God of My Gaps

Read:

“. . . sitting in his chariot, . . . “ Acts 8:28

Reflect

It’s only the beginning. Upon salvation we discover we have not yet arrived. There are still gaps. Between what we were and who we are. 

When we first meet the Ethiopian man he’s on the road in between two cities. His home city in Egypt and Jerusalem. The two cites hold particular significance for us. One represents the best the world has to offer, and Jerusalem, is the city of rituals and temple worship. The Ethiopian man had searched both cites for meaning and answers for his hungering heart, and found none. There is an analogy here as to how we experience life.

We are caught between two cites: Jerusalem is the appointed time and place for giving worship. Ethiopia is the place of family, needs, work responsibilities, inclement weather accidents, and windfalls. Our beliefs and convictions belong to Jerusalem while our energy and attention is spent in Ethiopia. We feel the pull of these two cities. Truly our life is lived in the in-between places. Life is lived in the gaps. 

The gaps are the places of contradictions and inconsistencies. There is always a gap between where we are and where we are going. Jesus had to journey through the gaps. His life is our lesson. There’s no crown without the cross, no resurrection without burial, no power without pain. There’s no Calvary without Gethsemane.  Some gaps are designed to make us grateful, while other gaps are designed to make us grow.

With split second timing Philip shows up. He’s there to remind us that God knows our gaps. Into the gap of disappointment, we find He’s still near, when your heart is broken, when your shame is great, when you lose momentum. He’s there when our faith is gone. The gaps have both battles and blessings.

Salvation doesn’t take away the gap. We still have habits, appetites, and priorities. We still have gaps. God doesn’t take away our gaps, instead God is the God of our gaps. The good news of the gap is that God fills our gaps with His grace. There’s grace in the gaps of our lives.

Respond:

Where are the gaps in your life? Ask God to fill the gaps in with His Presence.


1200 Miles

Read:

“. . . had come to Jerusalem to worship,” Acts 8:27

Reflect:

This is the story of the Ethiopian man who had been to Jerusalem to worship. We might not think much about the fact that he had gone to Jerusalem to worship, after all, it was a place of worship and thousands of people had journeyed there to do the exact same thing. Except for the distance. 

The capital of Queen Candace was 1200 miles away from Jerusalem. The wonder of the journey was what lay between Ethiopia and the city of worship. Ethiopia was located in Africa, south of Egypt – the most religious city of its day. Its temples spread their unbroken splendor across the sunny provinces. The roofs gleaming in the sun, the gorgeous rituals, elaborate processions, all of it drew the focus from all across the region. 

Egypt was the most visible religion that ever tempted the desire of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. There were subtler attractions beyond the crowded streets and parade of idols. Egypt took the thinker by the hand, appealed to the intellect by producing literature honoring the vast exaltation of knowledge.  

How is it the Ethiopian man passed by all the grandeur of Egypt, all the riches and all the treasure it had to offer, to travel 1200 miles to a region of the little tribe of Judah? The answer lies in a single book. This book is the Old Testament.

Commended to us by Jesus as the revelation of God, it is a collection of histories, laws, psalms and prophecies all from various ages, far away centuries. All are connected by one idea – a covenant between God and His people. His word is verbally accurate and infallibly true and uncompromising in spirit.  But reliability of scripture was not the focus of the Ethiopian man. 

The 1200 mile journey through the seductions of possessions, promises, and power of a pagan land cannot stand in the way of anyone in search of the living God. Especially if they have an insatiable desire for a relationship with God, His character, power, love, and are unwilling to settle for substitutes. 

Respond:

What distance are you willing to go to know God? Is your faith unstoppable?


Are You Bitter?

Read:

“For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness . . .” Acts 8:23

Reflect:

It’s an easy sin to commit. This sin is especially deceptive because it doesn’t feel evil, wrong, or dark. It happens in times when we envy what God is doing in the life of another believer. At once we feel bitter. Other Christians seem to be having more successful ministry than we are. Or when others seem more blessed than us. We think “I want what they have.” 

The gall of bitterness is not resentment. It’s a state of coveting what another has. It’s an urge of unhealthy ambition to possess what someone else possesses. It’s bitterness, a feeling of disappointment toward God, a result of thinking God should give us the same gifts we envy in others. This kind of bitterness is easy to disguise. 

But when Peter shows up filled with the Spirit, Simon’s bitterness is immediately exposed. Peter saw that Simon heart was not right with God. Simon was hopelessly, spiritually bankrupt. Simon’s statement revealed the inward wickedness of his heart. He wanted to use the Holy Spirit as a commodity to advance his own personal position, reputation, and sense of power. 

Unless and until we see this sublet bitterness in our life, we will never discover the goodness of God and the unique gifts He gives to us. 

The lesson is ours to learn. We are each designed and uniquely gifted to serve the Lord. No one gift, calling or ministry is more important than the other. Scripture tells us that we are to guard against any kind of bitterness taking root in our life. The best way to protect ourselves against this diabolical envy is to experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our life, then understand the way God has gifted us. 

Respond:

Instead of being bitter about how God is using others, take some time to thank God for how He is using others to build His kingdom. 


Imperfect Prayer

Read:

“Repent therefore of your wickedness . . .” Acts 8:22

Reflect:

The gospel comes to us in unexpected places. The good news always breaks forth in the darkest moments. If it didn’t, there would be no hope for any of us. 

Peter spoke in his typical thunderous tone, “May your money perish with you, your heart is not right in the sight of God.” Who would have expected that those words of cold, hard truth would be followed by a gentle solution – repent. Peter didn’t just denounce Simon for his wicked request, he offered Simon a way out of his wrong-doing. 

Simon could not be expected to understand the demands of receiving the Holy Spirit, for he was wicked and practiced the dark arts. He believed he had to barter to get the presence of God. Let this be a lesson for us from the lost, Simon’s response was incorrect and unrefined, but he did respond. And that’s the point.

The heart of the gospel is, whosoever may come. We call out from the point where the pain presses. It may be from a place of hurt, or constant defeat, the need to escape the flames of hell or fear of death, or, for some, God is their last option. Whatever makes one call out, “God have mercy on me,” then let them come to the Lord of life. 

Where the pain is, prayer should be. Our prayer to heaven will come out of the wound that hurts the most. If our prayer is theologically correct, or if our prayer is imperfect and born out of a place of anguish and desperation, God will receive it.

Your reproof of others must be driven by the opportunity of the reproved to experience forgiveness and restoration. We are never to give up on those God is working to reach. We do not hold back on confronting sin. We hold a fierce light over it, but in doing so, we point to the possibility of change through repentance.

Respond:

Are you glad God has heard your imperfect prayers? 

Billboards and Bumper Stickers

Read:

“but Peter replied” Acts 8:20

Reflect:

There’s no mistake when the Lord speaks. With strength and compassion, He takes hold of our understanding. He comes to us directly with intimate insistence. God speaks in the language we know best – our circumstances. God breaks down the confidence we’ve placed in our own way of doing things. He reveals the depth of our short-sightedness. 

Peter is the perfect example of the voice of God breaking into the soundproof chambers of our heart. There are some believers today who think they are sent to argue others into the kingdom. Argument is the weakest of all weapons. There may be times when it’s called for, but as disciples, we don’t journey to Samaria to pick a fight with the Simons of the world. 

The other end of speaking truth plainly, is watering it down. We are reducing our witness to the lowest common denominator, to a catchy slogan, a pithy saying, a billboard, or a clever bumper sticker. Rather than resorting to mushy affirmations and trusting in popular practices, we instead lower the standard to, go along to get along. 

But Peter replied. His rebuke of Simon is fierce, “you and your money can go to hell.” Peter doesn’t put up the truth for sale. He does nothing but shine, he lets His light shine. The best method of dealing with error is to proclaim the truth and leave the results to God. We are to advance the kingdom of Jesus out in the open, as if we trusted in it completely. The fiercest opponents will melt in the presence of the truth.

Respond:

Are you replying to the needs, circumstances, and struggles of others with the truth? Have you diluted the truth for the acceptance of others?

The Sin of Simon

Read:

“. . . he offered them money,” Acts 8:18

Reflect:

Power, we all want it. Moms want power over their time, the business person wants power over the market in order to gain the power of profit. We always face the danger of worshipping power. Money is power, talent is power, position and privilege is power. Of course, knowledge is power. Those who have it, can use it to their advantage. There is an inherent problem in all our pursuits of power.

They are all powers of earth and will perish with it. Power all too often is worship of the world. It’s seeking the creation, rather than the Creator. Simon thought money could do everything. He deified it. Everything he taught and practiced was to secure popularity and set himself up as one who possessed the power of wealth. He took it for granted that everyone else regarded money in the same way. He thought he could use his power to purchase the power of God.

And so do we. The sin of Simon is our sin too. So let him who is without sin in this matter cast the first stone at him. Even if we haven’t sought to buy God’s gifts with money, we know what it’s like to have consented to sell our soul to gain the world. 

Let the power you long for be the power of heaven. There will be no mistaking it from power conceived of human ingenuity. God’s power points upward, it will draw us away from ourselves and towards God. God’s power makes the unseen world more real in our world. It makes the world of glitter much less appealing, for we see power’s limitations.

Neither power nor money can buy us God’s gift of grace. It can’t buy health or sight. No matter how much of either we possess, they can never buy a tone or a clean conscience. It can’t buy us hope in death, or a single ray of God’s love. To believe otherwise is what the Bible calls a fool. The sin of Simon was believing he could have the world and heaven too.

Respond:

Where in your life do you see the sin of Simon?