God Works

The book of Acts is actually The Acts of the Apostles. However, a more definitive name for the book might be The Acts of God through the Apostles. Throughout the book we see God building His church with the Apostles taking the lead in carrying out the work. But it was God Who added to their number daily those who were being saved – being saved by God. It was God Who empowered the Apostles to do perform signs and wonders as evidence of God’s power. And it was God who inspired the Apostles to speak boldly in His Name. And so we come to Acts 19 in which we see God work in numerous ways to bring glory to His name and expand His church.

The Holy Spirit – the very presence of God within us – is the driving force in anything and everything we do which honors God. In Acts 19:1-7 we see Paul bringing new Ephesian believers into the family of God. They had heard and followed the teachings of John the Baptist and Paul helped them understand that John’s focus was on Jesus. As they received the Good News – the Gospel – they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues thus verifying to Paul that they had done so. It was all the work of God. Paul’s trip to Ephesus; Paul’s encounter with these people; Paul’s telling them about Jesus; their response – it was all God’s work.

As we move into Acts 19:8-10 we see God working in Paul as he spoke boldly in the synagogue and then in a public hall. God’s work through Paul was so pervasive that in 2 years the entire region known as Asia (now Southwestern Turkey – an area about the size of Texas minus the Panhandle) had heard the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

God’s work continued in verses 11-17 where Paul was able to do things sometimes even by proxy. It makes sense when we know that the real power behind his acts was the omnipresent God. Paul cast out demons, but when some traveling exorcists tried to do the same the demons turned on them and it, in my opinion, led to some rather comical results.

When we get to Acts 19:18-20 we see God working in the lives of those who practiced all sorts of magic and sorcery. They were changed. They were changed dramatically. They turned their backs on their evil ways and even burned their books (worth about $13M by today’s standards) containing the incantations and teachings of their black magic arts. They sacrificed their heritage, their livelihood, their future, their combined knowledge, and their identity to follow Jesus.

The Acts of the Apostles is a book which describes how God worked through his Apostles then. But God is still at work. What will be in your book of Acts?

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, October 02, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Email – fromthebackporchintexas@texassongweaver

We’re Off on the Road to Damascus

In his reign of terror on Believers of the Way, Paul was very much like the “radicals” we see around thee world who are persecuting Christians. Think of the men in the black hoods executing Coptic Christians on the beach in Egypt. He was no different

But God called him to a higher purpose. Similarly, God has called us to new life and a new purpose. Therefore, . . .

  1. We must respond to God’s call and not wait for Him to “get our attention.” (as Paul did)
  2. We must follow God’s instructions even when they seem foolish. (as Paul did)
  3. We must boldly proclaim the gospel to ALL people no matter their backgrounds or viewpoints and no matter what you think about them nor what they think about you. (as Paul did)

And no matter the situation, we must always remember that the ultimate problem our world faces is a sin problem. Until Christians get serious about obeying the call of God on their lives we can expect no different world than the fallen, depraved, and violent world in which we now reside. Without the Spirit-led proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Zietgeist – the spirit of this age – will continue to lead our culture down of path of destruction, pain, and hopelessness in which we will become more angry, more violent, and more immoral than anything we have seen before. Only God can stand against this onslaught and Christians must be following the call to go into all the world with the message of Jesus Christ. Truly, our only hope at this point is Jesus.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 29, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

The Amazing Grace of the Righteous God

God is righteous. He is perfect in every way and His justice is perfect. He does not need to submit to the laws of man, because He alone is the law-giver.

People are sinful – unrighteous. While God is the perfect law-giver, humans are the imperfect law-breakers. Every one has sinned and fallen short of the perfection of the perfect law-givver.

Just as in physics, no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time, neither can righteousness and unrighteousness occupy the same space. Therefore we, the imperfect, are separated from the perfect God.

God loves us. Even in our deplorable condition as sinful law-breakers God loved us and offered us a way to return to Him – to live with Him and occupy the same space as Him for all eternity.

As a just judge, He had no choice to pronounce judgment on the sinful actions of humans. However, Jesus lived a sinless life and offered Himself up in our place to take our judgment. The precious gift of salvation was purchased with the blood of Christ Himself on our behalf.

The righteous God pronounced judgment on sinful man and gave him the death penalty.

The penalty of death was paid by Jesus on the Cross.

The gift of salvation from God’s wrath and the penalty of sin is offered to all.

And now the gift must be accepted by trusting the One Who paid the price and offers the gift.

May we accept the gift and lead others to know the truth of this gift, so that they, too, may be saved by God’s Amazing Grace.

Next week we will look at the beginning of the book of James to see the proof in pudding.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Naughty or Nice?

It hangs over us all year long, but the magnitude of “The List” grows as Christmas Day approaches. And so it has been for our entire lives. We joke about it as adults, but the meaning behind it remains firmly entrenched in our moral code – a moral code that seems to tap dance its way through and around the very Word of God. While the Bible is full of instances where justice reigned down on those who did evil in the sight of God (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah, Ananias and Sapphira) and while the Bible admonishes us to choose good over evil, it seems that without careful thought we can step into a belief system where we determine our destiny by our own actions and, in so doing, ignore the way God loves those who are naughty AND nice.

In something of a playful way, we use the naughty and nice concept to control the behavior of children. In a much more serious sense, we use the naughty and nice concept to control our own behaviors and the behaviors of those in our society. Unfortunately, most religions rely heavily on the concept of naughty and nice to sustain their moral code – a practice that is ultimately futile since all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. No one can measure up but the belief system (religion) continues with the never-ending pursuit of perfection. If you will just do enough “do’s” and avoid enough “don’ts” then you will end up on the nice list and go to Heaven, but if you fail to do the do’s and you are very adept at doing the don’ts then it’s the naughty list for you and a one-way, expense paid trip to Hell. That’s the way religion works – always has and always will because we as humans want to control our own destiny and most religions provide just such a tool for us to do that. It’s a win-win. We get to control our lives and religion profits by helping us do it.

However, God laid out a different plan through His Son, Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, Jesus, so that all who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) For it is by grace we are saved and not because we are on the nice list. Otherwise, we would tend to boast about being on the nice list instead of rejoicing that we know the One Who put us there in the first place. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Naughty or Nice? God declares us righteous through the blood of Jesus. (Romans 5:9) God declares that we are on the Nice List because of Him. And not only that – He takes the list of the bad things we have done and drops them into the Sea of Forgetfulness and remembers them no more. (Micah 7:19) Again, it’s not because of what we have done or haven’t done, but it’s solely because of Who He Is.

I enjoy the fun of Santa and I don’t have a problem with teasing folks about the naughty or nice list. However, if you’re talking naughty or nice – you’re naughty. God said so and your actions back Him up. But because of Jesus you can be on the Nice List. How sweet is that? Sweeter than any Christmas candy or any sugar plum you can imagine.

The difference between Hell and Heaven is not Naughty or Nice. The difference between Hell and Heaven is a Savior – Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!