Friday, July 31, 2009

Acts 17:1-15

The book of Acts is full of great, exciting stories of God’s work being done. In response to these acts of God’s power Satan often tries to discourage Paul and his coworkers. One example is Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in yesterday’s reading. Paul writes about being beaten and imprisoned and adds that he suffers gladly for the Lord. But what about others who suffer for God?

In today’s reading Paul and Silas continue to Thessalonica to preach , resulting in an angry mob setting the city “in an uproar.” The mob searched for Paul and Silas and ended up at the home of Jason, who had offered hospitality to Paul and Silas.

Poor Jason. I am sure he got more than he bargained for in letting Paul stay in his home. It must have been frightening to be pulled from his home by the mob and being taken to the authorities.

I am thinking of the vulnerable ones, the new believers in Christ. Please pray for those who meet the Lord as a result of VBS this week and those who meet Christ in other ways. Certainly they are especially vulnerable at first to Satan’s attempts to discourage them, frighten them, make them think their new faith is irrelevant. Let’s all pray for protection for them.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Acts 16:25-40

This is a wonderful story, probably familiar to you, in which God sets Paul and Silas free from prison and draws the jailer and his family into a loving relationship with Him through the process.

Though they had just been stripped and beaten, today’s reading opens with Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns to God. And they were doing so with enough passion that the other prisoners could hear them.

I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty incredible. They are not complaining to each other, discouraged, or even sleeping (it was midnight). They were not focused on their circumstances but on God. Putting it in a simply sentence like that may sound trite, but it is no less the truth—and the truth of it is what made all the difference for them. I have a feeling it could make all the difference for us as well.

In the midst of this worship service an earthquake occurs which opens the prison doors. The jailer prepared to kill himself since he believed his charges would escape and he would then be executed for this. However Paul stopped him from harming himself, telling him that all the prisoners remained in the jail. Paul was more concerned about the welfare of the jailer than his own freedom. Hmmm. I have a feeling there is something we could all learn here as well.

This leads to one of the greatest exchanges in the whole Bible. The jailer fell trembling before Paul and Silas and asks ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’

Paul and Silas go on to “speak the word of the Lord”, and in the wee hours of the morning (without delay!) the jailer and his household is baptized. Do you get the sense of excitement bursting from this story as the church watched God work? Do you think God wants to work in our lives and in the church today in ways that are no less exciting?

Sometimes God sends big things and sometimes small things to prepare us to listen to Him. This week at church we are having VBS each evening. Everywhere I look, I see volunteers being used by God to help children listen to the news of His love. Volunteers of all ages are helping kids, holding kids, feeding kids, telling Bible stories and explaining games, being a friend to the kids, laughing and dancing with kids, sharing with them the best news they will ever hear.

And yes—it is very, very exciting!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Acts 16:16-24

Today's reading stumped me. I read it over and over again. What was it trying to tell me? After about the third time of reading it something spoke to me. This is the glorious thing about scripture, it seems to always have something to say on a deeper level that is not obvious when one reads it quickly or the first time. There always seems to be a pertinent message.

The message of this passage for me revolves around the slave girl. This girl is proclaiming the truth about Paul and Silas although she is demon possessed. Why did a demon announce the truth about Paul and Silas? Why did it annoy Paul so much?

Satan, who is the father of lies, will declare the most important truths when these truths can serve his purpose. If Paul accepted the demon's proclamation, he would appear to be linking the gospel with demon related activities. This would severely damage his message about Christ. Much damage is done to the real servants of Christ by unholy and false preachers of the gospel - Paul could not let this demon damage his reputation and hamper his sharing the truth. Truth and evil do not mix.

Once again the Bible shows us an example of how tricky Satan can be. Paul taught people to believe in Jesus Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives. Satan knew what Paul taught was the truth and he wanted to discredit Paul so others would not take him seriously. Thus Satan tried to link Paul, and thus his teaching, to a mystical fortune teller. Satan knew that if he could link Paul to this girl he would discredit both him and his message. Fortunately, Paul knew this too and now so do we.

Wishing you much success in your walk with Christ,
Richard Leach

Friday, July 24, 2009

Acts 15:12-21

Acts 15 is a fairly famous section of the Book of Acts where the new church makes a crucial decision: will they just be a sect of Judaism or will this new church be open to Gentiles? Should they be inclusive or exclusive?

That is still a valid question for every church today. Will our church be a group of people who generously give love to each other as well as to those in the larger community? When you look at the actions and teachings of Jesus, there is no doubt how he would want us to act. He demonstrated perfect love in a way no one had ever seen. On more than several occasions, he rebuked the Jewish leaders for being exclusive and, frankly, wrong about God's kingdom. The leadership of the Jewish faith had gotten the message all wrong.

In today's reading, the disciples want to get it right this time. They take their cue from the stories of Barnabas and Paul who had been out in the world preaching the Good News. They had stories of how God was affecting the lives of the Gentiles with "signs and wonders".

It is not insignificant that James was the one who spoke after Barnabas and Paul told their stories. James was highly respected in the new church and he was, by all accounts, conservative in his ideas as to how the new church should behave. When James spoke, everyone listens. There are no accounts in Acts of detrators of James. It is his decision that the new church be inclusive and his belief that this decision is in keeping with the teachings of Moses.

We can take a lesson from James as well. It's not easy, but the message is clear: love like Jesus. Be inclusive. Share God's love with everyone. Just think of what the world would look like if James had made the wrong decision.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Acts 14:19-28

Our reading today is extremely powerful. If you have not read it please do so. I trust you will find it as powerful as I do.

Today's reading begins with the stoning of Paul. Because he was preaching the Gospel, Jews from Antioch and Iconium tracked Paul down, stoned him, and left him for dead. After this Paul got up and went back into the city and continued to preach the Gospel. What great commitment Paul had. Can you imagine doing anything where a group of people hated it, and you, so much that they were willing to kill you for it and after they tried you just continued doing it anyway? Why would you continue to do it in the face of people willing to kill you? It is only because you know it is the will of God that you do it and with God behind you there is nothing on this earth that should stand in your way. After all, compared to the promise to live for all eternity in a peace beyond our understanding, what price is too high to pay in this very short life of ours to gain that promise?

I fully realize that this Bible lesson today is an extreme example. However, God gives each of us tasks to do in our lives. God's will for our lives is not always convenient for us. Many times we feel too busy or have other priorities to do the things we hear God calling us to do. When I am faced with such a situation, it helps me to remember Paul's commitment and to recall his action. Remember to live a life modeled after Jesus, we must walk the talk.

It is true that God's will requires us to do tasks that are not always convenient, easy, and comfortable. However, it was not convenient, easy, or comfortable for Jesus to go to the cross for us!

Wishing you much success in your walk with Christ,
Richard Leach

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Acts 13:26-43


Abraham. Moses. David. These were (and are) the "Big Three", all time, for Jews everywhere, and certainly here for the children of the diaspora in Antioch.

Abraham was the patriarch--many peoples claim pride of descent from him through either Isaac (the Jews) or Ishmael (the Arab world). Abraham was called out of Ur (present-day Iraq) and left his father's many gods to make a covenant with the One God. Abraham was given a promise of a land for himself and his descendants, forever. It was an inheritance that the first-century Jews gathered in that synagogue, listening to Paul's exhortation, held very dear.

Moses was the Law-Giver, privileged to handle the stone tablets written with the Commandments, and to speak with God and experience the presence of God in a way that made his face shine. And Moses brought the gift of Torah--the first five books of the Bible, revered above all Scripture. The Law endures forever. And yet--the Law brought conviction of sin. And sin brought an immutable sentence with it that could not be freed apart from God's provision.

David was God's Anointed King, the man after God's own heart. The line of David was established for all time, and the hope burned still in Antioch, that the Son of David would resume the order of Kingship that had been established by David.

Paul invokes each of these honored ancestors, the dreams that still burned in the hearts of the Jews and the legacy that was promised and yet to come. Those dreams and that legacy had been fully realized, Paul asserts, in the person of Jesus. Jesus, who had ben crucified and died, yet had been raised from the dead in the presence of many witnesses, and through whom all of these people, with their ancient legacy, now could be set free.

An extraordinary claim to make, this message of salvation. People were understandably skeptical. And yet--they wanted to hear more. Theirs was not a hopeful time. The world that their ancestors had known was being wrenched apart and scattered to the wind. They were trying to hold to what they knew. Now, it seemed, God might be making something new from the old heritage. Dare they believe? Dare we?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Acts 13:13-25

As Paul and Barnabas strike out to proclaim the good new of Jesus, the scriptures say that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. I have to assume, therefore, that their very words were carefully crafted or at the very least, they came from the Holy Spirit. One of the things that strikes me about today's passage is that the very words that Paul spoke must have been iconoclastic to say the least.

The Jews had all heard the stories of their people and their prophets for hundreds of years. But, Paul was telling them to look at that history a different way. In his mind, the whole story had changed because Jesus, the very Messiah that their history had prepared them for, had come. You could no longer just go through the regular steps of life taken every day and look at things the same way. Jesus changed everything.

At the same time, Paul could not throw out the history of the Jewish people. It was his mission to get get them to dedicate their lives to Christ and that would not happen if he could not gain their trust. Besides, the history of the Jewish people was God's history. He knew what he was doing all along and he meant for that history to be used to further His kingdom.

So, here was Paul, newly converted, using a history he knew all so well as a Pharisee to tell a story that would lead folks to Christ. That's a pretty tall order. Unless, of course, you have the Holy Spirit on your side.

That's the point. We all need to rewrite our stories. Once you have Jesus in your life you are meant to start new. But, look at the tools you have - you have the trinity to get you where you are meant to be. And we know where those tools got Paul - yes he sacrificed his life, but he brought thousands to the Lord and built a church before earning the ultimate prize - everlasting life.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Acts 13: 1-12

In today’s reading, we have Saul (soon to be referred to as “Paul”) and Barnabas being sent out on their first missionary journey to the Gentiles. More than just a local action a long time ago, this action shows us the clear leading of the Holy Spirit. We see that one of the things the Church is called to do is take the Gospel outside of the church we attend to those who have not yet heard it.

This outward drive should come as no surprise to followers of Jesus. Our Lord—the one whose life we seek to emulate—is the one who left the comfort and privilege of heaven to proclaim God’s love to those alienated and cut off from Him.

Can those who commit themselves to being transformed into the image of God in Christ do any less? The little band of Christians found at the beginning of today’s reading, so focused on God through fasting and worship, concludes the answer is no. They too must reach out to the world around them.

They conclude that faithfully following Jesus requires reaching out in love to those who do not yet know him. And that would seem to be as true for us as it was for them.

It puzzles me that so few Christians make this a priority in their lives. How is it that we who see ourselves as deeply committed to Jesus Christ are not actively and intentionally engaged in evangelism?

When was the last time you shared your faith with someone outside a church? With a neighbor? A co worker? A friend? How often, if at all, does that happen?

If our answer to simple questions like these leads to the inescapable conclusion that we are not regularly and routinely commending Jesus to people in the world around us…

well, it seems to me that we who take Scripture seriously would do well to ask ourselves how that can possibly be...

…and what we are going to do about it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Acts 12:18-25

I struggled a bit with today's reading. I struggled to find something to write about. What is the message in today's reading? After meditating for a while, I think I found one.

I feel the message in today's reading (at least one message) concerns the sin of pride.

Herod gave a speech to the people of Tyre and Sidon. After that speech, per verses 22 & 23, "They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.' Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down ..." In his writing, Luke certainly implies that Herod had the opportunity to deny what the people were shouting. Failing to do so Herod was struck down by God.

Pride is a sin that can cause a person to behave in their own best interest and not in the interest of God. Have you ever done something because you wanted the praise that would come from the act and not because you wanted to advance God's will? I know I have. Sure the act would advance God's will but the motive was wrong. With an incorrect attitude that act may not further God's will as much as it could have. If we divert our attention away from the act, even just a little bit, towards how this act can make me look good, then that loss of attention may result is a less than (perhaps slightly less than) optimum result.

From today's reading pride is obviously a very serious sin. It was so serious in Herod's case that God chose to punish it right then and there. Please, and this is much easier said than done, do not let your pride get in the way of furthering God's will. As the Bible says, if you get an earthly reward for your act, then that is your reward; however, it is much better to receive no earthly reward and thus a heavenly reward.

Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,
Richard Leach

Friday, July 10, 2009

Acts 10:34-48

When I read today's passage, I was struck by the inclusivity of of God's love. I'm pretty sure I've not witnessed anything like what happened when Peter spoke to the crowd in this reading, but I did witness something similar at CreationFest at the end of last month.

CreationFest is a Christian Woodstock in rural Central Pennsylvania. I explained to one parent whose son went with us that I'm not sure how it all works, but it does. I was referring to the fact that there are about 75,000 people who attend, all camping on a large farm. These people are from every walk of life. They all come to hear to music and the speakers. It's hot and muggy and, for the most part, everyone is unshowered and unkept for 5 days. Yet, like I said, it all works.

Most of the people who attend CreationFest are teenagers. Youth groups from all over the eastern portion of the U.S. and Canada descend on this farm and make it a bustling city for 5 days in June. As you can imagine, there are all kinds of folks there. In the times I have been there, I've never seen a fight. I've never heard profane or ugly talk. I've seen lots of tatoos and body piercings, but no nudity or under-dressed people.

That's astonishing when you think about it. 75,000 people coming together. The only thing in common is a love of the Lord and the music that celebrates that love. I'm reminded of a line from a song that was very popular for weddings in the 80's - "...for whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name there is love." Now I'm pretty sure that all of those 75,000 weren't trying extra hard to get along, although that may have been the case for some. I'm thinking that, like the gathering in today's reading, it just happens. God's love is there. It is palpable. You can feel it.

I want to put myself in those situations more often. It's a wonderful atmosphere and feeling knowing that no matter who I am, what my issues are, or whether or not I smell nice. God is there and He loves us all.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Acts 10: 17-33

You will remember that today’s reading comes after Peter’s vision of unclean food descending from heaven accompanied by the command, “Rise and eat!” In the verses for today, we find Peter trying to figure out what to make of this vision.

We are told that he was “wondering” what it meant; the NRSV says that Peter was “puzzled” by it. Just a couple verses further we see that he was “still thinking about the vision”; turning it over and over in his head.

Two thousand years later, we might well think the message was obvious, and wonder ourselves why he struggled so with its meaning. Yet what God was asking Peter to do was so far out of the box that it never even entered Peter’s mind.

So, while Peter was pondering, God was acting. He brings the answer right to Peter’s door in the form of three men and an invitation. Suddenly Peter gets it; “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

I wonder how many times this scenario has been repeated in the lives of God’s people and the church they constitute. How many times are we wondering about a word from God when God is already acting?

Is it really so hard to see what God is doing in the world, and what He expects of you and of me? And yet so often our life as individuals, and the life of the larger church to which we belong, is marked more by inactivity than bold initiatives to proclaim God’s love for all the world to hear. Too often we’re not very good at getting beyond the church walls, or even making God’s love known to everybody within them.

Might I be so audacious as to ask you if you are clear about God’s vision for you? I’m not talking about some general and diffuse understanding that amounts to no more than comfortable life as usual. Do you know what He wants you to be doing right here and right now?

And then perhaps the tougher question still:

Are you doing it?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Acts 10:1-16

In today's reading, Luke provides us with two stories. The first is the story of Cornelius calling for Peter and the second is Peter's vision. Let's have a quick look at both of these stories and attempt to understand why Luke shared them with us.

A common question regarding salvation is, what will happen to the people who have never heard about Christ? In today's first story, we are told about a man named Cornelius. Cornelius was not a follower of Christ - in fact he may never have heard of Jesus Christ. However, Cornelius was seeking God as we are told in verse 2, "He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly." As a result, God sends Peter to Cornelius to tell him and his household about Christ. Cornelius is an example of someone who found God by sincerely seeking Him. This story illustrates that God will answer the sincere prayers of those who seek Him by sending the right person, or the right information, to the seeker at the right time. This goes for a Roman soldier or for any of us today.

The second story in today's reading has to do with a vision God gave to Peter. During the time when Peter lived, Jewish law contained strict dietary rules. These rules made it difficult for Jews to eat with Gentiles without risking defilement. In fact, along the vein of you are what you eat, Jews often thought of Gentiles as being unclean. But verse 15 clearly countermands this perception, "... Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." This vision showed Peter that he should not look upon Gentiles as inferior people whom God would not save. This vision cleared Peter's conscience and made him realize that he not only could go into a Gentile's home to preach the Gospel, but that he should go in.

So in today's reading we have two stories. The first corroborating the old saying, seek and ye shall find, and the second telling us that God made everything and everyone and thus there is no place we should fear going to spread the Word.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Acts 9:32-43

It's always so amazing to me to read these stories of healing and resurrection. I can't even imagine them happening. While so many in our world suffer terribly from disease and poverty and so many lose loved ones to death, it is nice to think that healing can happen instantly and that resurrection does happen - maybe somewhere for someone. While when reading the Bible these things seem almost commonplace, for us, life just doesn't happen like that. Healing doesn't happen like that.

Some believe that healings and being raised from the dead do happen today. I believe they can, but for some reason, they don't. After all God is God and God can do anything. Why he doesn't do more, will always remain a question for the ages. My guess is that God is active in the world and just as active as He always has been, we just don't see it or don't notice it. We might not recognize that God is still healing, still delivering and still raising the dead. Maybe now it isn't always a physical death, maybe it's more spiritual now. Maybe we've been raised and don't even realize we were ever dead in the first place -I wonder if those who physically die are aware of it?

I think the answer must be for us to pay attention in order to realize what's happening and how God is working in the world and in our lives in particular. If we hear God call us by name and tell us to get up and go about our everyday work, do we even realize He's called us? Or do we somehow, all of the sudden lose those things that have been dragging on us, those bad habits, those doubts, those fears, those things which separate us from God and then one day just wake up and realize that those things are gone and we've been resurrected? The answer must be to listen and watch and see how God is in our lives and what God is calling us to leave behind and what He is calling us to get up and do.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Acts of the Apostles 9.19-43

The first thing that hit me about this reading is how passionate Saul is. He welcomed his heart to the Lord and three days later he was preaching valiantly in the churches around Damascus. It really makes me wonder what we could accomplish is everyone had the same sort of spirit that Saul has. Image what the world would be like if all of us could love the Lord so completely and so unconditionally.
I also find it interesting that the other disciples didn’t trust Saul. After everything they had seen the Jesus do (bring people back from the dead, turn water in to wine, even rise from his own grave) they couldn’t believe that a non-believer would turn to God and so suddenly be next to them preaching like an old friend. However, I think there is a lot to be said for Saul. I’ve been a Christian for quite some time now and I was still terrified to write this devotional today. Talking to other people about my Jesus is something that does not come naturally to me. And maybe it’s because I have had such a “comfortable” relationship with Jesus for such a long time that I can’t image anything else. Whereas Saul, who was brought to the Lord in an act of awesome power, pain, and fear, knows what it’s like to live without Jesus. And now that he has this new chance at life with Jesus, he is psyched about it! In my copy of The Remix Bible, the terminology they use in Acts 9:22 is that he “plows straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that his Jesus was the Messiah.” Plows through the opposition. That’s fire. That’s passion. I think we could all learn a thing or two from this newbie.
Lastly, as doubtful as they were at first, the disciples had Saul’s back when the going got tough. In Acts 9:28-31 they saved him from the death threats in Damascus and got him safely out of the area. The disciples gave up their own questions and their own insecurities about Saul and instead put their whole trust in the Lord. Before, they were not sure if he could be trusted, but the Lord works in wonderful ways and brought Barnabas into the picture. Barnabas told the disciples that Saul was to be trusted, and, although they might have questioned it for themselves, they trusted in what God had to say. What a beautiful thing. I think we could all make our lives a little more like this chapter in Acts by giving thanks to God just one extra time a day, and letting Jesus take the wheel (FIGURATIVELY OF COURSE!!) instead of making all of the decisions for ourselves.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Acts 9:10-19


Why was Paul struck blind on the road to Damascus? Why was Ananias given a divine appointment to go and meet the man who, three days prior, wanted to kill him? And most of all, why was Paul of all people chosen to bring the name of God "before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel"--a great honor--and yet to suffer so much for the sake of that Name?
A recent book, Crashing Through, describes how stem cell transplants successfully restored sight to a man, Mike May, who had been blinded in a childhood accident. Mike had been thriving as a blind man in a sighted world, but when an astonishing new procedure was unexpectedly offered--through a seemingly chance appointment--he decided to go for it, despite numerous risks that came with that opportunity.Medical science at its leading edge nearly touches what is, in the 1st century and today, miraculous. Though hearing and smell provide us additional cues about our surroundings, it is sight that enables us to navigate through our world.
Paul was rendered helpless by his blindness, and reduced to praying for a healing appointment. Ananias was given something beyond "mere" sense--a vision from God that sealed that appointment.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the vision that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see! Paul is restored to sight, but he is starting to get a view of the world that will rock and topple his whole foundation. Scales fall from his eyes, but what drops from his heart is far more freeing. His restored sight allows him to freely move about, but his freedom will come under a new drive, to go to many and tell an astonishing story of how that new sight can be brought to the world.
Eleven score and thirteen years ago, 56 men trusted in their Creator and divine Providence and signed a treasonous document. They could not yet see the nation that would result from that tumultuous birth. Their children's children's children kept the vision alive through an even bloodier war. Today we too are still living into the dream that they had, battling dark forces around the world and in our own streets. May we too pledge our lives to the proposition that all are created equal and free.
Amen.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Acts 9:1-9

The conversion of Saul is such an inspiring and awesome story. In the "World According to Vicki" story, which is constantly written and rewritten, and is my own account of just about everything, I believe God chose Saul deliberately. What a perfect example of hate turned to love and of what God can do in a person's life. It was also one of the first very public displays of God's miraculous love after the death of Jesus.

But, I also believe that God chooses each and every one of us deliberately as well. God doesn't say "I love you because I am God and I have to love everyone." We aren't a nameless, faceless person in His family. Scriptures say that He knows each of us by name. He knew us when we were still in the womb.

I can only imagine that Paul's conversion was all the more impressive to Paul in that God would have chosen him, given his life's work thus far was to persecute new Christians. For some of us, our conversion stories barely feel like a real conversion. In my case, for example, I feel as if I was always a Christian and was never really converted. God has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

In some ways, this makes it harder for me to feel part of God's chosen. I have felt incredibly blessed in my life and I know He is with me all the time, forever. But did He choose me or did I choose Him? Since it all sort of just happened over time, this relationship with God that is, there was no one event that I can point to and say "Ah hah! See, God chose me and I am His."

I submit to you that it works both ways. God knew me in the womb. Therefore, He knows me better than I know myself. But, it takes two to make a relationship. God knows that better than anyone. He is patiently waiting for each of us to reach out to Him. He doesn't need to reach out - He's right next to you and me. Always. We don't need a conversion moment to grasp His hand, to talk with Him and listen to his comforting words. He was walking next to Paul for a long time before light from heaven flashed around him and Jesus spoke to him. But, Paul had built such a wall between himself and God that there was no other way for God to get through but to punch a large hole and yell "Saul, you dummy, I've been here all along?"

Maybe that's where we are with God right now. You don't need a conversion moment. But you may need to start tearing down any wall you've built. Remember, God is right there, waiting.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Acts 8:14-25

Acts is such a wonderful book. It gives us so many examples of how a church should run and how we should live. Today's reading is no exception.

Have you heard of the word simony? Do you know its definition? Well today's reading is from where this word comes. Merriam-Webster defines simony as, "the buying or selling of a church office or ecclesiastical preferment." In today's reading a man named Simon tries to buy the ability to launch the Holy Spirit in people - "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." (verse 19).

Of course Peter rebukes Simon and tells him, "You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness..." (verses 21, 22). Peter makes two major points in his comments to Simon. First a person's heart has to be right with God. In other words, as we live our lives, our motives need to be pure and of the utmost honor. God calls us to do things for the good of others, to serve others, and not to do things in hopes of an earthly reward. If our motive is to get praise or some other reward for our self, then our heart may not be right with God.

Second, we must repent of our sins. Remember to repent is not just to say we are sorry, but we must truly live a changed life. It is easy to say we are sorry and not do anything to change our life. But if we are truly sorry, so sorry we do not want to do it again, we will change our life so we do not repeat the sin. Again, this is what God calls us to do.

Remember that no amount of money can buy salvation, forgiveness, or God's power. However, we all can gain them by having a servant's heart, repenting of our sins, and belief in Christ as our Savior.