“It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait tables” (Acts 6:2). When certain people were complaining about being neglected, the apostles responded. The response was not a defensive “how dare you accuse us!” The response, interestingly, was not even, “we are so sorry the widows have been neglected.” The response was a restatement of their clear ministry purpose: we cannot neglect the word of God. The apostles didn’t ignore the problem, they asked the people to address it; and the apostles did not allow themselves to be sidetracked from their clear purpose. Reading this passage reminds me how important it is to have a clear understanding of the purpose of my ministry and to remember it when faced with complaints, valid as those complaints might be. It reminds me how important it is to address rather than ignore problems without being sidetracked.
“You did not lie to us, but to God!” (Acts 5:4). The beautiful account of Barnabas selling a field and laying the proceeds “at the apostles’ feet” is followed quickly by the ugly account of Ananias and Sapphira who followed suit but “brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” The problem was not that they did not give the entire amount to the apostles. The problem was that they lied to Peter (and lied to God and lied to the Holy Spirit) by falsely claiming they had indeed given all the proceeds. Why would they lie? It seems to me, they wanted to get the honor, respect, and glory they had seen given to Barnabas, without making the same sacrifice. They were craving the “applause of people,” to use the words of Jesus. Reading this passage, I cannot help but examine my heart for envy and jealousy. Both can be heart poison. Both can lead me places I do not want to go.
“…they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13). A preacher who has been a hero of mine for nearly 40 years worked in coal mines through the week and faithfully preached every Sunday. He was not highly educated in any sense, but especially not when it came to theological education, but I knew him and respected him as “a companion of Jesus.” While I am thankful for the education and especially theological education I was blessed with, I realize that none of it matters a bit if I am not “a companion of Jesus.”
“…we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). When I think of Peter and John responding to the demands of silence from the authorities who already had taken them into custody, I am first reminded of Jeremiah’s speaking of “a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). Then I return to reflecting on myself: what is it that I cannot stay silent about? Is it Jesus?
“…at the hour of prayer…” (Acts 3:1). The first church members we see in Acts seem to have continued their pre-Christian practice of keeping prayer hours. As I read this phrase I am reminded of the need to be devoted to prayer, allowing times of prayer to be like a support (think “trellis”) for shaping my life through the day. When are your regular times of prayer?
“…times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:20). As I read that phrase I began thinking of times when being in the presence of God had refreshed my soul. Sometimes, like in Acts 3, it came when I repented from sin and turned to God. Sometimes it was when I experienced the presence of God in nature, or in the midst of my fellow believers, or in the quiet stillness of solitude. When have you experienced the refreshing of the Lord?
“…ate their food with glad and generous hearts…” (Acts 2:46). This joyful picture caught my eye, of disciples gathering to share a meal and conversation, laughter and praise. When is the last time you joyfully share a meal with a fellow disciple? Glad. Generous. Glad and generous. When is the next time for you to share such a meal?
“…they were cut to the heart…” (Acts 2:37). As I read these words about people being convicted by the message of Christ, I thought about recent times when I had been cut to the heart by God. When have you been cut to the heart by God’s word? Was it as you read in the quiet of your home? Was it as scripture was read in the worship gathering? If you cannot remember a recent time when you were cut to the heart ask yourself two questions: Am I spending regular time reading God’s words? Have I allowed my heart to grow insensitive? Cut us, Lord. Cut us deeply. Cut us to the heart.
“It is not for you to know the times…” (Acts 1:7). Do you find it difficult to not be “in the know?” I was with a group of friends recently and our conversation brought up many questions. For example, when was that movie released? What year did that happen? Someone always pulled out their phone and googled for the answer. A craving to know was a root cause of the sin in the Garden. How much more do we crave answers in this age of readily available digital information? If it is difficult for you to not be in the know, take some time to dig into your heart to see what might be at the root of your craving. Could it be you want to be God?