“All who heard him were amazed. ‘Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?’ they asked….” Acts 9:21 (NLT)

A pastor sent me a picture of a young man being baptized at his church with Meet the New Me! printed on his t-shirt!  What an awesome description of the radical transformation that happens when we put our faith in Jesus Christ!  He changes us from the inside out!  We are never the same!

Convincing others you’ve changed can be challenging.  Saul of Tarsus certainly faced that challenge after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus where he was traveling to arrest Christ’s followers and take them in chains to the leading priests.  The persecutor became preacher in a moment!  He encountered the risen Christ on that road and, by the time he reached Damascus, he was a new man!  He had changed!  He could have worn the same Meet the New Me t-shirt at his baptism that day. The one who persecuted Christ followers had become one himself!  It was such a dramatic change, though, that many Christ followers struggled to believe if it was even true.  Some suspected it was a trick to lure in more believers to arrest. Continue reading

“… God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17 NKJV)

The only way to truly know God is by faith.  The Bible says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV2011) God reveals Himself to us through faith. The Bible is filled with examples of this to help us understand the mystery of faith and how we may experience God. Continue reading

“Then Joshua told the people, ‘Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you.’”  Joshua 3:5 (NLT)

Have you ever experienced the wonders of God? He delights in putting His glory on display! The Psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1 (NIV2011) Before Joshua led Israel across the Jordan River to enter the promised land, he gave them this instruction:

“Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you.”  

Continue reading

“It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Hebrews 11:31 (NLT)

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has often been referred to as The Hall of Faith. It records great examples of faith fleshed out by mighty men and women of God.  Among the many men listed in this chapter, there are only two women.  Although there certainly could have been more, it is interesting to me that, of the two women listed in God’s Hall of Faith, one of them was a prostitute. When you consider her life, you may wonder if there could even be a more unlikely candidate for such an honor.  Not only was Rahab a prostitute, she was also a pagan and a Canaanite who lived in the city of Jericho.  That’s three strikes against her; but, when it comes to God’s grace, you’re never out if you just have faith.  The second chapter of Joshua records her story and how she came to be included in the Hall of Faith. Continue reading

“Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk Him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by You,’ he said, ‘so why are You coming to me?’ But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize Him. After His baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.’”  Matthew 3:13-17 (NLT)

I’ve had many unique experiences baptizing people, but none as unforgettable as when John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan.  In fact, the Bible says that John tried to talk Him out of it, saying, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by You, so why are You coming to me?”  John recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world, including his own sins.  John felt his own inadequacy and unworthiness to baptize Jesus. So, why was Jesus baptized?  Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.”    Continue reading

“And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:6 (NKJV)

As a Dad and Grandfather, I’ve come to appreciate a verse in Proverbs more and more the older that I get:

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men, And the glory of sons is their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6 (NASB)

What grieves me is to see a generation of children and parents estranged from one another by the lies of our culture.  We’ve put so much ahead of our most important relationships and sacrificed the greater joy and glory that could be ours for promises that can never deliver. But, there is a verse at the very end of the Old Testament that gives me hope! Continue reading

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV2011)

What is your refuge?   Where do you go for safety, to find rest and peace?  In his final song, Moses would teach a new generation of Israelites where their true refuge could be found.  Moses’ song declares that the eternal God is our refuge!  Is He your refuge? Your shelter? Your hiding place? Or, do you seek refuge in your own strength, brilliance, money, cause, or career?  All of those things are temporary and can be taken away.  The only refuge that is eternal is God.  He never changes! Continue reading

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.… As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?’ 

 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord!’ he replied. The Lord said, ‘Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to Me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.’
‘But Lord,’ exclaimed Ananias, ‘I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.’ But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’ So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.”  
Acts 9:1; 3,4, 10-18 (NLT)

Continue reading

“As they traveled down the road, they came to a place where there was some water, and the official said, ‘Here is some water. What is to keep me from being baptized?’ Philip said to him, ‘You may be baptized if you believe with all your heart.’ ‘I do,’ he answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Acts 8:36-37 (TEV)

Luke’s record of the acts of the Holy Spirit in Acts 8 reveals God’s concern for both the crowds of people in need of Christ in the city of Samaria as well as His concern for an individual foreigner who had come to Jerusalem to worship. He had come all the way from Ethiopia and God would not let him return with as empty a heart as he came. So concerned was God for this one life that He redirected Philip, the evangelist, from a city-wide crusade in Samaria to a desert road where he would meet this man on his way back to Ethiopia.  I’ve often wondered if Philip questioned the Lord when he was led by the Holy Spirit to leave a city where masses were responding to the Gospel message and being baptized.  It didn’t make sense on the surface but Philip obeyed and went. Continue reading

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)

Shortly before His death, Jesus told His disciples to anticipate the coming of the Holy Spirit.  In John 14 and 16, Jesus gave specific ministries the Holy Spirit would perform in the world and in their lives.  In chapter 14, He said the Holy Spirit would be their guide, advocate, counselor, and comforter.  He told them the Holy Spirit would teach them everything they needed to know and remind them of what Jesus had taught them.  In chapter 16, Jesus told them that, when the Holy Spirit came, He would convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness and of the coming judgment. It must have been difficult to process all the information Jesus shared with the disciples on the evening before His arrest. Continue reading

 

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.”  Acts 16:29-33 (NIV2011)

This unnamed jailer and his entire household were changed in a moment!  It was another Divine Appointment.  But this time the willing witnesses were Paul and Silas.  Given the circumstances, I’m not sure how willing a witness I would have been.  The Bible tells us that Paul and Silas had been beaten and thrown in a dungeon for simply preaching the Gospel. Luke records the story in Acts 16.  In verses 23 and 24 he writes, After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.”  How willing a witness would you have been if you were treated like that? Continue reading

“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Acts 10:1-2 (NIV2011)

By every description, Cornelius was a religious and God-fearing man. He could have been welcomed in most churches today as a leading member. The only problem was that Cornelius didn’t know Christ. He was an unsaved believer. Despite all his good works, Cornelius was missing a personal relationship with God. Acts 10 records the Divine Appointment that would change his life! Divine appointments involve three things – a willing witness, a seeking soul, and a gracious God. Cornelius was the seeking soul, and Peter was the willing witness. God graciously would cause their paths to cross so that Cornelius could experience saving grace! Continue reading

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.” 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV2011)

The effect of grace is life changing!  When Paul wrote this, he was reflecting on his BC days (Before Christ).  In 1 Corinthians 9:9, he wrote,

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

But, then, something radical happened in his life that changed him forever!  It was grace!  In the next verse, he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.”  The word effect means to cause to change. That’s what grace does!  Grace not only saves us, but it also sustains us!  No matter what you’ve gone through, grace will get you through.  Mary is a woman in our church who experienced such grace through great loss.  Here’s her grace story: Continue reading

“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

There’s nothing more exciting to me in ministry than seeing God change a life!  You can begin again!  Grace makes that happen because the God who created you loves you infinitely more than you could ever imagine!  Through His Son, Jesus Christ, He offers us a fresh start.  Born in sin, we naturally drift the wrong way.  But, through Christ, we can experience a new beginning. Continue reading

“For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with Him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” Colossians 2:12 (NLT)

A wedding ring is a powerful symbol. It has special significance – not only to the one wearing it, but for others as well. It communicates a message of commitment, a relationship of intimacy, and a promise of purity. A wedding ring is more than simply jewelry; it is a sacred symbol. Jesus gave us a similar symbol in our relationship with Him. It is the symbol of baptism. It shows on the outside what Christ did for us on the inside. Through His death on the cross, Jesus washed our sins away. When we put our trust in Him, baptism identifies us with His death and resurrection. It is a powerful symbol of faith and repentance. Continue reading