The Rest of the Story

And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts 19:3-5 ESV

It’s important to know “the rest of the story.” Paul Harvey hosted a radio show by that name where he shared little known facts presented as stories. He would usually leave out an important element until the end of his broadcast. Every show ended with a variation of “And that’s the rest of the story.”

Some of you may have never heard about Paul Harvey but you have heard stories told to you. They cause a reaction from you. But things change completely when you get the rest of the story. (Anyone who has ever interacted with children knows exactly what I’m talking about). Your emotions can change from sympathy to anger when you find out all the details.

In Acts 19 Paul finds some followers of Jesus in Ephesus who had only heard part of the story. In verse 2 we find this interesting exchange:

And he (Paul) said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
And they said,"No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 

Talk about not knowing the full details. These committed and faithful followers of God had being doing everything they were taught but never knew of the Holy Spirit’s presence. I’m sure you may wonder, what’s the big deal about that? Well this story becomes clear when Paul helps them, and us, to realize what’s the rest of the story.

And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” (Acts 19:3,4)

These people had experience repentance, turning away from their sin. Like many of us, God had led them to a point of seeing things clearly. They saw the error of sin and the beauty of following God’s way. God had done that work in them. But it seemed like God wanted to do more in them and wants to do more in us.

It says that afterward Paul re-baptizes them in the name of Jesus and they receive the Holy Spirit. There are visible and audible evidences of this. They have finally realized the rest of the story. God’s plan for them not only included repentance and turning away from sin but it included empowering them to do things that they could never do on their own.

So many times, we believe the Christian life is only about repentance - turning away from sin. And we can become fixated on sin management - how to stop doing wrong. But maybe there is so much more to the life Jesus is inviting us to than that. It is not just what we stop doing, it’s about what we start doing - works that we could never do on our own.

If all we focus on is what I do and don't do, we don't have the whole story. But what the power of the Spirit is for beyond giving us victory over sin is to empower us to do things that we could never do on our own. Those things usually have to do with helping and serving others. And that’s the rest of the story.

Challenge for the week: Pray and ask God for the power of the Spirit to show you what He wants you to do for someone else. Then go out and help someone by His power.

Trust the Process

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 ESV

It seems like road construction follows us where we live. We lived in Kansas City for 7 years and there was always a highway being worked on at some point. When we moved here to Memphis in 2012, it seemed like the crews, the signs and the hassle of roadwork tagged along.

Our commute to the Overton Park Church building or to the Alcy SDA Jr Academy where our children attended school, involved driving down Highway 40. It was congested enough when we arrived in 2012, but that got so much worse when they decided to do expansion of the highway. There would be times when the multiple lane road way would turn into a parking lot.

There was a sign on it saying when the work would be completed. That never seemed to give me comfort while sitting in my car waiting for movement. The date seemed so far away. Until one day it happened - construction was finished and my commute time has been cut by at least 7 minutes from the pre-construction time (I can get up to 10 minutes faster…but you shouldn't try that.) The wait and inconvenience has been worth it. I needed to trust the process.

Truth is none of us like processes. We like instantaneous fixes. But God specializes in processes. In fact, while you read this devotion, you are a work in process. There is a construction crew working in you. And there is even a future date of completion. The Bible says in Philippians 1:6, “he who began a good work in you…” God is working in you.

I don’t know about you but that’s one of those good-bad news statements. It means that the person who is working on my character and shaping and molding me is God, and He can be trusted. The difficult part is that construction is never convenient. It involves shifting things out of place, we don’t always see the immediate benefit and sometimes we are tempted to want to call a halt to the whole thing. Those are the times we need to trust the process.

Ultimately I am glad that God takes responsibility for the work on the inside of us. We know we can’t fix up ourselves no matter how hard we try on our own. The news gets even better. There is a completion date for this construction job.

“he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

There is coming a day when we will see the full effects of God’s work in us, when Jesus comes. I know we will all agree that all the discomfort, inconvenience, challenges, they will all be worth it. Trust the process.

Challenge for the week: Look up Bible verses about “Christ in you.” Look at the work He promised to do in you. Thank Him for that work even now.

A Defective Product

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1,2 ESV

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Well, allow me to share with you something I found insane recently. We bought a new cell phone charger chord because if you have as many devices as we do, you need to have something to charge them with.

This chords was one of those nice, long, 10 foot chords that you plug in across the room and still connect to your phone. Seemed great for about a couple weeks until my wife plugged in her phone all night and it still did not charge. So we took it back to the store and they gave us a new one. No problem…until about 2 more weeks and the same thing happened. Took it back and got it replaced.

Well as you can guess, that new chord charged well for about another 2 to 3 weeks and then nothing. I took this one back and asked the guy at the store if something was wrong with what we were doing. He said we weren’t doing anything wrong but it happens to everyone. Obviously I was puzzled. My next question was if they repaired the ones brought back and gave them back out. He let me know that they simply tossed them away.

Is it just me or is that just crazy? People buy this product, it doesn’t work, they bring it back and replace it and you keep selling it. This product, to me, is frustrating because it never lives up to its promise. And that’s just like sin. Sin is a defective product that frustrates us because what it promises to do, give us peace and joy, it is never able to sustain.

In the book of Romans, chapter 6, the author Paul makes it clear that going back and living in sin after Christ has freed us by the power of His gospel is in fact insanity. What Jesus has done for us sets us free from the power of sin, and many times we get confused as to what that freedom is for. We may think it is so that we can sin without consequences.

Romans 6 is very clear on one of the main consequences of sin. Instead of giving us freedom, it returns us right back to slavery! Strong word, but appropriate word. The crazy thing about indulging in sin is that it actually gives us the opposite of what it promises. While offering freedom it enslaves us, binds us and ties us up. Sin is a defective product. Regret, guilt, broken relationships and so much other painful experiences testify to the futility of living in sin.

Just like that power chord, we can keep trying to engage in sin and hope it will turn out differently this time (when human history has shown it’s effects), or we can use the freedom we have in Jesus to turn away and walk a new way. God frees us by the gospel, then fills us with His Spirit to empower that new way of living. We would be crazy not to accept what He’s offering.

Challenge for the week: Take an inventory of your life. God wants to fill us but many of us are holding on to a pet sin. This week give that to God in surrender and allow Him to break it’s hold on you.

Need More than Samples

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. Acts 17:10-12

After school on Fridays in my home means one thing - a trip to Sam’s Club. It’s actually Sam’s Club Sample Friday! It may not be a big deal to you but it’s close to the highlight of the week.

We get a chance to go up and down the aisles of this wholesale store and check out various carts with food, desserts, fruit, salads even some drinks. If you are as bold as I am, you go back around and ask for another helping of what you like. We can nearly get filled on a trip through Sam’s Club…nearly. You honestly never get filled off of samples.

If we are successful by my standards, we make it out of Sam’s without buying anything. But more than a few times, Sam’s club wins the game - they get us to buy some of what we have tasted. We buy a large portion and take it home with us so we can really get our fill of it.

Samples in the store are meant to encourage you to take the product home and have much more of it. Maybe that’s why Paul commended the Jews in Berea. The book of Acts tells us that they treated the preaching they heard in the worship gathering like a sample. They enjoyed it but went home and got their fill of the word of God.When Paul and others preachers, they took home what was said and went back to study more about it. They realized that they would never be filled and grow as Christians if all their spiritual food came from what they heard in a sermon in a service.

Sadly too many of us try to live all week long spiritually off of what we hear in our services on the weekend. We get too busy to read the Bible for ourselves and miss out on so much more that God wants to say to us. We may even get a sample in an inspirational reading we see, but nothing fills us like reading the Bible for ourselves.

The good news is that this week you can have more than a sample. You can dig deeper in God’s word and each day feast on what He has for you…and it’s free. You can have more than just samples of what wants to say to you. You can have the real thing…and it’s free.

Challenge for the week: This week have a daily Bible study and reading plan. You may decide to read a short book of the Bible, chapter by chapter. You can read from the gospels, Genesis or any other book. Spend time writing down what God is saying to you as you read.

May I Have Another?

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentation 3:22,23 ESV

My children love going to the bank. There are two problems with that statement I just made that can get me in trouble. The first is, you may assume we have a lot of money in the bank and that is why they like to go. That’s not the case, and that’s not why they like going to the bank.

They couldn’t care any less what transaction I was going to the drive through at the bank to conduct. They are only there for the lollipops. If you are a dentist or dietitian, I just got in trouble with you. Even if we are doing an ATM transaction, they will ask me to drive back around to go through the teller line to ask for the candy.

I don’t know if my children have ever thought about it, but I have. I have wondered how many bags of lollipops do they have back there. I have wondered if there ever comes a time when some parent with young ones like mine will eventually drive through and ask and they say to them “we gave out the last one just before you came.” Or maybe one day the same teller at the same drive through, would they eventually say to a repeater like me “that’s it - no more lollipops for you…you came yesterday for some.”

I highly doubt any of my scenarios above would ever come true. Something tells me that there is a company policy or at least an unwritten rule that you always keep the candy supply stocked and replenished often. Because people will ask for it. And I can't help but thinking that even more than that, God’s bank in heaven keeps a fresh supply of mercy because people like you and me will need it.

In the passage above, the writer is a prophet by the name of Jeremiah. He is living in a very difficult time and his book is called Lamentations for a good reason; it’s like an extended blues song. It tells of the troubles people are going through. But then he inserts these verses that tell why he has hope in the midst of the difficulties. “(God’s) mercies never come to an end.”

That’s good news for us. That’s great news for us. Because we need God’s mercies more than children desire candy. The Bible lets us know that God never runs out of it because He actually refills the supply each day - “they are new every morning.”

My challenge and your challenge is believing that. Many times we drift away and wander away and stay away from God because we think that asking for mercy again will get us some of the responses from above. We think God will say “there’s no more left” or “you received some already today, you can’t have anymore.” But that’s not the God we serve. His supply is limitless and He actually is more willing to extend it to us than we are willing to ask.

As we seek to grow in our daily walk with God and with spending time with Him, we will mess up along the way. That’s inevitable. When we do, we are tempted to beat ourselves up and even want to quit. But I encourage you come back to the bank of heaven….there’s more mercy available for our sins.

Someone at my local bank must be going out and purchasing these lollipops. They are not showing up in the tellers area all by themselves. Someone has to pay for what my kids get for free. Someone has paid for the mercy of God. It didn’t show up by itself. We get it for free because Jesus paid for it by giving His life on the cross. The supply is unending, it is refilled each day and it is yours…just ask for it.

Challenge for the week: This week make a playlist for your worship time. Identify songs that draw your heart closer to God. They can be hymns you sing, songs you listen to on a device or instrumentals you play. Use them for your worship time each day this week. Let music bring you into God’s presence daily.