Influential Women in the Book of Acts

As the church grew and began to spread, the influence of many women are recorded in the book of Acts.  These women were integral to the development of this new church.  Because of the work of the 12 Apostles, the focus is often on the men of the Bible, but God’s plan in the new kingdom was to break down the walls that separated people and give importance and influence to everyone, whether male or female.  Today on Mother’s Day we honor the influential women in the early days of God’s movement.

  • THE GRATEFUL WOMEN    Luke 8:2-3; Luke 24:9-11; Acts 1:14       Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others
  • THE FAITHFUL MOTHER OF JESUS   Matthew 1:18-25; John 19:25-27; Luke 24:1-12; Acts 1:14
  • THE SERVING MOTHERS    Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-35; Acts 10:1-2; Acts 16:31-34
  1. Sapphira, the wife of Ananias – Acts 5:1-10
  2. Priscilla, the wife of Aquila – Acts 18:18-26
  • THE GOOD WOMAN    Acts 9:36-42
  • THE SAVED WOMAN   Acts 16:13-15

You can access the full version of this sermon on our podcast at

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The Fear of Pain and Suffering

Series: Fear vs Faith
This week: The Fear of Pain and Suffering
Sermon-in-a-Nutshell #5

“No pain, no gain.” While that motto might look great and be motivating on the wall of a workout facility, most of us want to steer as far away from pain as we possibly can. In this message, we are referring to physical pain and the prolonged suffering that can accompany it. Web MD lists almost 350 different types of pain medications available today. Gone are the simple days of taking an aspirin; we want the strong stuff (Extra-strength Tylenol; Advil; Percocet; Demerol; Vicodin; etc. all the way to legalized marijuana). The stark humanity of us is seen in the way we fear pain brought to our bodies and the possibility of being in a continued state of suffering. Frankly, we don’t like it!

The REALITY of this fear is that we are not exempt from accidents, health issues, surgeries, disease, harm from others, old age, threat of persecution, fear of being handicapped or becoming an invalid, etc. Satan uses these to create an unhealthy fear of strokes, heart attacks, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and all kinds of detrimental health problems.

The RESULT is that our age is plagued with all kinds of physical and emotional suffering due to pain: addictions; dependency on drugs of all kinds; alcoholism; panic attacks; hypochondria; mental stress; depression; feeling helpless and hopeless; suicides; overcompensation on safety; fear to take risks; robbing Christians of their joy; the list goes on and on….

We need the FAITH TO OVERCOME these fears. When you suffer, remember you can have:

1. FAITH IN GOD TO HEAL. James 5:15 says that we can say a “prayer offered in faith that will make the sick person well.” Don’t discount the power of prayer (James 5:16). And don’t discount the power of God to heal the body. That healing can take place in a number of ways: 1) sometimes God will allow the body to heal itself; he has created the body with that amazing ability; 2) sometimes God wants you to use the medical advances that are available in our world (they used what they had in Bible times, so why shouldn’t we?); 3) sometimes healing will come in direct answer to prayer; and sometimes it comes in ways we don’t comprehend or understand. By God’s sovereign power and will, he can heal! Believe that!

2. FAITH IN GOD TO APPEAL. This appeal comes through prayer, but prayer that is persistent, passionate, and powerful! Jesus told his disciples that some things will only happen through faith and prayer (Mark 9:14-29) so the continual appeal needs to go out. There’s an amazing story in 2 Kings 20:1-11 when King Hezekiah was told he had a short time to live because of his illness and to put his house in order. He appealed to God and God blessed him with 15 more years of life! Appeal!

3. FAITH IN GOD TO REVEAL. This is the hardest one to do. But there comes a time when we accept our situation in life even if it means poor health, pain, and suffering. Then we ask God to reveal to us the strength we need, the character to develop (see Romans 5:3-4), and the unseen purposes that we may or may not understand. Such was the case when Paul suffered from his “thorn in the flesh” (discomfort in his body), and he “begged” God to remove it, but the Lord revealed his purpose in teaching him that “my strength comes into its own in your weakness.” Paul concluded in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks (note: see 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 for more detail). I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (Message Bible)

Remember from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – don’t lose heart! Our bodies will waste away in time, but renew the inward person daily! These pains are light and momentary, compared to Heaven itself where there will be no more pain, sorrow, or suffering! Fix your eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen!

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The Fear of Poverty

Series: Fear vs Faith
This week: The Fear of Poverty
Sermon-in-a-Nutshell #4

First, an overview of this new series. Our lives are gripped and many times crippled by our fears. Satan uses common fears to undermine our faith in the Lord. Often Jesus would say, “O you of little faith!” It has been said that there are over 365 scriptures that have some form of “fear not” in them – one for every day of the year! This is a battleground between the forces of evil and good, between Satan and God. We must not discount the damage that fear can bring to our minds, bodies and souls. So during this series, we are going to highlight the “Top 7 Fears” that are common to people everywhere. Let it be noted that there is a difference between “phobias” and “fears”. Our phobias are many (fear of snakes, darkness, heights, public speaking, etc.) and are more from the natural man. But fears are from within the soul and are the ones Satan feeds off it to destroy and discourage our faith.

Countdown of the Top 7 Fears begins with #7 – The Fear of Poverty.

On one hand, how can anyone living in the United States be in fear of this when compared to the rest of the world’s economies and lifestyles? So consider this fear as being defined more as the fear of not having enough; the fear of financial hardships; the fear of being deprived of resources both needed and wanted.

This is a REALTIY in our world. Never has a society had so many things to be fearful of. How many of us have not expressed some kind of thought patterns where we see ourselves being affected by homelessness, natural disasters, bankruptcy, foreclosure, loss of job, loss of ability to provide, health care issues, the demise of social security, not enough to take care of us in the retirement years. One author states, “We’re tied in Gordian knots over climate change fears, vaccine fears, bioterrorism, your kid passing his finals, cyberterrorism, grey hairs, the grid going dark, drivers who text, stock market collapse, gluten, debt, that guy eyeing your job, E.coli in packaged salads.”

The RESULT is fear that expands into the sin of WORRY. Yes, a sin. Jesus says in Matthew 6:25, “Do not worry.” And then describes this as a lack of faith! One definition of worry is “to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” In verb form, it means to fret, agonize, overthink, brood, panic, stew, get worked up, and to torment oneself. In noun form, it equates to anxiety, distress, uneasiness, restlessness, nervousness, agitation, edginess, tension, and stress. Satan uses these to go far beyond the element of being concerned and taking appropriate actions, to a sin that destroys the mind, body and soul. He elevates it above the faith that is God’s antidote to fear and worry.

Here are three steps to gird yourself with more faith than fear, all taken from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34.

1. Trust God to PROVIDE. Matthew 6:26-30 (“..don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, and do his best for you?” MSG)

2. Trust God’s PRIORITIES. Matthew 6;31-33 (“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.” MSG)

3. Trust God to PROTECT. Matthew 6:34 (“God will help you deal with whatever hard thingw comes up when the time comes.” MSG) It’s the concept of “We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”

Remember the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-13: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

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Give Me Jesus’ Kingdom

Easter Series: “Give Me Jesus”
This Week: “Give Me Jesus’ Kingdom”
Sermon-in-a-Nutshell #3

Kingdoms have risen and fallen. Kingdoms are often about egos, power, prestige, and ideologies. Because of that, many battles and wars have been waged over one kingdom’s desire to conquer another. But there’s one common denominator with all these kingdoms – they are of this world! They are not perfect. They will ultimately fail or cease to exist.

One of the hopes Jesus brought to his people, the Jews, was that he was the promised Messiah who would bring them a powerful kingdom that would be like no other – greater than David’s, greater than Solomon’s – and restore glory to the Israelite nation. Yet – his life and teachings were so different that it was confusing to many and threatening to those in power. What everyone was missing was a strategic fact that some even struggle with today – his kingdom was “not of this world….is from another place” (John 18:36). It is spiritual to the core! It operates differently than any other kingdom in history! The nature, the purpose, the leadership, the teachings, the requirements of his kingdom often run counter-culture to anything mankind has ever seen.

In Acts 1:1-11, the magnificent event called Jesus’ “Ascension” takes place. He has used the time between the resurrection and his ascension to teach them about “the kingdom of God” (verse 3). When he ascends “being taken from you into heaven” (verse 11), there are two monumental truths that come from this event. One is that Jesus is coming again and will come in the “same way” he was taken – “we will meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The other truth, often overlooked, was that in just a few days (Pentecost, Acts 2), his kingdom would be established upon this earth!

But what does that mean for us personally? How does the kingdom impact me? Here are three understandings about the kingdom that you need to know.

One, the Kingdom is WITHIN YOU! (Luke 17:20-21) When you die to sin and are united with Christ, the reign of Christ comes to fruition in your heart. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15) When you confess “Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), you are accepting Jesus as your authority and your master, bringing about a new allegiance, new laws, and a new purpose. You become kingdom-minded. You are in his kingdom and his kingdom is in you!

Two, the Kingdom is THE CHURCH! Jesus used the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably in Matthew 16:18-19. When he ascended, the left behind his body, the church, his kingdom (all the same) to accomplish his will and mission. Where is Jesus right now? In heaven, reigning over his kingdom as “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords”. The church is not an afterthought nor a “plan B” in God’s schemes. It was in the “eternal purpose” of God (Ephesians 3:10) and the prophecy was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when Peter and the apostles first used the “keys of the kingdom” through the preaching of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In our modern culture, we use the term church far more than we do any other metaphor, but are we missing something by not acknowledging the church as the kingdom of Jesus? It’s the term he used most often in his teachings. It’s the term and concept that got him crucified! There is definitely a power and a scope that the term “kingdom” brings to our efforts to serve as Christ-followers! You are in his kingdom, the church!

Three, the Kingdom is also HEAVEN! Read 2 Timothy 4:1-8 where the Apostle Paul was looking forward to “his appearing and his kingdom.” Read 2 Peter 1:10-11 where we are promised a “rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Jesus, after his second coming, will “hand over the kingdom to God” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26). Because of that, the question in asked in 2 Peter 3:11 – “What kind of people ought you to be?” The answer? “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed his coming.” Praise God – we are in the kingdom, the kingdom is within us, and we will live forever with the Lord in his heavenly kingdom! Give me Jesus’ Kingdom!

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Give Me Jesus’ Resurrection

Easter Series: “Give Me Jesus”
This Week’s Topic: “Give Me Jesus’ Resurrection”
Sermon in a Nutshell #2

Everything in Jesus’ life has a corresponding application to our lives. As we consider the Resurrection on this Easter, what is my personal response? How does it change me? How do I experience resurrection? As we considered in our last lesson, to follow the life of Jesus is to choose the best, the lasting, the eternal life that gives joy, love, peace, etc. now and the promise of eternal life in Heaven In 1 Peter 1:3-4, we read, “In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.”

I can’t imagine any right-thinking person who wouldn’t want to live a better life now and to have assurance of life after death. In other words, we desire the “resurrection” life, BUT are we accepting the processes that lead to it? Here are five things about Jesus you need to know and the corresponding response each of us need to make.

First, Jesus LIVED; therefore we LEARN. His life was like no other, superior in every way – “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus once said to the weary and down trodden, “learn from me.” (Matthew 11:29) A disciple is one who follows, but also is a student and learner. As the Bible unfolds the life of Jesus, learn from it by absorbing every facet of his time on earth. He came “leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

Second, Jesus TAUGHT; therefore we BELIEVE. Peter once said in awe, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) He taught in parables – earthly stories with heavenly meanings. He taught so the common people could easily understand. Following the Sermon on the Mount, the people were amazed at his teaching! Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Do you believe his teachings? Do you believe he is the Son of God? Do you believe in the virgin birth, his atoning death on the cross, his overcoming Satan and death through the resurrection, and that he now reigns in Heaven?

Third, Jesus DIED, therefore we die a spiritual death through REPENTANCE. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (cross), so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Movies like “The Passion of Christ” and the recent “Son of God” depict very graphically the horror of his sufferings: beaten, mocked, thorns on his head, nailed to an “old rugged cross”, painful death, in the middle of two criminals depicting him as the worst! But why? What was different about this death than what other martyrs have gone through? It’s because he was bearing “our” sins in his body (the “sinless” one), taking the punishment he didn’t deserve but doing it on your behalf. Imagine, being separated from God – the Son of God – literally going to Hell for you! So what should I do? You must die as the verse says, “to sin”. You have a choice: you can either die TO sin while alive on this earth, or you can die IN sin when you depart. For those who die “to” sin, they receive the benefits of his death. “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with…because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7). The Bible calls this repenting – indicating a change, a turn in direction, leaving something behind, like an old life with old values, attitudes and sins. You then are “crucified with Christ” (spiritually speaking) so that “Christ can now live in you.(Galatians 2:20)

Fourth, Jesus was BURIED, therefore we are BAPTIZED. That’s what you do with a dead person – you bury them. That’s what baptism is – a burial of the old self. God chose water, symbolic of cleansing, and immersion, symbolic of a burial as the elements in baptism. But it becomes much, much more than some ritual or Christian sacrament. It is the surrender of your body and spirit to be baptized by another as a connecting point to Jesus. “We died to sin…were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4) Baptism has symbolic elements, but note that it is much more than that – it is a participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! We go “into Christ”, “buried with Christ”, “raised with Christ” and are “united with Christ”!

Fifth, Jesus was RAISED, therefore we are raised to enter the NEW LIFE! “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:8-11) That’s where the best life is! That where Heaven is! “Give me Jesus’ resurrection!!!” The tomb is empty; he has risen; the resurrection changes everything!

Now one closing thought. Remember that before you can have a resurrection, there must first be a death, and then a burial. Many want the end results without counting the cost of what it means to follow Jesus. Change is perhaps the hardest thing for us to do, but there MUST be a death to sin before one can experience the glory of the resurrected life!

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Give Me Jesus’ Life

This Easter season, we are focused on three aspects of Jesus: his life; his resurrection; his ascension. God’s purposes for Jesus, and for us, are clearly seen in the life we are to follow, in the promise of being raised above death, and to know the kingdom he left when he ascended. But first, the life we are to choose.

Jesus said, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10, MSG) Who in their right mind wouldn’t want a life that is real and eternal? A better life than you could ever dream? Yet most people don’t choose the Jesus’ life! Here’s five reasons why you should follow Jesus.

First, the Christian life is the best life one could choose. In other versions, his statement in John 10:10 mentions “life to the full”, “life more abundantly”, “life that is rich and satisfying.” When you look at the fruits of this Jesus’ life in Galatians 5:22-23, who wouldn’t want more love for their fellow-man, more joy to lift the spirit, more peace for a troubled mind, more patience in the home and workplace, more self-control to overcome damaging habits?

Second, the final victory will come to the followers of Christ. The last page of the Bible says, “we won!” The book of Revelation can be a challenge to understand but remember the symbolic language and figures of this book were a message to the persecuted Christians of the first century that the righteous will prevail. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! In this life you will lose some battles along the way, but when you follow Christ, you will win the war!

Third, you owe it to the world. This sounds strange at first but who doesn’t want a better world in which to live? Jesus said of those who would choose his path, “you are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.” Proverbs 14:34 adds, “Righteousness exalts a nation.” You can make a difference with the One who changed the world!

Fourth, following Jesus will elevate your home life. From Colossians 3:18-21 (MSG), this life in Jesus causes wives to “understand and support their husbands”, husbands to “go all out in love for their wives”, children to “do what your parents tell you”, and parents to not “come down too hard on your children.” The damaged homes of our time would be blessed by following Christ.

Last, God wants you to accept his Son! John 3:16-17 (MSG) – “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” God has done everything from heaven’s standpoint (his grace, his Son, his Spirit, his Word); now he stands at the door of your heart and calls you to a life that is “more and better than you ever dreamed of.” Choose the Jesus’ life!

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Sermon in a Nutshell

It seems to be a recent trend among a lot of contemporary churches to not inundate people with multiple messages each week, but to be more intentional about the teaching path that is presented each week.  You see this most in two fairly common practices:  1)  preaching in series to stay focused on a core theme for a few weeks; and 2)  having small groups discuss the past Sunday’s sermon to personalize the message with practical application as well as delving deeper into the message and passages.

We are not that far removed from the church practices that I cut my teeth on as a young preacher a few years ago.  I remember on one occasion I sought to determine how many lesson plans and delivered sermons/classes that I would do in a year.  It went something like this.  I had to prepare for a Sunday morning Bible class, the Sunday morning sermon, a Sunday afternoon training class, the Sunday night sermon, the Wednesday night Bible class, the Wednesday night “sermonette” when all the classes came together, plus for a number of those years a lesson for the young people on Friday night.  That’s seven lesson preps as well as weddings, funerals, seminars and brotherhood speaking engagements.  While some of this didn’t happen every week, you can see the strain on the preacher to come up with 300-400 different lessons each year!

But what about the overload on the hearers of those messages?  How could one apply the Sunday morning lesson when you didn’t have time for it to germinate before another lesson flooded your brain?  No wonder we had a lot of shallow Christians, or had many with a certain retention of Bible knowledge but weren’t very focused on applying it to their daily lives or sharing with a lost world.

I like the simpler approach of today’s churches:  develop an appropriate message for the week and have practices that help implement it into the lifestyles of the members.  Currently, I preach a Sunday message; it’s taught again in our small groups; and many people use the materials for their daily devotional times.  It’s also posted on our website in audio form with downloadable printed notes.  And now, we’re going to expand the weekly message to this blog where the sermon each Monday will be presented in a concise “sermon-in-a-nutshell” form for you to absorb even more.

Some call it the “Big Idea” approach.  Whatever, it’s good to take time to process and practice what’s preached.

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