E100: 084 | Peace of God

When doves cry
"How do we experience God’s peace in the midst of all that is going on around us? Sometimes it’s difficult to rejoice, but in today’s reading in Philippians chapter 4 verses 2 to 9, Paul urges us to do so. “Always be full of joy in the Lord – I say it again, rejoice,” he says in verse 4. It is through rejoicing and constant prayer that we will know God’s peace in times of trouble." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Philippians 4:4-4:9 | (ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I understand the "peace of God" better if I step back a little and view the big picture. God created humans to live in perfect peace and contentment and to have

E100: 083 | Battles Against Darkness

"Today’s reading in Ephesians chapter 6 verses 10 to 20 Paul closes his great letter to the church in Ephesus by likening the church to a soldier. We are in a constant battle against the devil. The devil is real; he opposes God and he is scheming against God’s children. Paul instructs us to be strong, to put on the armour of God, to stand firm and to pray always. Then we will be able to survive and thrive in the spiritual battle for our lives." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Ephesians 6:10-20 | (ESV)

Do you believe in evil spirits? Do you believe there is a devil? Do you believe there is a battle going on behind the scenes, in the spiritual world? Have you witnessed the results of a specific battle between good and evil? Are you in the battle? How can you defend yourself? What is your defense? How can you go on the offense against the powers of the dark world?

Here is an excerpt from chapter 6.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
Paul reminds us here that our battle is not with other people but the Evil One. God has given us both a defense and an offense. Defensively he has given us truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. Offensively God has given us His words in the Bible and prayer.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this battle and the devil's strategy. "Like a good chess

E100: 082 | The War Within

Toy Soldiers (silhouette)
"Today in Galatians chapter 5 verse 16 to chapter 6 verse 10 , there is a fierce battle that takes place within us – between our evil nature and the Holy Spirit. Paul urges us to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. Only then will we see real fruit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Galatians 5:16-6:10 | (ESV)

Those who belong to Christ Jesus are no longer under God's sentence. I am now controlled by the law of the Holy Spirit. That law gives me life because of what Christ Jesus has done. It has set me free from the law of sin that brings death. (Romans 8:1-2, New International Reader's Version)

Don't live under the control of your sinful nature. If you do, you will think about what your sinful nature wants. Live under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you do, you will think about what the Spirit wants. (Romans 8:5, New International Reader's Version)

The sinful nature does not want what the Spirit delights in. And the Spirit does not want what the sinful nature delights in. The two are at war with each other. That's what makes you do what you don't want to do. (Galatians 5:17-18, New International Reader's Version)
Most people don't even like to use the word "sin". What is sin? Try to answer that for yourself. It is hard to define sin. Probably most of us would be comfortable with the first definition in Webster "an offense against religious or moral law." An Ellison Research study found that 87 percent of American adults believe sin exists. The definition they used in the study was "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective." But spend any time thinking about this definition and you probably don't get anywhere concrete. If you go a little further in Webster you find sin defined as "an offense, especially against God" and "a weakened state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God". The definition that I like and have heard a few times before is "Sin is anything contrary to God’s will."

Tim Keller, preacher and author, wrote, sin "means self-centeredness, the acorn from

E100: 081 | Living Loved

"In today’s reading, in Romans chapter 8 verses 1 to 39 Paul outlines seven new assurances accompanying salvation. These include our new position with God through being ‘in Christ’, our new guest - the Holy Spirit that now lives within us, our new hope of the glory to come, and our new destiny – to become like God’s son." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Romans 8:1-8:39 | (ESV)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

... For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Nothing!

What would it be like if I believed this? I mean really believed it. A belief that changes

E100: 080 | Just Give Up?

Damascus Illumination
"Today in Acts chapter 25 to chapter 28 verse 31 Paul was put on trial after being kept in prison by the Roman Governor for two years. Jewish leaders put pressure on the Governor to take the trial to Jerusalem, but Paul refused to go and successfully appealed to Caesar. However, this appeal resulted in Paul remaining a prisoner and being sent to Rome. Despite the ship he was on being wrecked, Paul eventually arrived in Rome, fulfilling God’s plan to bring the message of salvation to the great city." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 25:1-28:31 | (ESV)

Paul said this in part standing in court before the Roman authorities.
I once thought that I should do everything I could to oppose Jesus from Nazareth. I did this first in Jerusalem, and with the authority of the chief priests I put many of God's people in jail. I even voted for them to be killed. I often had them punished in our meeting places, and I tried to make them give up their faith. In fact, I was so angry with them, that I went looking for them in foreign cities. (Contemporary English Version)
Paul tells them that he tried to get the followers of Jesus to denounce Jesus. To publicly turn away from him and his resurrection. Some did, but some didn't, and he goes on to say that he had those who wouldn't denounce Jesus, killed. "I tried to make them give up their faith" but they wouldn't even under the threat of death.

Perhaps for Paul watching these believers die over and over again, unwilling to say

E100: 079 | Incredible and Impossible

"Today’s reading, Acts chapter 16 to chapter 20 verse 38, takes us through Paul’s second and third missionary journeys. Paul and Silas were imprisoned, but God sent an earthquake to loose their chains and open the prison door! Paul then continued on his journey and gave his most famous sermon at Athens. Paul’s third missionary journey took him to Ephesus, where he preached and performed many miracles." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 16:1-20:38 | (ESV)

When they heard Paul talk about the dead rising, some of them made fun of it. But others said, "We want to hear you speak about this again." So Paul left the meeting of the Areopagus. A few men became followers of Paul and believed in Jesus. Dionysius was one of them. He was a member of the Areopagus. A woman named Damaris also became a believer. And so did some others. (Acts 17:32-34)
News of the resurrection of Christ divided them into three groups: its' crazy, tell me more, or I believe it. I have fallen into

E100: 078 | Keep it Simple, Keep it Jesus

"In today’s reading in Acts chapter 15 verses 1 to 41 the Council at Jerusalem was one of the most important events in early church history. Church leaders, including Peter and Paul, discussed whether Gentiles needed to become Jews before being able to receive salvation in Christ. After some debate, it was announced that conversion to Judaism is not required for followers of Jesus. Sadly, after avoiding a split in the emerging church, Paul and Barnabas couldn’t agree on a personnel issue, so they parted company." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 15:1-15:41 | (ESV)

Faith in God seems complicated today. Religion even more complicated. So complicated we often avoid the conversation or discussion. In the following passage we read about a council meeting in Jerusalem where a complicated discussion was taking place about religious customs, rules, and laws.
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." (Acts 15:7-11)
Is it really that simple? God purifies people's hearts by faith and through grace? Are we really purified by God through grace when we believe?

You mean to tell me that a simple belief in Christ cleans our hearts through his grace?

It can't be that simple, that straightforward. There must be more to it.

Peter as recorded by Luke in Acts makes it clear

E100: 077 | God's Heart

"Today’s reading in Acts chapter 13 verse 1 to chapter 14 verse 28 covers the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. After God anointed them, and their church sent them out, to preach the Good news of Jesus Christ. They routinely encountered resistance and even escaped death as God led them on their journey." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 13:1-14:28 | (ESV)

In the Synagogue at Pisidian Antioch Paul is invited to share some encouraging words. He starts his message by reviewing Israel's history to give context to his ultimate message about Jesus. He says the following:
After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'
I have always been caught by these words of God about King David. "A man after my own heart." What does it mean to be a person who is after God's heart? Perhaps it means thinking and acting like God. Caring like God? Holy like God? Really it all seams impossible to me, but it is my desire. As much as possible I want my thoughts and actions to be consistent with God's. But how? How do I accomplish this?

Jesus modeled God's heart perfectly while he lived on earth. The best answer I have is to follow after Jesus.

Turning this thought around a little what does

E100: 076 | Religion or Chirst

Jan Luiken (1649-1712) etchings in the Martyrs Mirror
"In today’s readings in Act chapter 9 verses 1 to 31 Saul, an active persecutor of Christians, had a life-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus which left him blind. After being led by his travelling companions to Damascus in this state, he was ministered to by Ananias. He was healed of his blindness and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul became Paul and began his epic ministry by preaching in the Synagogues of Damascus." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 9:1-31 | (ESV)

Going back for a moment to the stoning of Stephen we read this.
And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:1-3)
This from the passage we read here.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

This man named Saul became the Apostle Paul (Acts 13:9). I am always blown away when I think about who

E100: 075 | This is for Everyone

view from West Berlin in 1986
"In today’s reading in Acts chapter 10 verse 1 to chapter 11 verse 18 the Gentiles receive the Good News. Cornelius, a devout Gentile, was commanded in a vision to send for Peter. Meanwhile the Lord appeared to Peter and commanded him to accompany the men Cornelius had sent. While Peter was preaching his message to Cornelius, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his companions. In this was Peter and the Apostles accepted that the gospel was not only for Jews but for all." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 10:1-11:18 | (ESV)

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

... He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with Gentiles or visit them. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.

... Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts those from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

...When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life."
After everything Peter and the other disciples had seen and heard from Jesus they still thought that salvation was only for the Jews. After all, God set apart Israel to be holy, to be his people. Everyone else was a gentile. Jesus turned everything upside down. He touched those who by Jewish law would make him 'unclean'. He spoke and even healed the 'unclean' and the foreigners. The disciples had forgotten or just missed what Jesus had been showing and telling them.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written. The Christ will suffer. He will rise from the dead on the third day. His followers will preach in his name. They will tell others to turn away from their sins and be forgiven. People from every nation will hear it, beginning at Jerusalem. You have seen these things with your own eyes. (Luke 24:45-48)
Jesus also told them to go make disciple of all nations.
Then Jesus came to them. He said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So you must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end." (Matthew 28:18-20)
In Peter's dream the Holy Spirit reminded him that Jesus came to make anyone who turned to God clean. All people of all races and all nations can come to God through Christ.

It is so easy, as humans, to draw lines between us and them. Lines that so easily become

E100: 074 | The Old Testament Fulfilled!

Scroll of Isaiah from Qumran at Israel Museum
"In today’s reading, in Acts chapter 8 verses 26 to 40 Philip shares the gospel with an Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip began explaining the meaning of the Scriptures at the point where the Eunuch was. From there, Philip opened up the Word of God in such a way that that the Eunuch was able to accept the Good News about Jesus Christ. The Eunuch was so moved by what he heard that he acted upon the revelation he received and was baptized." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)
This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth."

The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
This Ethiopian official studied Scripture and worshiped God. He had his own scrolls of the Scripture and he was reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 53:7,8), a prophet, but he had questions. He didn't understand some of the things he read. What did Philip share from the Scripture with this man that he desired to be baptized with water?

Perhaps Philip began by asking him if he had ever heard of a man who died in Jerusalem just a year or so ago. Since the Ethiopian man had just been there to worship perhaps he had heard some talk of a man that was crucified and some were calling him the Messiah. The Bible does not say specifically what these men talked about. It only tells us Philip referred to the scripture. At this point in history it would have been what we call the Old Testament. So Philip could have shown him all the places in Scripture that references the Messiah and what would happen to this Messiah.

He probably pointed to

E100: 073 | Shake Up and Scatter

"In our passage today in Acts chapter 6 verse 8 to chapter 8 verse 8 we meet the first Christian Martyr. Stephen was a man full of grace and power whose message was accompanied by signs and wonders. When false accusation arose against him, he recounted how Jewish history pointed to the Messiah. When he proclaimed that Christ had risen from the dead they became furious. At this point Stephen was given the ability to see into heaven. He saw the risen Christ at the right hand of God in his glory. When he reported this vision, those around him stoned him to death. Stephen reminds us that we need to be faithful to the Lord no matter what the cost." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 6:8-8:8 | (ESV)

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (Acts 8:2-4)
I like the way Brenda Quinn summarizes this account recorded in Acts. She writes this about the stoning of Stephen and the context for this tragedy.
Opposition to the early Christians gets worse. Not only are the apostles working miracles, but now other believers are doing the same, threatening the Jewish religious establishment. The Jews can't win arguments against one of these believers, Stephen, so they resort to lying about him before the Sanhedrin. Stephen's speech so incenses those listening that they drag him outside the city and stone him, making him the first recorded martyr of the early church."
The truth about Jesus being

E100: 072 | Simply Undeniable!

Jump !
"In today’s passage, in Acts chapter 3 verses 1 to chapter 4 verse 37 we read of a man who had been born lame who received his healing through the ministry of John and Peter. This astounded those who saw the former lame man walking. Peter seeing his opportunity, boldly preached the word concerning the resurrection of Christ to them. This outraged the Jewish authorities who told Peter and John not to preaching the gospel. Upon hearing of this the early church asked the Lord to give them even greater boldness to proclaim Christ. They also looked to the Lord to confirm the word they proclaimed with signs and wonders." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Acts 3:1-4:37 | (ESV)

He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. (Acts 3:8)
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name." (Acts 4:13-17)
The Sanhedrin was the council or court of all the rulers, elders, and teachers of religious law. The facts were continuing to stack up and the members of the Sanhedrin were not sure what to do. They had successfully manipulated the people to having Jesus killed to protect their power. They thought it was over with his death, but as they find out it wasn't.

Two 'ordinary' men, two nobodies, named Peter and John had just healed a 40 year old man who was lame from birth. These regular guys healed him with just a few words in front of many people.
"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!" (New Living Translation)
The people were in awe. They watched a man who couldn't walk or even stand - JUMP! This was a man who

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