be born again. But on the day of the feast of Pentecost—fifty days later, the church would truly be born; born of those who had been born of the Spirit, and now empowered to be the church, to be the bearers of good news, the champions, of the Kingdom of God.
And the world would never be the same.
I think it no accident of chance that John’s gospel immediately proceeds the book of Acts. Because it puts the two subsequent works of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the believers, one right after the other as they should be.
“Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. —John 20:21—22
He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”— Acts 1:4—5
Those same apostles who have received the breath of life, received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, are told to return to Jerusalem and wait for the power.
And the disciples of Jesus Christ, men and women both, have no idea what is about to happen to them. They are about to go from happy but timid born again believers who just want to be left alone as the gaze heavenward and wait for Jesus to return, to radical Jesus freaks who look at the Roman Empire, the entire known world for that matter, as one big revival meeting tent, and they will lead that crusadewith a zeal that cannot be stopped except by pain of death, and even that, just stokes the flames of the Spirit.
Because death is no longer a factor. And if there is no fear of death, there is nothing that can stop you.