How should I pray?

door-knocker-1

“Jesus was praying.” That’s how Luke 11:1 begins. Honestly I’ve read that many times, but this time it floored me, “The Creator and Rescuer of the world is on His knees praying to God, His Father.” Isn’t that amazing? Notice, Luke doesn’t say how Jesus prayed, how long, where, or what He was praying, it simply says, “Jesus was praying in a certain place.”

Prayer is a discipline that most Christians feel they fall short, me included. You and I are not naturally born prayers. It’s a learned skill. So if I had a question for Jesus, it would be similar to the one His disciple asks, “Lord, can You teach us how to pray?” How does Jesus respond? Does He say, “That’s a silly question. You’ve been with me this long and you don’t know?” No. Does He organize a weekend prayer seminar? No. Jesus’ School of Prayer is ‘show and tell’.

PRAY LIKE JESUS (11:2-4)

Jesus’ prayer here is known as the Lord’s Prayer. It’s quite common. I memorized it during my catechism classes growing up in the Catholic Church. However, you will notice, Luke’s prayer is a lot shorter than Matthew’s prayer. I suppose since Luke wrote his gospel after Matthew, he thought his friend did a fantastic job and just summarizes some of main points of Jesus‘ prayer.

I am not going to spend a lot of time looking at Jesus’ prayer, but I want you to see how He elevates God. Also, I want you to see how He teaches His disciples how to pray. Jesus answers His disciple, “When you pray, say…” (v.2a)

  • “Our Father…” (v.2b), God is Father. The word “Father” here is not formal, it’s intimate. Jesus, like a little child address His loving Father as “Abba” or “Daddy.” It’s the first time this view of God is introduced and Jesus approves and encourages it.
  • “hallowed is Your name” (v.2c), Our Father is holy. God is a magnificent Daddy. He is completely different and glorious compared to everything in the universe. His name is above every name!
  • “Your kingdom come” (v.2d), Our Father is King. Not only is He my Daddy, He is King. He’s the King of kings. My heart’s cry is to be with Him in His kingdom, a place of forever justice, love, and mercy. He offers you room in His palace. His kingdom will never crumble. Our Daddy is King!
  • “Give us each day our daily bread” (v.3), Our Father is generous. Our Daddy cares perfectly for His children. God is not stingy or greedy. He provides everything we need.
  • “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (v.4a), Our Father forgives sin. God justly deals with sin, but He willingly forgives those who come to Him. He forgives spiritual debts because Jesus paid the debt with His blood.
  • “And lead us not into temptation” (v.4b), Our Father leads well. If we hold God’s hand and listen well, He direct us away from dangerous traps of the enemy. We can trust our Daddy (cf. James 1:13).

If you learn to pray like Jesus, your prayers will be intensively Father-focused. Does this align with your perspective on prayer? What aspects of Jesus’ example prayer do you most utilize or neglect?

PRAY LIKE THE SHAMELESS NEIGHBOR (11:5-8)

To illustrate how to pray, Jesus shares two parables and two principles. His first parable fits the eastern context where honor and shame are still very present aspects of culture (vs.5-8). In Jesus day, people would travel, usually on foot, sometimes on the back of an animal. After a long journey, there wasn’t a Motel 6 to keep a light on. There wasn’t texting or telephones to give your friend a heads-up. There wasn’t even a Denny’s to buy a ‘Moon’s Over My Hammy’ at 2:00am. Yet there was an obligation to honor guests hospitality and help neighbors in a pinch. If not, it could bring shame upon you and your house.

I am challenged by this parable, especially since I am on the brink of entering this kind of culture. I am not very neighborly. I can put on a good face, but I’m frustrated by spontaneous interruptions without appointments. I like to hit the hay early, so if someone came to my door at midnight asking for a loaf of bread I would be pretty perturbed. My response might be, “You need some bread? Ok.” (Thinking: “Dude, you just woke up my girls. Couldn’t you have gone to Seven-Eleven?”) “Here you go, enjoy.” (Thinking: “This 4th of July, I am going to buy lots of bottle rockets.”) I suppose this shows my heart. Agh, I am that guy! That ugly neighbor. I am so unlike God, but I want to be! That’s why this challenges me.

What would you do? How would you respond? Of course, you would open the door because you want to know why this guy is so persistent. Isn’t that Jesus’ point? His point is about the shameless neighbor who’s thinking, “Yeah, it’s late, but I’m going to stand here and knock on the door until I get myself a few loaves of bread.” He’s persistent because  he knows eventually his request will be answered. Why? Because ultimately you do care—even though he’s frustrating—you will meet his need. Likewise, Jesus is saying, even if you’re not the most pleasant child of God, even if we’re not having the best intentions or motives, God is loving, gracious, and kind. You can come to Him, day or night, 24/7, because He’s never asleep and He’s never tired and He’s never weary. He’s not unable or incapable or inconvenienced as a normal neighbor would be. You can talk to God anytime about anything and God hears and answers your prayer.

If you pray like the shameless neighbor, your prayers will be persistent and your persistence will prevail (vs.9-10). Jesus says that prayer is about three things: asking, seeking, and knocking. In the Greek, each of those three words are in the present tense, which carries the idea of “keep on” asking, seeking, and knocking. Keep on communicating with God. That’s prayer.

Asking means coming to God in faith and saying, “Dad, I really want…, I need…, please teach me…” Now, some of you are planners, who say, “I don’t need God. I need a plan.” Others of you panic. You don’t make a plan or talk to God, you just freak out. Don’t just make a plan, don’t just panic. Go to the Father and ask. What are you asking God, right now? What haven’t you asked Him?

Seeking means doing something about asking. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I prayed about it, now I’m going to sit here and do nothing.” Often, you pray about things you should be doing anyways. You got to get up and go do something. You got to seek, you got to serve, you got to pursue answers to your request. And if that doesn’t work and it still hasn’t been answered, you just keep banging on the door. You keep knocking. God’s answer will always be: yes, no, or hold on just a moment.

Friday, I heard my daughter Justus asking for me, “Hey, Dad? Dad? Dad? Mom, where’s dad? Where’s dad? What’s dad doing?” She was asking for me. She couldn’t find me. So she started seeking me. I heard her voice. I heard the pitter-patter of her feet on the floor. She looked in every room. She was very persistent, very committed to finding me. “Hey, dad? Where are you?” She came to the very last room in the house that she hadn’t checked, the bathroom. And she came, asking, seeking, knocking. “Dad, are you in there?” She found me. My answer, “I be with you in a moment, baby girl.”

This is the idea Jesus is trying to convey to His disciples. God’s your dad! Ask for Him. Seek Him. Knock on the door. Keep on doing it. Tell Him what you want or need. Bring it all to Him. Bring your Dad your needs, not your greeds. He adores you. He’s not gonna treat you like a stranger. So if you want to understand prayer, look at dads and children.

PRAY LIKE A CHILD WHO TRUST HIS DADDY (11:11-12)

Jesus’ second story is quite interesting (vs.11-12). It’s about a son who comes up to his dad, “Hey, Dad, can we have fish for dinner?” “Sorry, son all out of fish. How about a snake?” That’s weird! “Okay, dad, how about eggs?” “Nope. Have a scorpion.” I don’t know about you, but this dad really weirds me out. He must be off his meds or smoking something strange!

The story is ridiculous and humorous for a reason. Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” (v.13a) If you go to your dad, even if he’s a bad dad, and ask for a good thing, he won’t give you a bad thing. Children, do not use this verse as leverage against your dads, we already know we are evil and sinful. We are not perfect, yet we know the Father who is. In fact, this week, I enjoyed one of the sweetest times of prayer with three dad’s. Each of them were praying for their children and pleading with God that the way they father would resemble the way God fathers them. God is a Father. Even if you are not 100% convinced He is good, when you ask God for something do not fear what He will give. Trust that God is a good Father. He isn’t evil. He is not the father of lies (cf. John 8:44). God our Father is good and He give good gifts.

In Luke 11:1, a disciple asks Jesus, “Can you teach us how to pray?” Jesus gives the clincher in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” You see, everything that Jesus has done, His sinless life, His righteousness, His substitutionary death, His resurrection, all of that is given to you, brought to you, applied to you by whom? The Holy Spirit. So apart from the Holy Spirit, all the gifts that the Father has to give are received by the Holy Spirit. This is something Jesus’ disciples would get later (cf. Acts 2).

If you pray like a child who trusts his daddy, God’s goodness gets glory and you get the greatest gift. Jesus says the greatest gift of all is the Holy Spirit. That’s huge! This is the big idea of Luke 11:1–13 on how to pray: Jesus says, you pray by asking, seeking, and knocking. Trusting that your Father is a good, holy, generous, forgiving, King. And if you do this, your prayers will be Father-focused, persistent and prevailing, in the power of the Holy Spirit. So what are you waiting for? Let’s pray!

Father God, you are a good Father. Lord Jesus, you’re a good Savior. Holy Spirit, you’re the greatest gift. Please fill me. Please teach me to worship You forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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How to study the Book of Revelation?

I’ve just begun a study of the Book of Revelation. I am excited to study this most interesting book. Before studying a new book of the Bible I like to remind myself of some helpful tidbits when studying the Bible.

Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Prayer is most important. When studying the Bible–including Revelation–you should humbly depend on God to give you wisdom and understanding. It is wise to pray before, during, and after your study, asking God to direct you. It’s a responsibility the Holy Spirit enjoys and takes seriously, “He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). How wonderful it is to have the interpreter dwelling within you as you read.

Understand the big idea of the book of Revelation.

Determining the meaning of Scripture is a very most important task. God says you must read and study the Bible with care (2 Timothy 2:15). When it comes studying the Book of Revelation it is critical to study verses in their context. Let the text speak for itself. Often, weird interpretations of Revelation are birthed by someone taking one verse out of its context. This is dangerous and a sign of very bad interpretation skills.

When determining the meaning of an entire book of the Bible it is good to have read through the entire book. It is too simple to say that the book of Revelation is about the future, that’s not the main purpose of the book. The main purpose of the book of Revelation is to reveal Jesus Christ. The book begins by stating “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” To properly study the book of Revelation you must see Jesus as the main character.

Understand the flow of the book of Revelation.

Revelation is divided up into three main veins. Revelation 1:19 describes the divisions as:

(1) Past: “the things which you have seen.”
(2) Present: “the things which are.”
(3) Future: “the things which shall be hereafter.”

Understanding these veins will help you follow the flow of the book of Revelation.

Understand the difference between figurative and literal language.

The Book of Revelation is graphic, but it is not a graphic novel. You do not have to be a literary scholar to know the difference between figurative and literal language. The apostle John describes future things that did not exist when he was writing the book of Revelation. As a result, he described what he saw in terms that were used in his day. When John uses terms such as “like” or “as” he is using symbolic language to to describe what he witnessed. This is common with any prophetic literature. Be careful not to over interpret figurative language, but embrace it’s ambiguity and mystery.

Take scrupulous notes.

You are bound to stubble upon passages in Revelation that will make you scratch your head in wonder or awe. Anything you read that is confusing or meaningful jot it down in a journal. I love to use type notes on my computer and organize them by Scripture reference or theme. It is fascinating to look over previous notes I took and compare them to newer passages I study.

Expect to be blessed.

Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed are they that read, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein.” As you study the book of Revelation, and marvel at Jesus Christ and obey what you learn from it, you can expect to be blessed. Revelation is one of the most fascinating books of the Bible. It will certainly stir you to worship Jesus Christ in a powerful and moving way.

4 ways to plug into the power of the Holy Spirit today

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

1. Saturate yourself with the Word of God, the Bible. There is no reason to think that God will ignite the powder of His Spirit if you don’t load your cannon with the bullet of the Word. Acts 1:8 and Luke 24:48 teach that the power is given for effective witness of Jesus and His miraculous power. And you witness primarily with the Word of God, as it speaks about the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

2. Believe what the Word of God says. If you don’t believe the Word, you wont have the power of the Word.

3. Pray earnestly for it and fast. In Acts 1:13, the disciples devoted themselves to prayer while in Jerusalem waiting for Pentecost, “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer.”  Also, this is what the disciples were doing in Acts 4:24–31 when they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word with boldness. They were praying. And they were praying the Word of God.

4. Submit to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes you have resisted the Holy Spirit so often when He is calling you to bear witness to Christ you are unfit for the flow of His power. The channels have become so clogged with fear and doubt and worldliness that what you allow through is a barely visible trickle of obedience. God’s power is a waterfall and will flow torrentially if you obey His Spirit.

from wonder to witness

I’ve had a few Turning Points in my life, as I’m sure you’ve had too. My first turning point came when I was 12. I grew up in a normal American dysfunctional home. My parents divorced before I could understand and we were nominal churchgoers. I was a troubled and angry kid. I rode the short bus and was labeled a special kid. I was so embarrassed. After my mom remarried, our family moved for work reasons to a small town in the middle of Wisconsin. We began attending a Bible Church. They used Bibles. So the next week mom went to Sam’s Club and bought Bibles. We grew like weeds. Within months, both my mom and I came to Christ. A few years later we got baptized together.

My second turning point came when I was 18. Since my salvation leaders in my church took me under their wing and helped me to grow in God’s Word and the gifts of the Spirit. I was encouraged to consider fulltime Christian service. That led me to Bible College, then a yearlong church planting apprenticeship in South Africa, then ministry for the past 8-years as an assistant pastor in Indiana, and then marriage to [Congolese] Sarah who I had met years before in Bible College.

My third turning point came on a vision trip Sarah, Justus, and I took to Chad last year this time. I clearly remember walking the dry dusty roads of northeast Chad, the hot sun beating on my face, and a sense of thirst on my tongue. While walking through the abstract streets I could hear the calls from the local mosque, donkeys laughing, and the Spirit of God convicting me. I though to myself, “You got Someone these people do not. 100% of the people in this town do not know your Jesus. Who will help bring the church to unreached Chad?”

The book of Acts is full of turning points.  Today I want to draw your attention to a turning point in Acts 1. Here the disciples are getting some last words from the resurrected Jesus. He had spent many hours, days, and years teaching these men who they were. He called them God’s servants, friends, beloved children, and brothers. Sometimes they seemed to understand who they were, but at other times they seemed clueless. And just before Jesus is about to leave them and ascend to heaven, He says, “You are my witnesses.” [Acts 1:8]

What is a witness? A good Christianese word. When the word witness appears in the book of Acts it most often refers to the role the 11-apostles had as legal eye-witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection.[1] At the end of the book, Paul uses the word of himself because he also had heard and seen the resurrected Jesus. But in Acts 1:8, when Jesus uses the word witness, He alludes to Isaiah 43. There the word witness applies broadly to all of God’s people:

Isaiah 43:10You are my witnesses,” says the LORD, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are My witnesses,” says the LORD.

How does Isaiah give meaning to witness in the book of Acts? First, being a witness is not something any of these people chose. It is something God chose for them. Israel was God’s chosen people; likewise, Jesus chose His disciples. We often talk about witnessing as if it is something you choose or don’t choose, but it is not. You are witnesses by God’s choice. And you cannot help but be witnesses when you are identified with Jesus. Either you’re a witness or you’re not. It’s like my wife saying she’s kind of pregnant. Either she is or she is not.

Second, what made them witnesses was not something they did, practiced or earned; it was something they were. It was a relationship with God that made the apostles witnesses. You are a mom/dad because you have children; you are a son/daughter because you have parents; you are a man/women because that’s how you were born; or you are a student because you are in school. You are a witness because you are a follower of Christ.

A witness is not a passive role you fulfill. Rather the biblical idea of witness is quite active. Jesus says you can bear witness or you can even bear false witness. There were specific things Israel did and did not do which affected their testimony as witnesses. So it is with a witness of Christ. What does your witness say about Jesus?

As a witness of Christ, I openly and publicly demonstrate what I have learned and seen while with Jesus. But my witness is much more than words; it is a whole way of life. The Greek word for witness is μαρτος, where you get the word martyr. As the early Christian gave up their lives for what they had seen, the word martyr began to mean “one who choose to suffer or die for his or her beliefs.” [i.e. Stephen, cf. Acts 7:58] To be a witness, means giving my whole life, even giving up my life for what I have seen and heard from Christ. To be a witness is not a fatalist. But as a witness I am unwilling to bow to the god of comfort and safety or muzzle my mouth because the gospel will offend someone. Jesus says the cross is foolishness to unbelievers. Recently, I’ve been challenged by the story of Mark, a brother serving in North Africa,

Mark was part of a team of two families serving Muslim. Late in August, the team received death threats. The families were evacuated, but Mark stayed for one last meeting with believers before joining them. The night after the meeting while at home preparing his dinner, Mark was shot. He was discovered the next morning in his home, but he had lost too much blood to survive. At his passing, Mark left a young wife and two infant twin daughters. Mark’s agency feared the possibility of legal action from Mark’s father, who was not a believer and who vocally opposed his son’s service among Muslims. But at Mark’s funeral, Mark’s father was among fifteen people who gave their lives to Christ. His wife plans to minister in the same region where her husband was killed.

Third, being a witness is first “so that” you may know God and then “so that” others may know your God. Being a witness is about knowing God, seeing His steadfast love, observing His work in creation, hearing His voice. Being a witness is not something directed only toward others—though it has implications for those around you. Being a witness begins by being grounded in your relationship with God.

“Witness-ship” is a mark borne by getting near God. There is something so powerful about God’s character that it is impossible to get near what He is doing without being marked. The closer you get the more profound the mark.

Not only can you see God at work in historic acts, but also if you keep your eyes open you keep seeing him at work today. You see God at work in your life, in your friend’s lives and in the world around you. You still see God doing things that you long for but can’t make happen on your own. You see God’s forgiveness and love. You see how God transforms messed up lives and redeems them through His Son.

You—His witnesses—play a huge role in God’s plan.[2] You are the evidence of God’s work. The Bible tells the story of ordinary people so you can learn about an extraordinary God. How do you know God’s love is steadfast? By looking at the story of God’s people. How do you know God keeps His promises? By looking at His people. How does the world hear about God’s salvation? By hearing and seeing the witness of God’s people, like you and me. God has made His people messengers of His love, ambassadors of His kingdom, lights on a hill, salt in society. God has called you to be His witnesses.

The disciples stood on the mount starring with wonder into the sky, like a crowd at Cape Canaveral watching the shuttle launch or Superman making his classic exit, only this was no space shuttle or superhero it was the coronation of Jesus Christ. And with the rest of our time today, I want to uncover what Jesus expects from you, His witnesses.

1. You are commanded to live in the power of the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:4–5, 8a]

The book of Acts is often referred to as the Gospel (or autobiography) of the Holy Spirit. If you want to learn about the person and work of the Holy Spirit read Acts. In Acts 1:2-8 Jesus gives a concise theology of the Holy Spirits work. And amazingly Jesus receives the instruction from the Holy Spirit on the Holy Spirit.

First, His followers are guaranteed baptism by the Holy Spirit, which fulfills the promise Christ gave of the Helper who would come after He ascended [vs.4-5, cf. Luke 24:44-49].[3] For the first time, God would not dwell in a temple, but His temple would now continually dwell in His people. Jesus cautioned the disciples not to leave Jerusalem without the Holy Spirit. Why? If they did not waited they would be powerless.

Second, His followers are guaranteed power from the Holy Spirit to do miraculous works among the people [v.8a].[4] Jesus has completed His earthly ministry and now inaugurates the apostle’s earthly ministry.[5] These men witnessed Jesus’ teachings and miracles, and now they would continue on His ministry after Him. Although you might not exercise signs and wonders quite like the apostles, His ministry through you is still powerful and miraculously changing lives.

In Martin Lloyd-Jones’ book Joy Unspeakable he uses an illustration to describe the difference between common Christian living and what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person with this unusual and unmatched power.

It is like a child walking along holding his father’s hand. All is well. The child is happy. He feels secure. His father loves him. He believes that his father loves him but there is no unusual urge to talk about this or sing about it. It is true and it is pleasant.

Then suddenly the father startles the child by reaching down and sweeping him up into his arms and hugging him tightly and kissing him on the neck and whispering, “I love you so much!” And then holding the stunned child back so that he can look into his face and saying with all his heart, “I am so glad you are mine.” Then hugging him once more with unspeakable warmth and affection. Then he puts the child down and they continue their walk.

This is what happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit. A pleasant and happy walk with God is swept up into an unspeakable new level of joy and love and assurance and reality that leaves the Christian so utterly certain of the immediate reality of Jesus that he is overflowing in praise and more free and bold in witness than he ever imagined he could be.

The child is simply stunned. He doesn’t know whether to cry or shout or fall down or run, he is so happy. The fuses of love are so overloaded they almost blow out. The subconscious doubts—that he wasn’t thinking about at the time, but that pop up every now and then—are gone! And in their place is utter and indestructible assurance, so that you know that you know that you know that God is real and that Jesus lives and that you are loved, and that to be saved is the greatest thing in the world. And as you walk on down the street you can scarcely contain yourself, and you want to cry out, “My father loves me! My father loves me! O, what a great father I have! What a father! What a father!” [cf. Acts 2:11]”

The Holy Spirit’s all-consuming passion is to exalt Christ to the end of the earth. And the reason He has a white-hot passion is to empower you to witness to the ends of the earth:

  • “All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” [Numbers 14:21; Habakkuk 2:14]
  • God brought His people into Canaan “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty” [Joshua 4:24, cf. 1 Samuel 17:46].
  • David commands, “Sing to the Lord all the earth…Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” [Psalm 96:1–3]
  • “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” [Isaiah 49:6]
  • Jesus himself said, “Go make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19].
  • “This gospel must be proclaimed to all the nations” [Mark 13:10].
  • “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and by Your blood did ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” [Revelation 5:9–10]

The Holy Spirit wants the world for Christ. So He equips you as His witness with power to do it. He gives you absolute confidence that as you go out making disciples in His authority  nothing will thwart His name from reaching the nations.

2. You are called to share the gospel with people near and far, and similar or different than you [Acts 1:6–8]

Imagine you had the opportunity to ask Jesus any question. What would you ask? The disciples have an honest question for Jesus. Since Jesus and the OT prophecies talked a lot about this coming kingdom, and many anticipated a Messiah who would reign and release His people from the oppressive Roman Empire they ask, “Will you now restore your kingdom?” Jesus does not belittle their question, but reminds them that the timing is not for them to know. Instead, He refocuses them on being ready for the great task of sharing the good news with the known world.

The geography boundaries mentioned becomes an outline for the remainder of Acts as the apostles take the gospel from Jerusalem [1-7], to Judea and Samaria [8-12], and to the edges of the globe [13-28]. Jesus calls them to share the gospel with people like them in Jerusalem, the hub of the Jews. But He also calls them to share the gospel with people on the other side of the tracks in Judea and Samaria. These were people the Jews did not like. But God loved. For centuries the Jews had a sour spot for the “half-breed” Samaritans. But God intended Israel to be a light to the Gentiles. Since, Israel failed in this mission, Jesus is calling the apostles to carry His torch to their lost neighbors and be a bright light to the world. This is also the reason for your church and you: be a light locally and globally.

As witness we are team players. We are no longer just bystanders on the bleachers. We’ve been trained by the Master to carry the ball (gospel) up and down the field. I think of the five men who lost their lives in Ecuador to reach the Auca Indians. One wife and sister returned to the village and the wife raised their daughter among the tribe that killed their husband. Many in the tribe converted. Months ago, I met a man from North Africa whose church had been bombed a dozen times by Muslims. These are people on the front lines of Jesus’ mission shining the light in darkness. Near, far, similar, or different there are not boundaries to the gospel.

Who are your Samaritans? Is it your annoying co-worker or boss? Is it a relative? Is it a sassy celebrity like Lady GaGa or Katy Perry? Is it the Hispanic or black down the street? Is it the poor person you see on the corner always seeking a hand out? Is it your fellow Democrat? If you’re from Ohio, could it be people from Michigan? You know your Samaritan. It’s the one who makes your skin crawl and you avoid them like the plague. Jesus died for them too and He is calling you to be a witness to them.

3. You are urged to be diligent, even as you long for Christ’s return [Acts 1:9–11]

The purpose of God and the passion of the Spirit are not yet completed. We might question why, but Jesus’ answer will always be, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” The great danger we face in the American church is the illusion that the purpose of God is complete, that the world has been evangelized. But there are over 2.7 billion (that’s billion!) people in the world who have not heard the gospel; they have no missionary, no church, and not enough Christians in their own people group to reach themselves.

That boggles me, as I am sure the apostles were boggled that day they starred into the sky wondering when Jesus would return. I love what happens next. Two messengers dressed in white came to the apostles. What message did say to the apostles? Why do you wonder? Witness! Jesus will come back. Not yet. So get to it”

Proof of the disciples diligence is in the remaining 28 chapters of Acts. They confidently expected Jesus’ return, but didn’t twiddle their thumbs in the meantime. With their own ears they heard their calling from the lips of Jesus: you are witnesses not stargazers. Owning the Spirits passion they spread the name of Jesus to the ends of the known world.

Turn to Acts chapter 29. Ah, this chapter does not exist! This is your chapter or appendix. The apostles are gone, but the work is unfinished. There are still billions of lost people lined up to hell all around you. 99% of Yemen, Libya, and Pakistan are unbelieving, unchurched, and lining up to the gates of hell. The picture of the young boy looking to the sky is a reminder of a need for a Savior. Who will tell him? As you wait in line for Heaven or Jesus’ return, people next to you need a turning point. Be a witness. Speak up for Jesus. Remember how He was the greatest turning point in your life?

Jesus died on the cross for the people of your church. He is returning for you soon. Jesus is worthy of your absolute surrender. God opened your eyes so you could believe in Him. When God saved you He gave you His Spirit. He has clothed each of your with His power. You live among a world of sin, darkness, and great need. God has charged you to take the gospel to these people and ends of the earth. The stakes are high. But Jesus says, “You are my witnesses.” To whom will you share?


[1] Cf. 1:21-22; 2:21-33; 3:14-16; 5:31-32; 6:13-14; 7:58; 10:37-41; 13:30; 22:13-15, 20-21; 26:15-16

[2] You and I are an indispensable link in the chain of redemption. See how the Spirit deploys people in Acts 8:29, 39; 9:17, 31; 10:19–20; 11:12; 13:4; 16:6–9; 19:21.

[3] Cf. Luke 3:16; cf. Mark 1:8; Matt 3:11; John 1:33; Acts 2:3

[4] Power, δυναμις, is used almost exclusively in Acts to describe the supernatural, miraculous power of God through them to confirm they are from God, representing Christ, and their work is from the Holy Spirit. Note: Acts 2:22; 3:12; 4:7-9, 33; 6:8; 8:10, 13; 10:38; 19:11; cf. Hebrew 2:4.

[5] During Jesus’ ministry, there is no reference to the Holy Spirit being upon anyone except Jesus. The Spirit descended upon him at his baptism (Luke 3:22), filled him as he returned from the Jordan (Luke 4:1), led him both in and out of the wilderness (Luke 4:1, 14), and rested upon him in his sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:18).

transformation: more than meets the eye

As a kid I love to play with transformers. There is something about having a car that can instantly transform into a android. Transform is another word for change. When it comes to spiritual change transformation is key. Do you find some of your students have a wealth of biblical information but a lack transformation? Here are great tips to cultivate spiritual transformation in students you are discipling:

Acknowledge that the Holy Spirit who teaches you and leads you into truth, is the same Holy Spirit who teaches and ministers to the students. Watch and hear what He wants to teach the students on any given weekly session or small group.

Make sure the meat of the session actually searches the Scripture and is spent in examining God’s Word and is not just a discussion of students’ and leaders’ opinions or beliefs. It is only by having hands on God’s Word that your students will discover real truth and be transformed.

Be careful not to answer your own questions. Give students time to think when you pose a question. Let them know that the quietness that follows your question is not awkward. It will also help settle your own uneasiness when a vacuum of silence follows your question. When we answer our own questions, we teach students that they do not have to respond and their answer was not important.

Work toward using activities that lead students to discover what we already know or found out during our personal devotion and preparation. When we lead students to discover truths out of God’s Word for themselves instead of telling them what we know, we allow opportunity for the Spirit to do His work.

Watch for those times that the Holy Spirit makes Himself known within the session. Those times, very frequently, take place as students share within small groups. Be ready to help students make connections with God and His Word during those times.

Prepare your heart for worship to take place during the Bible study session. Real worship takes place any time we come face to face with God and leave His presence transformed or changed. So actually, worship should take place in our Bible studies, messages, discipleship or small groups. Sometimes when students share in small group, students will say things that are totally profound, let your students know that you just had worshiped God.

Make sure that your students are given an opportunity to measure their own lives up against the Biblical Truth you have discussed. When students take the time to examine their lives, compare themselves to a Holy God, realize that they fall short, and make a commitment to Him and His truth…then true worship takes place.