January 18, 2018 – Courage, Conversion and Salvation- Acts 4:8-12, Psalm 118:22-24, Romans 8:26-27



Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is:

“‘the stone you builders rejected,  which has become the cornerstone.’

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; Let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:22-24 (NIV)

Imagine the courage it would take to do what Peter did- to stand up to the authorities and defend his faith.

What would we do in Peter’s position? This was the same guy who had denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed (Matthew 26:75.)  Yet after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit.  He had supernatural courage that only God could give him to speak boldly even when such speech could cost him his freedom or even his life.

Sometimes we wonder if the Holy Spirit is still at work today. Where is that courage we need when we aren’t feeling it, or when we know we should speak up for what is right, but we don’t?

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

We can be confident that God the Holy Spirit will fill in the gaps. He is strong where we are weak.  That is how Peter, who betrayed Jesus three times, became a bold and stalwart witness for Him.

The Holy Spirit still intervenes for us today. He brings us back to the One Who has become the cornerstone. He gives us the courage to stand when we no longer have- or never did have- the power to stand on our own.  He brings us back from a place of denial and cowardice into a place of defending our faith.

Different Christian traditions have differing views on soteriology (the “how” of salvation) but we can all agree on the Who of salvation.  Whether we believe that salvation is a one-time lightning bolt event, whether we believe we choose God, or that He chooses us, or whether we believe salvation is a gradual and life-long process, the Who of salvation is not in question. It all comes back to the Cornerstone the builders rejected, the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:1-5) who Isaiah spoke of so long ago.

Perhaps we can agree that the Holy Spirit has endless means of grace at His disposal. After all, Saul the Pharisee- who became the apostle Paul- was knocked off his high horse on the Damascus Road. That was a pretty dramatic conversion event.  Some of us have experienced dramatic conversion events as well.  Others of us have gently grown into faith over the years through a series of small epiphanies and discoveries about God.  God does speak to each of us differently, and we are called to respond.  We can trust that when we are asked to attest to the reality and the power of God in Christ, the Holy Spirit will lead us and give us the words we need when we don’t have our own.

June 26, 2017- God Gives Us the Power- Psalm 118:22-23, Acts 2:36-39


The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.  Psalm 118:22-23 (NRSV)


Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” – Acts 2:36-39 (NRSV)

In these two passages of Scripture are three key words. Rejected, Repent, and Receive.

In Psalm 118 the writer (likely either David, or his son Solomon) speaks of Jesus- one rejected by the world but who God raised up. As Jesus followers at times we are the world’s rejects- the nobodies, the forgotten, the weak, the poor.  Yet God chooses us. Rejected by the world, maybe, but chosen by God.  If the world rejects us, we are in good company. Jesus was rejected by the establishment. He was sold to the high priests for less than what it would cost in today’s money to fill up a Honda Accord. The stone the builders rejected, was indeed the Cornerstone.

Repentance is a concept that has been misunderstood and even at times broken down to a works-righteousness economy in which one has to make restitution for wrongs to be forgiven of them.  Some religious traditions have even boiled down the concept of repentance to a brownie points system that infers that so many “good” acts negate and wipe away so many “bad” acts.  In truth, we are only forgiven because God forgives us when we confess our sins to Him.  Repentance is not just a formula to follow. It is being sorry and remorseful and even making amends where it is possible, but true repentance entails a fundamental attitude and behavioral change.   To repent is to turn away from- to do a 180° away from sinful ways, and to go the opposite direction. We are not capable of true repentance apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Only God can truly transform our minds and hearts to conform to His will and purpose.  The good news is that He chooses us and He has the power to take the Pharisee Saul and transform him into the apostle Paul.  God has a history of picking very unlikely people to do His most important and far reaching work.

The message of Pentecost- the day in which the Holy Spirit was set loose upon the world- is receive.  Receive the Holy Spirit and allow Him to equip us to be God’s every day heroes- people who comfort others, help others, encourage others and bring God’s kingdom about on earth. That doesn’t mean that believers will always get everything they want, but that God does provide what we need, and often He does this in the strangest and most surprising ways.  Just as the great theologian Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones once pointed out-

“You can’t always get what you want / You can try sometimes / You just might find / You get what you need” – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” The Rolling Stones

The good thing is that God knows what we need is better for us sometimes than what we want, even when what is good for us is hard, and even when what is good for us hurts.  He is equipping us to be His heroes, and for the life beyond this life that is forever. His provision is always there for us- and He provides for others through us.