The Benefit of Controversy

The Children’s Bread 5/12

“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way.

Paul returned to the synagogue in Ephesus by invitation. They wanted him to “spend more time with them.” Paul promised to return if it was God’s will and it was. When some Jews who wanted more of God understood Paul’s message they refused to believe it.

The leaders became obstinate when they understood Jesus is the only way to obtain the kingdom of God. They did more than reject Jesus. The leaders stood before their congregation and publicly maligned Paul’s message to prevent their congregation from receiving salvation.

Whenever God seeks to give us more, controversy is inevitable, but it serves a good purpose. 

“God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: The Lord knows those who are his…” 2 Timothy 2:19

God knows who is his, but we don’t. God looks where we cannot see. He looks on our hearts and knows who sincerely wants him, and who is seeking personal benefit. Churches are full of self-appointed ministers whose erroneous doctrines create strongholds in our lives that prevent us from receiving more of God. When someone declares the truth, the light in truth exposes them for the charlatans they really are. At that point they will repent or defend themselves. If they don’t repent controversy erupts. The ensuing battle reveals to the rest of us who is God’s and who is not.

Churches split when leaders quarrel leaving the congregation to choose whose message to embrace. The message that left them dry, thirsty and sick or the message that quenched their thirst and healed them. They either follow the leader who suffers for their good or the leader who cares more about being right than benefiting his congregation. Unfortunately, many will choose the familiar that left them dry, thirsty and empty.

The maligned leader, Paul, had no option but to take the sheep who embraced his message that “Jesus is the Way” and leave the stubborn goats behind. When Paul moved to the lecture hall of Tyrannus, God released a revival of extraordinary miracles.

LOG ON NEXT WEEK FOR PART 6: A Time to Separate

Posted in The Children's Bread | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Foundation and Preparation for Miracles

The Children’s Bread 4/12

The Foundation and Preparation for Miracles 

The ancestors of Jesus’ generation were no strangers to the miraculous power of God. But their ancestors had to wait a long time to receive the things God promised. An entire generation died talking about promises they never received. Their children entered the Promised Land infected with their parent’s bitterness. Israel wandered away from the God and broke his covenant by worshiping other gods. God severely disciplined them and scattered them among the nations. A remnant returned to the Promised Land determined to obey every law of Moses, but it was little more than rote religion void of sincere love for a God who had been silent for 400 years.

Before Jesus healed bodies, cast out devils and raised the dead, God prepared them to receive miracles by sending John the Baptist to preach repentance.

Following a similar pattern, God prepared the way for the Jews and Gentiles who wanted more than dry religion. He sent Apollos, an educated man with a thorough knowledge of Scripture, to Ephesus.

“He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor, but he knew only the baptism of John.” (Acts 18:24-25)

Apollos spoke “boldly in the synagogue” (Acts 18:26). The same synagogue that asked Paul to stay so they could learn more about God. Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos preach John’s message of repentance and pulled him aside to enlighten him about the Holy Spirit.

After Apollos left for Achaia to minister in the Corinthian church Paul returned to Ephesus. Before Paul went to the synagogue to quench the Jews thirst for more, he encountered twelve disciples.

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  (Acts 19:2-6)

God is methodical in the way he deals with us. He first laid the foundation for a great revival through Apollos accurate teaching about repentance. He used Paul to prepare leaders by teaching twelve disciples about the fullness of the Spirit to prepare for the influx of new converts when God did “extraordinary miracles” (Acts 19:11). The stage is set for a powerful revival, but first God must separate the sheep from the goats.

LOG ON NEXT WEEK FOR PART 5: THE BENEFIT OF CONTROVERSY 

Posted in The Children's Bread | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He Who Seeks Finds

The Children’s Bread PART 3/12

He who seeks Finds

A great revival that spread throughout all of Asia began when Claudius commanded all Jews to leave Rome (Acts 18:2). Aquila and Priscilla traveled to Corinth where they met a fellow tentmaker name Paul. Paul came to preach the gospel but needed to support himself. He lived with Aquila and Priscilla to make and sell tents during the week and reason in the synagogue on the sabbath.

Paul persuaded both Jews and Greek under the wary eyes of the synagogue leaders. The arrival of Silas and Timothy embolden Paul to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He confronted the leaders with the truth. Jesus is the prophet Moses said would arise and they must listen to him. The Jews were not inclined to listen to this Jesus who was crucified or believe he rose from the dead.   In response Paul announced, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth [now on] I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6).

Paul and his followers went next door to Justus’ house and started a ministry to the Gentiles.  I can only surmise what the Jews thought about that. Perhaps they felt safe because Paul stated he would only evangelize Gentiles. But the unthinkable happened. Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue believed on the Lord with all his house.

Paul was accustomed to being run out-of-town and worse by jealous Jews. The conversion of the chief ruler after he announced he would only go to the Gentiles may have unnerved Paul. God assured him a vision to speak freely. No one would hurt him.

Paul preached for a year and a half when a new deputy arrived to govern Achaia and the Jews led by their new chief ruler Sosthenes tried to have him arrested. The deputy was not interested in judging religious matters. The Greeks beat Sosthenes in front of the judgment seat and everyone went home. Paul continued to preach the gospel for a long time, but there is something absent in this story. Not one mention of miracles aside from many salvations. If anything remarkable happened during his ministry in Corinth, no one took notes. 

 

Paul completed his ministry in Corinth and sailed to Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila. They planned to stay in Ephesus, but Paul was intent on continuing the journey to Antioch. Before he left, he went to the local synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. They were interested in his message and asked him to stay. Paul declined their invitation but promised to return “if it is God’s will” (Acts 18:20-21).

Jesus said,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10

This scripture is used as evidence you can get whatever you want from God. Jesus had something specific in mind when he said it. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He gave them a model prayer to guide them. Then compared God with the fathers of this world. An evil father will give his child a fish or an egg if he or she is hungry. If an evil father cares enough to feed his child’s physical body, how much more a good father. God who is spirit will quench our thirst for more of him by giving us his Holy Spirit and the gifts that come with him.

God heard the desire of his children for more. If you seek more of God, you will find him, but you might not like what you find. The Jews thought they wanted more of God. Until God sent Paul back to Ephesus to quench their thirst.

All Scriptures are from the King James Bible unless otherwise noted.

LOG ON NEXT WEEK FOR PART 4: THE FOUNDATION AND PREPARATION FOR MIRACLES.

Posted in The Children's Bread | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blame Game

The Children’s Bread PART 2/12

The Blame Game

Before we discuss how to find our way back to miracles, let’s put to rest who is at fault for the church losing its power. The answer is simple and unbiased. We all are.

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth….”1 Timothy 1:18 – 2:4

This scripture spans two chapters in the letter addressed to Timothy. If we follow Paul’s thought without stopping at the end of chapter 1, we find two ministers had already corrupted the faith Paul taught them. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Hymenaeus and Alexander were heretic teachers in Ephesus. They were not only destroying themselves with their teachings but also those who listened to them.

Prayer is Paul’s solution to the damage Hymenaeus and Alexander created with their doctrine. This letter is addressed to Timothy, a minister of the gospel. Paul exhorted Pastor Timothy to make praying for everyone in authority a “first” priority. In verse 8 of chapter 2 Paul exhorts the rest of us to pray for authorities as well, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” Don’t be angry and argue with authorities. Pray for them.

If we desire to live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, the authorities who govern us must obey God. They affect everyone when they don’t. If they get lost and they are suffering, so will we.

“God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it;” 1 Corinthians 12:24-26

God desires to do more for us than save us from a situation that requires a miracle. He wants us to know the truth about him. If God’s presence enters a sanctuary and sees those in authority are fools spreading error about him, he will leave and no one will receive the blessings he wanted to bestow (Isaiah 32:6). God will not confirm lies taught to us by wayward authorities with miracles. Doing so would establish us in the error they teach.

The sheep will file out of the service dry, thirsty, sick and as lost as the authorities who lead them are.  Don’t play the blame game. Don’t blame the shepherds for losing the war. Are we making it our “first” priority to pray for all who are in authority?

If we want to see miracles restored to the church, we need to pray God will send laborers who teach his doctrines without adding their own ideas and claiming they are God’s.

LOG ON NEXT WEEK FOR PART 3: THE DESIRE FOR MORE

Posted in The Children's Bread | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Are the Miracles?

The Children’s Bread PART 1/12

Where Are the Miracles?

I was browsing through Facebook comments when I happened upon a discussion about miracles. “Why don’t we see more miracles in the church?” a pastor asked. The responses were sparse. No one including the pastor who asked had an answer.

In contrast to contemporary Christianity many miracles defined Jesus’ ministry. We could argue, “Of course they did! He was God.” But what about the apostle Paul. His ministry in Ephesus affected all of Asia and “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul.” (Acts 19:11). Was Paul equal to Jesus that God confirmed his ministry as he did Jesus’? I’m thinking the answer to that question is “No.”

I don’t believe miracles have much to do with the person God uses. God can use anyone who will obey him whether it is a perfect sinless son, Jesus, or the imperfect Paul who called himself “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16). The manifestation of miracles has a lot to do with the recipients.

God sent Jesus to the “lost sheep” of the house of Israel to reveal the depth of his love. God will perform miracles to bring his children home, regardless of how badly they have behaved, because miracles are the children’s bread.

I know. What does that have to do with Paul? God sent him to the Gentiles. They were sheep yet to be found, not sheep who had lost their way. True. We could also argue everyone is a potential sheep who lost its way. Humanity began with a man and a woman in a right relationship with God. Until they believed a lie about him.

This twelve-part series examines reasons the church has lost its miraculous power and why miracles belong to God’s children.

LOG ON NEXT WEEK FOR PART 2: THE BLAME GAME

All scriptures in this series are taken from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

Posted in The Children's Bread | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building a Following on Social Media

Susan Mead gives Southern Christian Writers tips for building a following on social media. Recorded live at the Gospel Bookstore, Gretna, LA.

Susan is an author, chaplain and mom with an MBA. Her first book Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace, hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Release in Christian Grief on the day it released. She recently released Don’t Go Through Life Naked.

She is the founder of His Girls Gather and the leader of the Shreveport Chapter of the Christian Women in Media Association. Susan has more than 100,000 followers on her website and social media.

Posted in Southern Christian Writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VINDICATED

I attended a secular writers critique group for years. The leader founded the group for Sci-fi writers but accepted what life gave him – a diverse group writing in different genres. He was the only one writing Sci-fi material. I was the only one submitting non-fiction Christian material.

The first year I attended was shaky. Religion is a sensitive topic. We established a rule not to comment on whether or not we agree with a writer’s point of view. Comments were limited to how the material could be improved. Learning to critique without commenting on whether or not they agreed with me was difficult. I made it a point to ignore insults and, if necessary, turn the other cheek, which is not always easy to do. In time, friendships developed and we rarely had a contentious meeting.

There remained a moment of dread when my work was critiqued. I never knew how they would react, especially when a new person joined. We had recently acquired a new member, Otto, a Jew uncertain about his heritage, when we critiqued Heavens Address. I was positive he would be offended by my Christian material.

The critiqued started on a contentious note when one member read from my chapter, “There are no good ole’ boys clubs in heaven” and then took issue with the theme that God does not show favoritism. Apparently, I struck a nerve.

“That’s not true,” he said, “God plays favorites. He showed favor to – ”

“David,” someone blurted out.

“Solomon,” he said.

“So God is not just?” I asked. I couldn’t resist either and could have easily refuted God showed favoritism toward both names that surfaced.

“God is not fair and I’m entitled to my opinion,” he said.

He is entitled to his opinion even though we had a rule not to express such opinions. I decided that I’d said enough.

Several members who favored the “God shows favoritism” opinion had their say and then it was Otto’s turn to comment. I braced for another tongue lashing.

“I’m Jewish,” Otto said. “I’ve read the Old Testament a lot and this is DAMN fine material.” He was very much impressed by what I had written and continued his praise until I was embarrassed.

The meeting ended and the member who set the contentious tone was the first to leave, or so I thought. Before I could leave, Otto picked up where he left off praising Heavens Address. I was humbled that a Jewish man who knew the Old Testament would be so moved by something this Gentile had written.

As I was walking out of the bookstore, I heard, “Goodnight, Teena.” The man who declared “God is not fair” was looking at some books near the place Otto and I were talking. Apparently, he heard everything Otto had to say after the meeting as well.

I drove home feeling vindicated. The next time someone takes issue with your God, don’t defend yourself. There is a Jewish savior in heaven who just might send a Jew to defend you.

Posted in Testimonies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment