This week’s reading is in Acts 8:26-40. It is the story of Philip listening to the Holy Spirit and being used by God to bring salvation to a man who was searching for God. Philip was in the midst of a great revival in Samaria when the Holy Spirit told him to leave and go to Gaza, which was in the desert. This did not make any sense to go to a desert when he was being used by God in this great revival, but Philip listened and went. When he got there the Holy Spirit told him to join up with a caravan that ‘just happened’ to be traveling through the desert at that time. Philip did not hesitate but ran and just as he got to the caravan, the man in charge, a very powerful Ethiopian eunuch, was reading a passage about the Messiah in the Bible. Philip was able to preach Jesus to this man, who then was wonderfully saved. What would have happened if Philip would have delayed in obeying God’s Word telling him to go to Gaza? He would never have met the Ethiopian eunuch. What would have happened if while he was walking in the desert and the Lord spoke to him about going over to the chariot that was carrying the eunuch, if Philip delayed for, say an hour or two, or just walked over slowly to the chariot? He would have gotten there AFTER the eunuch was finished reading the Scriptures. Because Philip RAN over to the chariot, he arrived just as the eunuch was reading prophecies about the Messiah from the Bible.
One summer I was getting ready to go on vacation the next day. A church member called me and told about a young man who had just called him and who sounded very depressed. He asked if I would go to visit him. I said I would, so he gave me the information. After he hung up I thought I’d go after I got back from vacation. Then I had this strange feeling and thought, “Oh, I guess I’ll go right now.” I called another young man from the church and asked him if he would go with me to this young guy’s house. He said yes and we met at the house. When we knocked at the door no one answered. I just had this feeling he was home so I went around to the side and I banged on the window. Then I heard a voice from inside, “Go away.” I said, “No, let me in, I want to talk to you.” After a few minutes, the door opened and there standing in front of me was a young man all covered with blood, with his wrists slashed. When I looked into his face I saw the face of Satan. We quickly rebuked the devil and he slumped to the ground. We began to bandage him up and called the ambulance. Later that night he told me what had happened. He had been listening to an album by the Doors and was high on drugs and at the end of the album there is a song where they sing, “This is the end, my friend.” He had a picture of Jim Morrison on the wall and he said as he watched the picture, it appeared as if Jim Morrison came off the wall and entered his body. Then he had these thoughts about how neat it would be to die. The next thing he knew he had cut his wrist and had painted all the walls of the house with his blood. He fell to the floor and started to black out when he heard someone banging on the door. It was us!
What would have happened if I did not go to his house that day? He would have died. The Holy Spirit was prompting me to go and I am so grateful to God that I went. If you want to be used by God one of the most important things to learn is the importance of timing. We have to learn to move when God is moving. If we move ahead of Him or we move behind Him, nothing happens. When we move with Him stuff happens. There is nothing more exciting that moving when God is moving. With God timing is everything!
This week’s reading is found in Acts 5:29. Peter and the apostles were told to stop telling people about Jesus. Peter’s response, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” We need more people with Peter’s courage today. So many people today fear men more than they fear God. Maybe at work, they are told that they are to do something that may be wrong in God’s eyes but instead of standing up against it, they just submit. They are afraid of losing their jobs. We have people at work that are being told they cannot say, “Merry Christmas,” and rather than challenge the loss of their religious freedoms they choose to obey men. Don’t take everything you hear and just accept it. It is all right to question things, especially if they are contrary to the ways of God. This is not the same as having a rebellious spirit. Some people are just plain rebellious and that is never right. Challenging authority can be done without being rebellious. It can be done respectfully and effectively. Christianity does not promote passivity. Peter challenged the legal authority of his day, when he said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Sooner or later everyone has to figure this out. Who do you fear more, God or man? Moses’ mother feared God more than man when she refused to kill her son as the Pharaoh had commanded. This is the issue Queen Esther had to face when her uncle asked her to go to the king and plead for the protection of Israel. She knew going into the king uninvited could cost her life. Her uncle Mordecai said this, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” These are people who chose to obey God rather than men. Can this be said about you?
This week’s devotion comes from Acts 3:19. Peter was preaching and he told the people to repent and be converted so that “…times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord.” Peter was describing being filled with the Holy Spirit as being a time of refreshing. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is like having a spiritual shower. If you have ever been hot and sweaty, you know how good a cold shower feels. Taking a spiritual shower can be as refreshing to your spirit. We all need to have times of refreshing, times when we truly encounter God’s Holy Spirit in our inner man. This is what salvation is all about. Too many times we get all caught up with religious activity and forget that God wants more than anything to connect with us in a deep intimate way. This is not a one-time experience. Notice that Peter said, ‘Times.” This is talking about our relationship with God and having special times and special moments when we connect.
These times of refreshing can come when we are at church listening to a sermon or singing worship songs. They can come when we are sitting at home having a short devotional time. They can come when we are fellowshipping with other Christians. They can come when we are serving someone. We can’t always plan them but we can give God more opportunity to refresh us by making ourselves available. May you experience many spiritual showers in your relationship with Jesus.
This week’s devotion comes from Acts 2:38. Sometimes visual illustrations can help a person remember things. Once I preached a sermon on this passage and to help everyone remember where this passage was I brought two 38 caliber pistols to church. I said, “Everyone needs two 38’s!” Acts 2:38 is one of those great passages in the Bible that simply and clearly presents the plan of salvation. When Peter was asked by the people what they must do to be saved, Peter said, “Repent… be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ… and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” According to Peter in order for a person to be saved, we need to repent of our sins, be water baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit. Somehow in the American church, this simple process has been lost or modified. Many people think they will be saved if they start going to church or if they are better than someone else or if they try to keep the Ten Commandments. For some reason, the need to repent of their sins, the need to stop doing things that are contrary to God’s ways is left out. Then there are those who will repent of their sins but feel that getting water baptized is an option that they can refuse. Then there are those who will repent of their sins and get water baptized but when it comes to being filled with the Holy Spirit, they would rather not risk looking like the apostles did when they were filled so they pass on that. The plan of salvation is clear. If you want to be saved, repent of your sins, get water baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Do you have your two 38’s?