Monday, February 16, 2009

Words of Encouragement

Is Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in the house?
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  - Acts 1:7-8

...witness in Jerusalem....

This week we will look at the same scripture, however we will look more indepth into the charge that is being given. The disciples were told they would be given power to be witnesses of Christ.  They are also told where they are to go to witness about the goodness of Christ and to offer the gift of salvation.  First he tells them to be witness in Jerusalem.  What is significant about Jerusalem? The events in the book of Acts takes place after Jesus' ascension.  Acts follows the advance of the gosple from an obscure city, Jerusalem, to the enter of the empire, Rome.  Jerusalem played a significant role in the life and ministry of Jesus. It was in Jerusalem that he went when he was 12. He was in Jerusalem when he cleansed the temple. Jerusalem was where it began.

The disciples were told to witness in Jerusalem.  They started off in the place that some might call their "warm market". These were the people that had already been exposed to something about Jesus. It might be that much easier to present Jesus to them since they had seen him, his miracles and now knew about his resurrection. What does that speak to us today about our mandate?

We are to witness to our Jerusalem's, our warm market, our home ground. These are the people that have seen God's hand in your life.  They may have seen you before Christ was real to you and now they see what his change has done, so they may be ready to hear what made the change in you?  We know everyone will not hear and accept, they didn't in Jesus' time either. Yet we are mandated to be a witness to those in our "Jerusalem".  So today, who can you witness to that is close to you? You may speak to them every day, sit next to them in your office but have never presented them with the good news of Christ.  Is today that day?

Prayer: Lord help me to be a witness to those that know me, that see me and live in my familiar zones.  These are the people that see me often, yet I have not yet offered them what has been the changing agent in my life.  Help me to present that this day. Amen.

...and in all Judea...

Judea was the Greco-Roman name for the land of Judah. Jerusalem was the capital of Judah. The Jews in Judea were greatly influenced by the hellinistic lifestyle. Were the more traditional Jews lived within Jerusalem, Judea contained more of the Jews that were influenced by the lifestyle. They were still Jewish people mingled amongst the other people living in the land. We would look at that today and see that as our own family and friends that have become more accustomed to the "city" life.  They enjoy what the world has to offer. So what does that say to us? We need to witness to those that we know but maybe they are not so close to us in what they do.  We may  not find ourselves going to the same types of events and outings.  Normally these would be the people we might talk to from time to time but we simply run in different circles. Well we are mandated to witness to them.  That means we have to get out of what we are comfortable with and reach out.  This doesn't mean you have to do the same things, however it does mean you have to a make an effort to reach out to those that you would otherwise never cross in your daily week of going to work, church and back again, that's because this is not where these people will be. 

Prayer: Lord help me today to reach out to someone that has need of hearing your truth that I would otherwise not stop to talk to because they are going in a different direction than I am. Help me to present them your truth so they will not be lost.

Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. Samaria  withstood an attack by Ben-Hadad, king of Syria (2 Kings 6:24-25) but it finally fell tothe Assyrians in 722 B.C.  The inhabitants were carried into captivity. The city was repopulated by people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from
Sepharavim. They intermarried with the antive Jews that were there. This lead to the mixed race of Samritans. They were disppised by full-blood Jews during the time of Jesus. These were the people that wanted to help rebuild the temple when the people return from Babylon but were told they could not help. Remember the woman at the well when she asked Jesus where would they worship because they could not worship with the "full-blood" Jewish people.  Jesus told her it would be neither this mountain or another, it would be in spirit or in truth. What does this tell us today? We are told to go to those we have been turning our noses up at.  We may have felt they were not as good as us, we being full-blood Christian, having to go to someone that was less that that was unthinkable. Jesus' instruction was go to them and present the gospel. So our mandate is we must get out and reach those that we think are beneath us.  How may homeless people have you walked pass and thought they were less than you because they didn't have a home?  How many drunks have you turned your noses up at?  Or have you heeded this call and willing told them about another way, another life? What is your answer?  Were are the Samaritans in your church?  Are they welcome when they come in or do they need to meet your standard first before they can come and be made welcome?

Prayer: Lord we do not always see people as you do. We often see what is on the outside, but you look at the heart.  Help us to be blinded physically but to have keen sight spiritually.  Help us to see the heart of people and gladly offer unto them Christ's gift of salvation.

...and the ends of the earth...

Basically, that's everybody else.  When you read the book of Acts you see that the gospel was propelled forth often because of the adversities they Christians faced.  They were persecuted and threatened so they would move, thus carrying the message of the gospel with them to new areas.  Sometimes we will not move from our comfort zones until we are faced with difficulties that require us to move.  Have you had to move recently from a place you were comfortable in?  Maybe it is because God is telling you he is giving you a new "land" to go and tell his word to. He mandates each of us to tell the gospel everywhere we go.  To those we know, to those that are not as close but that we are still comfortable with to those we consider our enemies or that we would even find great dislike with.  Are you spreading the word everywhere you go?

Prayer: Lord allow me to opportunity to spread the word everywhere I go. In the store, on my job, in line, etc. to the uttermost parts of the world. May my words help someone else come to know you more completely.

FRIDAY will recieve power...
You may wonder why I did this last and not first. I did this one last because I do not want us to forget this very vital point. It does not matter how much you want to "do" for Christ, you are not equipped to do it without his Spirit or his leading. Many of us do not feel comfortable witnessing because we are afraid of the rejection we may feel if someone does not accept what we say.  However, it is not us they are rejecting. We must simply present the truth of God's word and allow his Spirit to do the work. It is by his power that he will direct us in what we should say, how to say it and when to say it. We do not have to worry about what we will say for if we move by the Spirit of God he will direct us into all truth, even that truth of what needs to be said and when. Today let us find the boldness to speak for God as he desires.  Also let us have the faith and trust in what he can do in us. If we only step out in faith we would be surprise about what God can do with our efforts.

Prayer: Lord today take my completely, use me, speak through me. Holy Spirit I yield myself to your work so that my Lord and Savior can be lifed up before me and when he is lifted up he promises to draw men unto himself. Amen.