Archive for February, 2017

The Great Honor (Acts 26)

February 28, 2017

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews.”  Acts 26:2-3

Have you ever failed to realize how great of an honor you hand in doing something or being a part of something?  Throughout my life I have been honored many times in being a part of major events or having the honor of traveling to amazing places.  Often it was only after the event that I reflected back and thought, “that was a great honor.”

Question:  “What is the one thing that you hold as the greatest honor you have ever been a part of?”

If you were to ask Paul, he would say, “the honor of sharing the gospel.”

Here in Acts 26 Paul once again makes the defense of his faith.  The beauty of his defense is one that always grips my soul.  The reason for this moment of honor was simply because the Roman authority wanted to know why he was in prison.

In Paul’s response, we come to the key verses: 16-18

16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Paul understood his salvation meant great honor would come to both Jews and Gentiles:

  • Paul was giving witness of Jesus Christ.
  • Paul saw multitudes of both Jews and Gentiles come to Christ,

Paul was faithful in going into the world with this great honor in his heart and mind.  Their eyes were opened and they turned from darkness to light.  They turned from Satan to Jesus Christ.  They received forgiveness of sins.  They would become members of the God’s family,

  • Paul success was all because of God, Vs: 22.
  • Paul’s zeal was for all people to be saved, Vs: 29.

To his dying breath, Paul was thankful for the honor of witnessing for Jesus.

I spent time praying in thankfulness for the honor of sharing my faith!!!  Now it is time to honor the honor by sharing my faith!!!

I pray the Lord shows you the same honor!!!

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No Fear Of Death (Acts 25)

February 27, 2017

11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Acts 25:11

If you knew her, you would laugh because she has so much joy.  Her name, “Mary.”  She and her sister are full of life.  One of Mary’s favorite things to do is to zipline. Now, you might say, “So what!”  But what if I told you, Mary was in her seventies.  And by the way, she is. Mary is one of those crazy Christians who have “no fear of death.”

Question, “Where are you with the issue of death?”

People have many approaches when it comes to the subject of death.  Some people refuse to talk about death and they even refuse to go to someone else’s funeral service.  Others poke fun of death as those it is no big deal.  Still others focus on death with a fear that grips them more and more as they approach the day of death.

Consider Paul’s state of mind concerning death in Acts 25.

Once again, Paul is facing trial.  He has been under arrest for 2 years awaiting a verdict of either innocence or death.  In the chapter before us a new governor takes rule.  His name is Festus (Not the one on Gunsmoke).  He is a typical politician in that he wants to please the crowds.  The problem he has is simply, “None of the people who levied charges against Paul could prove them.”

Festus attempts to get Paul to go back to Jerusalem to stand trial.  But Paul appeals to Caesar.  We ask the question, “Was Paul afraid of going back because of having to face death?”  The answer is no!  Paul makes it clear, “I have no fear of death.”

How could anyone be like Paul and Mary?  Answer, “You need to know what God has to say about death.”

  • Death is real, Hebrews 9:27 “It is once appointed unto man to die…”
  • Death was no match for Jesus, I Cor. 15:20-26

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

  • Death was rendered powerless by Jesus: I Corinthians 15:51-57

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Death is the release from all the brokeness of the world.  Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

  • Death is our passage way to our reward, II Timothy 4:6-8

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Brothers and sisters, in Christ, we have no reason to fear death!!!  I love the following lines in the song, “In Christ alone.”  I leave them with you:

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
’til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Come back later (Acts 24)

February 24, 2017

25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” Acts 24:25

A few weeks ago Sherry and I were pulling out of our driveway as a family was walking down the street.  After we left our neighbor said, “They knocked on your door.”  We later discovered they were witnesses for a different religion.  Our son was at home, but would not answer the door.  Thankfully, he did not answer and say, “come back later.”

In Acts 24 Paul is still under house arrest.  Nine days have passed and finally the Jewish delegation  arrives.  After hearing their side of the story and hearing Paul’s side of the story, Felix decides to put off his decision even though he knows Paul is innocent.

The Bible says, “for the next two years Paul would speak again and again to the governor concerning Christian faith.  Each time Paul would reason about the difference Christ makes in one’s life:

  • One begins to live in a righteous way.
  • One begins to live in the Spirit’s control exercising self-control.
  • One begins to prepare for the Lord’s return.

Each time Paul would reason with the governor, “He would send him away until a later date.”  In other words, he kept putting off coming to Jesus!

Brothers and sisters, you and I understand the danger of putting off salvation.  We hear the strong words of James in 4:13-17

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Two years would pass and Felix would leave the region, still without Christ and still saying, “come back later.”  But later never came.  May you and I heed the warning of Scripture with all we meet, II Corinthians 6:1-2

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
    and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

The Wall (Acts 23)

February 23, 2017

Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Acts 23:3

Question:  “Do you every feel like your back is against the wall in life?”

Certainly we each would answer, “Yes.”  In Acts 23 it might seem that Paul’s back was to the wall.  As Luke writes about Paul’s present wall moments we discover three scenes and one obscure scene:

  • Here are the three scenes:
    • Paul before the council, Vs: 1-10.
    • Paul facing terrorists, Vs: 12-22.
    • Paul taken out of jail at night, Vs: 23-35.
  • Here is the obscure scene:

11 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 23:1

In the first scene Paul is slapped at the command of the High Priest.  We notice Paul speaks strongly to his accusers.  This was a mighty wall of defense for Paul.

In the second scene Paul is warned at what was coming toward his wall.   We notice Paul calmly directing the scene to his deliverance. This was a miracle wall of providence for Paul.

In the third scene we visualize Paul simply going with the troop of soldiers who were protecting his life.  This was a major wall of protection for Paul.

Brothers and sisters,”Do you need a wall this day?”

The religious counsel thought they had a wall.  But Paul described their wall as being “whitewashed.” It was simply a wall that was faulty in production and had been painted white to cover the cracks.”  Look up Ezekiel 13:10-14 for more insight.

However, Paul’s wall was real and it would withstand any assault against the enemy.  Brothers and sisters awaken to the reality, “your back is not against the wall.  It is the Devil who is against the wall and he is going down!”

I leave you with so wall standing verses:

Romans 8:31-39

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[b] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,

39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

The Best Apology (Acts 22)

February 22, 2017

“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.” Acts 22:1

The mob had blood in their eyes and murder in their hearts.  Certainly the Apostle Paul must have known this because of his previous experience with mobs.  The fact is, there was a day when he would have been the leading voice in the mob.    But now his life was different.

Here in Acts 22 Paul make an apology (defense) of the faith!!!

This is the second of three times that Luke will share with us Paul’s defense of his faith.  Question: “Have you ever given a defense of your faith?”  The work of apologetics is an amazing needed work in our day of debate and depravity.

Consider the following questions:

  • Is your life different because of Christ?
  • What are those differences?
  • Why has the change come?
  • Has those changes affected the way the world views you?

As Paul stands us in defense of the faith, he stands as one who had been changed.  He shares about the changes in his life and he shares the reason for his changes.  As Paul addresses this mob he knows God’s will and He has seen the Lord.  He knows the assignment God has for Him.

14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to every one of what you have seen and heard.”

To this point the crowd listened in silence, but what Paul shared next was too much for the crowd to take.  They could not bear to believe the Lord loved Gentiles.

Brothers and sisters, be aware the ministry of apologetics will be very costly to you:

  • You will be at odds with the world.
  • You will have opportunity before the world.
  • You will be at times overcome by the assault of the world.
  • You will overcome the world.

I believe it is clear, “God wants His people to engage the world in a strong defense of faith.”  But if this is to happen, we must embrace and all in view of our faith.  Here is how James describes this:

You adulterous people![c] Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:4-7

May you and I submit to God’s all in today!!!

What Is Your Plan (Acts 21)

February 21, 2017

14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:14

A couple of days ago I was preaching at a local pastor’s conference when Sherry texted me with a question that I responded to.  Then she responded with this question: “What is your plan?”

Let me ask you this same question: “What is your plan?”

In Acts 21 the followers of Christ who loved Paul attempted to talk him of the plan’s he had.  The plans were simple:

  • Travel to Jerusalem, Vs:1-8.
  • Testify of God’s work, Vs: 17-20.
  • Listen to the wisdom of James, Vs: 21-26.
  • Be assaulted by misinformed people, Vs: 27-36.
  • Speak to the mob concerning the gospel, Vs: 37-40.

I don’t know about you but for me that is a very busy plan.  The Bible records, “they tried to talk Paul out of this plan.”  It was not that they did not care about God’s plan, it was they cared about Paul’s well-being!

The truth is, there are many well-meaning people who will talk you out of God’s will because of their desire for you and I not to suffer.  But be assured, suffering is a part of our walk with Christ. When this group could not talk Paul out of this plan they said, “let the will of the Lord be done.”

Brothers and sisters, “This is my plan for this day and every day!!!” I hope it is yours as well.  Check out the awesome words the following song, “Thy will be done!”

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Good news you have in store

So, thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord.

Read more: Hillary Scott – Thy Will Lyrics | MetroLyrics

What makes a person tick? (Acts 20)

February 20, 2017

18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.[c] 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[d] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.  Acts 20:18-24

A couple of nights ago, as I was scrolling through our TV channels, I paused for a few seconds to an interview the famous baseball placer, Peter Rose, was giving with Joe Buck.  As I listened, knowing of his major failure over 25 years ago, I thought “What makes this guy tick?”

Have you ever paused to consider the same question concerning your own life.  Take time in this moment to pause and ask yourself, “What makes me tick?”

Did you do it?  If not, do it now!  Maybe you can write down a few things that make you tick.

I hope you really did do this?  For a moment, lets look at Paul’s life in context of Acts 20 and discover the four distinguishing attributes we see in his life.  They give us a clue as to what made him tick:

  • We see Paul’s character.  Paul was “serving the Lord with all humility.”
  • We see Paul’s challenges. Paul faced constant trials at the hands of “the plots of the Jews.”
  • We see Paul’s convictions. Paul did not “shrink back from sharing the whole counsel of God.”
  • We see Paul’s commitment.  Paul’s life was clearly committed to “finishing his course.”

These 4 attributes help us to discover what made Paul tick.  Here it is: “Paul lived his life for the glory of the Lord among the nations!”

This was his goal, his drive, his passion, and his pleasure.  I believe this is clearly what Jesus had in mind when He spoke the following words: Matthew 16:24

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me

Lord, may this be what causes each of us to tick today!!!

Falling from the sky (Acts 19)

February 17, 2017

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Acts 19:35

Question: “Do you ever feel like the whole world is against you?”  I mean do you sometimes feel like the sky has fallen on you?

The residence of the city of Ephesus had literally experienced something falling from the sky.  Most believe it was probably a meteorite that had fallen from the sky.  But the people in Ephesus in their ignorance had named this stone “Artemis.”  You and I are more familiar with the name “Diana.”  She was considered the fertility God.  The whole city had been caught up in this worship so much that it had spread to much of Asia.

But when Paul came to Ephesus, he found 12 men who had been reached by one of the disciples of John the Baptist.  They had embraced the teaching that Jesus was coming and they needed to repent and be baptized looking forward to Jesus coming.  Paul proclaims to them “Jesus has come.”  In that moment they received the Holy Spirit.

Now, for the next two years Paul proclaimed Jesus in the city.  Luke comments in Vs: 10 “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”

So much happened with Paul in Ephesus.  But at the end of two years, Artemis crowd rose up.  What was their problem.  Here is what Luke said:

27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

In this moment two things are clear:

  • They believed the worship of their god was in danger.
  • They knew the profit from their god was in danger.

Key-This is where we have to have spiritual understanding.  When your sky seems to be falling, you must check the spiritual temperature of your surroundings.

This was spiritual warfare.  The dead god of Artemis was really the puppet god of our enemy Satan.  Who by the way, also fell from the sky when God cast him out of heaven, Isaiah 14:11-14.  When the gospel is proclaimed the Devil will rise up!

Yes, there are days when I believe the sky is falling, but the Word of God always settles my faith.  I am reminded to put on the full armor of God and to pay attention to whom my real enemy is.  I am to know my purpose and I am to stay in the real fight for the glory of God.

I want to leave you with Paul’s teaching for this church, Ephesians 4:17-24

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[a] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

A shout-out to the co-workers (Acts 18)

February 16, 2017

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Romans 16:3-5a

As Luke continues his narrative writing about the ministry of Paul in this all-important missionary journey, we read of his coming to Corinth.  Here are the obvious facts about this awesome work:

  • We discover Paul’s willingness to do bi-vocational work in Vs: 3.
  • We discover Paul’s continued focus on teaching the Word of God, Vs: 5-8

In these verses we discover Paul’s passion to do all he can to reach his fellow countrymen.  We also see his zeal to reach all men.

  • We discover Paul’s humanity in the natural fear of suffering in Vs: 9-10.  The Lord’s Words to Paul are worth a second look this morning:

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

  • We discover Paul’s willingness to stay in Corinth for 18 months.
  • We discover the realities of the constant pressures of ministry, Vs: 12-18.
  • We rejoice in Paul’s commitment to the Lord’s will, Vs: 21.

What an amazing life lived out before us on the pages of Scripture.

However, lets take a moment to give a shout-out to Paul’s co-workers: Aquila and Priscilla.  This must have been Paul’s closest co-workers because he mentions them so often in his thankfulness before God.

Here is what this couple did in the ministry: “they were providers of employment as well as financial support to Paul. They were co-workers in the gospel.  They were people who placed their lives on the line for Paul.  They were church planters. They were mentors. And finally they were encouragers.”

Brothers and sisters, these are the people we need on our team.  This day I place before you several important things:

  • Send someone a note who has been such a co-worker with you.
  • Seek to become such a co-worker for others.
  • Seek out people who can become co-workers in the gospel.

I want to close my saying, “Thank you to everyone who has been a co-worker with me in the gospel.”  You are worthy of honor and praise this day!!!  I Peter 2:17.

 

Deeper Still (Acts 17)

February 15, 2017

28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being,”

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.” Acts 17:28

There are moments when I want to just turn away from what is before me!!!  These moments range from the fear of confrontation to the laziness of the flesh.  But I know God has caused me to understand the following: God does not grow us in the shallow end of the pool.  God grows us in the deep end of the pool of life.”

This day you could be facing a moment that you want to run from, hand off to someone else, or even deny?  But could it be, God is telling you He is going to be taking you deeper still?

I see this in Paul’s life in Acts 17.  When Paul faced difficulty in Acts 16 he did not turn away.  We see him going deeper still as we following him on the map of Acts 17.  Paul makes his way to city after city with the message of the cross.  In every place Paul finds opportunity and opposition.  In each city, churches are birthed and the gospel goes further still.

We ask ourselves, “What drove Paul to go deeper still?”  Answer, “Acts 17:28”

Paul knew that in Christ we live, we move, and we have our being.

For me this translates into the drive to go deeper:

  • Paul’s life was in Christ.
  • Paul’s purpose was in Christ.
  • Paul’s identity was in Christ.

Check out Philippians 1:20-27

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Brothers and sisters we are alive because of Jesus. We have a purpose for life because of Jesus.  We have an identity in Christ that causes us to go deeper still in life or death.

The group Casting Crowns says it better than I in their song “All because of Jesus.”

Giver of every breath I breathe
Author of all eternity
Giver of every perfect thing
To You be the glory
Maker of Heaven and of Earth
No one can comprehend Your worth
King over all the universe
To You be the glory

And I am alive because I’m alive in You

It’s all because of Jesus I’m alive
It’s all because the blood of Jesus Christ
That covers me and raised this dead man’s life
It’s all because of Jesus I’m alive
I’m alive, I’m alive