Thursday, October 31, 2013

Liberty is No Excuse for Self Glory

1 Corinthians 3:10-12 KJV
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

There is a good deal of liberty expressed in this chapter. In addressing the issue of rewards for ministry the Apostle states that there is no difference between the one who waters and the one who harvests, that each is entitled to an equal reward for the fruit. It reminds me of David's men who stayed by the stuff; some of the others felt like those who stayed behind did not deserve as much of the spoils as those who had actually done the fighting. David refused their sentiment ad gave equally to all.

  • We are laborers together
  • We are working for a common cause
  • We will all receive our own reward
  • One lays the foundation, another builds on the foundation

Everything about this passage smacks of humility and the deprecation of self in favor of the Lord.

But then there is this word of caution, "let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." Just because there is grace in the work of the ministry does not mean there ought to be carelessness in that work. If one is going to build, he had better see that He has read the rule book. The foundation is Jesus Christ. To build anything upon Christ other than what is sanctioned in the Word of God is a grievous error, and will result in loss.

Go ahead. Grab your tools! God rewards all who get busy in his ministry. But take heed. Do this work

  • For the glory of God
  • Resting upon Jesus Christ and 
  • According to the precepts of the Word

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pastoral Qualifications

1 Corinthians 2:3 KJV
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

I note:
These are not the qualifications most desired in today's preacher
No church that I am aware if would consciously seek a man who was weak, fearful and full of trembling. I have met some preachers who are this way. I have experienced some of those attributes myself. But these are not popular qualities in modern preachers.

These were no more popular in Paul's own day
This is easily demonstrated by the enormous amount of criticism he faced, especially by those Judaizers who followed after him.

They are nevertheless, qualities Paul lifted up as proofs of God's ministry through him
The work that he had accomplished could not be credited to his abilities and talents.
Though he admitted he worked hard, nothing he had done could be explained merely by hard work. This was not the modern "Ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration" mentality so promoted these days. This was God's strength demonstrated through man's weakness. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Multiple Layers of Fellowship

1 Corinthians 1:2 KJV
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

This one passage may reflect the multiple layers of fellowship believers have with one another
Unto the church
This is unquestionably a reference to a local congregation as it is at Corinth and the very term "church" demands it be an assembly. An assembly is always made up of qualified membership. It is not merely a gathering or mass of people, it has order and purpose.

To them that are sanctified
This could be viewed as a reinforcement of those who are qualified to be members: sanctified and called. It could also reflect that within this congregation were people who have been called of God to salvation but who have not yet united to the membership of this church through baptism. Any sound church will have those it has reached but has incorporated into the church yet. 

With all that in every place

This phrase acknowledges the existence of and relationship to all believers everywhere. It is not a church relationship. It is not the same as a purposeful and organized assembly; those ought to exist in each locality, but it is a communion between brethren. Each local church is it own organism with Christ as its head. Each local church is related to and in some way in fellowship with all others in everyplace so long as they in fact call upon the name of Christ. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Meaningful Commendations

Romans 16:1 KJV
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

Here is the value of a word of commendation. Paul gave his reputation for the reputation of another. Without such commendations, there would be no way for her to have made an inroad into these believers to help her in her business. Communication was slow and limited and testimonies are not built overnight. For this church to have aided her without such commendation would have been imprudent. 

A similar thing happens among Christians today. It can take the form of a missionary approval by an organization like Global Independent Baptist Missions or the like. It might be as simple as a missionary using the name of one pastor as he asks for a meeting in a church that is unknown to him. 

My thought today is that such commendations ought to be carefully handed out and more highly regarded. The commendation is only good if the one commending 
  • Has extended experience with the person
  • Is truthful and accurate in the commendation
  • Considers his personal commendation a valuable treasure not to be given freely 
I also note that it is Paul making the commendation and not Phebe implying such a commendation exists. (I know that Phebe carried this letter and the commendation with her. I do not believe this in any way negates the idea that Paul made the commendation. He was under no constraint to give it.) Perhaps it would be better if a  missionary's request for aide was preceded by contact first from the one making the commendation. It would put a burden on that person but it would also indicate their sincere endorsement of the individual

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Picking Fights

1 Samuel 17:10 KJV
And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

This world is forever picking a fight with believers. 
  • If it isn't Cain against Abel 
  • If it isn't Pharaoh against Moses
  • If it isn't the Philistines against Israel
 Then it is:
  • Rome against personal faith
  • The kingdoms of this world against Baptist convictions

  • It is Satan against marriage
  • It is the devils against faith
  • It is the power of darkness against a soul's salvation
  • It is the principalities of hell against the preaching of the Word of God
God doesn't ask us to be strong or advanced in leadership or skilled in warfare or well known. God only asks us to be in the battle. Any little person may use any little thing to answer the evil one's challenge if we will but trust God. 

Killing Goliath didn't stop the fighting. And so it will be until Christ returns. This world will always have someone inspired by evil to pick a fight with faith. I believe God will always have someone inspired by his faith to answer. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Keep Your Faith to Yourself

Romans 14:22 KJV
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

We are experiencing a day of blatant disregard. It is seen in nearly every realm of the world:
  • Homosexuality being openly flaunted
  • Marijuana smoked in public
  • Cursing being printed on t shirts and spoken by celebrities
  • Promiscuity is practiced without shame

But these same blatant tendencies are also exhibited among Christians who, believing they have the liberty to do so, flaunt practices that would have been strictly prohibited just a few years ago. This is a violation of Paul's message of Romans 14. Concerning the eating of meats, Paul admitted that there was nothing wrong with eating all sorts of meats that are condemned in the Old Testament. But then Paul cautioned to be sensitive to the feelings of others who had not come to this conclusion yet. He told them that, should they believe it was all right to eat those meats, they were right. But then said they should keep that practice and that opinion to themselves. 

One might say that without the rebel who flaunts liberty the world would stay in bondage. That is simply not the case. It assumes too much responsibility upon men. It places the burden of working out the ages upon the restless and rebellious rather than accepting that God is alive and at work. Paul did preach and teach these doctrines of liberty but he did not flaunt them in the face of those who still wrestled over those issues.

Christian grace cares for the sensitivities of others. It does not need to fight for its rightful place but rests in the assurance that God who is will bring right to pass. This passage is not teaching us, then, to be quiet about our Christian faith. It is admonishing us to not flaunt controversial Christian positions about liberty in the face of those who do not hold those positions.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Let Us Draw Near

1 Samuel 14:36 KJV
And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God.

While Saul planned a raid on the Philistines the priest urged they first draw near to God. 

I find in this what should ultimately be the duty of every Christian since we are all made priests through Jesus Christ. 

The world plans things. They execute with more or less success their
  • plans and
  • programs and
  • strategies
for conquest and spoil.
  • Sometimes they have the good of people in mind
  • Many times their only motive is self-serving
In either case, Christians are best used as salt and light when, while the world makes their plans, we urge them to draw near to God. 

The passage has a particular application to the preacher too. If there is anyone whose focus ought to be on calling men to draw near to God it is the preacher. Every Christian has a duty. The pastor has that duty more so, for he has given his life and has been called of God for this very work. Others may get preoccupied and forget. The pastor had better never get so preoccupied. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Believe the Bible, Not Preconceived Opinions

1 Samuel 11:6 KJV
And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.

Here is an example of how we tend to interpret events of life and even the very Word of God off of our own preferences and background. We fail to see that there may be validity in another side because we don't want to see that validity. 

This passage clearly says that the Spirit of God came upon King Saul and that he was also filled with anger. The objections to Saul's anger here are a few:
  • We know that he was chosen by a God rejecting people
  • We know that Saul would soon reject God himself
Therefore we cannot use anything in the life of Saul as a positive example of a Biblical truth. 

I will give that Saul was chosen to be king after the insistence of a people who had rejected God from being their king. I will also give that Saul quickly turned from being a king after Gods heart. 

However the passage is clear; the Spirit of God here came upon him and his anger was kindled greatly. 

That a preacher would fail to see this as an instance of righteous indignation practiced by a man other than Jesus Christ can only be attributed to bringing a preconceived opinion to the passage. And that a congregation would hear and agree with his tainted interpretation, yea that preachers would follow such a tainted interpretation, can only be explained by their own preconceived notion that anger is a bad thing. We have all witnessed the devastating effects of an angry person. We may have been that angry person. And, having experienced that anger is most often a negative emotion; we look to mortify anger by calling it a sin. When, as in this case, a passage shows up which seems to teach against our preferred position, we accept any interpretation of the passage that reinforces what we already believe, namely that anger is a sin. 

But we do this in a dozen other ways as well. We want to believe a thing is either good or bad, right or wrong, because our experience has led us to see that thing in a particular light. We therefore look for ways to justify what we want to believe. Rather than accepting the Bible for what it says and approving of preachers who preach what it says, we tend to gravitate to preachers and churches that reinforce what we want to believe regardless of what it says. 

Gods Word is true. We must accept it for what it says rather than heap to ourselves to contortionists who make it say something entirely different and thereby appease the people.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Never Forsaken

Romans 11:2 KJV
God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,

Paul gives assurance that God had not cast away His people and that despite the fact that
They had killed the prophets 
Vs 3
God had placed before them a stumbling block
Vs 9-10
They as branches had been broken from the root of the tree
Vs 17
They had been broken off because of their own unbelief
Vs 20

If God would not abandon Israel for all of that then we may trust that God will not abandon us
  • Though we are absolutely sure we deserve it
  • Though it might often feel as if He has abandoned us

Still, God is faithful to His Word; He will never leave us or forsake us. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Never Justified to Disobey the Bible

1 Samuel 8:5 KJV
And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

Israel felt like they had justifiable cause to seek a king like the rest of the nations; it appeared to them that to allow the status quo would mean submission to Samuel's sons who were obviously not of the same heart as Samuel. They sought a change believing that change to be 
  • Practical
  • Typical and
  • For the good long term
It just wasn't in accordance with the plan of God. 

A good many things that we find in modern Christian practice looks a lot more like Israel demanding a king than believers trusting God.  Years ago I spoke with a friend who is a part of the Conservative Baptist Denomination. His objection he said to the independent Baptist position had to do with the selection of pastors when a church is in need of a preacher. Without a denomination, he could see no efficient way for that church to find a preacher. Now, to be sure, many churches have been damaged by calling a pastor whose doctrinal convictions did not match that of the church. But the fact that sometimes a bad man gets put into a church when it is up to the church to find their own pastor in no way alters the Biblical precedent of independent churches whose only head is Christ. In other words, that an independent Baptist Church is capable of calling a bad man to be their pastor in no way justifies supplanting Christ as that church's head and putting some denominational board in His place. 

This same logic is what has led to the addition of trustees as a church office rather than the two offices we find in the Bible. It has led to divorced men being called as pastors rather than waiting for a man who meets the bible qualifications. It has led to men involving churches in worldly affairs, believing those affairs are important enough to supplant the biblical mission of the church. 

A friend if mine was recently counseled by well meaning Christians to take a course of action that is indeed contrary to the Bible, but appeared to them to give him greater leverage to accomplish a higher purpose. To his credit my friend elected to obey God and leave it to God to do what He chooses. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Effectiveness of the Gospel

Romans 9:6 KJV
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Though there are reasons to have as Paul described it "great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart" on account of those who are not saved and who turn aside from the faith, this is not to say that the Word of God is without effectiveness. Like the Jews who had every advantage and yet only a remnant of them turn out to be genuine followers of the Lord, so we discover that very few of those who have tasted the blessings of Christian faith are really disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Though they may put on a show and act the part of the believer
  • Though they may pretend to serve God for a time
  • Though they, through the strength of their own flesh, push themselves forward in Christian circles a while
sooner or later they stumble in the path. Christ must carry us through the way that leads to eternal life or we would all stumble. It is this that eventually reveals that their faith was not the true deal. 

But though we see a lot of stumbling, that does not mean that the Bible has been ineffective. There are also those who, though having every reason to stumble, just go on. 

A friend of mine who recently went to be with the Lord was one of those. He got saved. And his faith sustained him through every sort of trial. He did not understand why everything that happened to him happened.
His lot was to become a fundamental Baptist, a group of Christians that have always been the smallest contingent of believers. We have never been the popular church movement.
  • His parents mocked a ridiculed him for his weight and for his faith. As far as I remember neither of them ever got saved but he kept on going.
  • He faced a time when he had to attend church without his wife, but he kept on going.
  • He struggled with finances. But he kept on going.
  • There were those who rejected him because of his weight. But he kept on going.
  • When I left Astoria and it became obvious that he could not stay in the church, he stepped out into a lifelong dream as an evangelist and kept on going.
  • When he got MS and became bound to a wheelchair he kept on going.
  • When he had a breakdown that changed his personality. He kept in going. 
He and others like him demonstrate the effectiveness of the gospel. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Just Enough to Want More

Romans 8:23 KJV
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Paul's description of the saved in this verse is, [those] "which have received the first fruits of the spirit." 
He claims that what we as Christians possess is like an earnest:
  • It speaks of something much grander to come
  • It is pleasant
  • It is rich but
  • It comes short of the fullest expectation
What the Christian receives at salvation is just enough to make us hungry for the full fare. We receive at our salvation enough insight into heaven to make us realize we are not there yet. 

So what the Christian receives is a reason to groan. We learn at salvation that the promise of God is not ours in the fullest sense. We receive at salvation, a dissatisfaction with earth. And we receive this, not from men but from the Spirit of God. It is God dwelling in us that finds earth in its present state an unnatural place to live. 

The Spirit causes us to groan and then within us prays with groaning a that cannot be uttered. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Let the War Continue

Romans 7:23 KJV
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

The Apostle was not afraid to frankly speak about the difficulties he had with the law of sin in his flesh. He said it often confused him so that the good that he would he did not and the evil that he would not he did. He said that it frequently brought him into captivity to the law of sin. He said he saw no escape, no deliverance except through Jesus Christ. 
  • There was no self-help program
  • There was no medical cure
  • There was no plan of action he could take
That would assure him victory in his war against the law of sin in his flesh. His hope was and would always be Jesus Christ. 

But this does not mean Paul gave in to the enemy. This is not a document of surrender. He used the word "warring" in a present continuous tense. This fight still raged on. And though in the book of Philippians he says he had not yet attained his victory. We know from II Timothy that he fought a good fight until Jesus gave him that victory in the end. 

There is only one victor, it is Jesus. But there is yet a command to fight. Surrender to this enemy is no option. 

Let the war against sin continue.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Affliction in the Physical and of the Property

1 Samuel 6:4-5 KJV
Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.
Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.

Though no mention of the plague of mice is made previous to this, it is obvious that the Philistines viewed the affliction of their bodies and of their land equally as chastening for having God's Ark. 
  • The physical affliction because they chose to take the Ark
  • The affliction of property because they brought it to their own country
I am reminded that the original curse included both chastisement for Adam and Eve, and upon the earth. Our choices not only bear an impact on our lives but on those around us and often on those things we possess. 
  • Times of drought
  • Pockets with holes
  • Infestations of pests
All can be consequences of sin as equally as can be some form of physical affliction or displeasure. Therefore when we seek to make restitution for sin we should include not only confessions and apologies but also financial and material restoration. Zaccheus, for instance, promised to restore fourfold to those he had wronged. He not only apologized, but he also returned what he had taken. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Didn't They Surrender?

1 Samuel 4:7-9 KJV
And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.

This is such an interesting reaction on the part of the Philistines and it reminds me that we can never predict the reactions of the world to spiritual things. True, the Jews were mistaken in their use if the Ark. It was never meant to be a good luck talisman. But the Philistines were right to be afraid of it, as was proven when they took it to their home. 

Why didn't they surrender when the Ark came?
  • They had heard what the God of the Jews had done in Egypt
  • They knew how God had caused the walls of Jericho to crumble. 
  • They presumably knew about the Red Sea and the Jordan River
Why didn't they surrender under the influence of such terrifying prospects?

Men do not do the rational thing when it comes to faith in God. Just as being saved is not accomplished through a settling of the mind on spiritual things but by grace through faith, so disbelieving is in itself a kind of "anti-faith." It is a religion all its own based upon certain improve able principles the unbeliever believes as tenaciously as the believer believes God. And it is precisely because the unbeliever believes in his unbelief that he will frantically fight what he sees as belief. 

  • He should surrender to God
  • He should concede to God
  • He should now before God

He often chooses instead to fight that much more furiously against God. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Cure for Fretting

1 Samuel 1:1 KJV
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:

Hannah had an adversary

The Bible says that Peninnah, Hannah's adversary, provoked her the make her fret. This is the work of that adversary of every child of God, Satan. He provokes us to make us fret
  • That despite the comfort of the Saviour
  • That despite the love the Saviour has for us
The provocations of the devil seem to be constant and can happen anywhere from inside the home to inside the church house. 

We can do little about the provocations but we can do much about the fretting:
  • We can pray and bring out requests to God
  • We can dedicate ourselves and our things to God
  • We can rejoice in our relationship with God and
  • We can rest assured of answers coming from God

The cure to fretting is to focus on our advocate instead of our adversary. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ways to Make it Good

Ruth 3:2 KJV
And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor.

This demonstration of the grace of God serves as a reminder that, as bad as things might look, God has ways to make it good. 
  • Naomi had left Israel under a famine. It was a bad time 
  • Her husband and sons died in a foreign land. It must have been a terrible time
  • Orpah returned to her own people and, while Naomi approved of it and even suggested it, it would have meant more Loss of Naomi. This is a bad time 
By the time Naomi returned to her own country she was so downhearted and depressed she refused her own name and just wanted to be remembered for her pain. 

But God was at work. Ruth returned with her, providing a glimmer of hope. Ruth was of great character which gave Naomi a means of survival. Then God stepped in. The hap was that Ruth gleaned in the field of an eligible near kinsman. Ruth found the husband Naomi said couldn't be had and Naomi nursed a baby she could not have dreamed would be in her family. 

As dark as a day might seem there is always a reason to have hope in Jesus Christ. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Orpah Kissed Naomi but Ruth Clave to Her

Ruth 1:14 KJV
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.

I see in this passage a contrast that has happened to me over and over during the years of ministry. There have been some who have clung to me. They have become fast friends who have both benefitted and been beneficial to the ministry God has placed me in. They are there in good times and bad. They are there when they agree and even when they disagree. 

On the other hand, there have been numbers who have departed, some who were angry for sure but more who left pretending to still be friends. They have kissed me on the cheek as it were while they packed their bags to abandon what we have been called to do 

  • One family urged me not to feel uncomfortable when we saw each other at various fellowship meetings
  • Another family announced to the church that there were zero problems between us as they said goodbye and moved their membership to another local church
  • Still, another family wrote an open letter proclaiming how the only thing that would make their new membership at the church just blocks away from ours was if I and the pastor of their new church were co-pastors together. They zealously wrote that, should that happen, they would be on the front pew "amening" the both of us as we preached 
They "kissed me" but then they forsook me. 

Now all of this is to be expected I suppose. I am far from perfect and could never perfectly pastor any person. But this contrast is also apparent in people's responses to Jesus. I see some who love the Lord with all of their heart and soul and mind and cleave to Him regardless of pain and loss. I see others who claim to believe and love God but live in total disobedience to Him and His Word. They kiss Him on the cheek as they betray Him for the world. 

A simple kiss is no substitute for truly cleaving to the Lord. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Judges 21:3 KJV
And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?

These men asked why such a thing had come upon them.
  • Why had Benjamin so sinned that it was necessary to judge them?
  • Why had the judgment become so severe that they were now in danger of the extermination of that entire tribe? 
Reading this account, and the account of the whole book of Judges, it is not difficult to see at all. They did every man what was right in his own eyes. No one was obeying God's Word. 

It is an observation that very often those who complain "Why?" are those who least wish to obey God. They do things without consulting God, often believing they are doing it in the service of God, and when it goes awry, blame the judgment upon God. Too often they do exactly as these Jews do and, in a rash effort to resolve the trouble they created, do equally evil. 

When one finds himself constantly asking "Why?" it may be time to
  • Stop
  • Get some sound counsel and
  • Start obeying the Bible

rather than his own ideas of right and wrong  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

They Do It Anyway

Romans 1:32 KJV
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

The Bible speaks of a people who know the judgment of God and sin against Him anyway. At least one generation this passage must target is our own.
  • Never before have more people been aware of the Bible and its message.
  • Never before has the Word of God been preached in one form or another to as many nations and yet
  • Never before have men so blatantly and maliciously turned against the message of the Bible to do and have pleasure in them that do sin
God be merciful. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Hope of Israel

Acts 28:20 KJV
For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.

Paul told the Jews in Rome that it was for the hope of Israel he was bound. Jesus is not merely the hope of the Christian and not just generally the hope of the world, Jesus is specifically the hope of Israel

That people so long ago called out from out of the world to be a blessing to all nations
  • Needed a hope
  • Needed a blessing
  • Needed a Saviour
Paul, who was called to be a preacher among the Gentiles, never forgot that the gospel was given first to the Jews. Though he fervently served to win Gentiles to Christ he was forever anxious to win whatever Jews he could as well. Being in Rome, he began his work by carefully expounding to them from the Scriptures why Jesus was their promised Christ. He offered the hope of Israel to every man he could.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Let the World Drive

Acts 27:15 KJV
And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

Having not heeded the Apostle's warning they find themselves in perilous circumstances. Those whose lives were spent manipulating the wind and sea for their own purposes, those who deemed themselves experts in driving ships found themselves overpowered. They were forced to let go the ship and let the storm drive her wherever she pleased. 

This passage, being often used as a type for life; it feels like our world is in such a storm right now and the so called experts
  • Experts in education
  • Experts in socialization
  • Experts in politics
  • Experts in world issues
  • Experts in science
Have simply committed the ship to the storm to let her drive. The world is out of control. The downhill slope of degeneration is steeper now than it has ever been. Not America only but all the world is spinning into decay. 

The good news is that, just as there was in that ship, there are a handful of people, however small the number, who still hear the voice if God and still see the path of salvation. In such dire circumstances Paul cheered the souls and calmed the fears of these powerless experts. 

The Bible makes it clear that not everyone will make it safely to shore from this storm driven life. But everyone could be saved if they would only come to trust the wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Never Routine

Acts 26:30-32 KJV
And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:
And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

Paul poured his heart out before Festus and Agrippa, giving them his testimony
  • from youth
  • through conversion
  • to a lifetime of serving Jesus
He ended with an appeal for faith on the part of Agrippa and the rest. But when all was said and done they just walked away as if it were another day in the local courts. It appears that Paul's "sermon" had no more power than any other speech these men had heard in their careers. 

A preacher can often feel just like Paul might have felt after this effort. People file in to the church auditorium, they sing the songs, hear the sermon and then walk away visiting with one another about the football game they are about to enjoy. It appears that the sermon was just routine. 

But was it?

Though as far as we know neither Festus nor Agrippa were ever converted, the message Paul preached was recorded forever into the Holy Word of God. God listened that day. God impressed this defense so deeply into the mind of Luke that when penning this account he could give eternity the words of the sermon delivered to Agrippa but meant for every human soul. 

And I am convinced God listens to every heartfelt and honestly delivered sermon a man of God preaches. Whether it is to a handful of people or a stadium full; whether it has immediate results or is essentially ignored by the audience, God hears, God cares. God is our true audience. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

They Sure Can Hold a Grudge!

Acts 25:2-3 KJV
Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,
And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.

I am impressed with how long the Jews held their grudge against Paul.
  • Felix had kept him bound two years
  • By this time Felix is replaced
  • Who knows where Lysias has been assigned?
  • The Jews from Asia are certainly not nearby
The fact is that none of Paul's original accusers were even available. 
  • But still, the chief priests wanted Paul dead so badly that it is their first order of business with Festus
  • And still, there are liers in wait ready to assassinate Paul
After two years their fury with Paul has assuaged none. This man who cared so deeply for the Jews that he said he could wish himself accursed for them is so hated by them that they refuse to be pacified with anything less than his demise. 

The evil heart of the world against Christ's followers can be nothing less than satanically inspired.
  • Nothing else explains their hatred
  • Nothing else explains the lengths by which they will go to destroy the faith
Nothing but the promises of God can sustain the people of God in this evil world. And nothing but the return of Christ can change the downward course of this world. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Figures Can't Lie, But Liars Can Figure

Acts 24:6 KJV
Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.

I was impressed with the tactics of Tertullus before Felix this morning. I see first
His gracious words toward Felix 
The fact is that the Jews hated the Roman occupation of their country. Surely the leading Jews employed Tertullus because he was able to act as if he truly did honor Felix and his office.

His deflection of bitterness toward Lysias
I see in this an under the breath way to vent against the Romans. He accuses Lysias of interference in their own affairs. It is as much as saying that they wouldn't have had to bother Felix at all except that Lysias prevented them from killing Paul right then. 

His accusations against Paul
Made out to sound as if they had real evidence against Paul, they neglect to tell Felix that those very Jews who were eyewitnesses to Paul's supposed crimes in the Temple were: one, not from Jerusalem and, two, not present at this proceeding. Those Jews who had assented that the words of Tertullus were so were not even witnesses to the fact. 

All this reminds me of something my father in law used to say; "Figures can't lie, but liars can figure." Lies couched in the right context can be very convincing. Tertullus seems to have been the right man to spin a myriad of lies into a convincing argument. 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Momentary Visitations

Acts 23:11 KJV
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

No question, these were tense times for the Apostle. Though God had warned him and he was ready to be bound or to give his life for the cause of Christ, this would have indeed been stressful. His nerves must have been tried as he faced
  • the jeers of the Jews
  • the threats of the Romans and
  • the multiplicity of answers to the counsel

Paul had nearly been torn apart that day by the opposing parties within Judaism. This night the Lord came to cheer him. It would be one of a handful of such visitations meant to strengthen him through these difficulties. God did not give him these sorts of visitations every night. And just because there was such a visitation was no sign that the pressure would ease up. It was after the visitation Paul learned of forty men who had sworn an oath to kill him. No, the pressure was still there but so was God's promise. 

And so it must be with us.

We don't experience daily and constant miracles and manifestations of God. We do have times in our walk when we sense the unusually near presence of God. We have times when, in our personal times of devotion, God's Word becomes especially alive for us. There are times when a church service will be more than a little meaningful for us. These times are meant to cheer us and encourage us. They do not mean our battles are over. We faced trouble before and we will face them again. The "visitation" was only meant to encourage us on our way. What we do have in the middle of every trial is this assurance, God's promises are certain.

Go in the strength of that assurance.