It’s not about me…

Last year I spent a little over a month blogging through the Book of Acts – 1 post per chapter. Several people were invited by a mutual friend to do this with the thoughts that The Collective End Product might be able to be compiled & bound into a book of some sorts.

The (original) project didn’t end up coming together, but a couple weeks back, I found out that several blogs that we’d written had been combined with some others as a part of a devotional book called DAILY ACTS. Sweet. I was really excited & my wife & kids thought it was pretty cool. So we bought a copy of the book. It is good stuff, & not just because I wrote a portion.

There was only one ‘problem.’ Every one of the blog/devotions that I wrote were attributed to “Louie D. Locke, Pastor of Fountainhead Foursquare Church in Carson City, NV.” That’s not me. It’s my dad.

Ouch.

My dad & I are both pastors in the Foursquare Church. We have the same first name. And last name. Over the last 20 years, this has resulted in me getting his anniversary cards. Him getting my correspondence. Both of us getting emails, letters, and phone calls meant for the other. It happens.

As soon as I saw the attribution, I felt something rise up in my gut. I think it was frustration. I felt wronged. I wanted the world to know that it was really me that had written the blogs. Not because I’m a glory hound: at least I don’t think so. Not because I want to be famous. But because I did the work. So I did what I’ve learned to do when I feel ME rising up inside, getting all indignant & frustrated at one of life’s quirky yet painful happenings. I went to a private place & told God what was up. What I was feeling. In gruesome detail. I talked til I was talked out. It wasn’t that I felt much better at the end, but I did feel understood. Like He got me.

Then, a question popped into my head –
GOD – “Why did you write the blogs on Acts?”

ME: “Because I hoped that they’d help people read, study, understand, & apply the Scriptures.”

GOD – “Is that going to happen?”

ME: “Yes.”

GOD: “So what’s the problem?”

ME: “I guess I wanted the credit.”

GOD: “It’s not about you. Don’t make it about you. You start making it about you, you’ll try to make yourself known. Someone great, in the eyes of others. Don’t do it.”

ME: “Ok.”

GOD: “Remember, whatever you do, you’re doing it for Me. My glory. My purposes.”

ME: “Got it. Yes Sir.”

The frustration lifted. My head cleared. And so did my heart.

ACTS, working out, & other musings…

This year, I’ve probably read through the Book of Acts at least 10 times for “me,” & another 10 times for a chapter-by-chapter blog series. Now, I’m going through it again, this time in ‘study mode’ for the ‘story by story’ series at Hillside. So, this morning I was reviewing my notes for tomorrow’s speech from Acts 8:3-25, & a couple of elements from Philip’s story hit me fresh. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I’ve read a passage, or how familiar it is to me, the Holy Spirit brings life to it, & shines a bright light onto areas I’d never seen, noticed or considered before.

Philip (& the other believers) were on the run from the wave of persecution that arose in the wake of Stephen’s martyrdom. All but the apostles had left Jerusalem & headed throughout the region of Judea, & even to Samaria… in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words from Acts 1:8. I guess the “Jerusalem, Judea, & Samaria” passages are so familiar that I never really considered that the very thing that drove the disciples out of Jerusalem (persecution & threat of death) led to the gospel message being spread everywhere they went, going places that they’d never even considered going before.

God didn’t CAUSE the persecution as a way of shaking up His people; rather, its an example of one way that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him & are called according to His purpose (ala Romans 8:28.) There was no master plan the disciples followed – they were on the run. And in the middle of their flight, their faith provided an anchor, a safe place, a point of encouragement to keep them going.

It gives me great hope to know that our faith is made for times EXACTLY like that – times of uncertainty, danger, threat, fear, illness, when the darkness is closing in. At those times, we find that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, provides for our every need. Sustains, strengthens, & gives us life. Love it.


Lately, I’ve got a new workout partner: theWeez. Its been fun hitting the gym together & getting to teach her about different exercises, free-weights vs. ‘the machines,’ & of course, kettle-bells. Today, she told me that she thinks that she’d like to get into MMA. As in mixed-martial arts. As in cage fighting.

Sigh. This should be interesting.

All I know, is I’m loving our time together.


It’s official. ThePasty Gangster is on his way to Knoxville, Tennessee. Countdown: 32 days.


I am an uncle. Again. Moe & Jen took baby TyWill home from the hospital last night, so 2 year old TBone has a little brother. I love that my brothers’ have little kids & that I have big ones. Family.

At no point in my life have I ever felt the need to try to plant flowers or plants in the ground, to nurture, water, & talk to them.

Until now. For some reason, I have a vested interest in seeing the 5 grassy willow-y plants in the backyard stay alive. I speak to them. Water them multiple times a day. Command them to survive in the spite of Nevada’s weather & my feeble attempts at caring for them. If they last, I may even post a picture.

perseverance in the face of persecution, & other musings from Acts 14

Then some Jews arrived from Antioch & Iconium & won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul & dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up & went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After preaching the Good News in Derbe & making many disciples, Paul & Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, & Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Acts 14:19-22

The Apostle Paul suffered violent opposition, persecution, slander, & threat of death for his persistence in declaring the gospel. In Lystra, the mobs that had been chasing him from town to town finally caught up with him, dragged him out of the city, & stoned him until he was dead. Or at least they thought he was.

Whether he was resurrected from the dead or somehow had “shaken off” the stoning & recovered enough to walk we don’t know. (And just how might one “shake off” being pelted with rocks as big as your head?) What we do know is that Paul got up, & moved on to the next city, Derbe, continuing to preach the gospel to any & all that would hear it. If that wasn’t enough, Paul & Barnabas soon went back to Lystra, Iconium, & Antioch of Pisidia, all places that angry hordes had either wanted to or attempted to kill them. And the message they preached was Good News – & that this Good News & following Christ was worth every bit of suffering & hardship that would come, something they all knew he had experienced firsthand.

It makes me think about the confidence that Paul placed in his relationship with God, & how much he depended on the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain him through a life of such physical difficulty & suffering. What’s more, his chose to set his mind on Christ, the author & finisher of our faith. To be steadfast, firm in his pursuit of the goal, the mission he’d been given: that all would hear & come to know Christ, our hope & glory.

When Paul challenged the disciples in each city he visited to stand firm in their faith, to boldly persevere in the face of suffering, he spoke from experience. He had discovered the very real peace of God that goes beyond circumstances, & had fully committed himself to the fact that God would sustain him until such a time that he died or was martyred. And this death (& even the threat of it) had no power or sway on him, for long before, he had chosen that whether he lived or died, it would be for the glory of God.

I pray for a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit for each of us. For boldness to live & declare the Good News without fear of what may come. And I set my eyes on Christ & purpose to follow in His footsteps, & encourage others to do the same after me.

called, commissioned, empowered, & sent…

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. Acts 13:1-4

What stands out the most to me from this passage is the active, empowering, inspiring work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church.

The Holy Spirit said…
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…

I think it’s easy to look at the lives of Paul & Barnabas, these apostolic leaders and great men of faith, & to forget the fact that they were people just like us. They were called, gifted, strengthened & sent by the same Holy Spirit that is alive & at work in us.

The enemy of our souls, the devil, works hard in trying to make us feel alone. Insignificant. Forgotten. Left out of any important or worthwhile plans God has. He attempts to get us to focus on, compare ourselves, & even covet the gifts, calling, & mission of another. If he can do that, we end up distracted from our own mission, something that the LORD has called (& the Holy Spirit empowered) us to do and live out.

I’m praying today for a strong sense of Divine purpose and calling – that we would not grow weary of doing good, that we’d live set apart to the LORD, seek His face, & hear the Holy Spirit breathed directions for our lives.

Death & life; prayer, perspective & other musings…

The violent and deadly opposition to the church that had begun with the death of Stephen had spread throughout the Roman world until finally it reached to the apostles themselves. James, one of the 3 disciples closest to Jesus, (along with Peter & John,) was martyred by King Herod. Peter was in prison, awaiting the fulfillment of his own death sentence.

And the Church was praying.

In the book of Acts, the consistent response of the Church to opposition, persecution, & threats from the government & religious leaders was prayer. And when they prayed, it wasn’t for deliverance from the difficult and even life-threatening circumstances they were in. Instead, they asked for strength & boldness in declaring the gospel. For the glory of God to be revealed in & through them with signs & wonders. For God to draw people to Himself. That they would be able to be faithful servants, even unto death.

The disciples lived with missional perspective – their primary purposes in life were to love God with their whole hearts; to declare the Good News; make disciples; love one another deeply; and to follow Christ.

So, when they experienced the traumatic events of James’ death, & Peter’s imprisonment, Jesus’ prophetic words rang in their ears:

“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” & “A servant isn’t greater than his master. If they persecute Me, you can be sure they’ll persecute you as well.” Matthew 16:24,25; John 15:20.

So they prayed. And instead of living fearfully, trying to avoid any potential troubles, they committed themselves into God’s hands, so that, live or die, they would bring glory & honor to Him.

This challenges me. Rather than be focused on temporary, circumstantial discomforts, I want to have God’s perspective on life & priorities. I want to be concerned with things of eternal significance, & to live today with purpose & strength. I want to be bold, faithful, persevering, & tenacious.

So I’m praying.

Acts 11, people like us?, & other musings…

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia & Cyprus & Antioch, speaking the Word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus & Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists (Greeks) also, preaching the LORD Jesus. And the hand of the LORD was with them, & a great number who believed turned to the LORD. Acts 11:19-21

The great persecution that followed the martyrdom of Stephen resulted in the scattering of believers – Jews and God-fearers – from Jerusalem to points all over the Roman world. Many even traveled as far as Antioch, a significant and strategic Roman colony about 300 miles to the north of Jerusalem.

And as they went, they preached the gospel, the Good News of repentance, the forgiveness of sins, and salvation available through the Name of Jesus Christ for all who would believe.

What stood out to me as I read this chapter was that those fleeing persecution preached the gospel to most everyone they met. Most everyone that was like them… They only shared the Word with fellow Jews. Ouch.

The problem was they were running through areas populated by predominantly Greek/non-Jewish peoples. It’s normal, human even to gravitate towards what we’re familiar with – towards “people like us” with similar culture, interests, & experiences. Though it may be easier & more comfortable to do so, Jesus’ challenged to His followers in the Great Commission specifically says to do & live otherwise. When He told His followers that they would share the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & to the ends of the earth, He was implicitly stating that they would be witnesses to ALL people. Not just the Jews, but everyone.

Fortunately, there were a few good men, Christ-following ‘outsiders’ from Cyprus & Cyrene, that intentionally & faithfully declared the Good News message to everyone. And not only was this message declared, it was received with joy & fruitfulness, & “a great number” believed & “turned to the LORD.”

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit, the One who fills us with power to live for Christ & to tell others of what we’ve seen, heard, & experienced from Him, will remind us of the call to lift our eyes from what we know, from what (& who) we’re comfortable with – & look to the fields that are white with harvest. The LORD is actively looking for men & women that will allow Him to work through them so He can gather people to Himself. Let’s be a part of that.

PS – Interesting to me to hear that Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” that was Paul the Apostle’s missionary companion for many years was from Cyprus (an island off the coast of Ephesus.) And Simon, the man who carried the cross for Christ on the way to Golgotha, was from Cyrene (in Northern Africa, most likely modern Libya.)

Set apart for special use, obedience, & other musings…

When you hear the word, “holiness,” what comes to mind?

Scripture tells us that holiness means being set apart to God, for His exclusive purposes and use.

In the Book of the Law, God gave specific instructions about being holy and maintaining holiness – to help the Israelites understand it, He gave them specific things to do and to avoid; foods they could eat, and foods they couldn’t; He even gave restrictions about who they should hang out with, and who they shouldn’t.

At the same time, God also challenged Israel with the idea that holiness was MORE than this. That God’s main hope & desire for His people wasn’t just that they had the list of “stuff we don’t do” memorized; further, He told them that the holiness, the set apart life, wasn’t merely a set of exterior behaviors. It involved a ‘set apartness’ of heart, mind, thought, & purpose. It wasn’t just for temple/church times, but was a 24/7 manner of living.

Knowing the Rules: what we’re not supposed to eat, where we’re not supposed to go, & who we’re not supposed to hang out with is easier than living fully dependent on the instruction of the LORD, & direction of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Peter was holy – he’d never knowingly eaten forbidden food; hadn’t gone where he wasn’t supposed to go; didn’t hang out with ‘unclean’ Gentiles.

And so his world was rocked when God told him in a vision – “Don’t call unclean & unholy what I’ve made clean & holy.” If that wasn’t enough, God gave him instructions to immediately & without hesitation go with 3 Greek men to the house of another Greek- Gentile man & to await further instructions.

To obey & do this was a huge risk – at the very least it meant a loss of reputation, & at worst, he could have been prosecuted (or worse) for doing something so “unholy.”

But something clicked. Peter got a glimpse of what it truly meant to be holy; it wasn’t just the externals. Rather, it was the willingness to be directed & redirected by the LORD; to be willing to have his mind changed, to go where he’d never gone before in obedient response to the Holy Spirit.

And he saw the LORD move. The Holy Spirit poured out. He gained brothers from among a people that beforehand he wouldn’t have even been willing to be seen with.

May we be holy, set apart to God for His purposes & directions, no matter what.

fear, faith, & other musings…

Fear paralyzes us. It stirs up doubts. It rises up in opposition to faith. It crowds out every other thought, dominating the mind. It is a primary weapon used by our enemy, the devil to attempt to manipulate & control us by taking our eyes off of Christ, & putting them onto our circumstances. Fear promises us an alternate future, one void of the good & faithful promises of God.

In Acts 9, one particular disciple, Ananias, had to confront fear & make a choice: would he let fear or faith direct his life?

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Acts 9:10-12

Saul.

Ananias knew who he was. Everyone knew Saul of Tarsus. The stories of his zealous persecution of the Way had spread like wildfire. The believers he’d personally thrown into prison, the families he’d destroyed, & the stonings he’d been party to were numerous.

While every other believer in Damascus was looking to hide FROM Saul, God purposely was sending Ananias to FOR Saul. To pray for him. It didn’t make sense. Ananias wrestled with it. He discussed it further with the LORD.

And then he boldly went, found Saul, & healed him in Jesus Name.

One of the main purposes that Jesus gives His followers the Holy Spirit is so that, in the face & threat of fear, we would be filled instead with boldness. And in those moments when we’re wrestling, where fear is attempting to ensnare us, we can have the Divinely provided fuel to reject the temptations to fear, & to purposefully & boldly give ourselves to obedience to God’s purposes & plans.

Living with bold obedience to Christ affects not only my life, but those that I come in contact with. And because Ananias chose faith over fear, God used him to help Saul the leading opponent &persecutor of the Way, to become Paul, God’s chosen instrument to spread the gospel over the known world.

LORD, fill me with Your Holy Spirit today – that I would recognize (& reject) the temptation to fear, & choose faith instead. May I be boldly given to Your purposes & plans.

on the run & other musings from Acts 8…

The Martyrdom of Stephen instigated a firestorm of persecution against Christians, and the members of the thousands-strong Jerusalem church were faced with the choice: be imprisoned (or worse,) or run. They ran.


And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 8:1,4

As they fled for their lives, I wonder if Jesus’ last words to His disciples rang in their ears… “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, & you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, & Samaria, & to the ends of the earth.”

Because it was happening. They were now going throughout Judea. Samaria. To the ends of the earth. And everywhere they went, they were preaching the word & sharing the gospel.

I bet they didn’t think it would be like this.

Still, in the middle of their flight, they had the surety of God’s promised Holy Spirit, indwelling them, filling them with strength to keep going, and boldness to keep sharing the gospel. Grace. Repentance. Forgiveness of sins. New life in Christ.

Even on the run.
Even when we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Even when the whole world seems to be turned upside-down.

Our faith in Christ is precisely for such times of adversity; our need for a Saviour is never so obvious as when we’re faced with suffering and difficulty. Its at these moments we discover the depth and breadth of what it means to have a Rock of Salvation in Christ; a hope that goes beyond this life; a peace that goes beyond understanding, that transcends circumstances.

Three things I never want to be, & other musings…

Three things I never want to be: Stiff-necked. Hardened in heart. Resistant to the Holy Spirit.

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart & ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? & they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed & murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels & did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53

Reading over this section of Scripture, I keep getting stuck on verse 51.

Stiff-necked. Uncircumcised hearts. Resisters of the Holy Spirit.

These are strong & prophetic words from Stephen, who reached into Israel’s history to challenge & rebuke the Jewish Religious Council for their opposition to God’s purposes. The hardest thing for the Jewish leaders to hear had to be that their actions were just the latest round of thousands of years of stubborn, hard-hearted resistance to God. And the bizarre thing was, they professed to be diligently & faithfully serving the very One who was correcting them through Stephen.

Several things stand out to me:
• As Stephen is being dragged to the place of execution, the Jewish leaders have covered up their ears as though by doing so, they can keep from hearing anything else Stephen says. Their response to his prophetic challenge graphically portrays the state of their hearts & minds that Stephen was testifying to.
• To be stiff-necked is to be unteachable. Stubborn & hardened. Resistant to correction. Proud. Each time this phrase is used in the scriptures, it refers to a willful, determined disobedience to God’s specific commands, directions, and ways.
• Stubborn resistance to God’s purposes & plans originates in our own hearts, minds, & will, but it is hellishly motivated as well. This is evidenced by the vicious & murderous responses to the prophets & to Christ that Stephen recounts from Israel’s history.

I want to be teachable, set apart to God in words & deeds so that I can be easily be directed by & responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This requires that I keep a close watch on my heart – that I cultivate humility & a lifestyle of repentance. And that I never forget that no matter how long I’ve followed the LORD, I never get to the spot where I don’t desperately need His guidance, direction, & grace.