Welcome to the ACTS Podcast!

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity--hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory-- because at the Father's will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.  - J.I. Packer

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Micah in this chiaroscuro takes us back to the cradle of David's line and exhibits the Messiah as representing a new beginning out of a famous heritage. As God unexpectedly anointed David and rescued his people upon the failure of Saul, so he will give his people David's true successor after the defeat of David's descendants. (Wiseman, D. J., Alexander, T. D., & Waltke, B. K. (1988). Obadiah, Johah and Micah: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 26, p. 199). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)

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Are we willing to trust the wisdom of God and to allow Him to plan our lives as He sees fit? Faith must be tested, otherwise it could not be verified.  So, we need not fear when our faith is exposed to trial that it indicates any displeasure on God's part toward us.  Rather it indicates His deep interest in and concern for us. (H. A. Ironside, 1947)

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When our hop is in the Lord, we can rejoice no matter what life throws our way. In fact, we can GREATLY rejoice... Jesus is risen, so be glad even in times of pain. (From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Our Living Hope, 4/26/2011)

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In a speech made in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said, "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven;  have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. 

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In the same way this letter to Thyatira shocks its readers in a few short sentences with the portrayal of the terrifying results of human sinfulness.  The theological principle that underpins this passage is that the created order of God is moral, and the violation of that moral order does not go unpunished.  Interpersonal immorality has always been destructive to human relationships, because such sins, just as the sins of false gods, pride, selfishness, etc., go cross-grain to the grand design built by God into the very fabric of life. (Palmer, E.F., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). 1, 2 & 3 John/ Revelation (Vol. 35, p. 136). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.)

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Satan, failing to overthrow the church by persecution in Smyrna days, snares the Pergamum church into idolatry and fornication.  In Pergamum they sought to drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons at the same time.  This provoked the Lord. (Newell, 1935)

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Satan knows man's weakness! Sin is rebellion against God's wishes and ways. It is our decision to disobey God's principles.  While Satan gets credit for bringing us to the point of decision, the choice of doing evil is ultimately ours.  We cannot blame circumstances, other people, or the spiritual world for our choices, we must own them. (Barna, George, Think Like Jesus, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, TN (2003, P.122)

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Our emotions can cause us serious problems. Emotions can confuse our thinking, disturb our hearts, sap our vitality, and disrupt our walks with God. Anger, guilt, fear, and worry take an incredible tool on our well-being. In fact,doctors tell us 70 percent of all illnesses are emotionally induced. Most of us are stretched beyond our limits. We give of ourselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, pouring our hearts and souls into our jobs and families. But we do very little to guard our hearts and replenish our fast-paced lives. (LaHaye, Tim & Hindson, Ed, Seduction of the Heart, W Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO (2001, p. 41))

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Commentator William Hendrickson writes, 'the kingdom, then, is not for weaklings, weavers, or compromisers...It is not for Balaam, the rich young ruler, Pilate and Demas.. It is not won by means of deferred prayers, unfilled promises, broken resolutions and hesitant testimonies. It is for the strong and sturdy men like Joseph, Nathan, Elijah, Daniel, Mordecai, and Peter... Stephen.. and Paul.  And let's not forget such valiant women as Ruth, Deborah, Ester, and Lydia' (Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew [Grands Rapids: Baker, 1973, p 490] (MacArthur, John 2009).

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A key to having the joy of the Lord and real maturity in your life is your ability to fix your mind upon the 'things above', and the wonderful future God has prepared for you and me. (Hocking, 1975)

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In Paul's corpus to the Philippians he addresses the church's fears by reminding them "they are not alone".  He also cautioned the Church to establish a single goal and now he informs the Church that she must have "One Purpose". A healthy purpose for the Church would include four key components: Encouragement, Love, Fellowship, and Compassion.

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Today, I choose to take specific steps toward my goal. I won't just dream big; I'll determine the concrete actions that will help me achieve that dream.  I choose to stop making excuses that prevent me from moving forward. (Valorie Burton, 2014)

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How wonderful it is to know that others are standing right with us as we fight the battles of life. There is no substitute for the unity and harmony of the Christian church. Satan is the great divider and destroyer; Christ is the uniter and builder. (Wiersbe, W.W. 1992)

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Jesus knew that people have a tendency to 'justify' themselves. We all want to think we are doing better than average, so we tend to minimize our problems to help us feel better. But minimizing our problems isn't the same thing as facing them.  One attempt to justify themselves can stand in the way of their ability to understand  themselves, and they will not change as long as they continue to do this. (Baker, 2001- emphasis added).

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Scriptural teaching on divorce underscores two convictions which form a pastoral dialectic.  Following Jesus, there must be a readiness to resist divorce as an evil; divorce is opposed to God's reign, even though the believing community may tolerate it.  However, following Paul, there must be a willingness to resist facile solutions which fail to accommodate concrete and difficult cases presented by our own situations. (Wall, R. W. (1992). Divorce. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 2, p. 219). New York: Doubleday.)

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If it were only hunger for significance, we might be able to at least hold this craving at bay by a good dose of discipline and a depth of resolve.  But to complicate matters, the significance addiction is aided and abetted by the phenomenally powerful trio surging inner energies  called pleasure, pride, and passion.  This trio moves within each of us, creating partnerships of power that can corrupt and devastate even the best of us.  If left in their pre-redemptive flow, these forces render us incapable of advancing the significance of Christ and His kingdom. 

Stowell, Joseph M. Perilous Pursuits, Moody Press, Chicago, Il. (1994, P. 29.)

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The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ.  They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from the.

Idleman, Kyle. Not A Fan, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan (2011, 2016)

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Having told the disciples that the Son of Man will not come as soon as they wish (v.22), in what way He will not come (v. 23), in what way He will come (v. 24), and what will happen first (v. 25), Christ now states in what condition the human race will be when He comes

Rev. Alfred Plummer, M.A, D.D. The International Critical Commentary, T & T Clark, Edinburgh (1896, 1922, 1975, P. 408)

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Trust God entirely, 'with all your heart' (v 5a). God demands an undivided commitment to himself. Too often Israel had a loyalty divided between the LORD and the false gods of the nations We can be tempted to trust the wisdom of the world rather than rely upon divine revelation.

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For whosoever will save his life shall lose it and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and lose his own Soul or what shall a man give in exchange for his Soul. For the son of man shall come in the glory of His father with his angels and then he shall reward.

SOULS

Salvation. Obedience. Unity. Love. Serve.

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A real sign of spiritual and emotional growth occurs when you stop making decisions based on everyone else's expectations. You end unhealthy relationships, take a leap of faith toward a new career path, or speak up for what is right.  Some decisions in life are tough. Some conversations are uncomfortable. Some choices will not be popular. And yet, there are moments when you are called to go against popular opinion and stand apart from the crowd. When you lay your head down at night, there is no better feeling that that of being peace with God. If you must compromise that peace in order to please others, you've compromised everything.  Don't do it. (Burton, Valorie, https://youtu.be/4VjT3miVazM )

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Jesus knew that people using their intellect alone can never come to a complete understanding of the truth about life. He didn't say "let me teach you about the truth", He said , "I am the truth." He knew the highest form of knowledge comes not from amassing of information, but from trusting relationships. [Baker, Mark, PH.D., Jesus The Greatest Therapist That Ever Lived, Harper One, New York (2007, Pp. 7-8)]

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The great Dottie Peoples writes music with feelings and truth that moves a person into the presence of the Lord. One of her most remarkable songs is: I want to be ready when Jesus comes:

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In a world in which illness was connected with demon-possession and with consequences and the results of sin, it is easy to see how the impact of a calm strong personality could break the beliefs in demons, and how a word of grace and of authority could convince of forgiveness, and how health of the body and of mind could thus be restored. 

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This verse is undoubtedly the greatest compliment Mothers could receive.  When God wanted to use a metaphor to explain the compassion He has for His people, He compared Himself to Mothers.  Mothering and comforting are synonymous. 

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We should never forfeit out joy to sullenness, bitterness, or negativism simply because things aren't they way we would like them to be.  Nevertheless, it is typical for believers to let the changing circumstances of difficulties, confusions, trials, economic troubles, attacks, disagreements, unfulfilled expectations or ambitions, strained relationships, and so forth throw them off balance and steal their joy. (MacArthur, 1939)

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With blind arrogance and pride the Chaldeans are unmindful of the fact that they are but a rod of God's wrath for the chastisement of a sinful nation, and that on account of their own ruthlessness they too are doomed to destruction. -- So, what's our lesson for such a time as this? 

-Hobart E. Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, Moody Press, Chicago, (196, P. 251)

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Have you ever looked out upon this world with its injustice and violence, and asked the question: Why doesn't God do something? It looks like the wicked are prospering and the righteous are suffering. Godly people pray, but it seems as though their prayers do no good This is the problem faced and solved in Habakkuk. (Wiersbe, 1993)

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During the forty days after His Crucifixion he had been visibly present to human eyes nine times and had been touched by human hands. In His last gathering He lifted up His hands and blessed them, and, even as He blessed them, was parted from them, and as He passed from before their yearning eyes 'a cloud received Him out of their sight' (Luke 29:50-51; Acts 1:6-9).

Between us and His visible presence- between us and that glorified Redeemer who now sits at the right hand of God- that cloud still rolls.  But the eye of faith can pierce it; the incense of prayer can rise above it; through it the dew of blessing can descend. Frederic W. Farrar, D.D., F.R.S., The Life of Christ, A. L. Brut Publisher, NY (1895, p. 525)

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Jesus loved to challenge the way people think. To be great, He said, we must be humble.  To be leaders, He said, we must serve others. To be profound thinkers, He believed, we must be able to feel. Jesus taught that the identity of a human being is a matter of the heart.  He didn't use the psychological terms we have today to describe emotions, but it is easy to see that Jesus wanted us to be in touch with the way we feel. (Dr. Mark W. Baker, Jesus  The Greatest Therapist Who Ever Lived, (2007, Pp. 165-166)

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In that moment when Pilate released Barabbas, and gave Jesus to the Cross, the Roman kingdom was doomed in the economy of God. Presently the followers of Christ found their way to Rome. A halting man, feeble in bodily appearance, came into Rome as a prisoner, and receiving into his own hired house all that came to him, he taught them the things concerning Jesus.  Whom their Governor had given to the Cross.  Thus, Rome was shaken at the center; and its pagan power was broken by the coming of the King and Pilate had flung out. (G. Campbell Morgan).

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What were Judas' motives which moved him to the greatest act of treachery in history, and which made his name an epitome of all that makes a traitor?  John writes: (John 13:2) "During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him." Just as God is looking for hands to use to do His work, so the devil is looking for them too, and the devil found his instrument in Judas. But the fact remains that no man can be used without his own consent.  Judas is the man who consented to be used by the devil and by powers of evil, for Judas could have kept the devil out of his life and could have shut his heart against temper. (Barclay, 1960)

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"Human societies train people to "keep a stiff upper lip" and to "be strong" by which they mean the person should endure negative emotions.  This is bad advice.  Several branches of science have been studying human thriving.  The results, when compiled, point to the fact that people thrive when they feel emotionally good and suffer when they do not."-- Jeanine Joy, PhD.

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As Jesus and His disciples leave the Upper Room and move toward the Garden of Gethsemane they pass the temple.  Here one of the chief ornaments is a "golden vine with a cluster as large as a man." This decoration becomes the basis of a visual parable. Jesus' intimate relationship with these men cannot be stated in precise, theological terms. So, as He has done all through His ministry, He uses the motif of a vine and its branches to illustrate spiritual truth.  His union with these men is as alive as the relationship of the vine to its branches. (Fredrikson, R.L., & Ogilvie, L.J. 1985)

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Introduction: Your ability needs responsibility to expose its possibilities. Do what you can with what you have where you are. (President Theodore Roosevelt)

Background: The prayer of Ephesians 1:15-23 and the doxology of Ephesians 3:20-21 clearly establish the power of God as a key theme of the epistle.  The power provides salvation which the author understands as a release from the bondage of death and the dominion of the devil and his "powers". (Dr. Clinton E. Arnold, 1989)

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Don't just reflect on what God has done in the past circumstances, but let your request be made known to God. "Not that God needs to be told either our wants or desires; for he knows them better that we can tell him: but he will know them from us, and have us show our regards and concern, express our value of the mercy and sense of our dependence on him." Henry, M. (1994)

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For a Christian to experience depression is one thing, but the fact remains depression is not the final act in the life story of a Christian. There is a proper use of memory in times when we are depressed, remembering  God's past acts as an encouragement to believe that He will act for us again.  So, a key tool for the depressed is to reflect on what God has done in past circumstances.

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When your heart is right, your sense of well-being, or happiness, will grow.  So, to increase your happiness, take a look at the ways you are not guarding your heart.  Are you allowing someone to "steal our happiness"?  Is there a person or persons who are able to manipulate you or "make you feel bad"?  Is there someone who is actively hurting you in some way?  If so, get back in control by not allowing that person or persons to affect you in hurtful ways. (Dr. H. Cloud, 2011)

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If you’ve never experienced true depression, you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. It is darkness inside of you that you cannot get away from or talk yourself out of (Dr. John Townsend, 2005). He goes on to say, I do believe that God is enough to meet all our needs and solve all our struggles. However, the Bible teaches that God has designed us to not only open up to Him and His love but also to people who will be kind and safe with us.

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True forgiveness-- begins with oneself.  The Bible is silent on the subject of forgiving oneself, but there were implications of forgiveness behavior toward oneself, in the scriptures.

In order to forgive others, we need to first come to terms with how and why we reacted the way we did and what we can to to ensure that we do not repeat the same behavior in the future.  Self-forgiveness is both a beneficial part of the forgiveness process and a necessary skill in learning to overcome being upset with ourselves. (Luskin, 2002)

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