Real Rejoicing

In the book of Acts we find Peter and John rejoicing. They are not glad because a great Christian band came through town to do a concert at their church. They were not excited because wealthy people began to give large offerings. Instead we see them on the way out of court after having been publicly beaten then released!

Acts 4:41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name. Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Maybe our idea of suffering is when the Pastor preaches a long message or when someone says something behind our back in church. It is hard for us to even imagine the day to day reality of the early church. Yet there are many places in the world today where they know what being persecuted really means.  On January 17th 2012 a Pastor in Southeast India was attacked while making a visit to a church member. January 2012 has seen 185 Christians killed by bombings and shootings in Northern Nigeria. On January 17th police beat and imprisoned a Pastor in Khartoum Sudan. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. Today as we pray lets take time to weep and pray for our brothers and sisters in these places. Then we can rejoice, not because we understand, but because Jesus gives us an unimaginable joy that is full of His glory.

God is calling us to take up our cross, get His message out and to do it all with joy. When Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver, he wasn’t only talking about the money we put in the offering. There is a joy that happens only through really trusting God no matter what. He is really in control even when we suffer, are insulted or despised by the world around us. Lets not wait for our world to give us their approval before we begin to obey God. If Peter and John had waited then, we would still be waiting today. They never stopped, but in fact they accelerated the spreading of the message of Jesus everywhere and every day. That really is the joy that is greater than life! 

Not ashamed of the Gospel

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile…

 Amazing music, popular speakers and a luxurious looking sanctuary may bring a full house, but the power of God only comes by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no secret formula, no special approach or clever plan that can take the place of the work of God’s Holy Spirit. When the Cross of Christ is preached then a door is opened, an invitation goes out and the evidence of His power is the salvation of souls.

We seem to have it all backwards in our thinking today. We are acting as though when the crowd shows up and we gain the approval and praise of people that we will finally begin to see God move in His church. Jesus never acted or thought in that way. Jesus never ran after the crowd, but he usually withdrew from them, and in one case he sent them away. Jesus was never bothered by the absence of the multitude or worried that somehow His power was lessened when people disapproved of His message. When thousands who had eaten the multiplied bread wanted to come and make Jesus their king, he left them, got into a boat and sailed away. He then went to find a single man who was filled with demons and who needed deliverance and healing. Each one of us is that single person and God has come looking for you. God’s power never flows up from the people but comes down from heaven where He is honored and His word is spoken.
We have forgotten the sweet smell of His presence and have tried to cover up his absence with sweet things. But nothing can ever replace our Lord. There is no one who is like Jesus! There is no one we could even compare to him. One single day in His house is better than a lifetime in any where else. Today we have a choice with how we will live our lives and in what direction we will go. We can choose to run after people and their approval and praise, or we can honor God. When we choose God and share His Good News with others then He will give us all of Himself and we will understand what it means to be completely satisfied and at rest in Him…