Carrdiography: Writing from Carr’s Heart

 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Acts 23: 1 – 11

The commander could not get to the bottom of things by beating Paul into submission or confession so he decided to set up a meeting with the Sanhedrin and had Paul brought before them.

Paul looked the Sanhedrin in the eyes and told them that he had fulfilled his duty to God in all good conscience until that very day. The high priest ordered that Paul be struck and Paul, showing that his former connections were gone didn’t he know who the high priest was. I am sure he once knew the high priests on a first name basis; not anymore!

Paul kind of, sort of, put a curse on the high priest and then when he realized who it was he backtracked and apologized with sincerity, humility and obedience to the Scriptures. Paul didn’t just know that he was a Roman citizen. He knew his credentials as a Pharisee who had gone so far as to persecute the early believers in Jesus were impeccable.

He then began to tell them his story and began his story at the beginning by telling them that he was a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. He also told them that he had been brought before them on that day for one of the key beliefs of the Pharisees, the resurrection of the dead.

This caused a great argument to break out between the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection of the dead and the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The conflict was so sharp that some of the Pharisees began to vigorously defend Paul. They went so far as to say they found nothing whatsoever wrong with him!

They even began to argue for him and seemed to be about to pull him apart when the commander called a halt to all of this and took him back to the safety of the barracks under an armed guard of soldiers! I am sorry but I find that hilarious. Paul basically played them like a fine violin!

That night he heard from the Lord to take courage because this journey would take him to Rome where he would proclaim Christ to the Roman rulers. WoW! GOD was in control of this entire situation! GOD is still in control of this entire situation!!! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, May 20, 2022

Acts 22: 22 – 30

The crowd seems to have thrown a massive temper tantrum – shouting, tearing off their clothes, flinging dust into the air! The commander, not understanding at all what is going on, has Paul taken as a prisoner into the barracks and orders that he be beaten half to death so they can find out the truth of this matter.

I love this! Maybe this is why Peter was released from the evil clutches of Herod while Paul was placed into the hands of the Romans now. Maybe it is because Paul remained cool, calm and collected; maybe it was because Paul remembered who he was, a Roman citizen; maybe it was because God’s plan was for Paul to speak into the very ears of Caesar and his court!

As they prepare to flog and interrogate Paul, which by the way could well have killed him, Paul informed them that he was a Roman citizen; a born Roman citizen who has not been found guilty of any crime. The floggers and interrogators withdrew from Paul immediately and the commander was “alarmed” when he realized he had put a Roman citizen in to chains.

I have read some commentators say this was a grave mistake by Paul to use his citizenship as a Roman to get out of trouble but I disagree. I think Paul knew Whose he was and who he was and in spite of his guaranteed citizenship in Heaven, he was also a Roman citizen in this world. He used that Roman citizenship ultimately for the glory of God! Hallelujah! Amen!

How are we using our citizenship in this world to impact the world to come?

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Acts 22: 1 – 30

“Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” (Acts 22: 22)

These are strong words. These are fighting words. These are killing words. And why were these words spoken?

These words weren’t really spoken. These words were shouted out by the crowd because Paul – in their own language, from a shared culture, from a shared religion, from a shared history, from a shared former, zealous spirit – dared to tell them that the Lord had said to him, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”

Did they hate the Gentiles so much that they didn’t want God to care anything whatsoever about them? Were they such defeated people; did they feel like such defeated people under the thumb of Roman rule that they wanted all Gentiles to be destroyed? Did they despise the Gentiles so much that they thought of them as less than human? Did they think it okay to kill a man because of God’s word?

Where had they gone so wrong? God had shared with Abraham His dream and promise that all nations, all nations, would be blessed through Abraham’s family which was eventually fully delivered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Jesus himself had proclaimed God’s love for all throughout his public ministry (Matthew 5 – 7).

And yet they were out for blood. Instead of listening to the glorious message of the good news of Jesus Christ for all people, they bristled and boiled and were out for blood.

Could this contempt, this division, this hatred ever happen again? Look around you my friend; peruse the newspaper, scan the internet, check out social media, listen at the local supermarket, etc. This kind of anger, this kind of contempt, this kind of hatred is closer than the click on our phones.

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy. Please!!!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Acts 22: 1 – 9

So, you probably know by now how my mind words. I cannot escape from yesterday’s reading yet so we are using it again today. I cannot flee from the words Jesus said to Saul on the road to Damascus: “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?”

I am not sure I have ever been guilty of persecuting Jesus per se but if I close my eyes and get quiet I can hear Him say:

“Brian! Brian! Why do you slander me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you gossip against me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you bring the way of truth into disrepute?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you deny me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you betray me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you forsake me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you judge me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you diminish me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you doubt me?”

“Brian! Brian! Why do you usurp me as Lord of your life?”

“Brian! Brian! Why? Why?”

As you can probably easily imagine, this list for Brian, Brian could go on and on and on but I will stop it here with the only reply that I can give: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God! Have mercy on me a sinner.”

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Acts 22: 1 – 9

So the reality is that Matthew 25 comes to life in live and living color right here and right now. Paul speaks in Aramaic to connect better with his Jewish opponents and to let them know that he is one of them by his language as well as his personal credentials which he speaks to them.

He tells them that he used to be just as zealous as they were but something happened to him. As he was on his way to Damascus to plunder and persecute and destroy the church there he encountered a bright and blinding light from heaven or should I say the bright and blinding light from heaven – Jesus the Christ!

Then Jesus spoke to Saul. Did you catch what Jesus said to Saul? “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” Saul just had to ask, “Who are you, Lord? Jesus then fully identified himself to Saul as Jesus of Nazareth.

Saul may have been confused because he knew that Jesus had been crucified long before he had arrived on the scene – apparently. Saul knew that he himself had been persecuting the church of Jesus Christ as he sought to destroy the church. Jesus saw it as Saul persecuting He, Himself, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Savior!

In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about the judgment at the end of time and mentions sheep and goats. The sheep had showed mercy and grace to those around them in a variety of ways and Jesus said they had done that to Him. The goats had not show mercy and grace to those around them in any way and Jesus said they had thus refused mercy and grace to Him!

And now we see it being lived out here on earth as Jesus told Saul that he was persecuting Him because he was persecuting those who believed in Him. So, I tremble as I write this: how am I treating Jesus? How are you treating Him? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy, PLEASE!!!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Acts 21: 27 – 40

Am I wrong in smelling a set-up for Paul here? Just about the time the vows of the purification would end for Paul and the others, Paul is spotted in the temple courts by some Jews from Asia who had previous encounters with him or at least had heard scurrilous rumors about him.

They whipped up the crowd into a frenzy telling them that this Paul had been attacking Judaism all over the world; they even accused him of bringing a heathen Gentile into the temple courts. The temple doors were slammed shut and those folks tried to kill Paul right then and there.

Luke says that “the whole city was aroused” which brings a vivid picture to mind. I wonder if the whole city was aroused when Jesus was arrested and crucified. I imagine so. These people had similar thoughts in mind for Paul and were working feverishly to end him.

Word of a riot reached the ears of the Roman commander who rushed with his troops to rescue Paul or at least restore the ever-important order. Upon sight of the Romans, the instigators stopped beating Paul while the soldiers chained and arrested him.

The crowd started shouting back and forth at each other reminding me of one of those vintage beer commercials causing general havoc and dismay. Unable to understand what was happening, the commander order Paul to be taken to the barracks to interrogate him peacefully and properly while the crowd erupted into violence.

Paul finally spoke to the commander who was surprised to learn that Paul could speak Greek and was not an Egyptian usurper returning to Jerusalem with an army of terrorists. Paul identified himself as a Jew from Tarsus and asked to speak to the crowd.

I notice how Paul remained cool, calm and collected in the midst of a violent mob. Of course, this wasn’t his first rodeo with these kinds of situations and most of all, he trusted God. He knew in advance that this was coming his way and he had embraced just this possibility with faith and trust. I can see him adjusting his toga and clearing his throat while he prepared to share Christ with his fellow Jews.

What happens next? Stay tuned tomorrow for more on this scintillating encounter with Paul in the temple courts. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Acts 21: 17 – 26

I will be completely honest here as I always try to be. There is just something here that doesn’t sit well with me. Paul and his companions finally arrive in Jerusalem, knowing full well what will happen to Paul once they arrive in Jerusalem.

Does that remind you of anyone earlier who set his face to go to Jerusalem knowing what waited for him there?

Luke tells us that the brothers and sisters warmly greeted and welcomed Paul and his companions. The next day they go to see James, the brother of Jesus and the de facto leader of the church in Jerusalem. They gave a detailed report to James about all that God had done through Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles – I have a hunch this report was not over in fifteen minutes but took a while, a long while.

When Paul finished, Luke tells us they praised God. That’s it, they praised God. Now I am absolutely sure that “praising God” is the appropriate response for such a report but it just seems to me that something is lacking mainly because immediately James began to talk about all the Jews who had come to know Christ.

James seems to be deeply concerned about how all these Jewish believers in Christ would respond to Paul because of all the rumors they had heard about Paul and his ministry among the Gentiles – rumors or lies?

And forgive me but it seems here that the established church in Jerusalem had done little to nothing to dispel those rumors and defend Paul before them. Next on the agenda, they send Paul with four other men to join with them in their purification rites, pay their expenses and shave their heads to prove to all the Jews that Paul is still Jewish.

What the what? I just don’t get it because it seems like a set-up to me but do you know who did get it? Paul!

THE LORD’S WILL BE DONE! HALLELUJAH! AMEN!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Acts 21: 1 – 16

The Lord’s will be done.

Returning to Jerusalem hopscotching from port to port;

The Lord’s will be done.

Returning to Jerusalem, hopscotching from boat to boat;

The Lord’s will be done.

Warned through the disciples by the Spirit at Tyre;

The Lord’s will be done.

Warned by Agabus who tied up his hands and feet with Paul’s belt,

The Lord’s will be done.

“The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem

will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles.”

The Lord’s will be done.

We all pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem;

The Lord’s will be done.

“Paul responds, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?”

The Lord’s will be done.

“I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem

for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

The Lord’s will be done.

THE LORD’S WILL BE DONE!!!

Paul went to Jerusalem. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Acts 20: 13 – 38

As we move through the rest of Acts 20 we see Paul continuing his farewell tour as he heads home toward Jerusalem where he knows hostility, prison and hardships wait for him there. Paul doesn’t flinch or take a detour.

As I read again his farewell comments to the leaders from Ephesus I am touched deeply by his passion. When he first told them that his time in Ephesus was full of great humility and tears I just assumed he was talking about the physical pain he suffered there but I was wrong.

As I read all of his comments I realize that Paul poured out his soul for the Ephesians and all who lived in the province of Asia which was often demonstrated by his tears. He so loved those people that he worked so hard to convince them to choose Christ that his love often poured down his cheeks in liquid form.

That thought is only confirmed with the beginning verse in Acts 21 when Luke describes their departure from the Ephesians in this way: “After we had torn ourselves away from them…” Paul and his entire team loved the Ephesians, poured out their hearts to them and let liquid love pour down their cheeks.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever wanted someone to choose Christ so badly that you cried for them? Have I? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Acts 20: 13 – 31

Paul is returning as quickly as he can to Jerusalem. He wanted to be in Jerusalem by Passover but was going on a farewell tour as he moved toward Israel, because he knew he would never return. He made arrangements with the leaders of the church in Ephesus to meet him at Miletus.

Luke seems to give us a verbatim report of Paul’s heart-warming words to his Ephesian friends. Remember, Paul spent 3 years or so with the Ephesians which as far as I can tell, was the longest he spent at any other one location throughout his ministry.

His ministry in Ephesus was prolific as Luke told us that everyone in the province of Asia had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ while Paul was there and now he tells them goodbye. He reminds them of how he served the Lord with humility and tears during difficult days in Ephesus when attacked by his opponents. Paul hints at his suffering here, actually he doesn’t hint at all, he calls it a severe testing but that didn’t stop him from proclaiming the full gospel message to all he encountered.

I am struck by the man who once went door to door in Jerusalem seeking to destroy the church now admits that he went door to door in Ephesus trying to lead as many people as possible to Christ. And now, Paul recognizes that the Holy Spirit is calling him to Jerusalem all while warning him that even more severe hardships wait for him there.

Everywhere Paul goes the Spirit warns him about what waits for him in Jerusalem but he goes anyway. For this Paul was called, for this Christ died. All Paul cared about was fulfilling Christ’s calling on his life, for his life; if that meant a gruesome death, so be it! After all, hadn’t Christ suffered a gruesome death for him?

Paul is just getting wound up here when he tells the leaders from Ephesus that he will never see them again. He warns them to be alert, to be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing, maybe even wolves they know well, from their own pens.

He also tells them that he is not guilty of any of their blood because he has not hesitated to proclaim the whole will of God to them. I marvel at Paul’s boldness here. I marvel at his honesty. I long to be like Paul with his passion, his obedience, his single-minded focus, his deep feelings for his Ephesian brothers and sisters, his deep feelings for God.

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Acts 20: 13 – 31

Paul and his companions are in a hurry to get back to Jerusalem by Passover. Paul has the elders from the church in Ephesus meet him in Miletus. Here is a portion of his words to them. Read them, stew over them a bit and we will look at them more closely tomorrow. Thank you.

 

“You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I

came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and

with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish

opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that

would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to

house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God

in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

 

And now, compelled by the spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing

what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy

Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However,

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race

and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying

to the good news of God’s grace.

 

Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching

The kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that

I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim

to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock

of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,

which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves

will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number

men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning

each of you night and day with tears.”

 

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, May 9, 2022

Acts 20: 1 – 12

After all the extracurricular activities in Ephesus settled down, Paul calmly sent for the disciples, encouraged them, told them goodbye and then departed. I love it that Paul did not act in a rash panic, rather he seemed relaxed, comfortable and normal as if he trusted in Someone Greater than himself.

He and his crew then headed for Macedonia, traveled all throughout that area to encourage the folks before arriving in Greece where he basically did the same thing by proclaiming Christ and encouraging those folks there. I suppose Paul may have thought this would be the last time he would ever see those beloved people.

When a plot against Paul was uncovered just as he was to set sail for Syria, I wonder if they were planning to hijack the boat, shanghai Paul or sink him. He acted wisely and changed his plans, sending most of his companions on ahead and then arriving later with Luke, I guess when the “all clear” had been given.

Staying seven days in Troas, Paul made the most of his time and planned a long night of preaching for his farewell. In an upstairs room filled with many lanterns Paul preached well up into the night. A young man named Eutychus was sitting in a window sill, perhaps to escape the heat and noxious fumes of all those lanterns when he dozed off. Have you ever dozed off during a long sermon? I have.

Unfortunately, it is apparently dangerous to doze off during one of Paul’s sermons as poor Eutychus plunged to his death while he slept. Rushing downstairs, Paul embraced the dead corpse then declared him to be ALIVE!

In response they broke bread (communion perhaps?) then Paul continued preaching until daybreak when he took his leave and the others took the revived Eutychus home rejoicing. Paul had to be exhausted on this extended mission trip, that is the nature of a mission trip yet he gave his all, even preaching all night long, to leave no stone unturned or no soul unsaved.

Also, be careful when you sleep during a sermon… Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Acts 19: 23 – 41

Paul had a tremendous extended ministry in Ephesus which impacted the entire province of Asia which today would be much of modern – day Turkey. He initially ran in to fierce opposition from some of the Jewish folks which caused him to move out to the lecture hall of Tyranus where things really began to cook – that part of the world was transformed for Christ.

However, we know it couldn’t last and I am sure Paul knew it couldn’t last. This time great opposition rose from merchants who made and sold statues for the goddess Artemis which seemed to be the leading pagan god of the area. Much of Ephesus’ fame lay in its connection with Artemis and the multitude of other gods in that area.

But the truth is that neither Artemis nor any of the other gods were what they truly worshiped. In fact they seemed to be worshiping that god which is so often worshiped today. The god known in Jesus’ day as Mammon or money and all the good things money could buy.

This entire situation seems to be born from greed caused by a silversmith named Demetrius who was known for making silver shrines of Artemis. A massive riot rose up in the city over this fearful greed.

I am convicted by this story and caused to wonder about my relationship with money. I remember those words of Paul when he talked about how the love of money is the root of all evil. Money is in itself neutral so it depends on our perspective where sin arises or not out of money.

Do I put my trust in money or credit cards or investments or all the things those can buy? Or do I trust in Jesus? As for me and my house, we trust in JESUS!!! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, May 6, 2022

Acts 19: 8 – 22

Paul arrived in Ephesus and apparently encountered some who had been converted to Christ by Apollos but had not experienced baptism in the name of Jesus or been filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul rectified that situation quickly by baptizing them in the name of Jesus then putting his hands on them and praying for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul then began to preach regularly and systematically in the local synagogue until local opposition rose up against him in the synagogue. He then took the disciples and moved to the lecture hall of Tyranus which would have been some sort of public building to be used for teaching or training most likely in a variety of subjects.

Paul used such a public venue to proclaim Christ in the city of Ephesus for two years. Luke actually tells us that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord! WoW! This seems to me to be similar to the style which Billy Graham used during his life time where he would set up for days or weeks at a time in a certain public venue to proclaim Christ.

We also see in this passage a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit in and through Paul and even Paul’s handkerchiefs. Paul and his actions became so well known that Luke tells us of some seven sons of a Jewish priest Sceva who tried to cast out demons using the name of this Jesus who Paul proclaims. This ended badly for them as the demon-possessed person fell upon them and beat them up.

However, when news of this spread throughout the land it gave all the more authority and power to this Jesus who Paul proclaimed; so much so that the name of Jesus was held in high honor and caused the repentance of many who had practiced sorcery in the land. Wow!

May it so be like that here and now. Amen? Amen! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us sinners. Please!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Acts 18: 18 – 19: 7

One of the hindrances for folks in sharing the gospel with others is that they are afraid they won’t know all the answers. For some reason we seem to think that if someone may stump us with a question then we have forfeited our right to share Christ with them.

I have a hunch that none of us feel completely adequate to share the gospel with others. I have a hunch that we all know that we are not perfect, that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God (to borrow a phrase from Jonathan Edwards) and we are just not worthy.

However, Jesus gave us the Great Commission before He ascended into heaven to make disciples of all nations… I don’t note any qualifications in his Great Commission and let us remember who he was speaking to in Matthew 28. He was speaking to many who had doubted, denied and abandoned Him in his greatest hour of need but apparently, they had not disqualified themselves with such failures.

And here I am fascinated by the case of Apollos who seemed to be thoroughly trained about Jesus and proclaimed powerfully and boldly about Him but it turns out he didn’t know everything he needed to know about Jesus. He only knew about the baptism of John the Baptist and apparently didn’t even know about the Holy Spirit.

Apollos did not allow these shortcomings to keep him or stop him from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to whomever, whenever. Of course, and this is a very important point, God provided Aquila and Priscilla to disciple and teach Apollos more thoroughly so that he could more accurately present the full picture of the gospel.

God also later provided Paul who apparently met some Ephesians who had been converted to Christ under Apollos but had not been fully baptized. Paul took care of that in short order.

This tells me that we should not let our perceived or unperceived shortcomings keep us or stop us from sharing Christ because the Holy Spirit is in charge of the entire process and will provide all that is needed each step along the way. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Acts 18: 18 – 28

I love the progression of evangelism and discipleship we can see here in the second half of Acts 18. Earlier in this chapter we saw that Paul encountered Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth. Aquila and Priscilla were introduced as formerly from Pontus who had recently been evicted out of Rome along with all the other Jews by an edict from Claudius.

We are not told that they were followers of Jesus Christ. We are told that Paul met them and developed a relationship with them; so much so that he lived with them and joined them in their work as tentmakers. Paul shared his life with Aquila and Priscilla and certainly shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with them as well.

Now we find Paul finally leaving Corinth for Syria yet taking Priscilla and Aquila with him. He then left them at Ephesus while he headed toward Jerusalem. At about the same time a Jewish man named Apollos also arrived in Ephesus. He had a thorough grasp of the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Apollos taught boldly and powerfully about Jesus in the synagogue but he only knew about the baptism of John the Baptist. Hearing him, Priscilla and Aquila invited him to their home and they explained to him the way of God more adequately.

While Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus, Apollos eventually moved on to Achaia where “he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.” (Acts 18:28)

Paul poured out his life and the gospel of Jesus Christ to Priscilla and Aquila. Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos and poured their lives and the gospel of Jesus Christ into Apollos. Apollos went on pouring out his life and the gospel of Jesus Christ into those in Achaia.

So I ask: do you have a Priscilla or Aquila or Apollos in your life today? If not, shouldn’t we all have such people in our lives to build them up in Christ and send them out to build the Church?

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Acts 18: 9 – 17

Has this ever happened to you? While Paul was still in Corinth the Lord spoke to him through a vision saying, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

Isn’t that amazing!? I would love to have such a vision, wouldn’t you? I would love to have God appear to me in a vision and tell me that He is with me and all is well regardless of what happens.

Wait a minute! Maybe I don’t need a vision. Maybe I don’t need a vision because we have God’s Word and God tells us in His Word over and over again that He is with us and there is no need to be afraid. Let’s take Joshua 1:9 for example: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Isaiah 41:10 is similar: “Fear not for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Or the words of Jesus from Matthew 28: 18 – 20: “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Still, it would be so nice to have such a vision and hear the Lord’s voice. It probably occurred with Paul because things were about to get dangerous and difficult in Corinth yet Paul was able to endure perhaps because he had been reassured by the Lord that He would be with him and that He had many people in Corinth.

I wonder could one of those people have been Gallio, the Roman consul in Corinth who refused to be intimidated by the Corinthian mob. Hmm. All the same, I think I will keep hidden in God’s word through faith while still seeking a vision now and again. What do you think?

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, May 2, 2022

Acts 18: 1 – 8

So Paul seems to unceremoniously leave Athens without any demonstrations or disruptions or threats on his life or eviction notices. I just find this whole situation in Athens to be strange. Was Athens so far gone into false religions and human philosophies that they wouldn’t let Jesus in? God forbid!

Anyway, Paul went on to Corinth. Paul appears here to initially be by himself. Perhaps that was the other missing ingredient in Athens, his team had not yet arrived from Berea. Could that have been why things just don’t seem to have gone so well for Paul in Athens – his team had not arrived and he was all by himself? I suppose it could have been at least an influencing factor.

In Corinth Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila who were Jews that had themselves been evicted from Rome by order of Claudius. Paul decides to join them and works with them as tentmakers but on the Sabbath he found himself in the synagogue trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks to follow Jesus. This now seems to be the same, old Paul.

As his team consisting of Silas and Timothy finally arrive from Macedonia, Paul is able to focus exclusively on preaching the gospel that Jesus was the Messiah. Eventually the Jews or at least some of them became abusive to Paul, he shook out his clothes as a sign against them, told them that they were responsible for their own sinfulness and left to preach to the Gentiles.

Leaving the synagogue he went next door and continued to preach Christ and Him crucified leading many to Christ and baptism in the name of Jesus. It seems that during this time after leaving the synagogue that Paul led the synagogue leader Crispus and his entire household to Christ!

What a difference a city makes! What a difference a team makes! Interesting isn’t it that as great a man as Paul was, he still needed a team. If Paul needed a team around him, don’t we? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Acts 17: 16 – 34

I have no right absolutely to do this. Far be it for me to even think about critiquing or criticizing the Apostle Paul, The Apostle Paul but with all of his mastered analysis of the city of Athens and their varying gods and philosophies something seems to be missing in Paul’s analysis and response.

Or perhaps it is better said to say Someone was missing in his analysis and response to the problem. Take a good, long look and tell me who seems to be missing in Paul’s dissertation to the citizens of Athens. Anyone? Anyone?

I find no mention of the Name of Jesus. He talks about a man raised from the dead but he doesn’t seem to mention Him by name. And of course, Luke does not give us the complete transcript of his debate so we don’t know for sure what he did or did not say but…

At the end of the day, we are told that a few of those listeners became followers of Paul. Nowhere else do I recall this phrase “followers of Paul.” We know that Paul was not about making followers for himself; he rebelled from and repelled that notion.

Nevertheless, here Luke tells us that a few people became followers of Paul; not followers of Jesus. What happened here in Athens? Does that happen here and now with us when we think that all we need to do is live a good life and hope people know it is because of Christ in our lives.

As we live in a world that is just as wide open today as Athens was in Paul’s day, it seems ever more important to use our words to tell the story of Jesus in our lives to make sure that all around us know that we are who we are because of Jesus. Amen? Amen! LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, April 29, 2022

Acts 17: 16 – 34

As he looks around and observes in the city of Athens, Paul is distressed by the sheer number of idols and their temples he sees everywhere. He becomes distressed for the city.

He follows his normal modus operandi and goes to the synagogue where he mixes it up with both Jews and Gentiles. He also mixes it up with folks in the marketplace. All of this mixing up led to him being invited to formally speak and debate at the council which met in the Aeropagus. So they could hear this new idea he was teaching.

Apparently, that was a favored pastime of the folks in Athens, listening and arguing about the latest ideas and teachings. According to scholars and historians, by this time in history Athens was no longer a capital of the world’s powers but still was a leader in philosophy.

I am intrigued that Paul used one of their temples to “An Unknown God” to begin to speak to them about the one, true GOD. Paul is indeed masterful in bridging the gap between their many idols and the one, true God. He connects with them by using their culture and even their literature to move them toward God or at least toward a conversation about the one, true God.

It reminds me of what someone once said concerning evangelism that as we ask questions and build relationships with those around us we are like someone rubbing their fingers on the top of a coffee cup to find the crack there and then use the Gospel to meet the needs in that crack.

Seems like Paul may be doing something similar in Athens as he seeks to use their idols, their temples and even their literature to bridge the gap and lead them toward God.

May we be so observant to the world around us and use what that world gives us to connect with folks and lead them to God. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Acts 17: 16 – 34

Sometimes things happen in my life that I think are the worst things ever; so bad that the sun may not even rise tomorrow. But the sun does come up the next day and I discover, without fail, that what I thought was the worst thing ever was being used intentionally and specifically by GOD for His purposes.

Here we see that Paul was once again run out of a city where he proclaimed Christ. Frankly, just about anywhere we choose to observe Paul at work, he was chased out of town; run out of town on a rail if you will. Even on occasion he was stoned and thought dead.

But, without fail, Paul entrusted himself and his companions into God’s hands, dusted himself off and kept on keeping on. Here, after being run out of Berea he arrives in the metropolis of Athens, the world’s city.

The first lesson we can learn here from Paul in Athens is his perseverance. Even though he has been battered and beaten wherever he has been he has not given up on the gospel. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that he encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and was called to this.

Now, faced with the enormous, unenviable task of preaching to the wide-open Athenians, he stops, dusts and himself off, takes a deep breath and looks around.

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Acts 17: 13 – 15

The Bereans seemed to be so noble that the expected confrontation between Paul and his traveling companions and the local “jealous” Jews did not happen with folks in Berea.

Instead, some of those who had caused them such problems in Thessalonica heard that they were preaching in Berea and went there to stir up the crowds. Paul was immediately sent to the coast while Silas and Timothy stayed behind in Berea.

I deduce from Silas and Timothy staying behind in Berea that there was still much work for them to do there in leading others to Christ and forming them in Christ that they stayed. And apparently they were able to stay in Berea, unlike Thessalonica, because the situation had not become so heated.

Perhaps this is another way in which the noble character of the Bereans was demonstrated. Have you met anyone lately you would consider noble because of the way they behaved. May we all be on the lookout for those noble people around us; even more, may we be those people of noble character wherever we may be found. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Acts 17: 10 – 12

After another run in with the jealous Jews in Thessalonica and a resulting riot, Paul and Silas escaped their anger and were sent to Berea at nightfall. Finding a synagogue in Berea they went there and began to proclaim Christ.

Luke tells us significant about the Bereans: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”

I have to be honest here. Every time I read Luke’s glowing words about the Bereans I am convicted from the souls of my feet to my bald head. Luke tells us that the Bereans were of noble character because they came to hear Paul and read the Scriptures with great eagerness.

I don’t know about you but I am not sure how often I can be described as eager when I open the Bible or come to church. Sometimes I feel like I am just doing my duty but eager??? I repent as I hear about the Bereans.

Secondly, they actually took everything that Paul said back to the Scriptures which at that time would have been what we now call the Old Testament. They took Paul’s words back to the source to make sure Paul was telling the truth. What the what? That is why for me it is oh so important for us to carry the Scriptures around with us either in book form or on an app on our phones or tattooed if you will on our hearts and minds.

God bless the Bereans! Oh yea, God already did because many of them came to know Jesus personally as a result of their noble characters of eagerness and deep searching of the Scriptures. Are you eager? Am I? Thanks to the Bereans, I am now!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, April 25, 2022

I Corinthians 15: 1 – 11

In this second week of Easter let’s take a look at one more resurrection account, probably the earliest from Paul’s first letter to the believers in Corinth to allow the power of Jesus’ resurrection sink down deep within us. Get ready. Tomorrow we begin to look at the cosmic Gospel of John. Remember: “Every Morning is Easter Morning!”

Paul’s Resurrection Account to the Corinthians

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you have received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

John 20: 1 – 23

In this week of Easter let’s take a look at all of the resurrection accounts from the Gospels and allow the power of Jesus’ resurrection sink down deep within us. Remember: Every Morning is Easter Morning!”

John’s Resurrection Account

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’ So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’). Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’”

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Friday, April 22, 2022

Luke 24: 36 – 49

In this week of Easter let’s take a look at all of the resurrection accounts from the Gospels and allow the power of Jesus’ resurrection sink down deep within us. Remember: “Every Morning is Easter Morning!”

Luke’s Resurrection Account, Continued

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them , ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’”

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Luke 24: 13 – 35

In this week of Easter let’s take a look at all of the resurrection accounts from the Gospels and allow the power of Jesus’ resurrection sink down deep within us. Remember: “Every Morning is Easter Morning!”

Luke’s Resurrection Account, Continued

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’

He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Luke 24: 1 – 12

In this week of Easter let’s take a look at all of the resurrection accounts from the Gospels and allow the power of Jesus’ resurrection sink down deep within us. Remember: “Every Morning is Easter Morning!”

Luke’s Resurrection Account

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Mark 16: 1 – 8

In this week of Easter let’s take a look at all of the resurrection accounts from the Gospels and allow the power of Jesus’ resurrection sink down deep within us. Remember: “Every Morning is Easter Morning!”

Mark’s Resurrection Account

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said, ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Monday, April 18, 2022

Matthew 28: 1 – 20

In this week of Easter let’s take a look at all of the resurrection accounts from the Gospels and allow the power of Jesus’ resurrection sink down deep within us. Remember: “Every Morning is Easter Morning!”

Matthew’s Resurrection Account

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.’

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Saturday, April 16, 2022

While we wait on this Holy Saturday in grief beyond grief just like those early followers of Christ, let us see how Isaiah saw and prophesied the events of the day before.

The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12)

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured

Beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness –

So he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

 

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;

The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

 

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to slaughter,

And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away, yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Friday, April 15, 2022

Mark 15: 1 – 47

Since it is Holy Week I think we should just let Scripture speak for itself as we walk with Jesus day by day during that week through Mark’s eyes. I invite you to read this entire passage while I only include excerpts of it here.

Friday of Holy Week

“The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read:  THE KING OF THE JEWS.

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself! In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’) …With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15: 16 – 34, 37 – 39)

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Mark 14: 12 – 72

Since it is Holy Week I think we should just let Scripture speak for itself as we walk with Jesus day by day during that week through Mark’s eyes. I invite you to read this entire passage while I only include a portion of it here.

Thursday of Holy Week

“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.’ They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely you don’t mean me?’

‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14: 12 – 26)

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Mark 14: 1 – 11

Since it is Holy Week I think we should just let Scripture speak for itself as we walk with Jesus day by day during that week through Mark’s eyes.

Wednesday of Holy Week

“Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or the people may riot.’

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.

‘Leave her alone, ‘said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Mark 11: 20 – 13: 37

Since it is Holy Week I think we should just let Scripture speak for itself as we walk with Jesus day by day during that week through Mark’s eyes.

As best I can tell from Mark’s gospel, Jesus and the disciples returned to the temple on Tuesday and Jesus taught much of the day with the chief priests, teachers of the law and the elders as part of his audience. This is just a sampling of that day but please read the entire passage marked above. Thank you.

Tuesday of Holy Week

“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!’

…Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.” (Mark 11: 20-21, 12: 1 – 12)

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Monday, April 11, 2022

Mark 11: 12 – 19

Since it is Holy Week I think we should just let Scripture speak for itself as we walk with Jesus day by day during that week through Mark’s eyes.

Monday of Holy Week

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changes and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of robbers.’

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Acts 17: 1 – 9

Paul and Silas leave Philippi and go on their way. Seems like they just passed through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia without stopping but perhaps they were looking for a Jewish synagogue which they found and visited in Thessalonica.

They spent three Sabbath days teaching and sharing about Jesus in that synagogue with success. We are told that they led some of the Jews, more God-fearing Greek women and a good number of prominent women.

Here we find that green-eyed monster of jealousy once again rising its ugly head as some of the Jews became jealous, hired some ruffians to form a mob and create havoc in the city. I am struck that these are the same tactics used about 1700 years later in England to disrupt, distract and downright frighten John Wesley; they didn’t work well with him either.

I also notice that these jealous troublemakers make the same claim against Paul and Silas that the kangaroo court in Jerusalem used on that long, darkest of nights against Jesus himself and which was used long ago on Good Friday morning to convince Pilate to give in and give up Jesus to their bloodthirst. Hmm…

I have a hunch that the same tactics are used throughout the world today and I am struck as I remember how Paul would later describe their time in Thessalonica with these words: “We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…” (I Thessalonians 2:6 – 7)

Even though we may find ourselves in much safer conditions than Paul and Silas may we too be able to love those around us so much that we not only tell them about Jesus but give them our own lives as well. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, April 08, 2022

Acts 16: 35 – 40

I have a few more thoughts before we leave Acts 16. If you remember, Paul and Silas had been traveling through what is today known as Turkey. For whatever reason there were particular areas in Turkey that the Holy Spirit would not allow them to enter and proclaim the Gospel.

Eventually, Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia motioning for him and begging for him to visit them and help them in Macedonia. Paul, Silas and their traveling companions including Luke leave immediately for Macedonia and ended up in the capital city of Philippi where they spend a good amount of time.

They led Lydia to Christ there who seems to have been the very first convert to Christianity in what is now Europe, among many others to follow in her footsteps. Paul and Silas get in trouble with the folks of Philippi when Paul casts a troublesome spirit out of a servant girl and her angry masters retaliate with lies and manipulation to create a riot, beatings and arrest for Paul and Silas.

God however has other plans as He uses the incredible faith of Paul and Silas who sing and pray while beaten to a bloody pulp and a powerful earthquake which gives them the opportunity to lead the jailer and his family to Christ.

When the government officials attempt to dismiss Paul and Silas rather quietly and discreetly, Paul and Silas use the fact of their Roman citizenry to frighten the officials and demand that they are treated respectfully according to Roman law. Paul and Silas use their citizenship on this earth as Roman citizens and in the process increase the Kingdom of God here on this earth. May we do the same.

What are some ways you and I on this day can use the facts of our citizenship here on this earth to demand justice and equal treatment before the law? More importantly, how can we use our citizenship here in this country to further the kingdom of God? I would love to hear your suggestions.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Acts 16: 35 – 40

Now, here is where it gets interesting. Paul and Silas are arrested without cause. They are beaten badly in public without cause. They are jailed with their feet in the stocks without cause. This was all due to the servant girl’s masters lying against them.

Of course, GOD sent the oh, so specific earthquake which shook them all down to their very souls while their teeth rattled their chains also fell off and the prison doors sprung open wide so that Paul and Silas could get out of jail free. They did not take that opportunity.

They wanted the others to get out of their dead, sinful lives free so they offered them Christ, Him crucified, Him raised from the dead, Him ascended into heaven, Him right there beside them! Hallelujah! They led the nameless Philippian jailer and his entire household to Christ and baptized them right there on the spot! They all had an amazing night!

The next day when cooler, calmer heads apparently prevailed, the officials sent word to the jailer to release Paul and Silas without notice or fanfare. Paul and Silas were proud citizens of Rome and used their citizenship to demand fair and equal treatment. It was at this point that the government officials grew scared – if only they had been visiting during the earthquake!

They came to “appease” Paul and Silas and release them properly and publicly so all would know they had been treated poorly and unjustly according to their own law. They politely ask them to leave their fair city. Paul and Silas visit Lydia and all the believers in her house to let them go then leave Philippi.

What would it be like if each of our homes would be known for the brothers and sisters who gather there in the name of Jesus? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Acts 16: 25 – 34

Beaten to an excruciating pulp, Paul and Silas responded by praying and singing throughout the night while the other prisoners listened to them. I wonder what they were singing – could it have been a very early version of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”? If not, I bet it was something very similar.

Then, apparently in response to their praying and singing, a violent earthquake shook the very foundations of the prison, causing the doors to fly open and the prisoners’ chains to fall off. Have you ever heard of such a specific earthquake? Not I. This was an earthquake that didn’t just shake, rattle and roll the buildings but also the very foundations of their souls.

When the jailer awoke he saw all the doors to the prison open and assumed his prisoners had escaped. As he drew his sword to kill himself knowing what the Romans would do to him for such a lapse, Paul yelled at him to not harm himself because they were all there. No one had taken advantage of the situation to escape. There was something greater going on here than escape.

The bewildered jailer burst in to their jail cell, fell before them and asked them what he needed to do to be saved. They told him he needed to believe in the Lord Jesus and then they proceeded to preach the Gospel to everyone in his house.

Late into the night the jailer took them to cleanse and bandage their wounds. He and his household were all baptized for they had all come to believe in Jesus. Turns out this was all about an escape – the jailer and his family escaping from their lives of sin and death! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Acts 16: 22 – 25

Interesting, isn’t it how one minute everything seems to be going well and then Paul casts a spirit out of a young woman. Her masters were so upset that they caused a riot as they dragged Paul and Silas to the magistrate.

Paul and Silas had already been in Philippi for a good amount of time seemingly without incident and were having great success sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And then…and then they apparently hit too close to home by blessing this young woman but costing her masters money.

As her masters accused Paul and Silas of introducing unlawful customs it seems like the rest of the city joined in and began to riot and protest. Paul and Silas were stripped naked and beaten by rods. The rods could have been good-sized birch poles which would have been used to beat them all over, sometimes even on the bottoms of the feet.

Rather beaten to the point of death or not (which they may have been) Paul and Silas would have been in excruciating pain quite possibly with broken bones and lacerated flesh. Then they were thrown into jail and locked by their feet in wooden stocks which would have added to their pain and agony.

How did Paul and Silas respond to this painful turn of events?

They sang!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, April 04, 2022

Here is the prayer I used this morning on our Facebook update offered to us by J.D. Walt from Seedbed.com.

“Almighty God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

We come before you today in a continual declaration of peace, in the name Jesus, over the war taking place in Eastern Europe. We boldly ask you to establish and strengthen the bond of peace across the Body of Christ in Russia and Ukraine, to draw near to all the followers of Jesus scattered across these nations, and to bind them together in supernatural love that moves with the power of the gospel. May the Church Jesus is building rise up as the Light of the World, like cities on a thousand hills, and awaken the dawn in this dark land. 

Let your Kingdom break forth in demonstrations of peace in ways that confound the ways of sin, darkness, death, and evil. We pray for you to intervene in the hearts and minds of the leaders of Russia, to turn from their invasion and to seek peace. We pray you would strengthen the invading soldiers with the resolve of human decency and compassion and a miraculous empowerment to lay down their arms in the face of such egregious destruction and loss of innocent life. We pray for the leaders of Ukraine, to protect and preserve them from harm and to fill them with such a spirit of travail and prayer that it touches heaven and changes the course of life on earth for their country.

We pray for the leaders of governments around the world, for wisdom and courage for the facing of this hour. We rebuke the spirit of fear that would cower in the face of evil rather than confront it. We cry out for an awakening of the church around the world, to realize both our responsibility and our power to intervene and exercise our Kingdom authority for such a time as this. 

We pray for the many relief agencies at work on behalf of the Ukrainian people. We speak Jesus into them now in the power of your Spirit—courage, perseverance, love, and joy in the face of utter desolation. We put upon them the full armor of God so that they may stand. And we pray you fill their hearts and hands with miracles. Multiply relief in their hands as fishes and loaves that can feed multitudes. Fill their words with power to still storms in Jesus name. Release miracles through doctors and nurses as they rescue the perishing and care for the dying. 

We pray you would leave in the wake of this evil human-made disaster and all its desolation the seeds of a great awakening and the raising up of a generation who would rebuild the ruins and who would be called the repairer of broken walls, and the restorer of streets to dwell in. Awaken your Church now, in all places, to imagine and conceive of this great awakening now, in the place of prayer, on earth as it is in heaven. 

Finally, and most urgently, we pray for the millions of children who are crying and afraid, many of whom may be lost and alone, wondering if they will ever see their fathers again, longing for the safety of their homes, anxious about their next meal, afraid for their very survival. We pray for the salvation of their fathers and the holy uprising of their mothers. Holy Spirit send wave upon wave of compassion in the midst of trauma, light in darkness, and the peace that only love can bring in the midst of utter madness.

Agreeing with the Psalmist prayer for the ages, we cry out: Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him. (Psalm 68:1)

We ask these things, declaring the things that are not yet as though they were already, believing in your power to do beyond all we can ask or even imagine through your power at work within us, and trusting in the strong name of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.”

 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Acts 16: 16 – 24

Apparently, Paul and his companions spent a substantial amount of time staying with Lydia and her family in Philippi. On one occasion as they went to the riverside place of prayer they encountered a young servant girl, possessed with a spirit which enabled her to predict the future. She earned a great deal of money for her masters by this gift.

It seems that she followed Paul and his companions around constantly telling all who would listen that these men were servants of the Most High God and would tell them how to be saved. After doing this non-stop for many days, Paul was annoyed.

I have to say I have often wondered why Paul had not already cast this spirit out of her. I have a hunch Paul had not been aggressive and already cast this spirit out of her because it actually helped her with her masters but who knows?

Anyway, Paul cast out that spirit from her and she was released but she was no longer the money-maker her owners wanted. They grew furious at Paul for taking away their money-making machine, grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them away to face the authorities.

They accused Paul and Silas of being Jews who were causing an uproar in their city by proclaiming customs which were unlawful for good Romans to follow and practice. That of course was not true. They were proclaiming Christ and Him crucified.

These men were upset at Paul because he had cast out the spirit from their servant girl; he had cost them money. They caused a riot because Paul and Silas had cost them money. Earlier they ran into problems because some of the Jews were jealous of them and now people were angry at them for financial reasons. Ever happened to you? Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy! Please!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, April 01, 2022

Acts 16: 10 – 15

I include verse 10 here because it begins the consistent usage of plural first-person pronouns when describing Paul and his traveling companions which would suggest grammatically that the physician Luke has now joined with them and travels with them.

Paul and his traveling companions leave Turkey immediately for Macedonia by ship and eventually arrive in the capital of Philippi where they stayed for several days. Apparently, there was no synagogue in the city so they went out to the river and they found women gathered at a place of prayer there.

Following the example of Jesus, they sat there and spoke with the women. One of those women was a merchant of purple cloth from Thyatira named Lydia. Lydia was a worshiper of God, much like the centurion Cornelius was.

Luke tells us that the Lord opened her heart to Paul’s message; she believed on Jesus and was baptized, along with all of her household. She then invited Paul and his companions to her home and persuaded them to stay with her.

Our oldest daughter Lidia is named after this Lydia who was the first conversion to Christ in Europe. And I wonder what God has in mind as we prepare to travel to Europe in about a month for our Lidia’s wedding. Hmmm… Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Acts 16: 6 – 10

I absolutely love this! Paul, Silas and his companions are so in tune with the Holy Spirit that they know exactly where they are supposed to go next as they travel through what is now modern day Turkey.

For whatever reason, the Holy Spirit would not let them preach in the province of Asia which today would be western Turkey. As they travel northward, wanting to travel into the province of Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them entry so they headed to the coastal city of Troas, located about four miles from the ancient city of Troy.

How do you think they knew that the Holy Spirit did not want them to preach in the provinces of Asia or Bithynia? Was it a feeling they had inside of them? Was it an intellectual impression? Did they actually hear a voice directing them saying “not here, not here?” We aren’t told how they knew just that they knew.

Then as they wait in the port city of Troas, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia standing and begging him to come over to Macedonia to help them. After seeing the vision, Paul and his companions got ready and left as soon as possible for Macedonia.

Do you think God still speaks to us through the Holy Spirit as He did back then? If so, why don’t we hear about it today? Why don’t we experience it like that today? Could it be that we stay so distracted with the chaos around us that we just can’t hear the Holy Spirit’s voice? Could it be that we depend so much on modern technology and convenience that we don’t need the Holy Spirit’s direction? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Acts 16: 1 – 5

Well, my brief breather is over as we plunge into Acts 16 with Paul and his companions. Again in a remarkable demonstration of bravery and mission mind-set, Paul returns to that same area where they had previously met with such dangerous, life-threatening opposition. It is as if they walked willingly right back into the lion’s den.

In Lystra they discovered a young disciple named Timothy who seems to have been well known in the churches both in Lystra and Iconium. Paul, not being poisoned against taking young disciples with him even in spite of his difficulties with John Mark, desired to take Timothy with him.

In another remarkable display of wisdom and humility, Paul circumcised Timothy. Even as they spread the word about the Jerusalem Council’s decision regarding the lack of necessity for Gentiles to be circumcised, Paul circumcised Timothy.

Paul knew that even though Timothy’s mother was Jewish he needed to be circumcised because his father was not. This act alone perhaps saved Paul and Timothy and their traveling companions many days of disruption and conflict with the Jews in the area and beyond. Just may have saved their lives as well.

I have a hunch here that the enduring influence of Barnabas on Paul may have just softened him to such things even as the constant situations they encountered demanded that Paul be strong and fierce to lead the Church of Jesus Christ deeper and deeper into the world around them. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Acts 15: 36 – 41

My personal breather continues today as I ponder a second thought which comes to mind as I sit here and contemplate Paul, Barnabas and their splitting of ways.

As far as I can find and know, nary a negative, condescending word is said about Barnabas in Scripture and yet he had such a sharp disagreement with Paul over young John Mark that he “broke up” with Paul and went his own way which pretty much ends what we know of his life story.

I have no idea what really happened with Barnabas but I wonder. He had such a gift of encouragement that his nickname Barnabas meant “Son of Encouragement.” His actual name was Joseph and we know he was a Levite from Cyprus but we hear very little about any of that.

He was an encourager, the Son of Encouragement, Barnabas. We know that he encouraged others through his generosity when he sold a property and gave all of the proceeds to the early church. He did not make a big deal about that but the church did (we know about it today, don’t we?) and the church grew quickly and deeply due in part to his encouraging example of selfless generosity.

Then we watch as he put himself and his reputation and maybe even his own life at risk by reaching out to establish Saul in the early church even while much gossip and hearsay certainly circulated about Saul. Could he be trusted? Barnabas took that risk, trusted Saul and introduced him on his own credentials to the inner circle of the church in Jerusalem.

After a period of time in which Saul had been sent home to Tarsus it is Barnabas who went out of his way to go find Saul and re-engage him with the ministry that would change the world. And lastly, we see him sacrificing his own position with Paul to embrace and encourage the young John Mark in ministry.

Sometimes, we are called to place ourselves on the backburner for another, for the long-standing cause of Christ. That is exactly what Barnabas did here. I don’t think it mattered to him one iota whether he got any credit or anyone even knew his name; he just wanted Christ to be exalted.

I am challenged to be another Barnabas. How about you? Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, March 28, 2022

Acts 15: 36 – 41

I don’t know about you but at this point I need a bit of a breather. Just reading the adventures and travails of Paul, Barnabas and the others leaves me a bit breathless. Before we plunge on into Acts 16 and beyond a couple of thoughts have occurred to me.

First, from pretty much Pisidian Antioch to Iconium and Lystra and Derbe, Paul and Barnabas had run in to steep and I mean steep opposition. They were literally expelled from Pisidian Antioch and its entire region.

Moving on with the gospel to Iconium and spending a great deal of profitable time there, they became aware of an assassination plot against them and moved on to Lystra before that could happen. In Lystra with the healing of the lame man they were at first treated as gods from the Greek pantheon before enemies arrived from Antioch and Iconium and convinced the city to stone Paul. They moved on to Derbe without incident.

Now all of that is amazing but this is what stands out to me particularly. In spite of death threats and literally death attempts, Paul and Barnabas intentionally choose to go back through those same fearsome cities to visit the converts to Christ there, strengthen them and even appoint leaders for the churches there.

WoW! How many of us would willingly return to areas where we knew we were not wanted, even more, loathed and hated to once again put themselves on the line for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the new believers?

We know that they later returned other times to those cities seemingly without incident so I wonder if the consistent, faithful, holy, sanctified, set apart behavior of those converts had served to prove that Paul and Barnabas and Jesus were not their enemies but their friends. Hmmm?

May we live in such ways that regardless of the circumstances around us we proclaim Christ with our thoughts, our words, our deeds, and our attitudes that the Kingdom of God expands to wherever we go. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Acts 15: 36 – 41

Now, Barnabas wants to take John Mark out with them again but Paul refuses. He knew that John Mark had abandoned them once in their time of need and that was enough for him. Their disagreement over John Mark became so sharp that they decided to split up and go their own ways. Paul took Silas and headed toward Syria while Barnabas took John Mark and headed toward his home turf of Cyprus.

As disappointing as this all is, not a word of complaint or conviction is given here by our historian Luke. From this point on the spotlight shines firmly and resolutely on Paul and his traveling companions which makes sense because Luke becomes one of those traveling companions and can speak boldly of “us” and “we” as he discusses Paul’s further adventures in trusting Him.

Once again we see that old Encourager Barnabas putting himself on the line for another struggling saint as he had done on more than one occasion with Saul/Paul. Nary another word is given to us about Barnabas. We aren’t given any more information on this good man who God used to bless and transform both the early Church and the world.

However and this is a big however, we do hear a bit more about this John Mark. Later in Paul’s life he asks for John Mark to be brought to him and talks about how valuable he has become to him in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). John Mark also had a close relationship with Peter (I Peter 5:13) and of course wrote a Gospel attributed to him – Mark!

Thank God for Barnabas who even if he had good cause would not give up on Mark! Thank God for Paul who allowed for reconciliation to occur between him and Mark! Thank God for Mark who wouldn’t give up on himself, even in failure. And finally, thank GOD that He doesn’t give up on us!!! Is there someone in your life today you are tempted to abandon and give up on? Remember, Barnabas! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, March 25, 2022

Acts 15: 36 – 41

I have never understood what happens next. After navigating such a delicate situation, such a dangerous situation, such an important situation, Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” and both went their own ways. What happened here?

What was their sharp disagreement about? Better said, who was their sharp disagreement about?

As they left Antioch to visit all of the places they had previously visited Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. Remember when they had taken John Mark with them the first time and he bailed on them once they arrived in Perga and returned home to Jerusalem?

We are never told why John Mark left them. We are not told if he was homesick. We are not told if he was afraid of all the conflict they encountered. We are not told if John Mark left them because he remembered and perhaps had firsthand experience of all the havoc wreaked by Paul against the Church in Jerusalem.

We are not told if John Mark left them to go home and tattle on Paul for baptizing a Gentile (Sergius Paulus) which may have led to later issues. We are not told if he left them because apparently Paul had now become the de facto leader of their merry band. We just aren’t told. No explanation is given whatsoever. Mark went home! End of Story! Or is it?

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Acts 15: 22 – 35

This entire episode began because “certain people” who turned out to be Pharisees who believed in Jesus began to usurp the teaching of Paul and Barnabas by teaching new Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised to be saved.

This issue became a powder keg for early Christianity. Would faith in Jesus be relegated to and perhaps submitted to the Law? Would Christianity become just a sect of Judaism which would most likely die out in a few decades due to the inability to live according to the Law? Isn’t that why Jesus came to save?

James listened to Peter, Barnabas and Paul give testimony to their experiences and how God had chosen them to reach the Gentiles for faith. Did you notice that here in this chapter our dynamic due is once again known as Barnabas and Paul? I wonder if that was because they would always be known thusly in Jerusalem because they knew Barnabas first.

Anyway in this letter James tells them that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and them to release the Gentile believers in Jesus from circumcision and all the demands of the Law; however, they (the Holy Spirit and them) do give them four restrictions to follow: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

In many cities most of the meat if not all of the meat was sacrificed first to some pagan idol and then offered up for sale which would bring one in to idolatry; this caused stumbling blocks for some. The life is in the blood and the blood is life which explains the long-held restriction on eating meat with blood still in it.

Strangled animals would have most likely still had the blood still in it. Sexual morality became one of if not the one characteristic that began to demonstrate and differentiate relationship to Christ to the pagan world.

It seems to me (and others much wiser than me) that these restrictions seemed to allow for and promote fellowship and communion between believers in Christ from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds while also offering a powerful witness to the world.

With these restrictions in place they could actually come together in Christ rather than be further separated by the Law. Wow! Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Acts 15: 12 – 21

This may be as good a time as any to take a look at the James mentioned here. This James was not the brother of John as he had already been martyred for his faith at this time.

Remember when Herod had him arrested and executed back in chapter 12? His death pleased the Jews so much that it encouraged the ever political, ever plotting Herod to then arrest Peter which didn’t work out so well.

This James was not the brother of John but the brother of Jesus. I don’t do this often in this space but I want to share with you how William Barclay in his commentary on the Acts of the Apostles describes this James:

“The position of James was all important. He was the leader of the Jerusalem Church.

His leadership was not that of an official office; it was a moral leadership conceded

to him because he was an outstanding man. He was the brother of Jesus himself.

He had had a special resurrection appearance of Jesus all to himself (I Corinthians 15: 7).

He was a pillar of the Church (Galatians 1:19). He was so constant in prayer

that his knees were said to be as hard as a camel’s because he knelt so often and so long.

He was so good a man that he was called James the Just. And further – and this was

all important – he himself was a rigorous observer of the Law.

If this man the pillar and crown of orthodoxy came down on the side of the Gentiles

then all was well. And James did.” (Barclay, Acts of the Apostles, pp. 124 – 125)

 I love this description of James by William Barclay. I long to be a man like this James. The world longs for men and women like this James  – impeccable character, hardened knees from countless hours of submissive prayer before God, respected by all sides of a divisive issue, related by blood to Jesus but even  more so related by Jesus’ spilled blood. May we, you and me be like James in today’s world. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Acts 15: 12 – 21

So, there is definitely division about what to do about Gentiles who convert to Christianity; did they need to convert to Judaism first in order to become followers of Christ?

This was basically the question before the council in Jerusalem. Would Christianity become a sect of Judaism? The question basically goes back to Peter who once again reminded the council of what had happened to him and Cornelius the centurion which included the vision and message that Peter had received from God before Cornelius’ men had ever arrived.

Peter reminded them how God demonstrated his acceptance for the Gentiles by pouring out his Holy Spirit on them just as he had done with them on the Day of Pentecost. He points out that God did not discriminate against the Gentiles and neither should they.

Then, Paul and Barnabas stood up and gave testimony before the council on all that God had done in and through them with Gentiles throughout their missionary journey. They shared with them all the signs and wonders God had done with the Gentiles.

Then James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem added to these powerful testimonies the words of the prophets which had earlier demonstrated God’s love and plan for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. James then told them that they shouldn’t make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

This makes me wonder. I wonder if the way I live, the way I am, makes it difficult for others who are in the process of turning to God. Do I put obstacles in their way without even knowing it? How about you? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, March 21, 2022

Acts 15: 1 – 11

I am sorry; I can’t quite leave this passage yet. I saw that one statement from those ‘certain people’ who traveled from Judah to Antioch to set the people straight there about salvation and it convicted me again. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

That is quite the statement there, isn’t it? There is no doubt in that statement. There is no uncertainty in that statement. There is no wavering in that statement. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” Wow!

So, I have to ask this question: who did they think they were? Were they actually elevating Moses above Jesus here? Were they actually elevating themselves above Jesus here? They may not have meant to but it sure seems that way to me. I can’t recall Jesus ever saying anything like that. Come to think of it, never recall Moses ever saying anything like that…

And as I point my rather fat finger at those ‘certain people’ who had certainly set themselves up as experts in this matter and maybe experts in every matter, I discover that I have four fat fingers pointing back at me.

Who am I? When have I set myself up as the expert and made ridiculous claims I expected others to accept as truth? I am that man!

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy! Please!!!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Acts 15: 1 – 11

“After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15: 7 – 11)

Any questions?

Often times we just have to add to God’s message of love and grace and faith. It can come from our nationalistic pride, the traditions we were raised in, the culture around us, etc. but the simple fact of it is: Christ and Him crucified for our sins. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Acts 15: 1 – 5

As Paul and Barnabas and the others who had been specifically selected by the church in Antioch to go to Jerusalem traveled they shared along the way how God had worked salvation for even the Gentiles; this caused great gladness among the believers.

Arriving in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were welcomed by the apostles and leaders of the church who then received their report of all God had done through them since they had last seen each other. Then we find out a bit more information about those “certain” people who had traveled to Antioch and brought great dispute.

We discover that they were indeed believers in Jesus but were originally from the party of the Pharisees. They boldly proclaimed, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the Law of Moses.” They seem to have added to their message since beginning in Antioch. Gentiles didn’t just need to be circumcised; they needed to keep the entire Law of Moses.

I just want to stop here for the day and ask. So, were they truly believers in Jesus? Did they think that they were saved because of their faith and trust in Jesus? Or did they think they were pretty good beforehand and didn’t really need to be saved?

I think we can see much of that same kind of thinking in our world today. People claim to be Christians but by observing their lives, their Facebook pages, their hotly expressed opinions, they seem to be everything but followers of Christ. What do our lives reveal about us?

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Acts 15: 1 – 4

Certain people – Luke does not tell us who these “certain people” were only that they journeyed from Judea to Antioch. Once in Antioch they began to preach that before Gentiles could be saved; actually, as a prerequisite for Gentiles to be saved, they had to be circumcised. What the what? What is going on here?

We have already seen during the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas that their heaviest attacks of persecution came from Jews who grew jealous at the success of their ministry. Now, there seems to be another attempt to squelch or quench the gospel by adding requirements to it.

This must have thrown the believers in Antioch for a loop. This must have generated great confusion for these new believers in Christ as Paul and Barnabas began to sharply dispute and debate with these Judaizers. Did they really have to become Jewish before they could become followers of Christ?

If you think about it and I am going to say that maybe just maybe these were “well-meaning” folks who were once again thinking for God and perhaps trying to save God here by requiring circumcision before salvation much as they had done over the centuries by building a wall of laws around the law.

But the reality is that they were subverting the truth and the power of the gospel before the law. They were burying Jesus beneath the law. Jesus had already been buried once and he burst forth from that grave.  They were placing the act or the good work of circumcision above grace by faith, salvation by faith, the blood of the Lamb. LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Acts 14: 21 – 28

Being run out of Lystra by I am sure “well-meaning” folks who thought they were doing God a favor, Paul, Barnabas and their crew went on to Derbe. Luke doesn’t really give us any strategy or fireworks here so their accusers must not have followed them to Derbe; maybe they thought Paul was dead…

Once again we are not told that they went to the synagogue in Derbe but just began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe there was not a synagogue there or Paul and Barnabas had changed their tactics and had moved directly to the Gentiles. They apparently had great success with new converts in Derbe.

They then began to backtrack and head home. They stopped at their previous destinations to check on those who had accepted Christ and encourage them in the faith. They also appointed elders or leaders for them in each church and by prayer and fasting committed them to the Lord whom they had trusted.

Twice in these two paragraphs the word committed is used. First it is used in verse 23 describing Paul and Barnabas committing the new leaders, the elders of the churches, to the Lord in whom they also had put their trust.

They eventually made their way back to Antioch where they had originally started this journey, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. They had come full circle.

This missionary journey began by God calling Barnabas and Paul through prophets and by the laying on of their hands and committing them into God’s grace were now laying on their hands upon others and committing them to the Lord as the work continued in a new way.

As I think about today and all that is swirling around us today; wars and rumors of wars, wars even within the church, “fears within and fears without” as the old hymn writer would say, I can’t think of a better time to re-commit ourselves to the Lord and to his grace that we may complete the work He has for us.

Maybe those words used by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane are most appropriate for today: “Not my will but your will be done…”

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Acts 14: 8 – 20

As they fled Iconium taking Christ with them and sharing the good news of Jesus on their way they arrived at Lystra. We are not told here that they made their way to the synagogue; maybe there wasn’t a synagogue in Lystra.

This didn’t stop Paul and Barnabas, they began proclaiming Christ where they were and a man who was lame listened. Seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul looked him in the eye and commanded him to stand up. The man jumped up and began to walk! Can you imagine that? WoW!

This was an amazing miracle which aroused the city so much that they began to proclaim that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes. The priest of Zeus came rushing out of the temple to sacrifice bulls to Paul and Barnabas, to worship them.

This, of course, horrified Paul and Barnabas who rushed out into their midst and stopped them from worshiping them by telling them they were mere mortals as well but were proclaiming to them the truth about Jesus Christ and it was by His name that the man was healed.

Paul told them to put aside these worthless things of pagan gods and accoutrements and turn to the Living God! I love it here where Paul told them that in the past, God let them go their own way even though he continued to bless and provide for them but now the truth had arrived in His Son Jesus!

Then, some of their old adversaries from Antioch and Iconium arrived and quickly turned the crowd against them. They actually stoned Paul and thinking him dead dragged his corpse out of the city. As the disciples gathered around them looking at his battered body, Paul jumped up and they all went back into the city. WoW! Can you imagine being there on that day? How all of their hearts must have raced!

The next day they continued on to another city. May you and I continue on, taking Jesus with us always and trusting in Him regardless of the circumstances, the challenges, the persecution. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, March 14, 2022

Acts 14: 1 – 7

As the bruised and battered Paul and Barnabas were expelled from Pisidian Antioch, they shook the dust off their feet as one last warning to those who just refused to believe and made their way to Iconium. As was their custom, arriving in Iconium they went to the Jewish synagogue and began to preach there so they continued to reach out to the Jews in spite of their previous rejection.

Luke tells us that they spoke so effectively there that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But some of those Jews who refused to believe stirred up this time the other Gentiles. I wonder if they couldn’t find any available God-fearing women of high standing or leading men of the city as were used as weapons against Paul and Barnabas previously…

It interests me, even intrigues me that here in Iconium, the Jews levered such influence that they were able to incite Gentiles against the Jews. Luke tells us that they “poisoned” their minds against them. Have you ever witnessed or experience any of that “poisoning of minds?” I would have to say that it is probably more common than we would care to admit, particularly in the divisive, poisonous climate in which we live today…

Anyway, the persecution that resulted from this poisoning of the minds did not cause Paul and Barnabas to immediately flee the premises. They were greatly empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak boldly of Christ and the Holy Spirit also enabled them to perform signs and wonders which confirmed the truth and power of their message.

Alas, the city became divided over them and their message and a persecution/assassination/execution plot against them was uncovered. Paul and Barnabas eventually had to flee but guess what? They continued to take Christ with them and preached the Gospel wherever they were chased. I ask us again; do we take Jesus with us wherever we go as those early followers did?

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Acts 13: 13 – 52

Before we leave this passage may we remember a few lessons to learn from Paul and Barnabas:

1) If we look hard enough we can find common ground with anyone.

2) We can build on this common ground to connect and lead others to Jesus.

3) How well can we tell the story, our family tree actually, of faith?

4) People with hearts after GOD willingly obey immediately what GOD has them do.

5) Do we recognize Jesus in our midst, Jesus in our lives?

6) Do we fulfill prophesy by our disobedience or by our obedience as the case may be?

7) Our bodies will decay like David’s but the body of the One whom God raised from the dead did not see decay!

8) May we always remember dear friends that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to us!

9) May we always remember that through Jesus everyone who believes is set free from every sin!

10) May we remember that if we allow jealousy to enter in, destruction follows.

11) Do we consider ourselves worthy of eternal life or do we reject the word of God?

12) Do we honor the word of God by believing, trusting and submitting to the Word?

13) Do we God-fearing women of high standing and leading men of the city allow God to work through us or work to hinder the word of God?

14) In spite of the challenges, difficulties and persecutions they experienced in Pisidian Antioch, the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit! May it so be with us as we walk in humility and obedience to the word of God. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, March 11, 2022

Acts 13: 42 – 52

I leaped over, well, stumbled over is probably better said Paul’s initial response to those who opposed him in Pisidian Antioch. When the Jews saw the crowds and were filled with jealousy and began to oppose and abuse Paul and Barnabas, they responded this way:

“We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not

consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring salvation To the ends of the earth.’”

Paul and Barnabas gave a fair opportunity to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch and as it will turn out, to any Jew anywhere they visit on their missionary journeys. They began with the Jews and did their best to win them to Christ. When they were eventually rejected, they turned full bore to bring salvation to the Gentiles as it had been prophesied over them.

Now, I ask us some questions. Do we consider ourselves worthy of eternal life? Well, do we? And have we ever wondered what God’s calling on our lives might be? Could it also be to bring salvation to the ends of the earth? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Acts 13: 42 – 46

So, as we have previously seen, Paul builds common ground with both the Jews and the Gentile converts by building on their shared history which they all held in common. There were no arguments there from anyone.

He then continued in their shared history by linking in Jesus as a direct descendant of David and demonstrating how this Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophesy spoken both by David and other prophets. There were still no arguments from anyone.

Even when Paul gets downright personal with their shared story and connected the death and resurrection of Jesus with forgiveness of their sins and salvation, there were still absolutely no arguments. Paul puts the necessity of believing in this Jesus to them all without argument.

When he finishes preaching and teaching, his listeners are so struck by his words that they invite Paul and his companions to return to teach them. On the next Sabbath day when they returned, Luke tells us that most of the city was there to hear them.

At this point when the Jews saw the huge crowds, they grew jealous and began to argue with Paul and “heap abuse” on him. This is when arguments broke out and hatred entered in; when jealousy entered the picture.

Luke tells us that the Jews involved the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city to stir up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their region. Did you catch that? They stirred up good, God-fearing, respectful women and men to confront and abuse Paul and Barnabas.

LORD help all of us good, God-fearing, respectful men and women from interfering with Your plans for the world. Give us eyes to see, minds to understand and hearts to love YOU regardless of the circumstances… LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy. Please…

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Acts 13: 23 – 41

After establishing common ground with both the Jews and the Gentiles in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch by relating and affirming their shared history, he drops the hammer on them. He moves seamlessly from King David to Jesus.

He uses quotes from both John the Baptist and King David in the Psalms to reveal and establish the real identity of this Jesus, their Messiah, the Son of the Living GOD. Without batting an eye Paul explains to them how Jesus was sentenced to death without cause and yet how he rose from the dead with cause – the forgiveness of our sins!

I want to end with Paul’s full quote here from Acts 13: 38 – 41: “Therefore my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him, everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: ‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’”

Therefore my friends, I want you to know that this Jesus died and rose from the dead to pay for your sins and for mine. He has thus set us free from every sin and justified us which we could not earn for ourselves. Do you believe this? Please believe this. As for me, I believe! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Acts 13: 13 – 22

I wonder what happened in Perga. Luke gives us no details. He only tells us that John Mark left them at this point and returned home to Jerusalem. Luke doesn’t even tell us that Paul and Barnabas visited the local synagogue or if they preached there. All Luke tells us is they arrived from Paphos and then went to Pisidian Antioch.

In Pisidian Antioch they went to the synagogue on the Sabbath as they had been doing their entire lives, as they continued to do. It seems they acted with dignity and respect in that synagogue and won the favor of the locals by their respectful behavior; so much so that they were actually invited to share a word of exhortation with the people. Wow!

It is none other than Paul who stood up and began to teach about their own shared history. He told them nothing new in this passage. All in attendance that day would have agreed one hundred percent with Paul at this point. Paul started with their shared history, their shared story.

A couple of points tweak me in this passage. First, Paul says that “for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness.” I love it! That is a massive understatement. God did indeed endure their conduct in the wilderness but there were certainly some rough spots where it could have been easy for God to decide not to endure their conduct and send them on their way; but GOD didn’t!

Thank you GOD for enduring their conduct in the wilderness. Thank you even more GOD for enduring my conduct in the wilderness! Do you care to join me in a collective Hallelujah? Hallelujah!!!

In describing King David, Paul uses God’s description in which He calls him “a man after my own heart.” What do you think he meant by that description? When I think of someone being after God’s own heart I think that person would do anything to gain God’s favor, God’s love, God’s presence.

God went on to flesh-out that description by saying, “he will do everything I want him to do.” David lived in full obedience to God demonstrating he was after God’s own heart by that said obedience. Are you a person after God’s own heart? Am I a man after God’s own heart? Is the proof in the pudding of our lives? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, March 07, 2022

Acts 13:13

“From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.”

A couple of things drew my attention from this single verse. Does anything jump out at you?

For the first time, as best as I can tell, Paul comes first in the listing. Always before it has been Barnabas and Saul, Barnabas and Saul, Barnabas and Saul.

We were introduced to Barnabas first by Luke because Barnabas came on the scene earlier than Saul whose ignominious debut was as one who apparently led the charge to execute Stephen.  Barnabas is the one who encourages seemingly everyone around him.

Whether by giving with extraordinary generosity or risking himself to bring Saul safely into the fold or by going far out of his way to involve Saul once again into ministry, Barnabas is the leader. Barnabas comes first or at least he did until this point in the story. Also, he is called Paul from here on out…

At the same time, young John Mark jumps ship so to speak and heads home. We don’t know why. Was he homesick? Did he have a sense that they would soon be attacked on all sides and he wasn’t prepared for it? Or did he realize that his buddy Barnabas was no longer in charge? Hmm…

Regardless, we once again see Barnabas submitting himself for the good of others, for the good of the kingdom. I want to be like Barnabas who wanted to be like Jesus. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Acts 13:4 – 12

Now we find this dynamic duo plus one making their way to Cyprus which was Barnabas’ home turf. We can still see Barnabas’ great heart for his people. He wants to take the Gospel back to his own. They proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues throughout Cyprus.

They met a false prophet, a destructive pretender named Bar-Jesus who attended the pro-consul, Sergius Paulus. Sergius Paulus actually summoned Barnabas, Saul and John Mark to come and share the Gospel with him where they discovered the sorcerer Bar-Jesus opposing them and trying to keep the proconsul from believing.

Barnabas and Saul ended up putting a curse on this sorcerer that he would be blinded for a time because he had tried to keep Sergius Paulus from believing. Interesting that he became blind and wandered around in mist and darkness and needed someone to lead him by the hand, just exactly what he had been doing against Sergius Paulus to keep him in the deep darkness and swirling mists of doubt, confusion and unbelief. WoW! LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, March 04, 2022

Acts 12: 25 – 13:5

“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.’”

In their new, adopted but fully embraced home town of Antioch, Barnabas and Saul are called by God to be set apart for mission work. Their new family surrounds them, lays hands on them and sends them out for mission.

Did you notice here that they didn’t go alone? Barnabas and Saul actually took someone with them on their missionary journey. Actually, John Mark is first mentioned as returning with them to Antioch from Jerusalem. It was at this John Mark’s mother’s house where those might prayer warriors had gathered to pray for Peter then couldn’t believe it when he was released.

I love this. We see the continuation of the encouragement of Barnabas. We have seen what Barnabas did to encourage the early church in Jerusalem with his generosity. We have seen how he went out of his way at great personal risk to embrace and befriend Saul and vouch for him with the early church.

We saw how Barnabas went out of his way to find and fetch Saul for the ministry in Antioch and now we see him befriending the young John Mark and taking him with them. See how Barnabas and Saul were pouring their lives into John Mark.

What better way to train someone up for ministry than to spend yourselves for them together in that work? This is a beautiful example for us all to follow as we seek others to join us in knowing Christ and serving Christ.

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said…” I don’t know about you but that hasn’t happened so much to me while I have been worshiping and fasting. I sincerely wish that was a common occurrence with me. Unfortunately, it isn’t but there have been such moments which continue to stir, nourish and inspire my soul. And I thank and praise GOD again for those who took me along for the journey of mission and ministry. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Acts 12: 25 – 13:3

In these few short verses we find a remarkable transformation! So, we have two men mentioned here: Saul from Tarsus and Barnabas from Cyprus. When Luke began the story of the Apostles and the Holy Spirit here in Acts, it seems like both Saul and Barnabas called Jerusalem home or at least their headquarters.

But now in a few short chapters everything has changed! Saul and Barnabas had been completely transformed by the Living Jesus and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Barnabas had left Jerusalem to travel to Antioch and see what the Spirit was doing there.

After a brief stay there he went on to Tarsus to look for and retrieve Saul and took him back to Antioch. They spent a year there teaching, growing and multiplying disciples in Antioch. Returning to Jerusalem, accompanying an offering there, they quickly return to Antioch. Antioch seems to have now become their home, their new headquarters.

Barnabas and Saul were now completely invested in the folks of Antioch. It reminds me of how Paul would later describe their ministry among the Thessalonians: “We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…” (I Thessalonians 2:6-8)

Looks like this personal, intimate, “all-in,” aspect of their ministry first began in Antioch. WoW! What does it feel like when someone just shares the Gospel with you without being invested in you? How does it feel when someone shares the Gospel with you while investing completely in you? It is a soul-saving difference as clear as night and day!

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Acts 12: 1 – 24

An incredible miracle has occurred here. Peter, who was the subject of the miracle, did not realize he was escaping from prison until he had been awakened by an angel, his chains magically fell off, he and the angel walked out of his cell and through two sets of guards and out the gate.

His close friends who had been praying for Peter couldn’t believe their prayers had been so answered and Peter had miraculously escaped from Herod’s evil clutches. Peter was left hanging outside until Rhoda convinced them that it was indeed Peter outside knocking on the door instead of his angel. What?

Luke tells us in such an understated way that “there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had had become of Peter.” You bet there was no small commotion! How would they ever adequately explain to Herod that it was not their fault, that Peter just up and vanished? This was Sawshank Redemption two thousand or so years before the movie premiered.

And Herod; Herod was one of the most vile, pathetic, sociopathic figures in history who was responsible for marrying his brothers’ wife and many other despicable acts. Herod responded to this amazing miracle by refusing to believe a miracle had occurred and having the guards executed.

I guess it is hard to believe in such miracles when you think of yourself as god… Later he went to his seaside home in Caesarea and spoke with the citizens of Tyre and Sidon. They needed Herod’s approval so they praised him like he was indeed a god and Herod, well he gladly accepted their praise and Herod, because he refused to recognize the One, True God and that it wasn’t slimy him was eaten up by worms and died a horrible death of death.

And you and I; how will we respond to the miracle? As for me, I believe and I trust and I submit to the Living GOD. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Acts 12: 1 – 18

Seeing that his arrest and execution of John pleased the Jews, Herod decided to arrest Peter also. Interesting that he didn’t bring Peter to trial during the Passover. I assume with the large crowds from all over the world in Jerusalem for the Passover, Herod may have missed a great opportunity but for whatever reason, he waited until the Passover was over. Maybe he feared a riot…

While Peter languished in jail, guarded around the clock by four squads of four soldiers each, the church was earnestly praying for Peter. The word “earnestly” is defined by Oxford Languages as “with sincere and intense conviction; seriously.” In other words, they were praying with all their hearts.

Even the night before Peter was to be tried publicly the church was gathered at the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother, to pray for him. As Peter slept, doubly chained between two soldiers, he was rather rudely awakened by an angel striking him on the side and lead out of the jail.

Thinking it all a dream, Peter went with the angel until they were out of the jail and a block away when the angel disappeared. Peter went to Mary’s home where the mighty prayer warriors had gathered and knocked at the door.

When Mary’s servant Rhoda went to the door and heard Peter calling to her she left him hanging outside and ran in to tell everyone Peter, the very Peter they were all praying for was standing outside their door! And how did these mighty prayer warriors respond? “You’re out of your mind.”

She insisted so that they finally conceded that maybe it was Peter’s angel knocking at the door which causes me to wonder if an angel really needed to knock at anyone’s door. Biblically, angels seem to go where they are commanded to go and aren’t known to knock on any doors.

But Peter continued to knock. I imagine at this point he was knocking fairly frantically and loudly. When they finally opened the door they encountered Peter!

So, again, I just have to wonder here. They were praying earnestly for Peter but seemed to be surprised by his escape. Does this demonstrate a lack of faith on their part? Or had they learned the sad lesson from John that sometimes God doesn’t answer as they wanted? What do you think?

I guess it doesn’t really matter but the main thing is to pray with all of our hearts, trusting in God for His outcome. This time, Peter’s life was spared; for the time being… I think back to the disciples and join their plea, “Lord, teach us to pray…”

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, February 28, 2022

Acts 12: 1 – 18

I wonder… Luke starts this section with “It was about this time…” I wonder if this means it was about this time when the severe famine reared its ugly head throughout the Roman world as we were previously told in Acts 11:28.

From Luke’s account at this point it seems that persecution against the church had settled down. It actually seems, as we have previously noted, that much of that early, fierce persecution against the church was catalyzed by Saul who seemed to have an obsessive vendetta against Christ and his followers.

We know what happened to Saul and even though attempts had been made against Saul’s life, when he was sent back home to Tarsus the threats against the church seemed to subside. But here we find that Herod had arrested John, one of the Sons of Thunder (I just had to point that out. I love that nickname!), and then had him executed.

Seeing that John’s arrest and execution greatly pleased the Jews, Herod arrested Peter to gain even greater approval from the Jews. So, again, I wonder. Did the fierce famine put such political pressure on Herod because he couldn’t end the famine or feed the people that he tried to divert their attention by attacking the church?

Hmm? Maybe in attacking the church he was putting blame on the church? Who knows? This may have been the first time a political leader used the church for political gain but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy! Please…

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Acts 11: 19 – 30

I feel compelled to spend one more day looking at this passage. Barnabas and Saul spent an entire year in Antioch encouraging and teaching the church there. During that time a prophet named Agabus arrived from Jerusalem and shared with them that a famine was coming upon the entire Roman world.

Luke later tells us that this famine occurred during the reign of Claudius and there seem to be other historical sources which tell of a famine that affected this area during his reign. Well Agabus, led by the Holy Spirt saw it coming much as Joseph saw the faming coming on Egypt in his day.

I am fascinated that the prophet Agabus prophesied about this coming famine and the early followers of Christ in Antioch listened to his prophesy. I mean, they really listened to the prophesy.

How do we know they really listened to Agabus? They really listened because they didn’t just sit there; they took up an offering and sent it on to Judea by Barnabas and Saul to help their struggling brothers and sisters in Christ there.

May our listening ears be as attentive and active as those long ago in Antioch. May our listening ears be connected to our hearts and hands as those in Antioch. May our listening ears and loving hearts be connected to our checkbooks as those in Antioch. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, February 25, 2022

Acts 11: 19 – 30

Once again, news of Gentiles hearing the good news about Jesus and responding to that good news led the church in Jerusalem to send Barnabas to Antioch. Remember Barnabas? We first heard about Barnabas in chapter 4 when he sold a field he owned and brought the proceeds to the disciples and laid it at their feet.

It was this same Barnabas who intervened on behalf of Saul after his conversion when the disciples in Jerusalem were so afraid of him they wouldn’t accept him. Barnabas risked himself with Saul, took him to the disciples, personally vouched for him, and told his story to the disciples. The disciples accepted Saul into their midst on the words of Barnabas.

Now, we find Barnabas once again thinking of Saul. Barnabas travels to Antioch, saw how God’s grace was moving there and encouraged all of the believers. He then left Antioch to travel more than eighty miles away searching for Saul who had been sent home to Tarsus by the disciples in Jerusalem.

Barnabas is described in this passage as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith…” We see that once again lived out in Barnabas as he leaves the city of Antioch, travels out of his way, searches for Saul until he finds him and then takes him back to Antioch where the two of them spend the next year growing the church in Antioch!

Have you ever had a Barnabas in your life who went out of their way for you? If you have, don’t you think this is the perfect week to thank that Barnabas? I am going to have to draw up a list of all the Barnabases God sent me way. Thank you, Jesus! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Acts 11: 19 – 30

In today’s passage we continue to see the great impact of the persecution which broke out upon Stephen’s death. As believers fled from the persecution in Jerusalem and traveled to other countries like Phoenicia and Cyprus, they took Jesus with them by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wherever they went they shared their stories and told of the good news of Jesus Christ. The church continued to grow by leaps and bounds not in spite of the persecution but because of the persecution. At first these witnesses only shared the good news with other Jews but eventually folks from Cyprus and Cyrene shared the good news with Gentiles.

I wonder why. Did they not know they weren’t supposed to share God’s love and grace with non-Jews? Had someone forgotten to tell them? Did they miss the memo? Or did they just want everyone to experience what they were experiencing in Jesus? Ding, ding, ding!!! Surely that latter response is the better reason!

I have to wonder if somewhere there is a living map of my life and wherever I travel. I wonder if there is evidence to demonstrate that I take Jesus with me wherever I go. I wonder if lives are changed because of the way I live out Jesus within me. LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Acts 11: 4 – 18

How did Peter respond to their criticism? He did what Jesus had commanded him to do at his ascension. He simply told the story. He told them about his strange, triple vision of God actually telling him to kill and eat from animals which were both clean and unclean. He told them how he refused to eat and then God rebuking him for calling unclean something H had made clean.

He told them about the arrival of Cornelius’ men at that exact time and the Holy Spirit’s guidance to go with them no questions asked. He told them how Cornelius, his family and friends were waiting for him. He told them how the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles while he preached.

He told them at this point how he had remembered Jesus’ words: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” and realized that this was exactly what was happening and how could he or anyone possibly stand in the way of God.

When they heard his honest, simple, powerful story they all acquiesced, had no further objections and praised God for granting even to the Gentiles repentance leading to everlasting life. WoW! The power of Peter’s story explaining the Lord’s actions through the visions and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit had great effect! I wonder what the impact of our simple stories would have on those around us. We may be surprised.

I am reminded of Katherine Hankey’s famous words in her hymn, ‘I Love to Tell the Story’: “I love to tell the story; ‘tis pleasant to repeat what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet. I love to tell the story, for some have never heard the message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.”

Isn’t it time for us to tell that story today? Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Acts 11: 1 – 3

What could go wrong, right?

Let us have a bit of a recap after this long weekend. Last week we took a look at the passages when Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, a Gentile believer in God who was known for his righteous, generous living encountered an angel who told him to send for Peter.

Cornelius immediately obeyed and sent his men to find Peter and invite him to come for a visit. Meanwhile, a hungry Peter had a vision of a large sheet being let down from heaven containing animals of all sorts and sizes, clean and unclean, with a voice telling him to kill and eat.

Peter, of course, refused but God rebuked him for considering unclean anything that God had made clean. It took three attempts of this vision to get through to Peter. As Peter wondered about that vision he heard the men calling for him and the Holy Spirit told him to go down and speak to them and to go with them.

Arriving at Cornelius’ house he found a huge crowd; a huge, Gentile crowd waiting to hear him preach. As he preached the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles just revealing even more God’s heart for all people. These Gentiles were baptized in the name of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.

What could go wrong, right? Well, of course, exhilarating word of this amazing encounter circulated and made its way back to Jerusalem. When Peter returned to Jerusalem he was met by circumcised believers who criticized him for entering the house of the uncircumcised and eating with them. What the what?

Something historic, something amazing, something incredible had just happened and these circumcised folks were upset that Peter had even met with them. They seemed to care less about the souls of these Gentiles. When have we done something similar??? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, February 21, 2022

Acts 10: 23 – 48

Peter asked Cornelius why he sent for him and then the centurion tells him the incredible story and tells him they are all there in the presence of God to listen to everything God has commanded him to tell them. Wow!

Peter begins to speak and announces to them all how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts people from every nation who fear him and do what is right. Wow! What a remarkable statement from Peter as he continues to grow in Christlikeness walking with and by the Holy Spirit!

He simply begins to tell them the story of Jesus which had to have been powerful indeed coming from a veritable eyewitness. He tells them how Jesus lived among them. He tells them how Jesus died among them. He tells them how Jesus rose from the dead among them.

He tells them that Jesus had commanded him and the other disciples to be his witnesses and to testify that Jesus is the one God appointed as judge of the living and the dead and that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through the name of Jesus. WoW! Hallelujah!

And it seems to me that just as Peter is getting really wound up and ready to preach for hours, the Holy Spirit falls upon them before Peter can even finish. This reveals to Peter and more importantly astonished those Jewish folks who had accompanied him from Joppa that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the uncircumcised Gentiles.

Peter then announced that since God had already poured out the Holy Spirit upon them that no-one could stand in their way and keep them from being baptized. He ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Acts 10: 23 – 29

So Peter and some others from Joppa went with the folks back to the house of Cornelius who had invited his family and friends to hear Peter. I love it that Cornelius had such faith that he knew his men would find Peter, he knew Peter would come because the angel had told him they would and so he went ahead and planned a party.

When Peter arrived, Cornelius fell at his feet but Peter urged him to get up because he was just a man. As Peter entered Cornelius’ home and encountered a lot of people there, he reminded them that it was against the law for him to associate with a Gentile or enter a Gentile’s home but God had just shown him that he should not call anyone impure or unclean so he obeyed and came.

Let’s look at this remarkable progression here. First, Peter chooses to stay at the home of Simon the tanner which if it didn’t break the law came very close. Peter was associating with people he probably normally wouldn’t and perhaps putting himself at risk of becoming unclean.

Then, he gets hungry while praying and has this amazing vision in which most of what he had been taught his entire life about clean and unclean food was rescinded in an instant. Well, it actually took three different instants but you know what I mean. Actually, quite impressive for Peter it didn’t take a dozen instants. I would have needed two dozen…

As he struggles with the meaning of the vision he hears men, Gentile men, knocking at his door who invited him to go to Caesarea with him to the home of Cornelius. By the Spirit’s prodding, he accepts their invitation and goes with them.

By the time he arrives with Cornelius and sees his house full of waiting Gentiles he has put two and two together and discovered that the vision wasn’t about food anyway but human beings! WoW! Hallelujah!!!

Like I said previously, if Peter was changed so amazingly there is indeed hope for each of us! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, February 18, 2022

Acts 10: 9 – 23

Meanwhile, back at the ranch; or rather, back at the house of Simon the tanner, Peter went up on the roof to pray and while he prayed he became hungry. That sounds familiar at least to me.J He apparently broke off praying just enough to ask for some food and while the food was being prepared and perhaps Peter was still thinking about lunch, he fell into a trance.

In the trance he saw a huge sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. It contained all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds and then he heard the voice of God telling him to kill and eat. Even in this trance, Peter stayed true to his orthodox, stubborn self and refused because he had never eaten anything impure or unclean. WoW!

The voice replied a second time: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

WoW! This happened three separate times and then the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter wondered about that vision, the three men sent by Cornelius knocked on the door asking for Peter. The Holy Spirit then intervened and told Peter to go meet the men and to go with them to Caesarea because the Holy Spirit had sent them there. WoW!

The Holy Spirit had certainly been doing a mighty work in Peter. From those days fishing in the Sea of Galilee to the call to be a follower of Jesus to his bitter failure in denying Jesus to his reinstatement along the seashore to the day of Pentecost, the life of Peter is dizzying yet being led steadily and consistently forward by the Holy Spirit. There is hope for all of us! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Acts 10: 1 – 8

It is interesting that the next steps for Peter at the home of Simon the tanner in Joppa began with a vision in Caesarea. This particular vision came to a Roman Centurion named Cornelius and what an introduction Luke gives us regarding this centurion.

Luke tells us: “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed regularly.” I must confess that this isn’t the introduction one would normally expect of a Roman centurion.

This introduction probably means that Cornelius was a friend of the Jews because he actually sought after their God and his heart was revealed in the way he gave generously to all in need and prayed to God regularly. Cornelius’ heart was revealed in his actions which revealed a man after God’s own heart.

God sent an angel in a vision to Cornelius who told him that his prayers and gifts to the poor had come up as a memorial offering to God. WoW! Did you ever consider that our actions here on earth actually rise to heaven and come up to God as a memorial offering? That thought humbles me and causes me to reflect on how often what I do here on earth does not go up to God as a memorial offering… LORD have mercy!

Anyhoo, the angel goes on to tell Cornelius to send some men to Joppa to find Peter and bring him back to them. The angel even goes so far as to basically give Cornelius GPS coordinates on how he can find Peter: “He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

Cornelius immediately sent for two of his servants and one of his devout soldiers and gave them marching orders to go to Joppa and find Peter to bring him back to them at Caesarea. Our God once again demonstrates His power and authority. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Acts 9: 43

“Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.”

Luke keeps his spotlight not necessarily on any human being but rather on the Holy Spirit working through certain human beings.

Since the execution of Stephen we have seen the Spirit moving specifically through Philip, Ananias, Saul and Peter while certainly moving in, among and through many others that we don’t know about.

I am intrigued here in this verse by Peter’s location. After the amazing miracle of raising Tabitha back to life from death, Peter decides to stay in Joppa which isn’t really surprising. What does surprise me is where Peter decided to stay.

He stayed with a man named Simon who happened to be a tanner which meant he worked among dead animals, particularly their skins. This isn’t exactly the kind of place or profession that you would expect to find a practicing Jew staying.

There were certain laws regarding cleanliness which were most likely burst wide open by Simon on a daily basis and here our Simon Peter chose to stay with him. I suppose he was invited. It is very possible that Simon the tanner wasn’t Jewish which makes this seem even more unlikely.

This seems so unlikely that I just have to imagine that GOD was preparing Peter for something tremendous, perhaps ministry among the Gentiles and was using this brief respite to prepare him for something completely new and perhaps even unimagined by Peter before. Did Peter feel it coming? I wonder what happens next… Come, Holy Spirit, come!!!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Acts 9: 32 – 43

As Saul returns to his home and perhaps safe shelter in Tarsus the spotlight shifts to Peter. Peter was traveling around the country taking Jesus with him wherever he went. He found himself in Lydda and discovered that a man named Aeneas lived there and had been paralyzed for eight long years. Can you imagine that? I can’t. I don’t want to imagine that.

Now, we don’t know what was said between them or if anything was said between them but Peter walked up to Aeneas and said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Aeneas immediately got up and rolled up his mat. WoW! Hallelujah!

All those who lived in that general vicinity saw Aeneas walking around and immediately turned to the Lord. WoW!!!

People from Joppa must have also heard about this miracle. Knowing Peter was close to them they sent for him. Someone they loved very much had died suddenly. Tabitha or Dorcas in Greek was known far and wide as always doing good and helping the poor became sick and died. Her body was prepared for burial but placed in a room. Peter was coming!

When he arrived he went upstairs and as the widows mourned for their friend they showed him all the robes and other clothing Tabitha had made while she was still alive. Deeply moved, Peter emptied the room then knelt and prayed. He then turned toward Tabitha and commanded that she open her eyes.

She opened her eyes! She was alive! WoW! Peter took her by the hand and helped her up then presented her to all the believers! This miracle also became known all over the city and many believed in the Lord. WoW! I long to see and experience such miracles today! Come, Holy Spirit, Come!!!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Happy Valentine’s Day! Since today is Valentine’s Day I find it most appropriate to share some of my favorite Scriptures on love. And by the way, these are great scriptures to memorize or rememberize if you haven’t already!

John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I John 3:16 – 18:

“This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

I Corinthians 13: 1 – 8a, 13:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Acts 9: 31 – 32

“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”

So, Saul is momentarily off stage, returning to his hometown of Tarsus and leaving controversy and conspiracy behind. The Holy Spirit however is still at work and the church in Jerusalem and beyond knows a period of peace and strengthening.

There is a phrase here that catches my eye – “Living in the fear of the Lord.” I know how I react whenever I hear fear of the Lord so I know you may react similarly. I say, “But we aren’t supposed to be afraid, we aren’t supposed to fear, perfect love casts out all fear…”

Keeping that in mind and let’s be honest many of the verses I have memorized over the years deal with fear so I know of what I speak. We are not to be afraid of God but we are to have deep, penetrating, intentional, reverential respect for God.

As we learn more and more who and how God is we should naturally develop this deep, penetrating, abiding reverence and respect for God. As we encounter the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God who is the God who demands and expects holiness we tremble and quake. As we encounter the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God who also is our JUDGE, we tremble and quake. I get it.

But He is also the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY GOD and JUDGE who loves us and sent His Son to die for us to make us holy as He expects us to be. WoW! I think we are missing this idea of deep, penetrating, intentional, reverential, respect for GOD. Otherwise we would respond and respect others differently.

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD, please teach us how to have this deep, penetrating, intentional, reverential respect for You as You deserve and use us in this reverential respect to transform the world. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Acts 9: 19 – 31

How would it feel to be a catalyst?

It seems like Saul was the catalyst among the controversy with Stephen and his resulting execution. After Stephen’s death, great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem and again it seems like Saul was the great catalyst as he went door to door arresting followers of Christ and breathing out threats against the church.

As the persecution attempts to move from Jerusalem, once again Saul is the catalyst as he gets permission from the high priest in Jerusalem to go himself to Damascus and attack the church there. After Saul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus there is a new catalyst in his life, the Holy Spirit.

As the scales fall from his eyes and heart he is a new man filled with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. He can’t help himself, he has to proclaim the good news about Jesus, the One who met him on the road to Damascus, the One who rose from the dead! In a matter of days Saul is out once again causing controversy but this time as he preaches Christ and him crucified!

He is a catalyst for new growth in Damascus, so much so that his former friends seek to kill him and his former enemies are reluctant to accept him but growth happens quickly. Arriving in Jerusalem he immediately begins to proclaim Christ which completely confused many and he began to debate with the Hellenistic Jews who would have been his niche just a few weeks before. As they seek to kill him the disciples send him home to Tarsus for his own sake.

While Saul is gone from Jerusalem, persecution, controversy and conspiracy seem to end, peace reigns, the church is strengthened and grows by leaps and bounds because of the Great Catalyst, the Holy Spirit! Come, Holy Spirit, come! Catalyze us to be your Sauls here and now wherever we may go. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Acts 9: 19 – 31

Saul suddenly switched teams. His new team, the disciples and followers of Jesus were reluctant to accept him because of his ferocious reputation which preceded him wherever he went and his old team, the Synagogue of the Freedmen and other Jewish groups were now trying to kill him. What’s a man to do?

As we will see during our journey through Acts, somehow Saul learned of their conspiracy and plot to kill him so kept as close an eye on them as they kept on him as they watched the gate. Some of his followers lowered him down over the city walls in a basket and he escaped to Jerusalem.

Once arriving in Jerusalem the established disciples there were more than wary of him and wouldn’t receive him until Barnabas graciously intervened. What must that have been like for Saul? I am not sure if he even noticed. You see, he had met the Living Jesus on the road to Damascus and nothing was ever, ever the same for him. May you and I meet this same Living Jesus on the roads we travel so that our lives will never, ever be the same. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Acts 9: 19 – 31

So, after his visits from Jesus, Ananias and the Holy Spirit, Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. So, Saul was right, the gospel had already spread to Damascus and there were disciples of Jesus already living, serving and loving there. He hung out with them.

We aren’t told how that happened but I imagine the disciples in Damascus were afraid of him just as Ananias had been. I have a hunch that it took faithful, risk-taking Ananias to break the ice for Saul and the Damascene disciples. Ananias probably vouched for Saul by telling them the story.

Later, when Saul escapes from a murder plot and arrives in Jerusalem he discovers that the disciples there want nothing to do with him. They had seen him raise too much havoc as he breathed out death threats against them. Surely, they remembered him with all of those cloaks thrown at his feet as he gave ascent to dear Stephen’s execution.

But, then, Barnabas, he known as the “Son of Consolation,” he who had sold some property and laid the proceeds at the disciples’ feet, he who was deeply trusted took Saul personally and vouched for him to the disciples by telling them Saul’s story. He was accepted and embraced by the disciples.

So, I am wondering if we have ever gone out of our way to lay ourselves on the line for another, to vouch for them. It has been far too long for me. How about you? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Acts 9: 1 – 19

What a difference three days can make. Saul encountered the Living Christ on the road to Damascus, was struck blind and left blind for three days. During his blind time Saul neither ate nor drank. Three days he spent in isolating blindness or was it.

We are not privy to the intimacy of those three days. We do not know what was said between Saul and Jesus during those three days. From the outer looks of things Saul wasn’t really given a choice in this matter. Jesus said that Saul was his chosen instrument and…Saul was indeed his chosen instrument!

We may never know if during those three days of blindness Saul argued with Jesus. We may never know if during those three days of blindness Saul tried to convince Jesus to call someone else, anyone else. We may never know if during those three days of blindness Saul tried to negotiate with Jesus, you know, make a deal with him.

What we do know according to Luke that when those three days had ended, Ananias arrived, laid his hands on Saul, called him brother, told him what Jesus had told him to say and prayed. The scales fell off Saul’s eyes and he could see but even more, he was a new man.

Yes, just as three days made all the difference for the world from Good Friday to Easter Sunday so those three days had their same effect on Saul. Though alive the reality was he was dead and perhaps his blindness revealed that to him. On the third day, he experienced true life in Christ! Hallelujah! Amen! Three days can make a difference!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Monday, February 07, 2022

Acts 9: 1 – 19

Meanwhile – what a powerful word. This chapter nine begins with “meanwhile” and although not employed by Luke in 9:10 he sure could have. If there was ever a spot for a history-setting “meanwhile” it was here so I will take the liberty to at least add the idea of “meanwhile” here.

Blind Saul was led by the hand to Damascus. He steeped in hunger and blindness for three long days. At the same time (meanwhile) the Lord called out to a man named Ananias and ordered him to go to a house of Judas on Straight Street to find this blind Saul. The Lord then instructed Ananias to lay hands on Saul to restore his sight.

Interestingly enough, the Lord tells Ananias that Saul has seen him in a vision coming to lay hands on him. So, even though his eyes were blind Saul could see by visions. Hmm. And what was Ananias’ response to the Lord? He did what most of us would do; he tried to talk him out of it!

Ananias had heard all about this Saul as his fierce reputation had proceeded him to Damascus. Ananias knew this Saul had come to town with the high priest’s permission to attack the church in Damascus. How foolish if Ananias would actually go and visit Saul to save him the trouble of hunting him and arresting him…

But the Lord informs Ananias that he has special plans for this Saul to be his instrument in reaching the Gentiles with the Gospel as well as their kings and the people of Israel. This Saul would know deep suffering in his calling.

So, what did Ananias do? He went directly to that house on Straight Street where he found the blind Saul, put his hands on him, told him about his conversation with Jesus who sent him to lay his hands on Saul. At that moment scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. I have a hunch that even larger, harder scales fell from his heart…

Saul got up from the floor, was immediately baptized and ate. A new day had dawned in the history of the Church in the world. This Saul was a new man. It still happens today! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Acts 9: 1 – 9

As we saw yesterday, in his obsession Saul got permission from the high priest to leave Jerusalem to pursue and destroy the church in Damascus. As heaven’s bright light fell around him, Saul ran head long into Jesus the Christ on the road to Damascus where Jesus proceeded to question Saul, introduce himself to Saul and give him his marching orders without any wriggle room whatsoever.

What did Saul do? Well, he got up off his knees on that dusty road to Damascus and discovered he could not see. His traveling companions had heard Saul’s one-sided conversation with Jesus but hadn’t seen anything. Saul, having heard and seen Jesus found that he could no longer see (could he ever?) so this proud, bold, unwavering destroyer of the church had to be led by the hand into Damascus.

Arriving in Damascus Saul, steeped in blindness neither ate nor drank for three days. I wonder what was going through his mind. You know how when you see a bright light or clinch your eyes shut tightly that you can see images? I wonder what images Saul was seeing. Was he seeing Jesus? Were the words of Jesus still echoing in his ears?

I believe he did see Jesus in those images. I also believe he did hear the echoing refrains of Jesus’ voice as well but I have a hunch he also saw bloodied and battered Stephen seeing Jesus beside the Father and praying that He would not count this sin against them. I believe Saul saw all the others he had persecuted as well.

I believe Saul was haunted by these images; even more, I believe Saul was haunted by his own sinful self as he waited for three long days and nights in hunger, in thirst, in blindness. The Living Christ had his own plans for this murderer which would change the world. Isn’t that glorious news! There is hope for each of us as well! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, February 04, 2022

Acts 9: 1 – 5

Saul gets letters of permission from the high priest and leaves Jerusalem to try and destroy the church in Damascus. I have a hunch he was trying to head off the church in Damascus, perhaps stop it there before it spread to the rest of the world. Did he know the church had already spread to Ethiopia?

On his way to Damascus he did not find any disciples of Jesus, he ran head long in to Jesus the Christ! Luke uses no adjectives to describe the light which fell from heaven and flashed around him but I have a hunch it was brighter than the sun, brighter than the clothes Jesus wore on the Mount of Transfiguration when we were told they were as bright as lightning.

Saul hits his knees and hears a heavenly voice ask him man to man, eternal seeing eye to blatantly blinded eye: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul didn’t know who was speaking to him so received a formal introduction: “I am Jesus who you are persecuting.”

I love this. Jesus had already been persecuted when he had been betrayed, denied, arrested, beaten, scourged, and crucified until dead as a doornail dead. Jesus had long since ascended into heaven and had sent the gift of his Holy Spirit down to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.

But here, Jesus tells Saul that Saul has been persecuting HIM!!! WoW! Did you catch that? Jesus was basically saying to Saul that when he persecuted one of his followers he was persecuting HIM!!! WoW!!! That means that those early disciples and followers of Jesus were the Body of Christ! We are too!!! Any questions!!!

Holy, holy, holy LORD God Almighty! Heaven and earth are full of your glory!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, February 04, 2022

Acts 9: 1 – 5

Saul gets letters of permission from the high priest and leaves Jerusalem to try and destroy the church in Damascus. I have a hunch he was trying to head off the church in Damascus, perhaps stop it there before it spread to the rest of the world. Did he know the church had already spread to Ethiopia?

On his way to Damascus he did not find any disciples of Jesus, he ran head long in to Jesus the Christ! Luke uses no adjectives to describe the light which fell from heaven and flashed around him but I have a hunch it was brighter than the sun, brighter than the clothes Jesus wore on the Mount of Transfiguration when we were told they were as bright as lightning.

Saul hits his knees and hears a heavenly voice ask him man to man, eternal seeing eye to blatantly blinded eye: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul didn’t know who was speaking to him so received a formal introduction: “I am Jesus who you are persecuting.”

I love this. Jesus had already been persecuted when he had been betrayed, denied, arrested, beaten, scourged, and crucified until dead as a doornail dead. Jesus had long since ascended into heaven and had sent the gift of his Holy Spirit down to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.

But here, Jesus tells Saul that Saul has been persecuting HIM!!! WoW! Did you catch that? Jesus was basically saying to Saul that when he persecuted one of his followers he was persecuting HIM!!! WoW!!! That means that those early disciples and followers of Jesus were the Body of Christ! We are too!!! Any questions!!!

Holy, holy, holy LORD God Almighty! Heaven and earth are full of your glory!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Acts 9: 1 – 2

Luke tells us that Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the disciples. This was personal for Saul. Any time I see that word “breathing” it reminds me of how intimate the word is. Saul’s hatred for the church of Jesus Christ was emanating from his very heart as he breathed out murderous threats against the disciples of Jesus.

Saul was all in, he was obsessed to stamp out the church before it was fully developed (I am pretty sure the church has not reached full development even now…). He must have realized that many of those he sought to destroy had left Jerusalem.

In his single-minded passion, in his diabolical obsession, he decided to extend his reach and sought permission to go to the city of Damascus to find and arrest any believers in Jesus there. This proves that even though Luke has only told us about the Spirit’s exploits through Philip at this point that there were many more out there taking Jesus with them wherever they went, even to Damascus and beyond.

This also proves Gamaliel’s point back in Acts 5:34 – 39 that if this movement was from God it would prove futile, they would not be able to stop these disciples and they would find themselves fighting against God – important words for us even today. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Acts 8: 1 – 40

Before we leave this seminal chapter 8 I need to take another look at Philip. We remember that Philip was one of the seven who was known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom selected to serve food to the widows. Philip would have known Stephen well and was probably a close friend of his.

Most likely Philip was involved with Stephen’s interaction with the members of the Synagogue of the Freed Men, may have seen Stephen get arrested and could have possibly watched his execution. So, Philip would have probably been high on Saul’s hit list even as he mourned Stephen’s death.

As the persecution against the church broke out and Saul was going door to door to destroy the church, Philip left Jerusalem as did many others and took Jesus with him. Wherever he went he shared the good news about Jesus which led him to important evangelism work in Samaria and elsewhere.

Philip knew what most likely lay ahead for him with Saul breathing out threats against the Lord’s disciples and soon leaving the confines of Jerusalem to pursue these new followers of Christ to Damascus and beyond. With Saul hot on his heels, Philip obeyed the Spirit, went wherever the Spirit led, continued to take Jesus with him and share Him with everyone along the way.

Although Luke only tells us here about Philip I am sure that this was happening with many of those early disciples of Jesus so the effect was exponential and eternal. As they fled Saul and Jerusalem, GOD was using them to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the entire world.

Interesting that in this way under the threat of persecution and execution, the disciples found themselves witnessing to all they had seen, heard and experienced with Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.

May it be that same way today wherever folks are facing persecution and execution for their faith in Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Acts 8: 26 – 40

I am not quite ready to leave this passage. Our Ethiopian man traveling back to his country after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was important. He was high up in the queen’s court. However due to his lofty status and his constant close proximity to the queen he was most likely mutilated to become a eunuch.

I wonder about this man. I marvel at this man. Our God was so concerned about this one, single, solitary man that he intentionally sent Philip through the Spirit’s GPS system to find him and explain to him the good news about Jesus Christ through the ancient prophesies of Isaiah which the eunuch was already reading. WoW!

This unsuspecting man who simply thought he was returning home found himself on the road to destiny, his eternal destiny. God went out of His way to put someone right in the eunuch’s way in order to lead him onto the narrow way. Hallelujah!

And as I mentioned yesterday, this one, single, solitary man returned to Ethiopia a transformed believer of Jesus Christ and apparently led his nation to Christ by taking Jesus with him wherever he went. Wow!

So, this makes me wonder. How many times has God gone out of His way to place someone in my path to lead me home? I can actually come up with several seeming “coincidences” which were certainly “God-incidents.” How about you? How many times do you think God has gone out of his way for you?

Finally, how many times has God sent you or me out of our way on special assignments? Have we gone willingly and immediately like Philip? Will we? Here I am, Lord. Send me! Please!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Monday, January 31, 2022

Acts 8: 26 – 40

Philip seems to be a man on the go because he is always immediately answerable and obedient to the Holy Spirit. Here we see that he was led specifically by the Holy Spirit to a certain road at a specific time to speak to one, solitary man who just happened to be a trusted government official in the Queen of Ethiopia’s court. Interesting…

What are the odds that this man was returning to Ethiopia after worshiping in Jerusalem and while he traveled he was reading from Isaiah 53? From my perspective Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest passages in all of Old Testament Scripture regarding the mystery of the Messiah, particularly, how the Messiah will be like.

For me, Isaiah 53 leaves absolutely no doubt when compared with our New Testament Scriptures that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited, much prophesied Messiah; leaves absolutely no doubt. What are the odds that our Ethiopian official would be reading the very heart of Isaiah 53 when Philip approaches? Astronomical, I am sure!

Philip is able to begin a conversation with the Ethiopian who was apparently reading to himself out loud (if you haven’t tried that, please do…Powerful!) and Philip overheard him and was able to plant himself right in the middle of the reading and the following conversation.

Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading and the official replied that he could not unless someone explained it to him. I marvel at such humility, such openness. Wow! The official thus opened wide the door for Philip who jumped into his chariot and told him all about JESUS!

The official asked for Philip to baptize him and when the baptism was finished, the official continued on his way home rejoicing while Philip was caught up by the Spirit and taken elsewhere to preach Christ and Him crucified and risen. So, I ask again, who is in charge here?

Is it Saul who is trying mightily to destroy the church with all the power available to him or is it God through the Holy Spirit who in spite of or probably because he had Saul right where he wanted him was using this persecution to cause explosive, supernatural growth in the church beyond the borders of Judah and Jerusalem? Thank You, JESUS!!! 

And by the way, due to this specific, intentional, God-ordained encounter on the road, the rejoicing Ethiopian would soon take the gospel back home with him where a new community of Christ’s followers would spring up and flourish!!! Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Acts 8: 26 – 40

Saul continues to destroy the church and the church just continues to grow and flourish. In this passage we see the Holy Spirit guide Philip specifically to an Ethiopian traveler who is reading Isaiah. Here is the passage he was reading, Isaiah 53. We will take a deeper look at this on Monday to see who really is in charge.

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;

The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

 

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to slaughter,

And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away, yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

 

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, January 28, 2022

Acts 8: 9 – 25

In this city of Samaria there was a famous sorcerer who had amazed the city for many years. His name was Simon but his nickname was “The Great Power of God.” I have a hunch Simon gave himself that nickname, maybe it was his professional name.

When Philip arrived in Samaria bringing Jesus with him the city was transformed. Many began to believe and place their faith in Jesus. Even Simon, the Great Power of God, believed in Jesus and was baptized. Word of these wonders happening in Samaria got back to Jerusalem so the apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to tie it all together.

When Peter and John arrived in Samaria they discovered that the people had not experienced the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit because they had only been baptized in the name of Jesus. So, Peter and John began laying hands on the people and they received the Holy Spirit.

When Simon saw this he wanted that same power so he offered to buy that power from Peter and John. All he needed to do was repent and surrender but instead he sought to buy it and was rebuked sternly for it.

Simon, who we know boasted about himself and gave himself that catchy, arrogant nickname still believed he had the control and the power, even if he had to buy it. He was sorely mistaken. Peter and John rebuked him, saw that his heart was still not right with God even though he had believed and been baptized and told him to repent of this wickedness and pray for forgiveness. They could still see that he was full of bitterness and captive to sin.

Have you ever thought you could buy something from GOD? I sometimes think that because I tithe regularly that I should receive special favor from GOD. I wonder if that is much different than what Simon attempted to buy. I repent. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living GOD have mercy on me a sinner. Please!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Acts 8: 4 – 8

So, with the death of Stephen a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem led by the young man Saul who gave approval of his death while the executioners laid their cloaks at his feet preparing to throw their stones at Stephen.

We are told that Saul began to destroy the church. It seems like he was obsessed with stamping out Christianity, with stamping out Christ. He would go door to door dragging off men and women to throw them into prison. This of course caused a mass exodus.

But I don’t think the persecution and Saul’s attempt to destroy the church went as planned because those who fled from the persecution took Jesus with them. They had to you see because Jesus was in their hearts and minds. They couldn’t help themselves.

Wherever they went they preached the good news of Jesus Christ – his life, his death, his life after death! Philip, one of those seven who had been assigned to serve at the tables fled to Samaria, taking Jesus with him and sharing Jesus with the Samaritans. Jesus was there with Philip in word, deed, sign and wonder.

As the people witnessed the miracles of healings and exorcisms, they listened closely to what Philip told them about this Jesus. Philip just didn’t bring them Jesus, we are told that he also brought great joy to the city of Samaria.

I have a question for us all today. Do we take Jesus with us wherever we go? If so, is it obvious that Jesus is with us or do we hide him away in our suitcases? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Acts 8: 1 – 3

“But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’” (Acts 5:34 – 39)

Not long before Stephen was arrested and stoned to death, the greatly loved and respected Gamaliel had calmed the Sanhedrin down when they wished to do great harm to the apostles. He warned them that they just may find themselves fighting against God. He warned them not to do any harm to the apostles but to release them, let them go and wait and see.

I wonder where he was when Stephen was stoned. Was he absent that day? Was he standing near Saul? Did he give his coat to Saul so he could throw a stone? We don’t know. I don’t think he would have participated in such a travesty of injustice and oppression but when passions rise sanity and self-control often flee.

They will soon discover that they were indeed fighting against God Himself but will they discover that too late? Will they even care?

And what about Saul? He watched their coats the first time around but as persecution broke out seemed to take the lead and tried to single-handedly destroy the church. Would he succeed or would GOD use Saul as His instrument to change the world? Only time would tell.

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Acts 7: 54 – 60

Well, guess what? It seems like the Sanhedrin did indeed see and hear but only what they wanted to see and hear. Instead of responding with repentant, humble hearts they responded in bitter fury while gnashing their teeth.

While they gnashed, Stephen looked up and saw Jesus standing beside the Father. This seems to have only made things worse. I wonder if the Sanhedrin even bothered to look up to see if they could see what Stephen saw. I am thinking probably not…

It seems to me that they only had eyes of stone for Stephen and as it turned out, God. Also seems to me they were throwing a massive temper tantrum. They covered their ears and yelled at the tops of their lungs, perhaps to drown out Stephen’s testimony and Gamaliel’s wise advice.

Remember Gamaliel? They apparently didn’t. Remember Jesus? They apparently didn’t want to at this point. All they wanted was blood after bloodshed had failed them in stamping out Jesus. I don’t think Stephen’s blood helped them at all.

They dropped their coats at the feet of that young man Saul while picking up their stones to kill Stephen. And Stephen? Why Stephen, with eyes peeled on the Father and the Son prayed for his attackers, his murderers. He actually prayed for their forgiveness and then seems to gently fall asleep in the face of such violence and gore. WoW!!! And Saul???

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Acts 7: 1 – 53

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7: 51 – 53)

And then we the readers and those first listeners discover that Stephen talked about their shared story in order to get them to recognize that they were just like all those others in their shared story who had refused to truly see, hear or understand.

He continued to point out that they were stubborn, rebellious people who always resisted the Holy Spirit and went so far as to kill God’s prophets who tried to get them to see and hear. They not only persecuted the prophets who told of Messiah’s coming but also killed and betrayed the Messiah!

And uh, don’t look now but their shared story is our shared story. Though some of the specific details may be different, the reality is that people are people and this is our story too. Do we see ourselves as Stephen did? What are we going to do about it?

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy! Please help us to see and hear and respond with humility, confession and repentance. Please!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Acts 7: 1 – 53

I want us to read this passage again today. I know that it is a long passage but as we read let us see what things jump out at us in the way Stephen tells the story; things he includes, things he doesn’t include. What grabs you from Stephen’s story?

I like the straight forward way that Stephen tells the story. He tells the story as their shared story, not just his story or not just the story of the Sanhedrin but all of their story. I like how Abraham trusted and obeyed God who was completely faithful to Abraham.

I am intrigued by the story of Moses. When he became forty and walked among his people he took matters into his own hands to begin to solve their problems. The response was rejection by his own people who wondered who had made him their ruler and judge…

Fleeing from the Egyptians as their most wanted man for murder, Moses ended up living on the far side of the desert apparently forgotten and forsaken. But God had not forgotten or forsaken. As a matter of fact it seems that eighty year old Moses was right where God wanted him to be.

God sent Moses back to Egypt, this time called and consecrated to be the ruler, judge and deliverer of his people out of Egypt. I love how God has his way in spite of us, in spite of our failures, in spite of our believing we have been disqualified and discredited but not in God’s eyes. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Acts 7: 1 – 53

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” I Peter 3:15

We saw from yesterday’s text in Acts 6 that Stephen, full of the Spirit, wisdom, grace and power served at the table in such a way that signs and wonders were done by him. These signs and wonders seemed to gain him some enemies. These enemies tried to argue with him without success, Stephen was too much for them.

They couldn’t win an argument against this life of Spirit, wisdom, grace and power so they secretly persuaded some men to lie and accuse Stephen of blasphemy. This ended with Stephen’s arrest and he was brought before the Sanhedrin which had sat in a similar trial with Jesus not that long before.

In Acts 7 the high priest asked Stephen if these charges were true and Stephen answered; oh boy, did he answer. He answered by telling them their own entire story. He answered by telling them about the origins of their nation, their faith, their identity.

As Peter would tell his readers to revere Christ in their hearts as Lord and always be prepared to give an answer for the hope, so was Stephen ready. He had certainly revered Christ in his heart as Lord and he was fully prepared to answer the chief priest’s question. If you note, he gave the chief priest much more than he bargained for.

If we were put on the spot like Stephen, would we be able to give a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus? Would we be able to tell the story of our faith from the very beginning if necessary?

We would if we are full of the Spirit, wisdom, grace and power, living it out daily as the Lord leads. Amen? Amen! LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy. Please!!!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Acts 6: 8 – 15

Somehow as Stephen serves the widows at the table there was something about the way that served which demonstrated signs and wonders of God’s mighty Spirit. These signs and wonders must have something to do with the fact that he was full of God’s grace and power.

He lived it out naturally or rather, supernaturally as he performed normal, every day, maybe even menial tasks but in and out of God’s grace and power. We aren’t told how or why but suddenly opposition arose from a group of Jews from throughout the known world – Libya, Alexandria, Turkey and Greece.

Even though they tried to stand up to Stephen and shut him down they were unable to stand up to Stephen and shut him down because he was full of God’s grace, power, wisdom and Spirit! So, instead of learning from Stephen why he was able to do what he was doing; they attacked him.

They attacked him by secretly persuading men to publicly lie about and accuse him falsely. Does that sound familiar? Reminds me of the same tactics similar folks used against Jesus with similar results. The blasphemous words they accuse Stephen of speaking sound much like the words they accused Jesus of speaking.

And yet, as they attacked him with lies they saw that he was glowing but they didn’t ask him why, they didn’t ask him how. They really didn’t want to know. They were so opposed to Jesus that they just wanted to stamp out, destroy all of his followers – signs, wonders and all. Folks, he was GLOWING and they ignored it. LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!!!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Acts 6: 8 – 15

This passage intrigues me. Have you ever done the right thing and knew it was the right thing to do but perhaps with the wrong attitude? I have and I usually know immediately when I have done that. I can’t believe that doing the right thing with a wrong attitude is the right thing. Do you?

So, here we find a report on Stephen, one of the seven who were especially selected to serve the tables for the widows, to hand out bread. It seems that the only qualifications for those who serve the tables were that they needed to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.

So in essence if we extrapolate this out, any task we may be asked to do whether considered important or not should be done by people full of the Spirit and wisdom. The reality is if we look back at yesterday’s text is that the ministry of the word is to be done by all of us whether we lecture at a podium or serve food to a homeless person.

We are to be about the ministry of the word because we are people of the Word, the Living Word – JESUS! We see that in this text because Stephen served bread with wisdom and the Spirit. Somehow in serving bread, Stephen performed great wonders and signs among the people. Serving at the table didn’t hold Stephen back at all but became his platform for glorifying GOD. WoW!!!

Maybe we should adopt this attitude from Stephen and determine that whatever we are asked to do in God’s Kingdom that we do it full of the Spirit and wisdom in such a way that God works signs and wonders through us for His glory. Amen? Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Acts 6: 1 – 7

Once again in an apparent idyllic situation with the early church we find that not all is what it seems. A complaint arises because the Greek Jews believe their widows are being neglected in the daily distribution of food by the Hebraic Jews.

So, apparently there were some in their midst who didn’t think everything was being shared evenly. And because racial lines were crossed here this was a much more serious matter than just some people feeling left out.

The apostles listen to the complaint and take it seriously. They respond to the complaint by telling the complainers to choose seven men full of the Spirit and wisdom to serve tables. If you notice, the names of many of the men chosen just may have had a Greek background and these seven were chosen by those who felt the slight. WoW!

In reality, this really does seem like an idyllic situation led and guided by the Holy Spirit. The apostles laid their hands on these men and prayed for them thus consecrating them for the very important work of serving at the tables to distribute bread equally to all.

I think sometimes in the church there is the idea that there are “lesser” jobs and frankly that idea can maybe be found here as the apostles know their role is to focus on the ministry of the word which may seem like the “greater” work but I don’t think so.

We are told that one of the results of this situation is that the word of God spread, the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly and a large number of priests converted to Christ. Now, truthfully we aren’t told if that is because the apostles were focused on the ministry of the word or if these seven Spirit-filled men were serving at the tables.

I have a hunch it is the latter because the enemy’s focus lasers in on those who serve at the tables; seems they were about the ministry of the word even as they distributed bread. I know Jesus was pleased by that… Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Acts 5: 17 – 42

I can’t quite leave this passage yet. We basically have two groups of people here.

The first group, the religious authorities, just refuse to see. Luke tells us early on that they are full of jealousy. Jealousy is evil. Jealousy is selfish. Jealous is oriented toward the self at the expense of the other.

The first group seems so clouded by jealousy, by what’s in it for them, by how they want to be without paying the price for it that they cannot even see the hand of GOD working in and through the apostles which formed the second group.

Even after hearing the report from the officers that the men who had been jailed were not there the next day even though the doors were locked and the guards were still zealously on duty, they were most concerned about what that would lead to rather than GOD demonstrating his mighty power through the apostles.

For the second group, the apostles, there is nothing new here. They continue to do just what they’ve been doing since the Day of Pentecost. Since they were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost they cannot help themselves, they have to live in obedience to God, they have to witness to all they have seen and heard about Jesus.

One group has allowed themselves to be so hardened, so rebellious, so hateful that they still want blood, even after shedding Jesus’ blood. They refuse to take responsibility for their sins. They only blame the others; in this particular case, the apostles.

The reality is that they are furious with GOD who continues to love them, who continues to reach out to them through the apostles’ faithfulness and obedience. And the apostles and the other early believers in Jesus know what they know without a shadow of a doubt.

They know that Jesus was the Son of God who died a gruesome death and on the third day rose triumphantly from the dead. They knew it, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they obeyed God at all costs. Punishment and pain simply brought them joy. They knew who they knew! May it be so for you and for me. Hallelujah! Amen!

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Acts 5: 17 – 42

Confronted by the authorities that the apostles had disobeyed them and continued to proclaim Christ, Peter answered by once again proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. He didn’t flinch. Just as he had told them before he reminded them that they just had to obey GOD, there wasn’t a choice there. They would obey GOD every single time.

We see that lived out here when the apostles are rescued from the jail, the angel tells them to go to the temple courts and continue preaching Christ. The very first thing at first light the apostles return to the temple courts and continue to proclaim Christ. They didn’t flinch.

Now, as the authorities swell with pride, jealousy and anger, the apostles stand there, exalting Christ, trying to lead everyone to repentance and faith in Christ. As the authorities reach the boiling point and want to explode violently against these apostles, a cooler head prevails, at least for a while.

Gamaliel, a respected teacher of the Pharisees tries to calm them down. He reminds them of history when other men claiming to be the Messiah came with many followers. At their deaths their followers soon faded back into the woodwork.

Gamaliel urged them to be patient. The proclaimed Messiah had already been killed, what would happen to his followers? Gamaliel told them that if this was a movement from man it would fail but if it was a movement from GOD it would succeed regardless of what they did against it. As a matter of fact, Gamaliel told them that if this movement was from GOD then they would be fighting solely against GOD.

Sound advice indeed from Gamaliel but I would like to add one thing to his wisdom. “Uh, sir, the apostles were rescued from jail without anyone noticing. GOD was obviously on their side. GOD’s Son had risen from the grave just as he said he would and these followers who were once sniveling cowards insist on proclaiming the truth against all threats. What are you all waiting for? What are we waiting for?”

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Acts 5: 25 – 28

So, once again we start with the fact that due to jealousy, the apostles had been arrested and thrown into jail. The next morning when the officers went to retrieve the apostles so they could be harassed and persecuted by the religious authorities, they weren’t there. Although still securely guarded by soldiers, the jail cells were empty and the prisoners were not there!

Sounds like a miracle to me. When informed of the empty jail cells the authorities responded by wondering where the empty jail cells may lead them. It does not seem like they thought very deeply about this entire situation. They worried more about what it looked like and how it might impact them than the fact that a true, mysterious miracle had occurred.

Even when the apostles are discovered boldly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the temple courts, there still seems to be very little thought or consideration about what was really going on here. These so-called enemies had been miraculously released from jail even though the doors were still locked and the guards were still attentive.

One would think that would make them stop and wonder why that might happen and how that might happen but no, the authorities seem to not think at all. Instead they accuse and blame the apostles for continuing to preach in that name and making them seem guilty about the crucifixion of Jesus.

What was that Jesus said about eyes being blind and ears being deaf? Didn’t Isaiah say something about that, too? I am thinking something amazing happened here and those who needed to experience that the most simply ignored the facts. Ever happen to you?

LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Acts 5: 17 – 24

Although we haven’t heard from them in a couple of chapters, some of the religious authorities return to Luke’s account. Luke now tells us that the high priest and all of his associates who were Sadducees were filled with jealousy.

Why were they jealous? Were they jealous because of the mighty signs and wonders the apostles were doing and they couldn’t? Were they jealous because they saw so many people listening to the apostles’ teaching and putting their trust in Jesus? Were they jealous because the apostles had a relationship with Jesus and they didn’t? What do you think?

Regardless, their jealousy led them to arrest the apostles and throw them into jail but when they went the next day to retrieve the apostles they couldn’t find them. The apostles had been miraculously released overnight and were actually found in the temple courts boldly proclaiming the new life in Jesus.

When the religious authorities heard the report from the officers that the jail cells were found locked just as they had left them with the guards still at their posts but no apostles. This was obviously a miracle, right? God had done an amazing thing to release the apostles from the jail in the middle of the night right under the guards’ noses without anyone seeing or hearing or knowing anything!

If I had been told about this miracle I am confident I would have been amazed and in my amazement I would have turned to God but not these religious leaders. When they heard the news they responded more out of fear and worry, wondering what their release might lead to rather than to Whom it might lead them. LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Acts 5: 12 – 16

After the sad, terrifying, troubling experience with Ananias and Sapphira we are told that the Church really didn’t miss a beat. The apostles, empowered by the Holy Spirit performed many signs and wonders among the people.

It seems that at this point these early believers in Jesus Christ were meeting publicly and boldly right there in Solomon’s Colonnade or Porch which was not in some out of the way, safe place but right out there for all to see, experience and participate in.

Word was spreading about this Jesus. We are told here that the followers of Jesus were highly regarded by the people and that many believed in Jesus every, single day. People brought out into the streets those who were sick in hopes that Peter might pass by and his shadow fall upon them and bring them healing. Can you believe that? WoW!

Let’s not miss this amazing description from Acts 5:16: “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” A few of them, some of them? No, all of them were healed! Wow! Hallelujah!

And yet, and yet, we are told early on in this passage that in spite of all these amazing things which happened “no one else dared join them…”

Were they afraid to join them because of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira? Was public pressure beginning to build against them? Did they just not want to take the risk living in community with a Holy GOD? LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy! Please…

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Acts 5: 1 – 11

Do you ever wonder why this event with Ananias and Sapphira happened back in the early Church? Do you ever wonder why these kinds of things don’t seem to happen any more, at least around here? Or is it a bit more subtle today?

I am not sure. I do know that soon after the death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost that something the world had never experienced before was unleashed upon the earth – the Church of Jesus Christ!

Amazing things were happening in the Church; people were healed; people were saved; lives were transformed; communities were transformed; it was a new day of light and love and grace and forgiveness and sharing and boldness and…

As we saw yesterday there are descriptions of the early Church that are simply amazing, beautiful, idyllic and then Ananias and Sapphira arrive on the scene with their lying pocketbooks. When confronted about this sin of lying about the amount of money they received from the sale of their property they both dropped dead.

I don’t see anywhere in the text where Peter killed them or GOD for that matter, killed them but they both dropped dead separately when their joint collusion in sin was revealed and confronted before others.

I have never seen anything like that happen in my lifetime, have you? Does that mean we don’t do things like that anymore; like lying, stealing, not giving like we ought, etc.? Does it mean that we don’t have the fear of GOD like the early Church had? Does it mean GOD doesn’t care as much about such things these days?

Again, I am not sure but I am sure that GOD doesn’t change, that GOD’s character remains the same forever and that GOD is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY and calls us to such holiness!!!

My response to all of this is to simply fall to my knees in reverence and repentance crying out to this HOLY, HOLY, HOLY GOD – “LORD have mercy, Christ have mercy, LORD have mercy!”

Care to join me?

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Monday, January 10, 2022

Acts 5: 1 – 11

For those who question the accuracy and inspiration of Scripture this particular passage begs explanation.

Since Pentecost in Acts 2 we have been given a powerful picture of the early Church. We have seen amazing miracles of healing. We have seen folks suffer joyfully for Christ. We have seen descriptions of the early Church which are frankly idyllic and perfect.

I know it has been a few weeks so let me remind you of one such description from Acts 4: 32 – 35: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”

It does seem idyllic, inspired, like heaven on earth, doesn’t it? But that beautiful, too good to be true, picture is suddenly shattered by a couple who for some reason sell some property, lie about the amount they received, give a portion of that amount to the apostles but act like they had given the full amount.

Why did they lie? There was absolutely nothing wrong with giving a portion to the apostles. Why did they lie? Did they think it made them look better to the apostles? Did they think it made them look holy? Did they think it made them look holy like Barnabas?

Pride had to be at the root of their lie, their lives and their deaths. The Church is not perfect; the Church is made up of imperfect people, even after they come to Christ. As a friend of mine in Miami often told me, “We need Jesus!” Yes, we do. We need Jesus!

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living GOD, have mercy on me a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living GOD, have mercy on all of us sinners. Please…

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Today, as we begin the second week of 2022, I have decided to share with you my “go to” prayer. Now, I realize that you should be quite familiar with this one by now; you may think, too familiar because I use it each Sunday before I preach as an act of trust and submission of myself to God.

I was first challenged to learn this prayer in a New Church Start National Conference in Washington, D.C. in August, 2003. The speaker shared about how much this prayer blessed him. I had certainly heard the prayer before, but had never felt compelled to memorize it and use it regularly in my own life.

But, something different resonated in me that day and I knew I had to memorize that prayer and use it regularly in my life. I cannot even begin to describe the impact the regular use of this prayer has had on me and my life. I don’t know where I would be without it. Without any further ado, here is the Wesley Covenant Prayer (Brian Carr paraphrased edition):

“I am no longer my own but yours O, Lord.

 Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will.

 Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

 Let me be employed by You or laid aside for You,

 Exalted for You or brought low for You.

 Let me be full, let me be empty.

 Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

 I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

 And now, O glorious and blessed God,

 Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

 You are mine, and I am yours. So be it.

 And the covenant which I have made here on earth,

 Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Friday, January 7, 2022

Isaiah 43: 1 – 3

I share another one of my life verses with you today. It is a great verse to use in beginning a new year. One such new year,  I was going through a traumatic, anxious time. I talked to my mother about it with fear and trembling, expecting to be scolded. Instead, she shared these verses with me from Isaiah which rocked my world!

Actually, they did nothing of the sort. Instead of rocking my world, they stabilized me in the midst of a rocking, shaky, constantly changing world. I knew as soon as she shared them with me that I needed to memorize them, not just into my brain but more importantly, into my heart where they remain to this day. And they always seem to rise to the surface right when I need them the most.

“But now, this is what the LORD says –

He who created you, Jacob,

He who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

 

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

And when you pass through the rivers,

They will not sweep over you.

 

When you walk through the fire,

You will not be burned;

The flames will not set you ablaze.

 For I am the LORD your God,

The Holy One of Israel,

Your Savior…”

 

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Habakkuk 3: 16 – 18

I have some “go to” verses in my life which have really become part of me; of my thinking, of my responses, of my living. I memorized these verses many years ago during a time when I was reading through the entire Bible and found myself reading the minor prophet of Habakkuk. I mean, how often do any of us find ourselves in any of the minor prophets, much less Habakkuk but I did and it changed my life.

We know nothing about Habakkuk other than he received a prophecy from the Lord which included several of Habakkuk’s complaints against God – he did not like the way God was handling things. Have we ever been there? I have. But Habakkuk almost blows a gasket when God tells him that as bad as things already were, they were about to get worst because God was sending in the vile Babylonians to conquer and destroy Judah.

But, God also tells Habakkuk that he is simply using the Babylonians as a tool of punishment which would soon be cast aside. It is in this context of defeat, drought, siege and conquest that Habakkuk looks around him at the surrounding devastation and responds to God. I have added verse 16 to what I have memorized because it really reveals Habakkuk’s situation to us.

“I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound;

decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity

to come on the nation invading us.

 Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my savior.”

 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

 Here is another of my favorite Psalms which I often use to remind me of just how much God does for me, for all of us which ushers us into praise and worship. Perhaps this is another great way to start off the year and again, it just may become a New Year’s tradition.

Enjoy as you read this Psalm and remember just how much God does for you because God loves you. And another thing all of these Scriptures I have shared so far in this new year are wonderful to memorize and take deep into our hearts and lives.

PSALM 103

  “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits –

Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

  The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;

The wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

And his righteousness with their children’s children –

With those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.

Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Psalm 150

As we continue to move into a new year I think I might as well start a second new tradition in beginning the year with Psalm 150 which is a great way for us to submit and entrust all of last year into God’s hands while entrusting and submitting all of 2022 into God’s hands by simply praising God with trusting hearts regardless of the circumstances around us.

And by the way, if I may be so bold, I have tweaked this one a bit as well. I have changed “Praise God…” to “Praise the LORD” as it just seems to flow better that way and continue the sequence begun in the first verse. Thank you.

“Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD in his sanctuary;

Praise the LORD in his mighty heavens.

Praise the LORD for his acts of power;

Praise the LORD for his surpassing greatness.

Praise the LORD with the sounding of the trumpet.

Praise the LORD with the harp and lyre.

Praise the LORD with timbrel and dancing,

Praise the LORD with the strings and pipe.

Praise the LORD with the clash of cymbals,

Praise the LORD with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

 

Monday, January 3, 2022

 Colossians 1: 15 – 23

 Happy New Year! It just may be a New Year’s tradition for me since this is the second year I have done this but I just have to begin this new year of 2022 with some of my very, favorite verses which never fail to excite me, inspire me, revive me, restore me and re-set me in the Person of Jesus Christ!

What better way to begin this year than to be reminded once again of just who this Jesus is so that we can worship Him with all that we are and all that we have.

I have taken the personal liberty of changing some of the pronouns in this passage to make it as if we are speaking directly to Jesus in the first paragraph and as if Paul is speaking directly to us in the second. Those pronouns are italicized and underlined to make it clear. It works best if we read this passage out loud. Thank you!

“The Son is Jesus

and Jesus You are the image of the invisible God,

the firstborn over all creation.

For in You all things were created:

things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,

whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;

all things have been created through You and for You.

You are before all things, and in You all things hold together.

And You are the head of the body, the church;

You are the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,

so that in everything You might have the supremacy.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in You,

and through You to reconcile to himself all things,

whether things on earth or things in heaven,

by making peace through Your blood, shed on the cross.

 

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds

because of our evil behavior.

But now he has reconciled us by Christ’s physical body through death

to present us holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation –

if we continue in our faith, established and firm,

and we do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

This is the gospel that we heard and

that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven,

and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

 

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

John 1: 1 – 5, 9 – 18

Happy New Year! For the last two weeks we have been reading Christmas scriptures and that continues one more day with a completely appropriate passage to begin this new year of 2022. May our GOD richly bless you all as you begin this new year of 2022 with favor, blessing, goodness and grace. It is so good to know regardless of what this new year may bring us, Christ is with us and God’s grace is sufficient for all our needs. Hallelujah! Amen!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him

nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the

light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not

overcome it.

 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the

world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize

him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to

all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to

become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human

decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,

the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.

 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, ‘This is the one I spoke about when

I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’)

 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law

was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever

seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship

with the Father, has made him known.” John 1: 1 – 5, 9 – 18

 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86: 11)