Acts 20

Acts 20:1-6 (NIV)
1 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. 2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3 where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. 

One of the reasons the churches and work of Paul continued is because Paul never did anything alone.  He was always taking people with him to do the work of ministry.  One of Paul’s values was that everything he was doing was an excuse to disciple people.  Even as he was striving to accomplish God’s calling on his life to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, he worked with a team and was always in the process of discipling his team along the way.  The same should be true for us as believers today.  We need to be purposeful about making and maturing disciples and one of the best ways to do that is to have people “do life together” with you.  From GROW groups to ministry opportunities, even at work, we can be purposeful about making and maturing disciples. 

Here is a simple plan…

Identify someone who can invest your life in.  It helps if they share some of the interests and goals that you share so that you can do life together in a natural way.  All of the people with Paul shared the interest of wanting to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

Recruit them.  Don’t wait for someone to ask you, be bold and ask them if they would like to enter into a discipleship relationship with you.  

Train and release them.  Paul’s method was a simple method.  It was very much like Jesus’ method of training and releasing. 
I do you watch and we talk about it. 
We do together and we talk about it. 
You do and I watch and we talk about it. 
You find someone else and repeat the process.

Are you discipling someone?  Are you training up the next group of believers who will continue the work and mission that God has called us to?  Don’t assume that someone else is going to do the work of discipleship.  You need to be discipled and then disciple someone, and these can occur concurrently.  

If you would like more information on starting a one on one discipleship with someone contact the church office and we would be happy to give you some resources to do that. 

Let’s create a discipleship culture here at DSC and beyond.

Acts 19

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

These men had believed an outdated message.  John's message was that Jesus was coming and his baptism was one of repentance to make ourselves ready for the coming of Jesus.  But Jesus had come already and had finished His task and had now sent the Holy Spirit.  Paul realizes that these men had not yet received that good news so He tells them the Good News regarding Jesus having come and then when they believed they were baptized.

In the book of Acts we constantly see that believing in Christ and baptism go together.  When you believe you must be baptized.  If you have believed the message of Christ then we are expected to take the next step, which is to make a public declaration of that faith in Christ by being baptized.  The very understanding of the word baptize means to immerse, to dip under and is not a sprinkling.  Also it is noted that understanding preceded baptism.  You are not baptized until you understood the message of Christ and had accepted it.

Believe and be baptized.  Have you taken the step of being baptized?  Don't put it off any longer.

Acts 18

Without a doubt Paul would be considered a great Christian, a great missionary and evangelist, church planter and apostle; but what we must understand is that Paul was working with a team of people at all times.  He never really worked alone, he worked with Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla, to name a few.

Too often in our American culture we think as individualists, that somehow this life as a disciple of Christ is a personal thing, but the truth is when we are born again we are born again into the family of God.  We become part of a community of believers and it is in that community you are to use your gifts, talents, abilities and finances to fulfill the plans and purposes of God.  We are constantly encouraging you to be involved with the family of God in fellowship (Sunday Mornings, GROW groups), in serving in ministry and mission, and in joining together with the family to proclaim the gospel to the world.  

Starting this Sunday you have the opportunity to grow in community as we start our 40 Days in the Word campaign.  If you have not signed up yet, it is not too late.  Come join us and let us do life together the way that God intended for us to live.

Acts 17

In reading the accounts of Paul I was struck with the idea that it was probably not his master plan to start churches and move on.  Paul met with people at marketplaces and synagogues and won them to Christ and in the process stirred up the animosity of others.  Those people in many instances forced Paul to flee, leaving behind people he had come to love and people he probably wanted more time with.  But the adversity forced him to move along and as a result more cities were visited and more people were won to Christ.

It could have been easy for Paul to be discouraged and angry at the adversity in those cities, but the truth is that it was exactly what God was using to keep him moving along and preaching the gospel.  I wonder how many of the hardships and adversities you are facing is part of God doing something in your life and mine?  Am I looking at the sovereign God and believing that in all of this He has a plan and will work everything to His good or am I just complaining that things are not going the way I think it should?

Acts 16

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

It seems interesting to me that even though the council of apostles and elders have concluded that the Gentile Christians do not have to be circimcised Paul makes Timothy be circimcised.  And Paul was one of the biggest advocates that the Gentile christians did not have to be circumcised?  As a gentile christian, Timothy indeed did not have to be circumcised but Paul had greater plans for Timothy.  He saw that Timothy was to be a leader and in order for him to have credibility with both Jews and Gentiles, Timothy would have to be circumcised.  That is good wisdom.  I think sometimes too many people lessen their circle of influence because they try to identify with just one group of people and lose their ability to lead beyond that group.  I see too many young leaders who cite personal freedom to act in a way that allows them access to a small group but cuts them off from the larger circle of influence.  Timothy did not have to be circumscised but he did it because the more people you are called to lead the greater the sacrifice of personal freedom. 

The other thought I had today as I was reading was that every leader needs encouragement from the people they are leading.  Paul and Silas were imprisoned. beaten and shackled and God worked mightily through them in that prison situation.  It was a great success, but even at the end of it the brothers and sisters encouraged them.  The encouragement probably came as nursing their wounds and strengthening them physically, but I am sure there was emotional and spiritual encouragement that happened as well.  Each person needs to watch their physical, emotional and spiritual gauges to ensure they are not running on empty, and as we look to encourage those who lead us we need to remember to think about how we can encourage and strengthen them in those three areas as well.  I encourage you to encourage your GROW leaders.  Find ways to strengthen them physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Acts 15

19  "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20  Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21  For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." 


The leaders and the whole church directed by the Holy Spirit, made a twofold decision; a doctrinal decision about salvation, and a practical decision about how to live the Christian life.

The church concluded that Jews and Gentiles are all sinners before God and can be saved only by faith in Jesus Christ. There is one need, and there is but one Gospel to meet that need.

But all doctrine must lead to duty. It is not enough for us simply to accept a biblical truth; we must apply it personally in everyday life. Church problems are not solved by passing resolutions, but by practicing the revelations God gives us from His Word.

James advised the church to write to the Gentile believers and share the decisions of the conference. This letter asked for obedience to two commands and a willingness to agree to two personal concessions. The two commands were that the believers avoid idolatry and immorality, sins that were especially prevalent among the Gentiles. The two concessions were that they willingly abstain from eating blood and meat from animals that had died by strangulation. The two commands do not create any special problems, for idolatry and immorality have always been wrong in God's sight, both for Jews and Gentiles. But what about the two concessions concerning food?

Keep in mind that the early church did a great deal of eating together and practicing of hospitality. Most churches met in homes, and some assemblies held a "love feast" in conjunction with the Lord's Supper. It was probably not much different from our own potluck dinners. If the Gentile believers ate food that the Jewish believers considered "unclean," this would cause division in the church.

The prohibition against eating blood was actually given by God before the time of the Law and it was repeated by Moses. If an animal is killed by strangulation, some of the blood will remain in the body and make the meat unfit for Jews to eat. Hence, the admonition against strangulation.

This is the spirit of unity expressed.  The legalistic Jews willingly gave up insisting that the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved, and the Gentiles willingly accepted a change in their eating habits. It was a loving compromise that did not in any way affect the truth of the Gospel. 

What did this decision accomplish in a practical way? At least three things. First, it strengthened the unity of the church and kept it from splitting into two extreme "Law" and "grace" groups. 

Second, this decision made it possible for the church to present a united witness to the lost Jews. For the most part, the church was still identified with the Jewish synagogue; and it is likely that in some cities, entire synagogue congregations believed on Jesus Christ (Jews, Gentile proselytes, and Gentile "God-fearers" together.) If the Gentile believers abused their freedom in Christ and ate meat containing blood, this would offend both the saved Jews and their unsaved Mends whom they were trying to win to Christ It was simply a matter of not being a stumbling block to the weak or to the lost.

Third, this decision brought blessing as the letter was shared with the various Gentile congregations. Paul and Barnabas, along with Judas and Silas, took the good news to Antioch; and the church rejoiced and was encouraged because they did not have to carry the burdensome yoke of the Law.  The result was a strengthening of the churches' faith and an increase of their number.

We today can learn a great deal from this difficult experience of the early church. To begin with, problems and differences are opportunities for growth just as much as temptations for dissension and division. Churches need to work together and take time to listen, love, and learn. How many hurtful fights and splits could have been avoided if only some of God's people had given the Spirit time to speak and to work.

Christians need to learn the art of loving compromise. They need to have their priorities in order so they know when to fight for what is really important in the church. Every congregation needs a regular dose of the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 to prevent division and dissension.

As we deal with our differences, we must ask, "How will our decisions affect the united witness of the church to the lost?" Jesus prayed that His people might be united so that the world might believe on Him (John 17:20-21). Unity is not uniformity, for unity is based on love and not law. There is a great need in the church for diversity in unity for that is the only way the body can mature and do its work in the world.

God has opened a wonderful door of opportunity for us to take the Gospel of God's grace to a condemned world. But there are forces in the church even today that want to close that door, let us learn to live and love the way Christ would.


Bible Exposition Commentary

Acts 14

On Sunday we talked about stages of spiritual maturity - baby, infant, young adult and parent.  In our reading today we catch a glimpse of Paul and Barnabas being spiritual parents. 
First they  made disciples.  Having partnered with the Holy Spirit in birthing these disciples they strengthened these disciples and encouraged them to remain true to their new faith in Christ.  Paul exhorted them to stay strong and to understand that living the Christian life was not a easy thing and that they should expect trials and suffering as they followed Him.
But because Paul and Barnabas knew that the end result of spiritual parenting was to build believers who were not dependent on them, they organized local bodies of believers to support and encourage one another and to continue to work of making new disciples.  Paul and Barnabas appointed spiritual leaders from among the new believers and gave them responsibility for overseeing the growth of the believers.

So where are you in your spiritual maturity?  Are you a newborn?  If you are you need to be committed to the fellowship of believers so that they can care for you and help you grow.
Then as you find yourself being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ your focus should be changing from being egocentric to being other's focused.  You should be looking to help others grow as you continue to grow.  From the stage of child to parent we should we looking to help others grow in their walk with God, commiting to walk with them and exhort and encourage them in their spiritual maturity.

  • 1 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NLT) 16  So I urge you to imitate me. 17  That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go.


Acts 13

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit...
9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit...

As we have seen so far in the book of Acts, Jesus went away and sent the Holy Spirit.  It was for the benefit of the church that the Holy Spirit came.  In John 16 Jesus even tells His disciples that it is for their good that He is going away and that the Holy Spirit is coming.  He is the Counselor, the Comforter, the Convictor, the Guide and the power necessary for us to accomplish all that Christ has called us to do.

When the Holy Spirit came Peter was transformed from a fearful fisherman into a courageous disciple of Christ, willing to stand up for Jesus.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit Paul was set apart, commissioned and directed in his journeys.  Because of the Holy Spirit's power at work in and through the lives of believers, people were healed, the dead were raised, lepers were cleansed and the Word of God was preached.  Many people became believers because of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.

OK, when I read this stuff I have to ask the question of myself and of all of us..."If I believe these accounts and believe in the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit still being evidenced in the lives of believers today" then should we not be living with the evidence of that power in our lives?
Should we not be filled with courage to share the Word of God boldly?
Shouldn't we be living with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness and gentlenessi n ever increasing measure?
Shouldn't we be seeing the obvious outward evidences of an inward transformation?
Shouldn't there be a marked difference between our lives before Christ and the Holy Spirit and after?

I believe that there are more epic stories to be written about the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the lives of believers - join the story!

Acts 12

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

One of the core beliefs for us at Desert Streams is that we believe that when we pray for God's will, He listens and answers, transforming lives, circumstances and the world.  Therefore we will pray continually expecting great things to happen. It is funny but sometimes we say we believe it but we act surprised when God answers our prayers.  I pray that we catch a glimpse of how powerful and effective the earnest prayer of God's people is.  We need to take advantage of this avenue that God gives us.

Acts 11

We seem to have to irresistible urge to want everyone to be like us.  It is a reminder to us of our sinful and fallen nature.  We look at the world as revolving around us.  We have it down, we know what we are doing and we are better than those people.  We need to stop that kind of behavior and take on the mind of Christ who sees no difference.  In him there is no inequality.  

We as believers in Christ are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction (Romans 14:15). Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews, and some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles! This attitude can create serious division in the church even today, so it is important that we follow the example of Acts 11:8 and the admonition of Romans 14:1, and receive those whom God has also received.