Migrate

Read:

". . . let us return . . ." Acts 15:36


Reflect:

Every year various species of birds migrate from North to South. The timing of the migration is controlled by changes in the length of days. Migrating birds navigate using celestial cues from the sun and stars, the earth’s magnetic field and mental maps. In faith we must always follow the Spirit that pulls us towards a deeper life in Christ.


For a bird to journey hundreds or thousands of miles, it’s a difficult and perilous journey, one that not all birds survive. The trouble with migration is, if there was no migration a bird’s life would prove to be even more challenging, the fallout would be devastating, food supplies would be depleted, starvation would set in, and there would be fierce competition for nesting sites.


If the new believers in Antioch were to survive and thrive in faith, they would have to migrate from the burdensome pressure of ceremonial law, to the freeing spirit of all God has done through Christ.


The bird’s motivation for migration is finding richer food sources, seeking safer habitats and avoiding predators, which are all behaviors designed to ensure the success of another generation. We migrate seeking deeper faith, inner peace, and a strong sense of God’s presence. In exchange, we no longer offer rigid obedience to outward standards, but only an open mind, a grateful heart, a gentle spirit, and an unquenchable hunger for God.


The instinct of spiritual migration of the heart is moved by the call of Jesus. Can you hear his voice saying, "I'm setting you free, leading you out of guilt, condemnation and shame. I'm driving out the darkness of discouragement and pessimism. I’m liberating you from the petty parade of performance. I'm drawing you together in my love. I'm leading you to myself into the promised land of freedom, hope, and love, where you will live in unconditional love, full acceptance and total forgiveness. Soar sweet sparrow, you are mine. I've purchased you with a price and no one shall pluck you from my hand.”?


Respond:

Migrate to His Spirit, keep Him, let Him fill you with the same love with which He loves you. 


Add On

Read: 

“. . and see how they are . . .” Acts 15:36


Reflect:

Law and grace can’t coexist. Yet a great many Christians have difficulty crossing over into the new expansive frontier of grace. To accept grace means to renounce legalism which is the well-worn strategy of trying to make spiritual progress based on our performance. 


The Jewish Christians that had accepted grace were bent on adding the tremendous plus of legalism. They were teaching that one was saved through grace, plus keeping the rules, rites, and rituals of the Mosaic law.


Not so, said Paul. With that, Peter agreed, adding that then the law had become a yoke which neither their fathers nor they were able to bear. By this the council renounced legalism and declared the all sufficiency of grace. The legalists were silenced at the council of Jerusalem, but they opposed it bitterly. That spirit has never ceased to be active throughout the history of the church. 


There have always been voices who have said, and who have made, additions to simple belief. The Greeks said it was faith, plus knowledge. The ascetics added the strict adherence of harsh practices. During the middle ages, what was required was faith, plus penance and ritual observance. Then, Puritans added to grace, plus multiple laws, burning at the stake of anyone who didn’t adhere. 


Legalism distorts the gospel, making sin that which is not sin; requiring for salvation that which is not required. The effect has been to alter the gospel, making it appear as a law to be obeyed, rather than as grace to be received. The winsome wind of the spirit of life has become a repellent stench.  


Jesus plus nothing is sufficient. Nothing else need be added, because grace brings its own fruit of righteousness. It’s true, if you let anyone loose at the cross, the impulses of the graceful guide them into all truth.


Respond:

Fill in the blank. I have made my faith, Jesus plus ____________.

Now imagine being free of all the pluses and finding Jesus is more than enough. 

Someone’s Silas

Read:

“and Silas, leading men among the brethren.” Acts 15:22


Reflect:

Every person works better when they have companions, fellow journeyers in the cause of the kingdom. In Christian service, whenever one goes it alone they are soon to be a casualty of war.  


Risk takers need other risk takers who will listen to the Spirit. Jesus was no outlaw and nothing in the gospels support the notion that He was a maverick or a renegade. He surrounded Himself with others who were willing to make the journey with Him. 


As incredible as Paul was in writing, pastoring and preaching, he didn't do it alone. Paul needed Silas.


Silas was considered a faithful leader among the church. For years he served the church as a faithful pastor. It was for these reasons, and many more, that led Paul to choose Silas for his second missionary journey. Paul and Silas traveled and labored in the work of the kingdom together, they faced persecution and shared a dungeon. It might be that you are someone’s Silas. Consider the three signs of a Silas-servant. 


Promoter of God’s presence

Silas walked with God. He had an ability for making God real to people, it was because God was real to him. We must know God ourselves before we can reveal Him to others. He must Himself live in us before we can make Him real to others. 


Positively influenced people

Silas was a bright, cheerful person. Wherever he went, he lifted other’s spirits. There was no trace of gloom or despair. It was Silas who sang at midnight in the prison. We don't read of Paul ever singing by himself, but with Silas, he couldn't help but to join in. Our world is burdened by problems, harassed by difficulties, and haunted by fears. It is our role to encourage and lift up those around us. 


Peacemaker

Silas removed the coolness between Peter and Paul, bringing these two men to once again join forces to serve God. Today there is a need for peacemakers. Everywhere there are conflicts, strife and brokenness to be healed.


Respond:

Are you someone’s Silas?


Bet It All On Jesus 

Read:

“.men who have risked their lives in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Acts 15:26  


Reflect:

Jesus comes to us as one unknown on the mountains, by the lakeside. He came to those who did not know Him. He speaks the same words to us, “Follow me.” He calls us to a task which we are to be taken up with for our lifetime. He reveals Himself to them in the suffering and conflicts which they will encounter in His fellowship and mystery. Through their own endeavors they will learn who He is. 


They immediately dropped their nets, resigned their post, gave up family, turned their back on all allegiances, and alliances. Without looking back, they bet it all on Jesus. In many ways it would be difficult it find two men more unalike than Paul and Barnabas. Paul loved the battle and the breeze. He reveled in conflict and fiery debates. He never turned away from a good struggle from which he could gain the prize of the victory of knowing Him. Barnabas was a different type of man and minster. He was gentle, affable, kind and pastoral. He was a peacemaker and excelled in the ministry of reconciliation.


Yet, both men had heard the trumpet call to follow and both had bet their life on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. As they spoke the name of Jesus, they placed their lives in jeopardy. Loyalty to Jesus is as provocative in our day as it was 2000 years ago. Everyday Christians are disowned by their families, hundreds are killed and their churches are burned.


The real test of our faith is found in what we are willing to place at stake for Jesus. Real Christianity is in what we are willing to bet on the name of Jesus. As disciples, we don't bet our word, we don't bet a quarter of, and we don't bet a day’s pay, rather we bet our life on Jesus. 


Respond:

If you were to place a percentage on how much of you belongs to Jesus, how much would it be?


The Tyranny of Public Opinion

Read:

“disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls..” Acts 15:24 


Reflect:

Turning points aren't predictable. They can’t be confined to neat little formulas. We sometimes hear about how to know God’s will. After some days, things began to stir in Paul. He was ready to go out again to visit new converts, preach to more people, bring them in. Paul was called to a real task. 


The kingdom of God is not an abstraction. It is a concerted, visible reality that is forged by the personal commitment of many members. A commitment without humble service, suffering, discipleship, and creative love is an illusion. The world has no interest in abstraction and, Jesus is impatient with illusions. 


Daily we are to make choices that are consistent with the gospel vision. It is incumbent on every believer to integrate their faith, intellect, feelings into their regular behaviors. Each Christian gives flesh and bone to the dream of God by using their irreplaceable, unique gifts and personality. The life of Jesus is refracted in a myriad of ways through His community. 


To be open to the way, the truth, and the life, we should find the unique task and expression Jesus desires in our life. There are many possibilities to fulfill the call. It was during some days and conversation with Barnabas that Paul’s plan would be rerouted. Even though there was a nagging concern over what others might think, for Paul there was only being obedient to the will of God. 


There is the tyranny of public opinion in our lives. It is a fear of, what will my neighbors, friends, and everybody else think? The expectation of others acts as a controlling pressure on our behavior. But for disciples, the claim of the kingdom takes precedence over what others may think. Only then can we, like Jesus, be able to maintain a freedom from the narrow judgments of those who would try to hold us back. 


The dream of God is more than a way of thinking, it’s more than a way of speaking, it’s a way of living, it’s life itself, moving, moving in glorious ways.


Respond:

Have you thought of Jesus calling you friend for sharing your days in doing His Will?


Thrown Off Balance By Jesus

Read: 

“. . . teaching and preaching with so many others also, the word of the Lord.” Acts 15:35


Reflect:

Jesus throws everything off balance. With the crucified and resurrected Christ in our midst, everything is off balance indeed. Religion, with its rules, rituals, and regulations seek to balance our knowing God. The rigidity of religion enables us to search for God while maintaining a respectable distance from Him. But Christianity cannot be contained by the constructs of religion.


A real, raw, rugged passionate pursuit of the presence of Christ is by its very nature out of balance. Paul’s ringing declarations such as, “All I want to know is Christ and the power of His resurrection and to share in His suffering.” “God forbid that I should glory in anything other than the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ.” These and other passages are crucial to living lives that are marked by the imbalanced presence of Jesus.


You might notice times when Jesus is conspicuously absent from your life and ministry. There are two surefire ways of preserving our equilibrium and protecting ourselves from getting thrown off balance by Jesus. 


INTELLECTUALIZE

The problem with immersing ourselves in the study of luxurious theology is that it has allowed us to wrap the crucified Christ up in words. By understanding the cross as a theological necessity for salvation, we've made the cross tolerable. We've marked only our minds, and eliminated any pressure for a gut-level change in our lives. The heart flat-lines, we no longer are susceptible to the pulse of God who calls us to strike out in a new direction, to come and follow and allow yourself to be radically discipled. 


IDOLIZE

In every mall, reproductions of Jesus can be found. As you glance at the shiny crosses and art work, you find the more we reproduce Him, the more we forget about Him. We turn Jesus into an object of gold, bronze, silver, wood, we turn the monstrous scandal of Calvary into a dignified piece of jewelry to be worn, thereby freeing ourselves of the need to carry His cross.  


Respond:

Have you intellectualized or idolized the work of Jesus?