Mar 1, 2016
They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. Acts 6:6–7
An influx of refugees to our community has led to new growth in area churches. That growth brings challenges. Church members must learn how to welcome these newcomers as they adjust to a strange culture, new language, and different worship styles. All this change can create some awkward situations.
Misunderstandings and disagreements occur everywhere we find people. Church is no exception. If we don’t handle our differences in a healthy way, they can harden into divisions.
The early church in Jerusalem was growing when a dispute arose that broke along a cultural fault line. The Greek-speaking Jews (the Hellenists) had a complaint against those Jews who spoke Aramaic. The Hellenist widows “were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1). So the apostles said, “Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). The seven chosen all had Greek names (v. 5). In other words, they were Hellenists, members of the group being neglected. They best understood the problem. The apostles prayed over them and the church thrived (vv. 6–7).
Growth brings challenges, in part because it increases interactions across traditional barriers. But as we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we’ll find creative solutions as potential problems turn into opportunities for more growth.
Father, help us to recognize the barriers that keep us from living in the unity You desire for Your church.
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
Spirit-filled people are needed when dealing with issues in the church. It was Spirit-filled men who got the call when a challenge arose within the new community of believers in Acts 6. When we think of the “filling of the Spirit” we may think of empowerment to speak about Christ or some other gospel-related witness. Yet the primary characteristic of those who were tasked with resolving the conflict surrounding the distribution of food was “to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). This situation called for those whose lives displayed the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Being Spirit-filled means being under the Spirit’s control. The Spirit helps us navigate situations that can get out of hand and be costly in terms of time and energy.
How can you help resolve problems that could impede the progress of the gospel?
In today’s verse from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called His followers “the salt of the earth.” It was a way to describe how we as Christians are to influence the society around us. Who we are, what we say, and the things we do in the world can be compared to the role and effect of salt.
Salt flavors. Have you ever eaten a baked potato without salt? It probably tasted bland, didn’t it? Whenever salt is added to food, the taste is enhanced, and that’s how Christlike character, words, and actions can flavor our witness and open the door for people to hear our message.
Salt preserves. In biblical times, salt was used to preserve food so it wouldn’t spoil. In the same way, our lifestyles offer an alternative to the corrupting ways of the world and point people to Jesus for salvation.
Salt impacts what it touches. The chemical reactions caused by salt may be invisible, but the changes it brings are evident. We never know how a timely word, an act of kindness, or a stand for righteousness may affect someone.
Salt causes thirst. When those who don’t know Christ see how we handle suffering with calmness, endurance, and hope, they will thirst to know how we do it. Telling them of our reliance on God and His sufficiency could lead them to our Savior.
Do the people around you sense something special about you and thirst to know what it is? Becoming salt of the earth isn’t simply a matter of being good; it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. When His fruit is produced in us (Gal. 5:22-23), our life will bear the flavor of Christ.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2)
As Christ emphasized in His parable of the vine and the branches, it is vitally important for a Christian to bear fruit. There are, in fact, many types of spiritual fruit mentioned in Scripture.
Perhaps the most important fruit, produced in one’s life by the Holy Spirit, is that of a Christlike character. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9).
Holiness—the seal of a life dedicated to God—is a particular spiritual fruit. “Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness” (Romans 6:22) and are “filled with the fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11). This entails also the fruit of good works performed in the name of Christ, “that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10).
The habit of giving thanks and praise rather than complaint and criticism is a valuable Christian fruit. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Generosity is another important fruit. Paul commended the sacrificial giving of the Philippians, “not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account” (Philippians 4:17).
Finally, one vital fruit of a Christian witness is fruit borne in other Christians’ lives. Paul’s great desire was “that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles” (Romans 1:13). HMM
2 Kings 24:11, 12
That is to say, the eighth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiachin saw the utter uselessness of holding out against the potent Babylonian, and probably hoped that he would be reinstated as a vassal prince, but Nebuchadnezzar’s temper had been too much tried by Judah’s affinity with Egypt, and he took both the king and all the better part of the population of Jerusalem as prisoners to Babylon. This was a second and more sweeping captivity. All this had been foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, though they would not hearken to him. Those who will not regard warnings must perish hopelessly. Thus plainly and plaintively had the messenger of the Lord spoken.
Jeremiah 22:21, 22
Like a parching wind, the Chaldeans would wither all; not pasture only, but pastors also, would be destroyed; Judah’s helpers should all fail her. The hope of the wicked is gone like dew from the grass when the summer’s sun burns overhead.
The cedar palace could not shelter the king. He was very graceful in his pomp, but little grace would he or his people get from the invader.
His people idolized him, and God broke down his power and pride
is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? a broken, worthless pot:
Jeremiah 22:29, 30
Sad doom for a grandson of holy Josiah. His own sin and his father’s sin, blotted out their names from the roll of genealogy, for had not the prophetic roll been destroyed by them? May none of our household provoke the Lord. May a godly father be followed by pious sons, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
Kingdoms and thrones to God belong,
Crown him, ye nations, in your song:
His wondrous names and powers rehearse;
His honours shall enrich your verse.
Proclaim him” king, pronounce him bless’d;
He’s your defence, your joy, your rest;
When terrors rise and nations faint,
God is the strength of every saint
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. (Psalm 37:23)
I once wrote in an editorial that Christian believers are not orphans in this world, making the point that the divine Shepherd goes before us and that we travel an appointed way.
A reader wrote to question my allusion to our traveling an “appointed” way, asking: “I was brought up a Methodist. In your comments, do you mean this to be foreordination? That is what the Presbyterians believe. Just what did you mean?”
I replied that I had not meant to go down that deep into doctrine—that I had not been thinking of foreordination, predestination or the eternal decrees.
“I was just satisfied that if a consecrated Christian will put himself in the hands of God, even the accidents may be turned into blessings,” I told him.
Anyway, I am sure the Methodist brother can go to sleep at night knowing that he does not have to become a Presbyterian to be certain that God is looking after him!
“I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” Isa. 44:3
Our dear children have not the Spirit of God by nature, as we plainly see. We see much in them which makes us fear as to their future, and this drives us to agonizing prayer. When a son becomes specially perverse, we cry with Abraham, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before thee!” We would sooner see our daughters Hannahs than empresses. This verse Should greatly encourage us. It follows upon the words, “Fear not, O Jacob, my servant,” and it may well banish our fears.
The Lord will give His Spirit; will give it plentifully, pouring it out; will give it effectually, so that it shall be a real and eternal blessing. Under this divine outpouring our children shall come forward, and “one shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.”
This is one of those promises concerning which the Lord will be inquired of. Should we not, at set times, in a distinct manner, pray for our offspring? We cannot give them new hearts, but the Holy Spirit can; and He is easily to be entreated of. The great Father takes pleasure in the prayers of fathers and mothers. Have we any dear ones outside of the ark? Let us not rest till they are shut in with us by the Lord’s own hand.