Acts chapter 17

…his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. – Vs 16

What upsets you? What kinds of things provoke you and cause you to take action? Are there any things going on in the world today that cause you to react and then act? Do you ever read the paper, watch TV, or drive through your community and become aware of things that stir something deep within you?

That’s what happened to Paul. When he arrived at Athens, he was “provoked” at all the idols on display in this city. That word “provoked” actually means “to be greatly upset, to be exhasperated,” or even “to burn with anger.” Paul was not a happy camper. The abundance of idols really got to him. Not because he hated idols, but because he knew they represented countless people who were mistakenly worshiping and relying on them for protection and salvation.

A Burden For the Lost

Paul was anything but a tourist. Instead of walking the streets of Athens, taking in all the sights and sounds of a large, cosmopolitan city, Paul was burdened and bothered by what he saw. He didn’t just see gleaming temples and architectural wonders. He saw man-made monuments to self-righteousness. He saw impressive religious sites erected by misguided men. He saw temples dedicated to everything from pleasure to piety. In other words, Paul looked at Athens and saw it for what it really was: A city full of lost and hopeless sinners. He saw people imprisoned by the lies of religion. He saw a city in need of the grace of God’s good news about Jesus Christ.

Fed Up? Then Speak Out!

Paul was motivated. He was energized. Not just by his love for the Lord, but by his love for the lost. Why else would this man subject himself to beatings, abuse, accusations, ridicule and scorn time after time? Why else would he make a beeline to the synagogue in every city to which he went – knowing that it would probably lead to yet another threat on his life? Why did he travel thousands of miles in order to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Because he was “provoked” by what he saw. He was burdened for the souls of men and women who were blindly facing an eternity separated from God, all because no one had told them the truth!

So Paul “reasoned” with them (Vs 2, 17). He “explained” and “gave evidence” (Vs 3). He “preached” (Vs 18). He told them the truth about Jesus Christ. He told them about the resurrection. He told them to repent. He told them about the coming judgment of God. In other words, Paul got fed up and spoke up.

What About You?

Are you fed up? Are you sick and tired of what you see going on in the world around you? Do you look at your city and see the sites or do you see sinners in need of a Savior? Paul’s spirit was provoked within him. Is mine?

Father, give me eyes like Paul’s. Help me to see the world around me the way you do. Let me see the faces behind the facades. Provoke my spirit. Give me a holy exasperation for what I see going on around me. Make me fed up, so that I might speak up. And tell a lost and dying world about the truth of Jesus Christ. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 16

“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God…” – Vs 25

Just Singin’ in the Chains

This story has always amazed me. Here are two guys who have been doing the work of God, get arrested, dragged into court, falsely accused, beaten and imprisoned, and they still manage to turn their ordeal into a praise and worship time! Incredible.

I mean, I have a hard time praising and worshiping if I have to park too far from the church on Sunday morning. I can end up complaining instead of praising if somebody pulls out in front of me in traffice. Yet here are two guys who, in my mind, had every right to complain about their lot in life, but instead they praised God. They had been caned and chained, but still managed to pray and praise.

It’s All A Matter of Perspective

What allowed Paul and Silas to react the way they did? How were they able to respond so positively to such a negative situation? Was it just a matter of having positive outlook on life? No, I think it was perspective. They had their eyes focused on the future, not the present. They were willing to accept the sufferings of today for the glory awaiting them. Paul said it this way in Romans 8:24:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Paul knew that any suffering he would go through in the present was incomparable to what he would experience in the future.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

Paul had hope. Not hope for release. Even thought he could have expected it. After all, Peter had been miraculously released. He didn’t put his hope in justice, even though he had been accused, beaten and imprisoned unjustly. He didn’t put his hope on vindication or payback. Instead, he would lead the guard who imprisoned him to Christ.

No Paul’s hope was on the future. His hope was on the reality of heaven. So what was a little pain compared with that kind of gain? Paul and Silas were able to pray and praise because they had their sights set on the unseen, the invisible, yet indisputable reality of heaven.

“While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18

Singing a Different Tune

I sing the blues way too much. Instead, I need to learn to sing the praises of God — regardless of the circumstances. I need to get my eyes off the temporal and start looking at the eternal. Because my God is an eternal God with an eternal plan. He knows what He is doing. I can trust Him. Even when it looks like all is out of control. I need to remind myself of what Paul knew:

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Father, thank you for this reminder this morning. Help me to see my circumstances from your perspective and not mine. Help me to pray and praise instead of bicker and complain. Because you are in control. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 15

Unless you ________, you cannot be saved!

Ever since the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in that upper room in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago, there have been those in the church who have attempted to grow the kingdom of God through the use of some sort of “new math.” Not content to rely on the divine formula of “faith alone in Christ alone,” they have resorted to coming up with their own equation for salvation. The result has been redemption by addition. And that’s what we see happening in Acts 15.

Men have always seemed obsessed with adding to God’s simple plan of salvation. His way just doesn’t seem like its enough. There has to be more. And the “more” usually involves us having to do something to earn salvation. In Paul’s day, it was the “plus” of circumcision. The Jewish believers just couldn’t imagine that anyone could come to a right relationship with God without having to go through their time-honored tradition of circumcision. After all, God ordained it, so who are we to neglect it? But these well-meaning individuals were missing the point. They were putting too much stock in something that was man-focused. Circumcision was to be a sign. It was a visual reminder that the one circumcised belonged to God. But circumcision didn’t make you holy or righteous before God. Over the years, God destroyed plenty of men who wore the outward sign of circumcision, but their hearts were hardened and disobedient.

Christ, plus nothing

So, in Paul’s day, the Jewish believers were trying to fill in the blank with circumcision. Unless you are circumcised, you can’t be saved. Thank goodness that is not an issue today! But what do we put in the blank? What do we add to the gospel in order to make sure the equation always equals salvation?

How about a little works or human effort? A little self-made excellence or man-made righteousness? While most of us would say that works plays no part in salvation, we live lives that communicate something radically different. Sure, we say we were “saved by faith,” but we seem to believe that we are sanctified by works. In other words, God redeemed us, but now it’s up to us to transform us. And so we end up adding to the gospel message. Rather than bask in the sufficiency of Christ, we feel obligated to add our two-cents worth of self-effort, in a misguided attempt to insure our ultimate acceptance into God’s kingdom.

Worn out from adding to

If the truth be known, most of us are exhausted from living a life of salvation by addition. We have somehow convinced ourselves that Jesus was enough to save us, but He needs our help to sanctify us. And that is adding to the gospel. Because the gospel has always been more than just our initial acceptance of Christ as our Savior. The gospel has always included salvation, sanctification, and ultimately, our glorification. And every step of the way is based on the simple formulate of faith alone in Christ alone. In other words, it is grace. God’s grace extended to undeserving sinners, who are totally incapable of saving themselves or improving themselves.

Pleasing God vs. Trusting God

If you boil it all down to the basics, the blank line following the statement, “Unless you” can only be filled in with one statement. But we all have two choices, and ONLY two choices. We can either choose to believe, “Unless you please God, you can’t be saved or we can choose to believe, “Unless you trust God, you can’t be saved. The good news of the gospel requires that we trust God, not please Him. It requires that we stop trying and start believing. It means that we stop relying on what we can do and start trusting in what Christ has done.

Are you worn out trying to please God? Then you’ve put the wrong thing in the blank. Why not start trusting God instead? Let Him complete His saving work in your life by allowing Him to transform you day by day into the likeness of His Son. Give up your attempt at sanctification by addition. Trust His formula for spiritual multiplication in your life.

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

Father, forgive me for sometimes trying to add to what you began. For trying to fill in the blank with some twisted form of self-effort that only leaves me feeling exhausted, worn out and disappointed. Help me remember that the good work You began, only You can complete. Show me what it means to trust You, instead of trying to please You. And thank You for making the gospel so simple and grace so accessible.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 14

I’ve got good news and bad news

The good news is you’re going to heaven. The bad news is that you’re going to have to go through some tribulation before you get there.

Whoa! Wait a minute. Did I sign up for that? That must have been in the small print of the travel brochure, because I didn’t see it. If I had known about the tribulation part, I would have given this whole good news thing a second thought.

In chapter 14 there’s an interesting conflict going on that I think I have always struggled with. It is the same tension that causes many to accept Christ, then walk away from Him. It involves the good news of the gospel and the bad news of tribulation or trials. You see, in this one chapter we have the apostle Paul sharing both. Yet most of us want to accept the reality of the one, and reject the possibility of the other.

The Good News

We all could use a little good news once in a while. And the good news (euaggelizzo in the Greek) that Paul shares is what we refer to as the gospel. Luke refers to it three times in this chapter:

“and there they continued to preach the gospel” – Vs 7

“we…preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God…” – Vs 15

“After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples…” – Vs 21

The gospel literally means to “bring the good news.” It is the good news regarding Jesus Christ. That He is the Son of God, sent by God, to reconcile mankind to God. He became a man so that He might live the life we were meant to live — a life free from sin. Then in spite of His sinlessness, He willingly paid the penalty for our sinfulness, by dying in our place on the cross. He became the sinless sacrifice that God required. He did what we could not do. He satisfied the demands of a holy, righteous God. He was put to death, so that we would not have to die. But God did not leave Him dead. He raised Him back to life just three days later. The same power that restored Jesus to life is what now makes it possible for us to be restored in our relationship with God. We can have forgiveness of sin and freedom from guilt and condemnation. Just by accepting God’s free gift of grace through His Son Jesus Christ. And that’s good news.

And just as in Paul’s day, that good news message has been eagerly and gladly accepted by those who hear it. Including me. But the good news comes with what appears to be bad news. At least it seems that way to us. So we ignore it. We act as if it isn’t really there. We even refuse to tell those who accept the good news that there might even be any bad news. So when it comes, which the Bible says it will, they become confused.

The Bad News

We get the bad news in verse 22. There we learn that Paul was “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying,

Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Wait a minute! How could talking about tribulations bring any kind of strength and encouragement to a group of new disciples? What could possibly be encouraging about hearing that our path to the kingdom will be a tough and possibly unpleasant one? What was Paul thinking?

Paul was thinking about the kingdom. And he was thinking about the reality of the conflict we face as Christians as we try to live as citizens of God’s kingdom in this kingdom. This world is not our home. We are aliens and strangers. We are simply passing through on our way to some place much better. And while we are here, we will stick out like a sore thumb. As children of God, we will live differently than those around us. We live according to a different standard and obey a different set of kingdom rules. All of which will puts us in conflict with the world in which we live. We have an enemy, Satan, who hates us and wants to destroy us. We live in a world that opposes us and also hates us. Then we struggle with our own flesh, that does everything in its power to convince us to live according to its will, not God’s.

You see, God never said this would be easy. In fact, we are warned throughout His Word that trials and tribulations are a part of the Christian life. Peter tells us:

“Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” – 1 Peter 4:12

Jesus Himself told us:

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Paul reassures us in Romans 8:35-36:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Tribulations and trials are a real part of our walk here on this earth. We all know it because we experience them daily. But we spend so much time questioning God when they come. We pray for Him to remove them. We plead for release from them. We act as if they are an anomaly, a mistake of some kind that shouldn’t be part of the life of a believer. But they are. Jesus promised it. Paul confirmed it. Life proves it.

The bad news really is good news.

In Romans 5, Paul gives us a little more insight into this issue of the good news and bad news. Here is what he said:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” – Romans 5:1-5

According to Paul, our trials and tribulations have a purpose. They are an integral part of the maturing process we call spiritual growth. They can both break us and make us. They can drive us to our knees and into the arms of God. They can reveal our weaknesses and God’s power. They can force us to take our eyes off this world and focus them on eternity — where our real hope resides and the best part of the good news awaits us!

Father, I want to thank you again for the good news of Jesus Christ and all that it means. But I also want to learn to thank you for the tribulations and trials of life. I want to see them as part of the good news, instead of just a lot of bad news. Help me to see your hand in it all. You can and do use anything and everything to make me like Your Son. Thank you!!! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 13

The power of the resurrection

In reading through chapter 13 for about the fourth time this morning, one word kept jumping out at me: Raised. It is used four times within the span of seven verses in the New American Standard Version. It starts in verse 30:

“But God raised Him from the dead.

Then Luke uses it again in verses 32-33:

“And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus…”

He picks it up again in verse 34:

“As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay.”

Then he uses it one last time in verse 37:

“He whom God raised did not undergo decay.”

It seems that Paul is trying to make a point by stressing the resurrection of Jesus to his listeners. Why? Because the resurrection is central to the message of Jesus Christ. Without it, we have nothing. With it, we have hope and the promise of eternal life.

The resurrection has been the focal point of the message of Christ from the beginning. In fact, Jesus Himself talked about it long before it happened. Back in John 11:25 we have these words of Jesus recorded for us:

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…”

Jesus tied our eternal life to His resurrection. You can’t have one without the other.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us of this fact:

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:13-14

If Christ has not been raised, then we can’t hope in a resurrection of the dead or eternal life. Without the resurrection, Paul is wasting his time preaching, and we are wasting our time believing. Because we would have nothing to believe in.

Later, Paul would write to the Philippians believers:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..” – Philippians 3:10

You see, the resurrection is all about power. When Paul spoke about Jesus being raised, he is describing an impossible, not improbable event. No one could be raised from the dead! It was impossible. Yet, the message of the apostles was that Jesus had done just that. By the power of God, Jesus had been raised from death to life again. He had done what no other man had ever been able to do before. Defeat death.

And it is on this amazing fact that all our hope rests as believers. The apostle Peter states this fact clearly in his letter:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” – 1 Peter 1:3

We have a living hope. It is a living Jesus. And it is because He is living that we can have forgiveness of sins and freedom from the law and its condemnation. Paul states that clearly in verses 38-39:

“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; and through Him, every one who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the law of Moses.”

Through Him. Because of His resurrection. Because He was raised. We have a living hope and an eternal future.

But do we live like it? Do we live as if we believe in the resurrection of Jesus? Do we live as if we have hope? Do we recognize the kind of power it would take to raise a man from the dead? It is that kind of power that is at our disposal. It is a power that can only come from one place: The hand of God. When God raised Jesus up, He validated Who He had claimed to be. He was the Son of God. His resurrection was proof of His deity, and a guarantee of all the promises Jesus had made.

Jesus is alive! He has been raised from the dead. And we have a living hope. We don’t have to fear death, man, sin, condemnation, the law, the grave, our future, or anything else.

Father, like Paul, I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. I want to understand just what kind of power I have at my disposal because I worship the God who raised up Jesus from the dead. I want to see Him raise me up every day from my death to sin and the flesh. I want to crucify my old self daily, and see my new life in Christ raised up to live in obedience to and dependence on God. This Easter, may I see more clearly than ever the power of the resurrection. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 12

The inscrutable ways of God

Chapter 12 is an action-packed passage and one of my favorites. In fact, I like it so much that I had a hard time looking past all the familiar parts of the storyline in order to see it in a different light this morning. I mean, who doesn’t love the fantastic story of Peter getting released from prison by an angel? Herod intends to kill him, but instead God releases him. Then there’s the part about the friends of Peter praying for his release, then failing to believe it’s really him when he shows up on their doorstep. Oh, and if you’re cheering for the good side, you can’t help but do a little fist pump when you hear what happens to Herod in the end.

But then I looked closer. I read the passage a few more times. And there is was. The death of James. Luke matter-of-factly records this event in one sentence, then moves on. Here is the first martyrdom of an apostle and all Luke does is give it a mention. But it was obviously important to him. It was important to the rest of the story. But how many times have I read right past it without even taking notice of the fact that James, the brother of John, and one of the three apostles who made up Jesus’ inner circle, was put to death right at the beginning of the church age. I mean the martyrdom of Stephen gets more press than the death of James. Which prompts me to ask why?


When you read this story, it’s easy to get excited about the miraculous release of Peter from prison. God stepped in and saved the day. He thwarted the plans of Herod with His own divine plan. He answered the prayers of the believers who had gathered to lift up their brother in Christ. He gave Peter an incredible boost to his faith and an unbelievable story to share with his friends.

But what about James? Was nobody praying for Him? Did God not care about Him? Was he less important than Peter? Was his death just payback for his arrogant request for Jesus to give he and his brother prominent places of authority in His coming kingdom (see Mark 10:38-45)? Why did James have to die, yet Peter was set free to serve another day?

Our unsearchable, unfathomable God

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! – Romans 11:33

The fact is, we don’t know why God chose to spare Peter, but not James. But we do know that “all His ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4). We know that God has a plan and He is working it to perfection. Stephen was cut down in the prime of his ministerial life, and we struggle with that. James was martyred for his faith and would never get to see the rapid expansion of the kingdom of God he so longed to be a part of. But God was at work. God was in control. God was working His plan.

There is much about God we will never understand., because He is God and we’re not. But we do know that God is a just and loving God. We know that God has a redemptive plan that is unstoppable and bigger than any one individual. It’s bigger than James, bigger than Stephen, bigger than Peter, and bigger than Herod. No man can prevent it or improve it. We may not even be able to understand it. But we can rely on it.

An Unstoppable Force

I love the way chapter 12 ends.

But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. – vs 24

James was gone. Herod was dead. Peter was free. And the gospel continued to spread. I may not understand His methodologies. I may not agree with His plans. But I have to admit that the results speak for themselves. He is God and He knows what He is doing. And the one man who would probably echo that statement the loudest is James himself.

Father, help me trust You. Help me realize that You can be trusted because you are righteous and all Your ways are just. You know what you’re doing even when it makes no sense to me. You are the potter and I am the clay. Forgive me for the many times when I question you and ask “what are you doing?” (Isaiah 45:9). You know what you’re doing and I need to learn to trust You more. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 11

The visible grace of God
Then when he [Barnabas] arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced… – Vs 23

How do you see the grace of God? Well, for Barnabas it was as easy as looking at the faces of strangers he met in Antioch who had believed the message about Jesus Christ and turned from their old way of life to new life in Him. They had stepped out of death into eternal life. They had once been blind, but now they could see the truth of the gospel message. And Barnabas got to see it with his own eyes.

Changed lives. Redeemed souls. Freed prisoners. Forgiven sinners. They are all around us, but we fail to see them as a visual illustration of the matchless grace of God. They are our friends, family members, neighbors, fellow church attenders. But when we look at their lives, we do not rejoice as Barnabas did, because we don’t recognize that none of these people, including ourselves, could ever have earned what they received or deserved what they have been given. But for the grace of God, we would still be dead, the walking dead. We would still be lost, but unaware of our true condition. We would still be debt to God, with no capacity to pay Him back. We would still be sinners, with no hope of salvation.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.- Ephesians 2:1-9

Grace: The Visible Gift of God

What is this grace that Barnabas saw? Well, according to The Complete Word StudyDictionary grace is …

“A favor done without expectation of return;  the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.”

God’s grace is made visible in the lives of people – sinful people to be exact. So when we look around us and see people who stepped from darkness into light, we are seeing the grace of God. When we see sinners who understand their need for a Savior, and take God up on His gift of salvation through Christ, we are seeing the grace of God. When we see undeserving, unrighteous individuals transformed day by day by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are witnessing the grace of God. And it should cause us to rejoice.

God’s grace does the unexpected

What Barnabas saw that day in Antioch was something he never expected: Sin-loving, idol-worshiping, Jew-hating pagans coming to faith in Christ. Here was God’s grace being extended in an unexpected way to an undeserving people. But isn’t that how God’s grace always works?

Barnabas was blown away by God’s grace. So much so, that he immediately went on a search for Saul so that he could bring him back to help him extend God’s grace to more people in the city of Antioch. And they ended up staying there for an entire year – teaching, preaching, encouraging, and witnessing the grace of God in action. With a smile on their face and a song in their heart.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Father, thank you for the grace you extended to me! Don’t ever let me take it for granted. And help me to see your grace all around me in the lives of those you have redeemed. Like me, none of us deserved what you have given us. We were beggars invited to a feast. We were murderers given full pardon. We were the hopelessly guilty given complete forgiveness. All because of your incredible grace. Thank you! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 10

New rules for a new kingdom

What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy. – Vs 15

Have you ever had your world rocked, your paradigm shifted, your status quo shaken to its core? Well, the disciples did. Ever since Jesus had arrived on the scene, He had made it a habit of turning their religious world on its ear. He pursued a crown instead of a cross. He came to serve, not be served. He came to defeat sin and death, not the Roman occupiers. Chapter ten in the book of Acts gives us a perfect picture of how God was going to continue this process of turning the world of His early followers on its ear.

The early converts to Christianity were primarily Jews. For generations they had relied on the centuries-old habits and traditions of their forefathers. They viewed themselves as God’s chosen people. They were the seed of Abraham. They were the apple of God’s eye. So when these God-fearing Jews came to faith in Jesus Christ, Himself a good Jew, they brought along with them all the baggage of their Jewish belief system. And old habits die hard.

Competing visions

In chapter ten we get a glimpse into God’s ongoing re-education plan for the apostles. And it starts with Peter and a Roman centurion. As He did in chapter nine, God continues His habit of using all kinds of people to accomplish His will and reveal His power. This time He uses a God-fearing Roman commander. This guy had two strikes against him: First, he was a Gentile, and therefore looked down on by the Jews. Secondly, he was a Roman soldier, which made him an object of hatred and derision. Now this man helped his cause by being generous to the Jews and a lover of their God, but he would still have been looked down on by the average Jew. Including Peter.

So in a dream, God gives this Roman commander instructions to send for Peter. He responds by sending three of his (Gentile) servants to seek out Peter. Meanwhile Peter has his own dream. And this would have been one disturbing dream for a Jew. It involved visions of all kinds of unclean, unholy creatures and instructions from God to sacrifice them and then eat them! This wasn’t a dream. It was a nightmare. And Peter responds like any God-fearing Jew would: “By no means, Lord!”

Get up and go!

Peter was appalled. But God was persistent. He repeated His command for Peter to “Get up, kill, and eat!” and then adds, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (Vs 15). This whole scenario takes place three times, leaving Peter perplexed and confused. But before he has time to gather his thoughts, the three servants of Cornelius appear at the gate. What timing!

God tells Peter to “get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings” (Vs 20). Why? Because He had sent them. Now it all began fitting together for Peter. He was beginning to understand.

Three times in the span of 10 verses, Luke uses the same word. Two times it comes from the mouth of God. The third time, it involves the response of Peter. That phrase in the Greek is anistemi and it means to “get up” or “stand up.” In verse 13, God commands Peter to “get up (anistemi), kill and eat!” Then in verse 20, God commands Peter again, using the same word “get up (anistemi), go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings.” Finally, Lue uses the word a third time when he says in verse 23 that Peter “got up ” (anistemi) and went away with them.”

A paradigm shift

This had to have been hard for Peter. The dream was bad enough. Now he was having to drop all his preconditioned beliefs and long-held views on religion and embrace God’s plans for life in His kingdom. You can sense Peter’s internal struggle what he says upon arrival at Cornelius’ home.

“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreignor or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” – Vs 28

Everything in Peter screamed that he should not be here. He was breaking long-established rules. He was violating iron-clad laws determining religious life and conduct. Yet God was commanding him to do so.

So what does Peter do? He shares the good news of Jesus Christ with those he had been trained to despise. He offered the gift of life to those he had grown up wishing God would strike dead. He preached the name of Jesus to Gentiles, just as God had commanded him to do. And the result? “The Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Vs 43). Salvation came to a Gentile’s home because Peter was willing to “get up,” to rise above the earth-bound rules of relgion and embrace the life-transformational principles of the kingdom of God.

Now it’s your turn

So what religious rules could God be asking you to let go of? Is He telling you to get up and go? Is He commanding you to walk away from your comfortable embrace of the status quo and wrap your arms around His life-changing rules of engagement in His kingdom? His is a new kingdom with new rules, new standards, new expectations and a new power to deliver true life change. But first we have to let go of the old, get up, and go!

Father, help me let go of my old expectations, my old way of understanding things, of seeing things, of doing things. Show me Your way. Help me embrace life in the kingdom on Your terms, instead of mine. Thank you for sending Your Son and introducing a “new and living way” (Heb. 10:20) through Him. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Luke chapter 9

Not Exactly Good News

“For I, the Son of Man, must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “I will be rejected by the leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. I will be killed, but three days later I will be raised from the dead.– Luke 9:22 NLT

When these words came off the lips of Jesus, His disciples were less-than-ecstatic. In fact, they were surprised and confused. This wasn’t exactly what they had signed up for. After all, they were fully expecting Jesus, as the long-awaited Messiah, to set up His kingdom on earth and destroy the oppressive rule of the Romans. He was going to be the warrior-king who, like His ancestor David, would wage war against the enemies of Israel and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem. It was going to be great, and the disciples thought they would be ruling right alongside Christ in His earthly kingdom. Now here He comes talking about suffering and death at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes of Israel. None of this made sense. Why would the religious leaders of their day want to kill the Messiah? This all had to sound preposterous to the disciples. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus goes on to tell them that they were going to have to deny themselves and take up their own crosses if they were going to continue following Him. Wow! Not exactly good news.

But we know that is exactly what it was – good news. Jesus’ death was the key to His coming. He came to offer Himself as a sacrifice for all. Ephesians 5:2 tells us that Jesus “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” He died so that we might live. His death resulted in a different kind of victory than the disciples were looking for. He came to set them free from the rule of sin and the penalty of death, not the Romans. He came to give them victory over the grave, not some foreign occupying army. The life Jesus was offering was going to require death. His own. And it would require of the disciples a daily dying of themselves. They were going to have to die to their expectations and dreams. They were going to have to die to their addictive habit of trying to save themselves. They were going to have to lose their lives in order to gain the new life that Jesus offered. But it would prove to be an exchange that was well worth it. Our sin for His righteousness. Our forgiveness for His condemnation. Our new life for His death. His power for our weakness. Our salvation for His sacrifice.

So the bad news would prove to be very good news after all. And it still is.

Father, thank You for the good news regarding Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank You for coming up with a plan that was far better than anything the disciples could have dreamed up or dreamed of. Your way is the best. And I am grateful that the bad news regarding Your son’s death would prove to be the best news of all time. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 9

Vessels for honor

He is a chosen vessel of Mine… – Vs 15 (NKJV)

At first blush, this looks like the story of Saul’s conversion, and rightfully so. But there seems to be a lot more to this passage than a recap of Saul’s Damascus road experience. In fact, he is just one of a number of actors in this play. There’s Ananias the disciple, there’s Peter the apostle, Aeneas the paralytic, and Dorcas the deceased. And while Saul takes up a large part of the narrative, this story is really not about him. It is about God. It is about how God has chosen to use men and women to accomplish His divine plan through the ages. It is about how God uses fallen creatures to proclaim His glory.

In verse 15, when Ananias shares with God his reluctance to go and minister to Saul because of his reputation as a persecutor of the church, God tells him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine” (NASB). That word translated “instrument” is skeuos in the Greek. It can refer to “a vessel, implement, or household utensil.” It is the same word used by Paul when he later wrote to the Corinthians:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. – 2 Corinthians 4:7

You find Paul using the same word in his letter to Timothy:

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. – 2 Timothy 2:21

This chapter is all about people being used by God as vessels for his honor and glory. Some are active participants like Ananias and Peter. Others are passive, like Dorcas and the paralytic, yet God uses them nonetheless. Just take a look at all that takes place by the hand of God through the lives of His chosen vessels in this one chapter alone:

A disciple obeys – Vs 17

A persecutor is converted – Vs 18

The body of Christ ministers – Vs 25

A brother in Christ supports – Vs 27

The church grows – Vs 31

A paralytic is healed – Vs 34

A woman is raised from the dead – Vs 40

The lost are saved – Vs 42

Every one of these are a picture of the mighty hand of God reaching down and using “earthen vessels” – clay pots – to accomplish His will. Each of them ended up bringing honor and glory to God. God used each of these individuals in such a way “so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 2:7).

God chose Saul, a religious zealot who was out to destroy the church, as a vessel to grow His church

He chose Ananias,an obscure disciple with a fear of persecution, as a vessel to anoint Saul with the Holy Spirit

He chose a group of unknown disciples to spare the life of the very man who had been out to imprison them

He chose Aeneas, a man debilitated by paralysis, as a vessel to witness to the power of Christ

He used Dorcas, a deceased woman, as a vessel to testify to Christ’s power over death and the grave

And the result was that “many believed in the Lord” (Vs 42). When God chooses and uses, results happen. Lives are changed. The lost are found. The lame walk. The dead are restored to life. The enemies of God become lovers of God.

God is still in the choosing business. And He still chooses vessels of clay. People who are spiritually paralyzed, spiritually dead, spiritually His enemies, spiritually reluctant, and spiritual nobodies. He chooses people like us to do His will and to reveal His power. Earthen vessels that He transforms into vessels for honor. Have you been chosen?

Father, thank you for choosing me. Thank you for using me. Even though I am little more than a clay pot with nothing to offer, and no value in and of myself. But You have chosen to use me so that my life can be a witness to Your power and glory. Make me a vessel for honor, sanctified, set apart for You, useful and always prepared for every good work you have for me to do. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men