Archive for March, 2012

After Me

March 30, 2012

And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie,” Mark 1:7

This morning our More For Christ readings take us to the gospel of Mark where will spend the next month together.  I remind you that Mark is the guy (Acts 13:13) who bailed out on Paul and Barnabas during their first missionary journey.  As Mark writes he is much older and he has matured in his walk with Christ.  He has served faithfully to which both Peter and Paul affirm.  In this I find great encouragement that the gospel changes failures into faithful men that can be used by God.

Mark begins his gospel, not at the birth of Christ, but at the announcement of the coming of Christ.  The story of John the Baptist occupies the first 8 verses.  I encourage you to read about the life of this great man.  This morning I found myself amazed at his humility and his deep understanding of the gospel.

For the gospel to be successful, you and I must learn the gospel is Jesus story and not ours.  I find myself so challenged as John speaks, “After me.”  Yes the gospel is His story, but the gospel is often challenged by my story.

My old nature wants to elevate me.  People cannot be saved by your story.  Paul is clear in Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”  This very day I must get past me.

The gospel itself is the story of a Savior who came to this world so that we could have an “After me.”  If I am still in me, I have either not come to Christ or Christ has not been formed in me, Gal 4:19.

This day, I want everyone to know about the after me part of my life.  In this the gospel is clearly presented.  I challenge every follower of Christ to come to this resolved place of submitting to God’s story and submitting to striving for Christ to be formed in us.  In this we will see the gospel at work.

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Under House Arrest

March 29, 2012

“And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him.” Acts 28:16

Has there been moments in your life when you felt like your hands were tied?  I mean, you wanted to change where you were and what you were facing.  The fact is, most people spend large amounts of their lives trying to get out of where they are because they believe, “If I can get in a better position I can do more for Christ.”  This brothers and sister is often a lie of the enemy.

Consider Paul’s circumstances.  He is finally in Rome, Acts 28:11-31.  He is able to set up headquarters in a rented house.  But there is one catch.  Paul is under house arrest as a prisoner of Rome.

Certainly Paul could have been stressed over his circumstances and certainly Paul could have said, “This is no place to do ministry.”  But the opposite is the case.  Paul begins to receive as many people as possible and begins to share the gospel.  The next two years Paul would be extremely productive as he shared Christ with soldiers, people from all walks of life, and he would write several books of the bible.  All of this while being under house arrest.

Here is what Paul said, recorded by Luke: “it is for the hope of Israel that I am wearing these chains.” This was all a part of God’s plan for the furtherance of the gospel.  Question, “What are you facing today that seems like it has your hands tied?”

Consider the fact that the cross did not look like the best thing for Jesus.  But it was God’s plan for the salvation of mankind (Hope of Israel).  Jesus willingly went to the cross because this was the place where He would finish His mission.

So I say to those who read this today, “Be faithful where God has placed you.”  Allow Him to complete His work in and through you.  In His own timing He will move you from where you are.  Paul was be released after 2 years.  You will be released for your next assignment in God’s timing.  I encourage you to trust God in all of this and get to work with joy where you are this very day.

For further study, “Consider Paul’s letter to Philippians while he was under house arrest.” 

How Can You Use This?

March 28, 2012

“The soldiers plan was to kill the prisoners, lest anyone should swim away and escape.” Acts 27:42

This morning I was gripped by the wonder of God’s providence in our More For Christ readings, Acts 27:39-28:10.  These verses chronicle Paul in two difficult places.  The first place was in a storm where the soldiers made plans to kill him and all the prisoners because they did not want them to escape.  The second place was by the shore when a snake decided to connect with Paul’s arm.

The fact is, “Sometimes life does not make sense.”  There are moments when, in a weakened faith moment, we question God’s wisdom in what comes our way.  However, if we can just hold onto faith we will be able to see God’s providence at work in our lives.

In these verses we discover God at work in saving all of the prisoners because Paul was liked by the solider in charge.  In these verses we discover God at work in protecting Paul from the ill effects of a snake bit.  This miracle positioned Paul to be able to share the gospel with the people of Malta.

Personally I can see Romans 8:28 all over this passage, “All things work together for Good for those who love the lord and are called according to His purpose.”  Paul loved the Lord and He trusted in God’s movements in his life.  Paul knew his purpose and He knew that everything that came his way was “Working,” to accomplish this purpose.

This foundational truth gave Paul the strength to carry on during difficult days.  Without a doubt there are difficulties that are in front of you today.  I know there are in front of me.  But one thing is for sure, “If God be for us, who can be against us.”  

This day, I encourage you in the midst of your storm to look to Jesus and consider what He is really doing.  And when you cannot see what He is doing,  make a settled decision to trust in His decision-making.  This will bring a settled peace that will cause you to weather the storm because you are in His hands.

For further reading, “Romans 8, II Corinthians 1.”  

The Tragic Error of “Supposing”

March 27, 2012

“Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore.  But soon…” Acts 27:13-14a

There are those moments in life when we are absolutely sure of our decisions.  But we are later to discover our surety was really just “Supposing.”  I can imagine the quarterback of the Denver Bronco’s, Tim Tebow is facing this as he supposed he was the number one guy until Peyton Manning became available.

The owners of the ship Paul was traveling in (Acts 27:13-38) were sure that they had made the right decision about travelling this close to winter.  At first it seemed as if they had made the right decision, but soon they changed their minds.

As I read this passage I was amazed at how often people end up in great storms because they suppose instead of seeking God in their choices in life.  The fact is, these people would not listen to the voice of reason because they had made up their minds.  Again they supposed they were right.

Question, “Is there some decision you are supposing today?”  Maybe it is with finances or with your future.  Is it really wise to make such decisions all by yourself?

The text before us clearly states, “All hope of being saved was abandoned.”  This group of supposers were going down.  But notice what happened, “Take heart for there will not be any loss of life among you.”  In the midst of this storm, God gives grace.  Because Paul was onboard the Lord would give grace to all who were with him.

I wonder, “Do you see the greatness in this example?”  I see a picture of the reality that because of Christ being in our lives we receive grace when we should have received judgment.  Because Paul was on board these people knew what to do and they would be given a second chance.

Oh my friend this is exactly what happens in the life of the Child of God.  Oh how often we have lived with supposing when we should have lived in dependence on God.  This day I pleaded with our Lord to help me to not only seek to know His will but that I would submit to His will.

I truly believe there are people who will read this blog who are living their lives with storm after storm simply because they have a supposing mentality instead of a seeking mentality.  May you and I come to the place that we seek God’s will instead of supposing God’s will.

Out Of Your Mind

March 26, 2012

“Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” Act 26:24.

Last week I read the tragic story of a missionary in Yemen who was killed by a radical militant group.  Here was their reason, “This so-called teacher was proselytizing for Christianity.”  Fox-news broke the story last Monday and details made it clear that this teacher and his family had moved to Yemen in hopes of making a difference.  Local authorities said; “This teacher has always been extremely respectful of all religions.”

The sad reality for some would be, “This family had to be out of their mind to move to hostile place for Christianity sake.”  This is what Paul was accused of in Acts 26:19-32.  The king could not comprehend why this man would put his life on the line for the gospel.

Here is Paul’s explanation: “Whether short of long, I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am-except for these chains.” Acts 26:29.

Paul’s desire was that the gospel would go forth.  He did not have concern for his own life. Yes the world would consider him out of his mind, But the opposite is true.  When Paul came to Christ he had a new nature with a new mind that truly understood what life is really all about.

This was the case with the teacher who moved to Yemen.  I wonder, “How are you making decisions for your life?”  Are you making them with the leadership of your new mind or your old mind?  The new mind is controlled by God and the old mind is controlled by you.

This morning the following verse challenged me to think out of my mind and in His mind, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”  Proverbs 16:3.

Now, certainly there are those who would say, “The teacher’s life had no effect.  It must have been wasted.”  I would totally disagree.  The word never returns void.  Without a doubt this teachers life affected and will affect so many.  Even this day, what you read is because of this life.

I challenge you to start listening to your new nature and forsake the old nature.  When you do, be assured there will be challenges.  But at the same time there will be great opportunities for the gospel.

 

Longer Than You Thought

March 23, 2012

“When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus.  And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” Acts 24:27

This morning’s scripture reading comes from Acts 24:24-25:12.  Paul is still under arrest for the sake of the gospel.  Two years have passed.

As I read Luke’s commentary I could not help but feel the magnitude of what was being communicated.  2 years are a good chunk out of a person’s life.  Imagine how you would feel if someone said, “For the next two years you are going to go through tribulation that will resemble being in prison.”  The fact is, many people are going through such tribulation.

For example, “A family that goes through a spouse with cancer can feel as if they are imprisoned as the cancer holds captive their schedules, their loss of energy, and often holds them captive on a roller-coaster that is both up and down.”

As I considered Paul’s circumstances I am reminded that Paul knew this was an opportunity for the gospel (24:24-25).  Each day Paul would be given opportunities to share and live out his faith in places where it would never be lived out otherwise.  Each day Paul was looking onward to what God had promised.  Paul would go to Rome.  As I read these verses, I was reminded of Romans 1:11-15 where Paul wrote with passion about being able to go to Rome to fulfill God’s purpose.

Finally I was reminded that each day Paul was given opportunity to trust God in extraordinary ways.  Romans 8:28 floods through my heart and mind even as I read this text.  Paul lived out what God promised.  Yes, it had to be longer than Paul thought it would be, but it was all worth it!!!

Now, let’s consider how we can apply this to our lives:

1)  The things you are facing are truly and opportunity for the gospel.  Ask the lord to give you a sensitivity to those around us who need the gospel.

2) The things you are facing are truly and opportunity to look to the future.  God will complete what he has promised.  I encourage you to read Romans 1:11-15 in order to grasp how we must look to the future.  If God has work for you to accomplish, your life is not finished.  There is still more to do.

3) The things you are facing are truly and opportunity to strengthen your faith.  Just like Paul we have been called to extraordinary faith.  Begin to journal all you are going through.  Be a voice for Christ in these days.

Yes, this moment may be longer than you think.  But be assured it will be worth it in the end.

Facing Your Critics

March 22, 2012

So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man,” Acts 24:16

Question, “Do you have any critics in your life?”  I can anticipate some of you responding, “Are you kidding?”  The fact is all of us have critics.  Now for some of you, this may come as a shock.  You probably have been thinking that everyone likes you and everyone loves to hear what you have to say.  I am sorry to bust your bubble, but you are mistaken.  The fact is, anyone who stands for Christ will face strong critics.

Consider the Apostle Paul in Acts 24:1-23.  As Paul stands trail before the Roman authority we discover his critics are a formidable group.  His critics consist of the High Priest and some of the elders from the church.  These critics accuse Paul of the same crimes that Jesus was accused of in Lk. 23:2.  In my opinion, Paul was in good company.

These critics go so far as to accuse Paul of being, “A plague in society.”  As I read these words, I was reminded that people are already possessed with a plague called sin.  This plague is deadly and has a 100% success rate in the world.  All men die.  Jesus came to rescue a plagued world.  These critics were blinded by their plague and they crucified the one who offered them healing.

Now, just 30 years later they are wanting to kill Paul who was offering them the antidote for their sin.  Paul simply was a proclaimer of the gospel.

At this moment we must ask ourselves the following question, “How do you face such blinded critics?”  Here would be Paul’s answer:  “Focus on the gospel.”  This is exactly what Paul did in Vs:10-24.  The gospel gave Paul freedom to be able to say, “Check out my story and see if I am innocent of the charges against me.”  Paul was able to proclaim, “It is for the hope of the resurrection that I am on trial.”  Paul’s critics were against the gospel, not some sin in Paul’s life.

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to face critics, may it be for the gospel’s sake and not because we are hypocrites!  This very day there are many followers of Christ who claim they are facing critics when in fact they are facing the consequences of their failure to be clear of conscience before God and men.

You and I must work hard, Phil. 3:12-14, at living a life that is of clear conscience before God and men.  We must be committed to Gospel change in our personal lives.  When this happens there will be gospel clarity before the world.

So my challenge to you this day would be to live a consecrated life so that your critics would see the gospel and so that you would have and opportunity to share the gospel unhindered from any distraction.

For further reading consider I Thessalonians 5 and Kerry Shook’s book, “One Month to live.”  

The Next Day

March 21, 2012

“When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.”  Acts 23:12

“Wow, this was great.  This was just what I needed.”  These words could have come from virtually any believer on a Sunday morning after a stirring message that explained how God is with us and how God has a plan for the success of our lives.

However, just one day later, these same people could be saying, “Well, I guess that stuff was just for Sunday. because life is hard today.”  Truly, many Christians live their lives on an emotional roller-coaster.  But is this the way it should be?

This morning we find our answer in our more for Christ reading, “Acts 23:12-35.”  In our text we find Paul on the next day after God’s assurance that He would walk with Paul in accomplishing the task He had set for Paul.  In our text we read about 40 men who make and oath to kill Paul.

I wrote the following in my journal this morning, “I wonder how Paul must have felt as he received the news of this plot?  I wonder how it must have felt being taken from place to place as a prisoner?”  I think the answer can be seen in the way Paul approached these days.  His zeal for God’s work is amazing.  He had an inner peace because The Prince of Peace was for Him and the Holy Spirit was on the inside of him.

Paul knew, “If God be for me, who can be against me,” Rom. 8:31.  Paul knew that God was in charge of all of his circumstances.  These things that were happening to him were clearly God’s movements in his life.

Question, “Do you believe God is in charge of your circumstances?”  Your theological understanding will make all the difference in how you approach your next days.  If you believe your life is your choice, then you believe God is a silent participant who waits for your choices before He works.  If this is the case,  your life will be up and down.

However if you trust in his leadership you have peace because you know that God is leading your life and not the enemy nor yourself.  This morning, like Paul, I have such settled peace that whatever comes into my day, is God’s enablement to accomplish His purpose in my life.

Today, I challenge you to place all of your trust in His hands and I challenge you to have a biblical worldview so that there were be peace in your heart and in your home.  This day may our knowledge of God increase more and more.

For further study consider Romans 8 and Proverbs 15

 

You Deserve To Die

March 20, 2012

“And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.” Acts 23:2

Today’s scripture reading, “Acts 22:24-23:11,” plunges us in the midst of a vicious time in the ministry of Paul. Paul has returned to Jerusalem because of God’s direction in his life. He comes with a relief offering for the saints.  While there the Jews take him by force and would have pulled him apart had it not been for the Roman authority.

In the text before us, Paul is brought before the Jewish tribunal which is made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees.  It is enough to know that the Jews hated Paul and they would go to any extreme to kill Paul.

In the midst of this ordeal, Paul receives a visitor.  Here is Luke’s narrative: “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” Acts 23:11.

I hope you realize this visitor is Jesus.  In his darkest moment Jesus comes to Paul.  Here Paul was facing death and Jesus shows up.  I don’t know if you understand the magnitude of all of this?  But for me, my heart leaps as I realize what a picture this is of Jesus coming to a dark world to deliver those who deserve to die.

Jesus reminds Paul that he would complete what God ordained to happen.  This night, Paul would be able to rest in the strength of Jesus words.  Brothers and sisters there is always power in Jesus words.  When Jesus speaks things happen.  Consider the tomb of Lazarus where Jesus speaks, “Lazarus come forth.”  Jesus word’s have power, “He came forth.”

Question, “Has someone or some circumstances moved you from your place of confidence in Christ?”  Maybe you are like Paul, hearing words from people who are saying, “you deserve to die?” In these moments you must look to the Author and Finisher of your faith, “Jesus Christ.” Listen to His word because He has the final word.

I must confess that I needed to hear these words this morning as I face the challenges of a new day.  I truly believe you need to hear his words today.  So, I encourage you to hit the pause button on your busy mind and take some time to listen to His word.  Allow me to suggest that you read the book of Philippians or the book of I Peter.  Also check out II Timothy 4:17.

Oh how I praise God that Jesus came and stood by me and stood in my place before the wrath of God.  Because he stood for me, I can now stand for him and with him in the day of Judgment.

Addressing A Mob

March 19, 2012

“And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people.  And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language,” Acts 21:40.

Over the last few weeks, I have watched with particular interest the unrest in Afghanistan. The latest unrest began as two U.N. officials accidentally burned two Quran’s. This set off an outrage among the Islamic people.  Many people have gotten involved and many have given their opinion.  However the truth that is behind all of this is simply, “The enemy is at work to continue to keep people in the darkness and in the dungeon of sin.”

Imagine if you had been given the task to speak to such a group?  In our More For Christ readings for March 19th, Acts 22:1-23 we read the story of Paul addressing a mob.  This mob was made up of angry Jews who were being incited by the same religious leaders that incited the crowds against Jesus.

Here is a simple outline of the text: 1) Paul shared in their own language, Vs: 1-2.  Here we see a connection that Paul had with the people.  It caused them to listen.  If you and I hope to help others understand the gospel, we must win the right by walking in their culture.  2) Paul shared concerning his previous life, Vs: 3-5.  Paul as with every believer, had a BC life, that is Before Christ.  3) Paul shares concerning his seeing the Light. Vs: 6-16.  The light of the gospel shown into Paul’s life causing Paul to see his sinfulness and his need of a Savior.  4) Paul followed the Lord’s leadership of his life, Vs: 17-21.  This very day we are followers of Christ.  This very day we have been called to reach out to those who are in darkness.

It is interesting to note that the mob listened until Paul said, “He said, go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”  In this moment they could bear it no more because of the darkness in their heart.

I wonder, “Would you be willing to address such a mob?”  For, me this is a very personal question because I address crowds almost on a daily basis.  I am so thankful that I do not face a mob, but would I be willing is the question?

This very day, you may be faced with people who really do not want to hear what you have to say.  In those moments we must remember that we are not speaking to receive applause nor are we seeking God’s approval.  We are sharing because the gospel must be shared.  Oh how I pray we find success as we share in Jesus name.