As the church grew from twelve disciples to thousands of believers, they met persecution from many groups. At first, it was the religious leaders of the community. These leaders were concerned that this new teaching of Jesus of Nazareth was full of error and leading people away from the one true God. They started by warning the Christians to stop preaching the gospel, but when the Christians continued to spread the good news of God the religious leaders became more violent – even to the point of murder. As the church grew in size and influence in spite of the religious persecution, the government leaders began to take notice and oppose Christianity. In the same manner, in order to appease the ruling parties of the community, the civil government began to arrest and even execute Christians.
Where is God when good people are persecuted and killed for doing what He commands? Just as the first church learned, so must we; God is right here and active. Even when faced with persecution and death, the power of the Holy Spirit continues to go before us and accomplish exactly what God wants to be accomplished. Our job is to stay close to God and walk with Him through the trials and tribulations taking the good news of Jesus to whomever will listen.
Even though the holiday season is supposed to remind us of thankfulness and the joys of Christmas, it can often bring burdens and worry. Thankfulness is something we should practice whenever we can and thankful is a state we can be in all of the time. Thanksgiving involves thinking and talking about the good things God has done in your life before and setting your heart and mind on the good things to come. Thanksgiving cancels worry. Thankfulness eliminates fear. Thanks produces joy. A thankful heart instills humility, wisdom, and even leads to compassion for others. In thanksgiving we recognize our need for God, his love for each one of us and when you know his love for you this builds up love for others. Thankfulness does not get rid of the obstacles that tempt you to worry and fear, but it gets rid of the worry and fear allowing you to handle the situation like it’s any other situation.
Practicing thankfulness will eventually enable you to see the good things in the midst of really bad circumstances and be thankful no matter what trial or obstacle you may face. You don’t become naive to the reality of life, rather you wake up and become more real – seeing things as God sees them.
Thankfulness increases when you think about the goodness of God in your life. Leaning on the goodness of God frees you to offer encouragement and help to other people.
Learn not to get hysterical, but to get historical. Thinking about the historic provision and goodness of God in your life focuses your heart and mind on the future blessings that God has promised.
Scripture References: Psalm 136; Joshua 4:1-9; 1 Samuel 17:34-37
The first Christians were confronted with idea of taking the gospel outside of the Jewish community. Today, this seems like an odd problem because the gospel has been preached and delivered to all nations and all people around the world. Yet Peter was the first apostle to bring the gospel message to a Gentile audience. A Gentiles was any person that wasn’t a Jew and all of the first Christians were Jews. God amazed and even confused the first disciples by declaring and showing that the gospel was meant not only for the Jews but also for all men and women. As they did, we too are to take the gospel to men and women who are on the outside of our normal community comforts. Jesus meant for the gospel to go out into the world.