Key Principles for the Church: #1 Empowered

      The following devotionals based on the book of Acts were originally written to be used as a workbook in preparation for mission trips. However, as I wrote it, I discovered that many of the lessons and the key words are not only practical and applicable for mission trips but for the church as a whole and individual Christians in particular.

Key Principle #1: EMPOWERED (part 1)
Acts 1:1-8
“Who am I that You are mindful of me? That you hear me when I call
“Is it true that You are thinking of me? How You love me/ It’s amazing
“I am a friend of God / I am a friend of God / I am a friend of God
“He calls me friend”
Phillips, Craig, and Dean
            Do you remember having friends as a kid? It seems that having friends (or even just having one really good friend) was one of the biggest needs we had as children and even into our teenage years. But somewhere along the way, the importance of friendships goes by the wayside. Many people often say that they have never been able to establish the kind of friendships they had as children. If  you saw the 1986 movie “Stand By Me” you’ll undoubtedly remember at the very end of the movie, the writer is reflecting over his childhood, even as he watches his own son spending time with his friends. The writer, played by Richard Dreyfess, types onto his computer, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
            Yes, Jesus calls us friends. “I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you,” (John 15:15). Christ demonstrated the ultimate proof of true friendship in pledging to lay down His life for His friends, and then He fulfilled that pledge on the cross. To be a friend of God is one of the greatest gifts of salvation. And Jesus wasn’t exclusive in his choice of friends. In Matthew 11:19, one of the deriding labels that the enemies of Christ attempted to pin on Him was that He was a “friend of publicans and sinners.” Wow! The social outcasts of Jesus’ day were His friends. It’s also interesting to note that not only did Jesus hang out with prostitutes, tax-collectors, and people with less than stellar reputations, he also hung out with the religious leaders. 
The Power of Being A Friend Of God
            Luke was the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles and he wrote both of the books of the New Testament to “Theophilus,” whose name means “Friend of God” or even “Lover of God.” We are told in the writings of the Apostle Paul that Luke was a physician and in the Gospel of Luke, we learn he was someone who sought to write things accurately and in order. His attention to detail is noteworthy and in portions of Acts, it is evident that he was an eyewitness himself to many of the events in the latter part of the book.
            Isn’t it amazing that when we read the Bible, we have in our very hands stories written down by eyewitnesses to some of the most amazing events in history, and here is Luke writing to you and me, and all who are God’s friend. Now we don’t know if Theophilus was a real person or a name that Luke gave to all who would read his two books. We’re never given a reason why Luke would write to a person otherwise never named in Scripture. So since we don’t know for sure, I rather like being called a “friend of God” and having a book entitled to me. So I want to invite you to curl up on your couch, turn on the reading lamp by your bed, or don your reading glasses at your desk and join with me in reading this personal and practical history lesson Luke is presenting about the early days of the church, written to us friends of God.
            Now remember, Jesus called us friends and the popularity of the Phillips, Craig, and Dean song indicates that I’m not the only one who likes being called God’s friend. And as I recall, my friends as a child, just like the ones in “Stand By Me,” weren’t perfect. We had our share of fights growing up. And as adults, my friends weren’t always there for me, and I know I’ve not always been a good friend myself. But as God’s friend, we have empowering privileges.
            The phrase of “I have friends in high places” (as opposed to that country ballad of “I have friends in low places”) conjures up an idea that having influential friends brings with it a certain degree of empowerment. The church today needs to remember that we have power from on high through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
        Some people get offended by the plethora of jokes about heaven, God, and Saint Peter at the pearly gates. If you are one of those people, I give you permission to tune out at this point. Three golfers were on a particularly difficult course which had both a hard bend and water between the tee and the hole.
        The first golfer took his shot and sure enough it landed right in the water. The golfer went up, put his club over the water hole, which immediately parted in two and the golfer went and hit his ball onto the green.
        The second golfer took a swing and the ball again went straight to the water, but stayed afloat long enough for the golfer to walk out on the water and hit the ball to sink it in the second shot.
         Finally the third golfer went to the tee, hit the ball right to the water, when a fish jumped up and caught the ball in its mouth. Immediately, an eagle swooped down, caught the fish and began to fly across the green. Suddenly lightning flashed from the clear blue sky, obliterating the eagle and the fish, but left the ball intact which then fell directly into the hole.
         With that, Moses looked at Jesus and said, “You know, I get really tired of playing Golf with your Dad.”
          You want talk about power? Now that’s power, but it's not on the golf course that we need that kind of power. We need supernatural power in the church and in our lives today. We need today to tap into that power Jesus promised would be ours in Acts 1:8,  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” We get that kind of power by remembering that we are, like Theophilus, a friend of God.

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