Real Deal

Acts 19:1-7

“Did you receive the holy spirit when you believed?”

“We had not heard,” they replied, “that there was a ‘holy spirit.'”

…they were baptized in the name of Jesus. Paul then laid his hands upon them, and the holy spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

~Kingdom New Testament 

I only want the Real Deal.

Holy Spirit of Jesus I seek You.

To ponder, from William Willimon’s most excellent commentary on Acts:

“Luke would not have understood any conception of discipleship without the Spirit. The Spirit, as Paul assures the followers of Apollos, is not optional equipment for Christians, not some advanced degree which separates ‘Spirit-filled Christians’ from the run-of-the-mill non-spiritual proletariat. By virtue of baptism in the name of Jesus and laying-on-of-hands, all Christians are ‘charismatic’ (19:6).”

“Power is part of a relationship with the Lord who is personally known by the believer.”

“This faith is not simply about conversion nor is it only about wonder-working power; it is conversion into and power derived from a relationship with the risen Christ.”


Shake It Off

Acts 18:5-6

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was putting great energy into the task of bearing forthright witness to the Jews that the Messiah really was Jesus. 

When they opposed him, and blasphemed, he shook out his clothes. “Your blood be on your own heads!” he said. “I am innocent. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.”

In Ezekiel, one who fails to warn people to repentance has blood on one’s head, that is, is morally responsible for the people’s judgement.

Paul had sufficiently declared to these Corinthians that Jesus was God’s anointed one to whom they must bow, and for whom they must turn away from their current practices. His conscience was clear, and he felt comfortable to move on.

Sometimes when faced with rejection, we are called to simply walk away because we have done our part, and they have refused to open themselves up in any way to the message of Jesus.

This takes courage, wisdom, and great charity to do so.

At times, we tend to feel we are to bear with someone and their excuses/rejection over and over. While this is possible of course, it is many times not likely our calling, but rather the enemy’s way of guilting us into a frivolous expenditure of time and energy that God would desire us to use toward someone else more receptive so much fruit can be borne.

Be careful. Be wise. Be discerning. Be prayerful through this.

Groping & Finding

Acts 17:27

God wanted them to ·look for [seek] him and perhaps ·search all around for [grope for; reach out to; feel their way towards] him and find him, though he is not far from any of us:

~Expanded Bible

God made us humans with the intent for us to seek after who we came from, and “find” Him, connecting ourselves to Him in such a way that we are one with Him.

His creation is testament to His existence, providence, awesomeness, and care—though finding Him in this way is a little like groping around in the dark.

But with the light of the Gospel, repentance, and belief in the resurrection of Jesus and complete trust in Him, we find Him with a much fuller comprehension of just who He is, experiencing Him at the deeper level I believe He intends for us.

Without these elements of light, we remain groping in the dark.

Let us remember this Memorial Day the many martyrs for Christ who have given their life for the sake of this Gospel light—from Stephen who was stoned to death in the first century to Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed in the 20th century to 85 year old priest Jacques Hamel who was murdered during Mass in 2016…

Just Go To Prayer

Lydia image by Maria Elkins

Acts 16:13,16,25

On the sabbath day we went outside the gate to a place by a river where we reckoned there was a place of prayer, and there we sat down. Some women had gathered and we spoke to them. There was a woman called Lydia…

As we were going to the place of prayer we were met by a girl with a spirit of divination.

Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a huge earthquake., which shook the foundations of the prison. At once all the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains became loose.

It’s pretty amazing what happens when we go to prayer. When we keep consistently going to prayer.

Things happen. Supernatural things, divine appointments and interruptions, meetings to be written about for all time…like we have here.

Just keep going to prayer. To prayer services, gatherings, closets, everything. Just keep praying. And your eyes will be opened to so much going on around you that you didn’t (couldn’t?) even see before.

If Paul and company had not gone to prayer on this specific sabbath, they would not have met Lydia and witnessed the Lord open her heart to the Gospel. For Lydia to be written about here is huge. Not only was she a woman, but she was rich. And we know how money can keep people from God, because Jesus talked about the camel and needle thing.

For anyone thinking the Bible denigrates women, we have stories such as these that show us just how far ahead so many early Christians were of their time.

When compared to conventional Jewish and Greco-Roman ideas about women, the church must have seemed radical in the way it welcomed women and featured them as leaders and prophets.

The early church had leaders like Lydia even though it seems to have struggled to square the cultural presuppositions about women with the gifts and leadership of women within early congregations…

Perhaps Luke gives prominence to the role of women like Lydia to assure Theophilus’ church–a church which may have regressed to more conventional cultural mores regarding the status of women–that the leadership of women had apostolic precedent.

~William Willimon

Impossible Yoke of Religion

Acts 15:10

So now, why are you putting God to the test, by placing a yoke on the disciples’ neck which neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear.

Peter is rebuking some believers from the Pharisee party who said you have to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses in order to be saved.

This is what we turn religion into isn’t it?

An unbearable yoke around people’s neck.

Heck, we probably do it to ourselves as much or more than we do it to others. Hold ourselves to an impossible standard of perfection then berate ourselves for falling short of it.

How many would line up for that church if we were painfully forthright with the message we tell ourselves?

Hey, you should join our community because we place demands and expectations upon you which you’ll never be able to fulfill (and no one ever has), then we make you feel shame for ever being born since you can’t keep up!

Woo hoo! Sign me up!!

Or we could go with door #2–verse 11:

Rather, we believe it is by the grace of the Lord Jesus that we shall be saved, like them (the Gentiles).


If only we could tangibly realize how much God wants to do for us which we cannot do ourselves. If we’d but admit our weakness and let God do what God wants to do with us. Such sweet liberation this is.

Ordinary Humans

Acts 14:15

“Men, men,” they shouted, “What on earth are you doing? We are just ordinary humans, with the same nature as you, and we are bringing you the wonderful message that you should turn away from these foolish things to the living God, the one who made heaven and earth and the sea and everything in them.”

Studying through Acts, I am floored by how many times this theme of not putting people on a pedestal keeps coming up. Here it is again.

The people in Lystra, after witnessing the Holy Spirit’s power through Paul and Barnabas, start treating them as if they are Zeus and Hermes. That’s the context for the verse above.

As ministers of the Gospel, we should be putting ourselves in position to be filled with Holy Spirit power in order for it to flow out and heal and bless others.

Also, we need to be ready to correct anyone who may look to us as if we are the originators of this power, and point them to Christ the true originator, as Barnabas and Paul did with their mini sermon in our verse today.

As we have said here before in years past: We’re merely Empowered Powerless Pointers to the Power.


Fasting, Praying, Worshipping, Hearing

Acts 13:2-3

As they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

So they fasted and prayed; and then they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

I often wonder how much more we would hear from the Holy Spirit if, as communities of Christ followers, we spent more time in earnest prayer, fasting, and worshipping.

I think there’s so much more for us. So much more meaning. So much more life that we are missing out on because we’re not really listening.

In my experience, whenever I’ve prayed for the same thing everyday for even just ten days….supernatural movement happens.

How often I pray for something a couple of times before pathetically petering out. Or I spend a matter of minutes in worship. Or I fast for like an hour…No wonder I don’t see more of the “hand” of God moving.

When set up against the gift of life itself, as well as His self-sacrificing perfect love,  God doesn’t really ask for much. Yet we tend to give Him our leftover energy…if we even have any at the end of the day to give.

And so we miss out on the life we could have.

Not out of punishment necessarily, but out of our failure to claim what is ours for the sharing–the very Life of God.

Eaten by Worms

Acts 12:20-23

Herod dressed himself in his royal robes and took his seat on the official platform to make a public address to them.

The people began to shout, “The voice of a god, not of a mortal!” 

Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he didn’t give God the glory.

He was eaten by worms and expired.

Our author Luke and ancient historian Josephus (in his work Antiquities) are in agreement that the reason for Herod’s being struck was due to his acceptance of praise and glory that only God is worthy of. Josephus says he developed horrible stomach pains and died four days later.*

The essence of all sin is idolatry–a violation of the very first of the famous Ten Commandments. All sin goes back to this: Refusing to let God be God. It has also been phrased “the deflection of divine praise”.

Whatever you honor above God oppresses you and becomes your captor. God asks our surrender not because he is that big egomaniac in the sky, but because there is an order of creation and a way things work. Whatever you enthrone in your life–give most energy to we could maybe say–that is what has control of you.

Jesus has defeated all powers of darkness, so it is our surrender to those powers that gives them control, not that they have more power than God.

When you surrender to Jesus and make him Lord over your life, only then will you have victory, freedom, peace, and release from your captors and the power of their oppression.

There’s just a way things work.

Give God the glory and praise in all things and see what happens. Everyone I’ve ever known who has done this, or who I’ve read about doing this, lives in freedom.

What do you devote most of your energy to?

Where do your thoughts mostly go?

Where does your time mostly go?

Where does your money mostly go?

Whatever/whoever your answer is is your lord, and likely has control of you.

Hopefully it is the kind and benevolent Jesus.

*Probably a gangrenous bowel disease involving maggots.

Son of Encouragement

Acts 11:23

[Barnabas] urged them all to stay firmly loyal to the Lord from the bottom of their hearts.

If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God, please, please, please, do whatever you need to in order to remain faithful, committed, and steadfast in your loyalty to him, in all sincerity and purpose of heart.

Devoted to Prayer

Acts 10:2,9

[Cornelius] was devout, and he and all his household revered God. He gave alms generously to the people, and constantly prayed to God.

Peter went up onto the roof of the house to pray. It was around midday…

The apostles, the early Christians we read about gave themselves to much prayer, to what we today might even call ridiculous amounts of prayer.

Their time management was…interesting.

Not a lot of books written on their skillful use of time.

And the results from this ridiculous use of their time?

Nothing short of amazing, supernatural, and world-changing.

Guess they knew where real power comes from.