Today's nuggets

Jun. 30, 2015

Acts 20:6-38 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 11 When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12 They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.....

17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them,  “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26 Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.

 

There are a couple of things we see in the first portion of today's text that I don't think we would often see today. The text says:  Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.  The thought these days is that most peoples attention span is somewhere between 10-20 minutes, so if we want to give an effective message to an attentive audience we need to keep it under 20 minutes. We are a fast paced society accustomed to getting our information in sound bites. I personally have found that if I use the words: as we get ready to close about two thirds of the way through I can regain attention and buy some time before actually closing a bit later. Still I don't know of many places where they would bear with a speaker until midnight. Perhaps it was because of Pauls tendency to speak for long times that led him to be an evangelist rather than a pastor. It seems even in our churches we will give a little more grace to the guest speaker than to our own pastor if he goes over the "allotted" time.

There is though in this text the other side of that same situation. It says:      And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 11 When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12 They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.....  There was no criticism or condemnation that came from Paul toward the young man. He simply went down, raised him back to life and continued with the meeting for another few hours.  That's resurrection preaching.  We have a choice when we look at the condition of the church today. Our choice is much like what we read in Ezekiel 37:1-10

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

When we look at the condition of our churches and even more so of our country, our society and culture, we can say they are lifeless   and lo, they (are) were very dry. Or we can see as the Lord God sees and we can speak as He calls us to and prophesy life and breath into the dry bones of our nation and churches. Far too often the word prophesy is connected with telling the future, or with discipline and correction. In 1 Corinthians 14:3-4 Paul writes of another  important use of prophesy for the church today.

But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.… 

Prophesy is for edification, consolation, to build up the church. When we look at the condition of the world around us it is easy to be critical, to judge things as we see them and confirm the natural condition we see. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says:  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. 

Rather than declaring the darkness of the world to the world let us, let our light shine before men. Let us do and declare good works and words. Let us glorify our Father that some will see and choose light rather than darkness. 

If we will both walk in and declare the power of the cross and the resurrection, preaching as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 21-5  :     when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

We can have intellectual debates with people about the things that are happening in our society. We can continue to declare the dark condition of this dark world. Or we can speak words of light and life. Our message and our "preaching" can be not in persuasive words of wisdom,   but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Paul closes today's text with a final warning, exhortation and instruction to the church. May it be  an encouragement to us as it is also my prayer for you.

 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;  and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.       Amen

   

 

 

Jun. 29, 2015

Acts 19:13-41 (NASB) from the daily reading in the One Year Bible (link on links page)

13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

 

 

The text today begins by giving an example that even though Jesus says: Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.(John 14:13-14), it is not merely saying the name of Jesus that invokes the power and authority to do things, as if Jesus name is part of a magical incantation.

Prayer and spiritual warfare is a serious matter. We see in the text both the response of the evil spirit and the outcome for those who tried to invoke the authority of the name of Jesus without having that authority. The text says:

 “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

The authority we have is in the person of Jesus not just His name. Jesus says in John 14:12: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  There are two key aspects of the authority we have in Christ in that promise. Let's begin with what Jesus says last; because I go to the Father. Jesus also says this about going to the Father:     7"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7)     and in John 14:26:     "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. and also in John 14:16-17:      I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.      So the first part of the authority we have in Christ is from the indwelling Holy Spirit we have been given. In order for us to have authority Christ must be present and visible in us, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

The second part of the authority in Jesus promise that we would do the works He did is in the words: he who believes in Me. He who believes in me means more than an intellectual ascent or acknowledgement of who Jesus is. If we believe in Jesus, then He is Lord. He is the one who is guiding our life and so our prayers. That brings us to another part of where our authority in Him lies. 1 John 5:14-15 says:

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. 

If Jesus is truly Lord then we are submitted to Him. The Holy Spirit is our guide so our prayers are His prayers. The psalmist says: Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.(Psalm 37:4) Our desires and so our prayers are in agreement with His desires and prayers, so we will receive what we ask.

The second part of believing in Him, which brings us authority, is about our faith. In Mark 11:23-24 Jesus says:     "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24"Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.     

If we believe in Jesus, if we believe that He is God and if we believe that:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being....And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John 1:1-3,14) 

Then we have confidence in knowing that nothing is impossible. Jesus says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.(Matthew 28:18) He also says:  upon this rock(the revelation that Jesus is the Christ) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 

We have authority. We don't need to fear as the ones in today's text that the enemy has power or authority over us. The psalmist says: O give us help against the adversary, For deliverance by man is in vain. 12Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries. (Psalm 60:11-12)

Our authority and our confidence is in more than just a name. Our authority and confidence comes from the indwelling presence of God. Our authoirty is in Him.

If God is for us, who is against us?(Romans 8:31)

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit, that through the work of the cross and the resurrection, we have more that a knowledge of who You are. We have You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the presence of God with us and in us. Today I choose to walk in the fullness of Your call and authority in my life. I believe in You. May I see today as the early church did:   the word of the Lord  growing mightily and prevailing.   Amen.             
 

 

 

Jun. 28, 2015

Death of Elisha  2 Kings 13:14-21

14 When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 He said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck it three times and stopped. 19 So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.”

20 Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet.

 

Notice the words spoken by Joash when he comes to Elisha,  “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”  When Elisha received the double portion of the spirit of Elijah it says in 2 Kings 2:9-15      When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” 10 He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” 11 As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. 15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.”

 “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”  There was a common vision, a common presence of God's heavenly host present in both times. Ministers, messengers, warriors of the heavenly realm sent to bring God's servants home to their eternal place with God. There is a difference that we see between the two accounts though. We are told the when Elijah was taken up, he was seen no more. Elisha received a double portion of Elijah's spirit and picked up the mantle of Elijah. Elisha  was called to carry on the work  of Elijah, his mentor and spiritual father. He was given all that he needed to carry out that calling. We too are called to carry on in the work of our Father. Jesus says:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.(John 14:12) 

Just as Elisha received the spirit of Elijah to enable and empower him to walk in the call, we receive the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit to empower us to walk in His call and commission.

Verses 20-21 show us that the power of the Holy Spirit is the power behind the works of any servant of God and the Holy Spirit is  eternal, His power continues beyond the life of any man.  Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet.   

Jesus says:  "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
(John 11:25) Jesus holds the power of the resurrection, sometimes that resurrection power is manifested in the natural realm and we see the miraculous physical resurrection of someone being actually raised from death to life. Other times there is the no less miraculous spiritual resurrection, from this temporary life to eternal life with God in the heavenly realm.

One of the most difficult questions for us to understand or answer is why we don't see more of the first resurrection. Why, though we know and believe God has empowered us with His Holy Spirit, and we believe God does answer our prayers as Jesus  says:

"Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24"Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.(Mark 11:23-24)

Why then did I lose two dear friends this past week to the curse of cancer? Many including myself, prayed  and believed for their healing, for the power of resurrection to be seen and manifested here on earth. I don't know why. I don't believe though that it is because God doesn't care or that He doesn't answer our prayers as He said He would. I will trust Him and I will go on in the confidence of the knowledge that each of those who passes from this life, with the knowledge that Jesus Christ died for their sins and is their Savior, enjoys the eternal resurrection of the spirit into the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.

I don't know why sometimes we don't see the answer we would like to see. I trust in God. There is also a lesson I will continue in from today's text. 

 Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 He said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck it three times and stopped. 19 So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.”

I will continue to shoot the arrows of the victory of the Lord, the arrows of intercession and prayer. I will continue to strike the ground the enemy stands on, with the arrows of God's victory. I will strike it not three times, not even just the five or six times that Elisha prescribed. I will continue to strike the ground the enemy stands on until he is completely destroyed or my days here are over,until I see,  "the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”. Cancer does not have the final say or the ultimate authority. Philippians 2:10-11 says:

at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.       That includes every spirit contrary to the Spirit of God, that includes the spirit of death that operates through cancer.

When Jesus asked the disciples who He is this is what He says:      “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”(Matthew 16:16-19) 

Upon the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord of Lords and the King of kings He will build His church and the gates of hell will not overpower it. Upon the truth that Jesus is the Christ, I will continue to take my stand against all the gates of hell which are open in this earthly realm. I will continue to pray and believe:

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.   Amen.

 

   

     

 

 

Jun. 27, 2015

Psalm 145:1-21 (NASB) from the daily reading in the One Year Bible (link on links page)

The Lord Extolled for His Goodness.

A Psalm of Praise, of David.

I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
12 To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

14 The Lord sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
16 You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
20 The Lord keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

 

My desire and intention for "nuggets" is to reflect daily on God's word and try to find an application for the text to our current life and times. With the rulings that have come down from the SCOTUS this week I felt it was important that my commentary be simply that I will, as the psalmist says continue to bless and praise the name of the Lord forever. We have truly entered the time, as a nation, which Jesus spoke of in John 3:19

 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

God loves every individual, He sent His Son to die for sin so that we could be redeemed and restored to Him. As a nation though we have now begun a new era in our relationship to God. When the founding fathers saw fit to make provision for the separation of church and state it was for the purpose of protecting our freedom to worship God from the control of government. We have now come to the point as a nation where our laws are being twisted and rewritten to eliminate faith from our civil and social lives. While men may indeed be able to rewrite the constitution, the law of the land, they cannot rewrite God's law or change His authority.

Isaiah 5:20-23 says:   Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine
And valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! 

The time has come when Christians may be both persecuted and prosecuted for their faith. We have already seen businesses being penalized for following the faith and beliefs of their owners. The ruling by the supreme court, making homosexual marriage a civil right, now opens the door for the prosecution of churches and  pastors who refuse to participate in these marriage ceremonies. The focus and emphasis on "hate crime" and "hate speach" in our civil authority opens the door for the prosecution of all who hold to, profess and proclaim a faith view that does not align with what is now the law of the land. 

Those who celebrate the changes that are happening in our country will say that nobody will be prosecuted for their beliefs. They will say that we just need to update our thinking to change with the times. I was told yesterday "  The main thing wrong with this country is that too many folks don't know what it means to evolve!!" It would seem to me that even if we are to believe in evolution, that would mean changing from a lower form to a higher form, not becoming more base and animal like in our behavior as it seems our culture and society is doing.

I don't write this out of fear of what is coming. God is in control. I will trust in Him. I don't write this because I think I am in the place to judge others. I believe that God is the judge. In the end it is God, not me not you or anyone else who has determined what is right and what is wrong. Even the supreme court of this country answers to the higher authority of God's judgement. I write this today because I will not stop believing and declaring the truth of God's word. I believe that the day will come when those who celebrate the things that are happening may be the very ones that Jesus speaks of in John 16:2 when He says:

They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.

Still whatever men will do:

I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.

Amen

       

 

Jun. 26, 2015

Acts 17:1-34 (NASB) from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

Paul at Thessalonica

17 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.

Paul at Berea

10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.

Paul at Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

Sermon on Mars Hill

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

 

In the beginning of the text today it says Paul would give evidence, reason and  explain, from the scriptures, that Jesus was the Christ. In Isaiah 55:10-11 God says:  

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 

The best evidence we can give to people to explain and convince them that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord and Savior, is God's word which He says will accomplish what He desires. God's word with the revelation and conviction of God's Holy Spirit is the most powerful tool for evangelism, above any method or program designed or created by man.

It's amazing when we read this portion of scripture, to see the motivation that caused the religious Jews to persecute Paul. It wasn't zeal for their own understanding of the scriptures. They did not accuse Paul of blasphemy, as they had accused Jesus. The text says:    But the Jews, becoming jealous...     Their motivation, the reason they wanted to persecute and run Paul out of town was jealousy. As people became convinced that they should believe in and follow Jesus, the religious leaders were losing their power and their position. They were not concerned about God or about the people, they were jealous that Paul and the apostles would become more powerful, have a higher place in the community than they did.

Unfortunately jealousy is still one of the strongest dividing influences in the church today. Rather than rejoice at the success and growth of neighboring congregations, there is a tendency to compete with each other. If we are truly convinced that a church is teaching false doctrine than by all means we should want people to know truth. But if our motivation is based on jealousy and competition fearing that we might lose some of our own people to a growing church, then we don't have the kingdom of God in mind, we are building our own kingdoms. Far too much of church growth strategy is based on attracting believers to our services rather than declaring the word, explaining and convincing people that Jesus is the Christ. The early church didn't have a strategy for growth, a plan to attract people to their services. It says in Acts 2: 46-47 

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. 

They lived out their faith "day by day" and the Lord added to their number "day by day".

Let's look briefly at Paul's next stop along the way in Berea. The text says:  Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

One of the most unfortunate characteristics of the church today and for a fairly long period of church history, is that as church leadership has become a job, as people are trained and educated for the purpose of leading the church, there is a tendency for others to default to allowing them, the pastors, teachers and evangelists study the scriptures and tell us what they say. Trained and educated pastors, teachers and evangelist are a good and wonderful gift to the body of Christ, but we should all be like the Bereans. We should study and examine  the scripture ourselves, to see whether the things we hear are so. These days, in our sound-bite oriented culture and society, it would be easy to be led astray by a doctrine that is built around an isolated or out of context scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;    

This though, is more than doctrine which is built around single lines or isolated scripture verses. All scripture is the entirety of the Bible. We need to know and study scripture in order to protect ourselves from being intentionally or accidentally misled. There is a humorous story about what can happen if we take scripture out of context and build doctrine around isolated verses.

The story is told of a man who like to just open his Bible and read the first verse that came to him. The first verse he happened to turn to was Matthew 27:5 which says Judas "went and hanged himself." Since he was not sure how this verse applied to himself, he flipped to another passage and the Bible fell open to Luke 10:37: "Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise." The man was quite upset and he did not know how he could ever obey that, so he decided to turn to one more place. Again he opened the Bible at random and to his horror his finger fell upon John 13:27: "Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly." 

The story may be funny, but the truth that many people will trust and believe what they hear shared on TV or the internet without examining the scriptures is not a laughing matter.

Let's take one final thing from today's text. When Paul was in Athens he found that the people were focussed more on philosophy and ideas than on truth. Verse 21 says:   Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.  Paul responds to them saying:

“Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;

Our own culture and society has become much like that of Greece. We are supposed to accept and tolerate all forms of thought, all ideas are supposed to be included. The problem with that form of thinking is that it always tends to eliminate the Christian or Biblical view. Those who want to hold to the truth of God's word are not accepted and tolerated by the very ones who say they want inclusion and tolerance.  

Romans 1:20 says: For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

No human philosophy or argument can change the truth. We are called to love the world as God does, loving people who God created in His image. We are not to accept, tolerate and believe everything the world says and does. 

1 John 2:15-17 says:  Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ, precious Holy Spirit, I pray that you would remove any form of jealousy from my heart. I pray Lord that You would give me a boldness to declare the truth of Your word and I trust that You will be faithful then to have Your word accomplish what You intend. Give me a heart like the Bereans Lord, that I would guard against any false teaching I might hear. Lord give me heart as only You can to love the world as You have, yet not to love, accept or tolerate the things You despise. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may walk in all these things.   Amen