Sunday, 31 March 2013

He is Risen

And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but he is risen... – Luke 24.4-6

There is not a whole lot more to be said, is there? Those three simple little words changed everything. Death became life. Defeat became victory. Despair became joy. Everything was turned upside down. The grave lost its sting. Death died.

All because on that marvellous morning when the women came to take care of Jesus' body the angels said 'He is risen.'

I miss the old Easter hymns. I love the words to ‘Christ Arose.’ It says it all so well. Robert Lowery wrote this amazing song in 1874. 

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Saviour, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o'er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Saviour, vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o'er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour; he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o'er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

He is risen!

Praise God!
He is risen indeed! 

Saturday, 30 March 2013


For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. – Romans 1.20-23

For the last 150 years or so one aspect of Bible belief has been severely under attack. It should not be surprising. If Creation is destroyed then we don’t have to worry about the fall of man and there is no accountability and man can go happily on his way with no regard to God.

But God revealed Himself in Creation. He revealed Himself in such a way that man can see Him. The psalmist wrote ‘the heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows His handiwork.’

Daniel Defoe did a brilliant job describing this in his classic novel Robinson Crusoe. After an illness Crusoe is on the beach wondering about life, the meaning of it, and why he is where he is. The journal entry from June 28th says this:

‘After I had eaten I tried to walk, but found myself so weak that I could hardly carry a gun, for I never went out without that; so I went but a little way, and sat down upon the ground, looking out upon the sea, which was just before me, and very calm and smooth. As I sat here some such thoughts as these occurred to me: What is this earth and sea, of which I have seen so much? Whence is it produced? And what am I, and all the other creatures wild and tame, human and brutal? Whence are we? Sure we are all made by some secret Power, who formed the earth and sea, the air and sky. And who is that? Then it followed most naturally, it is God that has made all. Well, but then it came on strangely, if God has made all these things, He guides and governs them all, and all things that concern them; for the Power that could make all things must certainly have power to guide and direct them. If so, nothing can happen in the great circuit of His works, either without His knowledge or appointment.’

He goes on from here to open a Bible he found in the captain’s cabin, see his sin and his need of Christ, and turn to Him.

Does it take faith to accept the truth of Creation? Of course it does, just like every other theory of origins. No one was there to record it, there is no eyewitness account. Some will see God in Creation, some will ignore it, but all are without excuse. 

Friday, 29 March 2013

God has shown it

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. – Romans 1.17-19

God hates sin. He is angry at sin. God pours out his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Man suppresses his thoughts of God in his own unrighteous acts, even though they know it is wrong. The more man dismisses God the easier it becomes.

That tells me a lot.

In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed as faith is passed from one to another. This is a bit of confusing passage to translate. But it looks to me that faith is passed on by faith, because the just shall live by faith and will share that faith. 

Man knows he is broken. That is why throughout history man has sought a way to placate God. God has shown man his unrighteousness. One way to deal with it is just to ignore God and write Him out of our thoughts. Of course, that does no good. It is kind of like ignoring cancer.

On the other hand we can accept the truth that 'the just shall live by faith.'

It all comes down to faith. It is impossible to scientifically prove God to a sceptic. It just can’t be done.  Faith comes from faith. The gospel is spread from faith to faith. And faith is the motivation by which we live.

Man knows he is not righteous. All men know they do bad things. God has made that clear to every man. That can only be fixed by faith. We are responsible to pass on our faith. Faith is spread by faith.

Are we passing on our faith as we should? 

Thursday, 28 March 2013


 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1.16

‘I not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…’

I think most of us need to pause right there for just a moment. I think we might take a moment to honestly asses what keeps us from boldly and confidently sharing the gospel of Christ with those around us. Could it possibly be that we are, in fact, ashamed of the gospel? In a world that boldly rejects virtually everything we stand for is it just possible that we are embarrassed that our faith stands in total contrast to the world around us?

Maybe we are not ashamed. Maybe it is fear. Maybe it is something else. Maybe we are not ashamed of the gospel itself, but ashamed to share it because of what people might think. . But at least we need to stop for a moment to examine if there is any part that being ashamed plays in our reticence to share the gospel.

Anyway, that's enough of that question.

Why was Paul unashamed? Why should none of us be ashamed of the gospel?

'Because it is the power of God to salvation.'

The gospel is God's power to bring salvation. God's power is wrapped up in the good news of the gospel.

That is our power. Our power is not based on our wisdom, our abilities, our persuasiveness, our popularity, our speaking ability, or anything else. The gospel is all the power that is needed. All we have to do is unashamedly share it! 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.  - Romans 1.13-15

Paul was in Rome. He had made contact with the believers there. The next thing he did was to lay out his purpose and his plan.

Paul then makes something of an unusual statement. 'I am debtor to both the Jews and the barbarians, both to the wise and the unwise.'

This is an amazingly powerful statement. When we a debtor to someone it obviously means that we owe them something. So what did Paul owe the Jews and the barbarians and the wise and unwise?

He owed them the message of the gospel. He owed it to them to go to them and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

'I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome.' That was his way to pay the debt. If he owed them the gospel the only thing to do was to be ready to preach it.

How often do we see ourselves as owing to people to share the gospel with them? Is our readiness any indication of our perception of that debt?

As we think about that neighbour or family member or co-worker or shopkeeper who whoever are we aware that we owe it to them to share the gospel?

Of all the debts we have, where does this one fall out in the priority list? 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Mutual faith

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. – Romans 1.9-13

I know that I have written a lot about Paul's desire to go to Rome.  Had never really noticed it in Acts until this time through. I guess part of that comes because it came to my attention the last time I tried to preach through Romans. In Acts we saw his desire to get here, now we get to find out why.

'I long to see you,' Paul wrote shortly before his trip there, 'to do a few things - '

To impart spiritual gifts
To see you established
That we may encourage each other with 'mutual faith'
To see fruit borne in faith

There is too much here to address it all in one brief reflection. I am particularly impressed by one little phrase here. That phrase is 'that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.'

One of the great blessings of being a Christian and meeting believers is the 'mutual faith' that binds and encourages us. A few years ago Jay, Caleb, and Zeke all worked at Superquinn here in Naas. Because of that we need most of our shopping there. One day we were looking for cupcake papers and asked one of the workers there. It turns our he was Polish.  We knew right away that there was something different about him. Jay was a manager and we mentioned that he was our son. Konrad said 'Jay is a Jesus person. I am Jesus person too!' Konrad was living rough at the time. He was in a situation where he really needed that encouragement of mutual faith. Little did we know what a blessing he would be to us. He came to our church for over a year. We were able to celebrate his marriage to a wonderful Christian woman. Eventually they moved back to Poland, but those days of encouragement in the mutual faith with be a blesses part of our lives forever.

Those kind of stories could be repeated over and over again in the body of Christ. May we all learn to cherish and love those days of encouragement in the mutual faith as God brings believers into our lives. 

Monday, 25 March 2013

I thank God for you

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, – Romans 1.8-9

Once Paul introduced his letter, and before he said anything else, he told the believers in Rome that he thanked God for them.

Paul writes a lot about thankfulness. Thankfulness should be a trademark of the church.

But I like the personalisation of thanks here. ‘I thank my God for you all.’ Paul loved fellow believers. As far as we know he had never met any of the Roman Christians. But he gave thanks for them, because ‘their faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.’

Every time I read this I am challenged by it. I look at my life and wonder if my faith is the kind of faith that people could talk about and give someone cause to give thanks for me and my testimony. In fact, does anyone talk about my faith?

That’s one point here. The other is Paul’s attitude about prayer. He gave thanks for these folks. He also told them that he mentioned them in his prayer ‘without ceasing.’

Paul must have had some kind of prayer life. This was only one group of believers of all of those he had contact with. And yet he told them that he always mentioned them in his prayers. If that is the kind of praying for others than I have to say that I fall far short. I sometimes have a hard time even remembering to prayer for my family members and church people. I certainly don’t mention my friends in prayer ‘without ceasing.’

I want to me the kind man whose ‘faith is spoken of.’ I want to be the kind of man who ‘always makes mention’ of my friends in prayer.

Lord, help me to be that kind of man. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Obedience to the faith

concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, - Romans 1.3-5

There is so much in these couple of verses that we could probably spend a week right here and not even come close to mining its depths. Paul has said of himself that he was set apart to God and his work. In the previous verse he had said that the gospel he was set apart to had been proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures.

Here he says that the scriptures were all concerning Jesus Christ. Jesus was:

Promised by the prophets
God in the flesh
Declared to be Son of God
Empowered by the Spirit of holiness
His power was affirmed by the resurrection from the dead

There is enough theology and doctrine there to keep Bible scholars busy for weeks!

But then he talks about what he (and we) received – grace and apostleship.

And the reason for grace and apostleship – obedience to the faith.

I like that phrase ‘obedience to the faith.’

I like the phrase, but I wonder how much it really impacts me. Does my supposed 'obedience to the faith' have an impact on all the nations for Jesus' name sake?

True faith produces obedience. Does our faith produce obedience? If so what does our obedience produce?  

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Servant, sent, separated

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God – Romans 1.1

I like the fact that Romans follows Acts in our canon. I like it because we left Paul in Rome and we just read about when this letter was drafted. I don't know off the top of my head which letter was actually written first, but I like Romans being here.

In the header of his letter Paul sets out his qualifications to write the later.

He was a servant - a bond servant. A doulos. A slave.  One in permanent submission to another.

He was an apostle. An apostolos. One who was sent out. An ambassador.

He was separated to the gospel. As a Pharisee he was one who was set apart for the task of persecuting The Way. Now he was set apart to God. Later in this letter he talks about serving God with the same intensity as serving the flesh before salvation. He knew what he was talking about.

Now I, of course, realise that Paul held the office of apostle and that gave him apostolic authority to write this letter. But I think there is a principle here that still applies to all of us.

We need to remember that we are servants. We are bound to our new master for the rest of our lives. We too are sent out to proclaim the gospel of Christ. We too are set apart from the world to God’s work.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we are serving our new master, whether we are acting ambassadors for Christ, and whether or not we are living set apart to God’s service.

Or do we serve our old master, the flesh? Do we keep quiet and stay at home? Do we live like the rest of the world?

Could we write the same words Paul wrote? 

Friday, 22 March 2013

With all confidence

Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. – Acts 28.30-31

The book of Acts has brought us along way from the ascension of Christ all the way to Paul's ministry under house arrest in Rome. About 25 years have passed, but what a 25 years. The church had been born and grown to many thousands it had expanded from Jerusalem into the rest of the Middle East and beyond into Asia and Europe. 'The Way' now included both Jews and Gentiles and great numbers now went by the name 'Christian.'

The book starts in Jerusalem and ends in Rome. It ends with a guy who, when the story began was out to persecute the church, is sitting in a rented home under house arrest teaching and preaching about the Jesus and the Kingdom of God to anyone who called by.

And he did it with confidence. The word confidence means ‘with all out-spokenness.’ Before Paul was saved he pursued Christians with confidence and boldness. He doesn’t appear to be a guy who did anything half way. He gave his all.

In his letter to the Romans, which he has only recently written, he told them to use their bodies to the serve the Lord with the same intensity that they used to serve sin.

I like this last few of Paul before we start reading his letters. We will find out more about his last days in some of those letters, but for now may God give each of us the power and boldness to preach about the Kingdom of God and teach about Jesus with that same confidence. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013


So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.  – Acts 28.23-24

Paul's house arrest was an interesting situation. While technically a prisoner of the state he still was able to have visitors in his home. Many came to see him there to hear him and find out what he was speaking about. It seems to be just about all he did, from morning till evening.

That in itself is a challenge. Paul may not have had Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or 196 television channels, but there was still plenty of other things that he could have been doing. He could have felt sorry for himself being under house arrest. He could have said, 'Well, there's not much I can do here.'

But he didn't do that. He stayed at it, opened his Bible, and strove to persuade men from the scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah they were looking for.

I like Paul's sense of priorities. Persuading people was A1 on his priority list. Everything else were A2s or B1s or somewhere else down the list. I know we cany stay at home under house arrest with people coming in, but surely we can do a better job of rearranging our priorities.

Something else sticks out too. Some were persuaded, but even with Paul some still disbelieved what he had to say. We need to recognise that when people reject our message, unless we are just being jerks, it is Christ, nut us they reject.

So let us keep praying, keep persuading, and keep preaching and leave the results up to God. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. – Acts 28.14-15

Paul finally achieved his long term goal. He finally made it to Rome. It was a tough road. It was a hard road. They left their boat and met the first group of believers at Puteoli. They spent a week with them and then headed on their way. As the travellers approached Rome form the southwest they came across Appii Forum, a Roman post station about 65km away and Tree Inns, a travellers rest stop about 35km from Rome.

What a sight it must have been as the looked down the beautifully paved Roman road and saw some strangers coming toward them. As they drew closer they realised that it as a group of believers from Rome - the very people Paul had been praying for for so long! Suddenly it was all worthwhile.

This reminds me of just how wonderfully sweet Christian fellowship is. I love to travel and come across believers and fellowship with them. If we are on the road we always look for a church having a service. Zeke and I came across a small prayer meeting in Wales one time. Mary and I went to Baptist church in Leterkenny when we were away for a few days. This kind of thing happens all the time and I have yet to be sorry that I have spent time with fellow Christians.

Paul knew why he was in Rome. He knew he was a prisoner. He knew a trial, imprisonment, and possibly death was ahead.

But he was with the people he had prayed for and longed to see. And that was enough. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” - Acts 26.28-29

‘Almost’ must be one of the saddest words in all of Scripture. Agrippa got right to the point of salvation. He and Felix were a lot alike. Felix said ‘a more convenient time.’ Agrippa said ‘almost persuaded.’ But neither took that final step. Both were ‘almosters.’

There is an old song that has pretty much gone out of vogue that captures these moments beautifully. Below is the story and the song.

Almost Persuaded, the Song and the Story

Composer Philip Paul Bliss Writes Almost Persuaded

More than 2,000 years ago King Agrippa told the Apostle Paul “Almost, you persuade me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28). In 1871 Reverend Brundage expounded upon this sad story in Acts, and then ended his Sunday Morning sermon with the words "He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost".

Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876), composer of many hymns, including The Light of the World is Jesus and Dare to Be a Daniel, was among the congregants listening to Reverend Brundage's sermon. The pastor's powerful closing words left such an impression upon Bliss that he set about composing a song with the same sentiment.

Almost Persuaded was published that same year in The Charm: A Collection of Sunday School Music, and quickly found its way into the majority of English Christian hymnals; the compelling words have since been sung at many an alter call.

Almost Persuaded

Almost persuaded now to believe;
Almost persuaded Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day
On Thee I'll call.

Almost persuaded, come, come today;
Almost persuaded, turn not away;
Jesus invites you here,
Angels are lingering near
Prayers rise from hearts so dear;
O wanderer, come!

Almost persuaded, harvest is past!
Almost persuaded, doom comes at last!
Almost cannot avail;
Almost is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail
Almost, but lost!

Written by: Connie Ruth Christiansen

Paul’s desire was clear – ‘I wish that you were not only almost, but fully persuaded along with everyone else in the room.’

Let’s pray for all the ‘almosters’ that are out there. As Rev Brundage put it 'He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.'

Monday, 18 March 2013

Trust God and don't quit

Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” -Acts 26.22-23

I like stories of faithfulness and stick-to-it-iveness. I enjoy reading about missionaries like William Carey for that reason. I like what Patrick said when thought leaving his ministry in Ireland. ‘'I could wish to leave them to go to Britain. I would willingly do this, and am prepared for this, as if to visit my home country and my parents. Not only that, but I would like to go to Gaul to visit the brothers and to see the faces of the saints of my Lord. God knows what I would dearly like to do. But I am bound in the Spirit, who assures me that if I were to do this, I would be held guilty. And I fear, also, to lose the work which I began – not so much I as Christ the Lord, who told me to come here to be with these people for the rest of my life. May the Lord will it, and protect me from every wrong path, so that I do not sin before him.'

I have always admired testimonies like that.

Paul had that kind of testimony like that. While in his ministry he was beaten, left for dead, shipwrecked, arrested, and opposed. We know from 2 Corinthians that he got discouraged and was tempted to quit.

And yet here he was able to say ‘having obtained help from God to this day I stand.’

And that really says it all. Being a real success in any service for God is simply a better of relying on Him and staying at the task. Trust God and don’t quit.

The great thing is that it doesn’t take a superstar to do that. Anybody can trust God and don’t quit if we rely on His help.

May we all have a Paul-like spirit. Trust God’s to help us and just don’t quit. 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

And to do works

“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. Acts 26.19-20

Now Paul stood before the Roman official, King Agrippa. Here as well he would simply defend himself by telling what God had called and led him to do. When called before Agrippa Paul used the opportunity to give testimony of how God had saved him and how he had been called to go to the same Jews with the gospel message.. He pointed out that there was nothing he preached in conflict with the Law and Prophets.

He said that he obeyed the vision that God gave him. His message to the Jews in the whole region, and to the Gentiles, was this.

People must repent
People must turn to God
People must do works that evidence salvation

That’s it in a nutshell isn’t it? Repent, turn to God, and do the works that evidence that you have turned to God.

The works don’t produce faith – faith produces works. Where there is no works there never was any living faith. Ephesians tells us that we are saved by grace through faith, but that after that God ordained that we would walk in good works.

True faith works. Full stop. 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

A more convenient time

Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you." – Acts 24.25

Poor old Felix. He didn't know how to handle this one. Paul preached and as he preached he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgement.

The preaching got Felix rattled. He was afraid. He didn't want to talk about it any more. He didn’t want to hear about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgement.

To be honest, who would?

But instead of dealing with it Felix did what so many do. ‘Go away Paul, we can talk about this at a better time.’

That is so easy to do isn’t it? The lost don’t want to hear about those things so it is easy to say ‘we’ll talk about it later.’

But the Bible says ‘now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation.’ There is no more convenient time. Now is the time to deal with eternal life.

But there are lessons for believers as well. We can be just as bad when there are things in our lives that we don’t want to deal with right now. We say in our hearts that we can take care of it later.

But even for us there is no more convenient time to deal with righteousness and self-control than right now.

Now is the accepted time. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

This I confess

But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. - Acts 24.14-16

Paul's trial would certainly have been a main feature on news sources if they had had them. It certainly would have been streamed live on YouTube or some other source. There would have been a live Twitter feed, perhaps #paulfelix would have been trending. Paul was ready to make his defence before Felix.

'But this I confess...' @jerusalemupdate would have tweeted 'Paul confesses #paulfelix'

But it wasn't the confession everyone was waiting for. 'This is what I confess. I worship the God of my fathers like the people called 'The Way,' which everyone calls a cult.'

Here was Paul, before the most powerful official in the region, using his court appearance as a chance to tell everyone exactly what he believed. 

His confession is a challenge, especially because it is so public.

What did he confess?

I worship according to The Way, the group the Jews call a cult
I worship the God of my fathers found in the Law and Prophets (the Bible they had)
I have hope in God for the resurrection of the dead
I strive to live right before God and man.

The Twitter feed would have read

Paul affirms he is cult member but good Jew #paulfelix
Paul presses resurrection issue #paulfelix
Paul claims all in name of good conscience #paulfelix

There is so much too see in the way Paul handles things. I line with his words about not speaking evil of a ruler’ he started this address with ‘most noble Felix.’ He was not confrontational or belligerent. He just confessed his faith and let God deal with the rest.

I think there is a lot for us to learn there. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A little known messenger

So when Paul's sister's son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, "Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him." So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, "Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you." Then the commander took him by the hand, went aside, and asked privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?" And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more fully about him. But do not yield to them, for more than forty of them lie in wait for him, men who have bound themselves by an oath that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him; and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you." So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, "Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me." – Acts 23.16-22

The Bible is full of little known events and lesser known characters. But they all play a part,in giving us the complete word of God. Here we meet Paul's nephew. We don't know his name. All we know is that he was young and he was the son of Paul's sister.

Somehow this young man heard about a plot to ambush and kill Paul while he was being transported. He went and told Uncle Paul all about it. Paul asked one of the guards to take the young man to the commander. The commander took him by the hand, drew him aside, and asked him what was going on. He told the commander that the plot to bring Paul to the council was a trick and they were going to take Paul and kill him. The commander told the young man to keep quiet and not tell anyone.

This was quit an event. Forty men were in place to ambush the guards on the way to Felix. After the young man came the commander instructed that 200 soldiers, 70 cavalry, and 200 spearmen accompany Paul and the guards to Felix.

So the next day ‘The soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul to Felix.’

I wish I could have seen those 40 lads who were going to ambush the detachment!

Anyhow, I am blessed by this young man, who we know nothing about. I am impressed that he played his own role in keeping Paul safe and allowing the mission to continue.

We never know what our little actions are going to accomplish. Who knew how important the visit to Uncle Paul was going to be? 

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

You must bear witness in Rome

But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome." – Acts 23.11

Remember when Paul said 'I must go to Rome?' Remember that heartfelt desire we talked about? Well now it looks like he is going to get to go.

There had just been a major ruckus between the Parisees and Saducees (what else is new?). It got so bad that Paul was taken to the military barracks for his own protection.

It looked like another diversion of delay. But the Lord came to him and encouraged him. 'Don't worry Paul. Just like you testified about me here you will testify and bear witness of me in Rome '

Paul didn't have to go to Rome for a holiday. When he said 'I must go to Rome' I think he already knew why he had to go.  Rome was Paris, London, and New York all wrapped up in one. There was a great need for the gospel. If the gospel could be planted there it would go all over the world!

Plus there was a group of believers there. From all appearances they were doing the best they could without formal teaching. Paul had written them a letter yearning to be with them. He had probably only just written this letter so it was fresh on his mind.

And now God says ‘Don’t fret Paul, you are going to get to go!’

It may not be what Paul once envisioned, but God was granting Paul his desire to go to Rome to preach the gospel! 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Do not speak evil

Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?" And those who stood by said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" Then Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'" – Acts 23.3-5

Paul was angry. He was brought before the high priest Ananias. He had just begun his defence when Ananias ordered a guard to punch him in the mouth. No wonder he was angry!

He said 'God is going to strike you, you whitewashed tomb! You sit down to judge me by the law and you break the law by having me struck!'

The crowd was shocked. 'How can you talk that way to the high priest?'

'I didn't know that he was the high priest. It is written that no one should speak evil of the ruler of your people.'

It is not a big, deep, theological lesson for today. It is a practical one. The whole word of God teaches us that we should always show respect to those in authority. We never see a case where any cause if given for 'speaking evil' of a ruler.

The New Testament tells us how we treat those in authority. Obey them. Submit to them. Pray for them. Honour them. Don't speak evil of them.

Why then are we so quick to speak evil of our authorities and rulers?

No matter how popular it is today I think it is pretty clear that we need to be very, very careful about the way we treat and speak about our leaders.

Paul knew enough to be chagrined when he spoke this way. What do we do?

Monday, 11 March 2013

The will of the Lord be done

So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, "The will of the Lord be done." – Acts 21.14

They couldn't get Paul to change his mind. Nothing could dissuade him from what he what he knew had called him to do. He was ready to go to Jerusalem, even then he knew it meant at least arrest and possible death. He was dedicated to God's purpose for him.

So when the people were convinced that Paul was going they said the simple but profound statement. They stopped arguing and said 'The will of The Lord be done.'

There is a lot of debate among Bible scholars about whether or not it was indeed God's will for Paul to make this trip to Jerusalem. Some say that the other disciples were wrong for opposing it and some say that Paul was wrong or insisting on it. I am not going to wade in on that debate. The key here I think was the attitude of the disciples when they were able to say 'the will of the Lord be done.'

It is not always easy to determine God's will when we are discussing plans when Christians disagree about what we should do. Scripture doesn't always give us a clear guide as to what to do next. Sometimes we just have to pray for God's will to be done, decide what to do, and do it trusting God with the result.

But I think the key he is the attitude that the disciples had. It is and attitude that says 'we are willing to lay aside our opinions and seek what God wants us to do.

It is too easy to get stuck in our own wills. It is too easy to be convinced we are right. It is too easy to not see the other side. May we be willing to step aside at the moments and seek God's will instead of our own.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

I am ready to die

When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.' " Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." – Acts 21.11-13
The disciples were gathered together at Philip's house in Caesarea when a prophet named Agabus came to them. He took Paul's belt and bound his own hands and feet. He used that to prophecy what was going to happen to Paul. 'The Jews are going to take the man who owns this belt, bind him, and deliver him to the Gentiles.

Of course the other disciples were heart broken. They begged Paul not to go. They couldn't stand the thought of Paul going to Jerusalem to go to jail.

The mutual love and compassion is moving. 'Your crying is breaking my heart!'

'I am ready not only to be arrested, but I am ready to die for the name of Jesus.'

Paul was not alone in His willingness to die for the name of Jesus. Vast numbers of believers through the history of the church have been willing to die for Him. Vast numbers have died in many brutal ways.

Paul had been there was Stephen was martyred and even taken part in it. He knew others who had died. Now he proclaimed that he was willing to do the same.

I often wonder what I would do if I were really called on to die for the name of Jesus. I hope that if push comes to shove would follow the pattern set by Paul and so many others.

But what does my life say today? What do all of our lives say today? Do your and my lives indicate at all that we are willing to sacrifice what it takes to live totally for Jesus? If not, how can we claim that we would sacrifice what it takes to die for Him? 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

It is more blessed to give

I have shown you in every way, by labouring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " – Acts 20.35

I like studying farewell speeches. I always like to look at the closing words, the last thoughts that the speaker leaves.

Here is an interesting closing statement. After all Paul had said, after all his doctrine and theology and warnings and reminders and teaching how do you think we wrapped us his farewell address?

‘Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’’

Why would he close with those words? Surely there were more important things he could have closed with? Maybe these were just an afterthought?

I don’t think so. I think he knew exactly what he was doing. I think that these may be some of the most important neglected words in the church today.

I think Paul is stressing the importance in the church of being givers instead of takers.

What is a taker? A taker is someone who lives a Christian life for what they can get out of it. They go to church based on what the church has to offer. They minister based on salary or prestige or church size. They are in it for what they can get.

What is a giver? A giver is someone who lives a Christian life for what they can do for God and others. They go to church based on where they can serve. They look for things to do and needs to meet. They minister and spend their lives based on where God wants them and where there is a need and where they can serve others. They are in it for what they can do for God and others.

So where do we stand? Are we givers or are we takers?

Remember – it is more blessed to give than to receive.  

Friday, 8 March 2013

Take heed

Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. – Acts 20.28-31

Though Paul's instructions here were primarily to the elders his advice is good for any believer. 'Pay close attention to yourselves and to all the flock.'

He then gives them a warning. You are going to be under attack from wolves on the outside and men who speak perverse things on the inside in an attempt to draw away the disciples.

'Therefore watch.'

Here we have a clear warning that we are not going to make it in our Christian walk if we don’t keep our guard up. It reminds me of the verse in Proverbs that says 'keep your heart with all diligence.'

We cannot afford to just coast through our Christian lives. We cannot afford to let things come as may. We cannot afford to be tossed about with every new wave of teaching or blown about with every ‘new doctrine.’ We can’t afford to be passive about Bible teaching preaching and Bible study and reading.

Pay attention. Remember that there are enemies without and within. Watch. Remember the warnings.

This is good advice for us all. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Innocent of the blood

"And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  – Acts 20.25-27

A preacher has an awesome responsibility. Well, we all do to some extent, but Paul is making a point here about his ministry. Therefore this is a good reminder for us all, but for preachers in particular.

Paul told them that he was leaving, that they would see him no more. But he had not wasted his time while he was there. He could say with confidence that he was ‘innocent of the blood of all men.’

What did he mean and how could he say that?

Paul was saying that he had done all he could. He could not be held accountable to anything that was left undone because he had declared the whole counsel of God. He had shared the gospel with the lost so was innocent of their blood, which reminds me of God’s charge to Ezekiel, but he was also figuratively ‘innocent of the blood’ of the church because he had faithfully proclaimed God’s word to them.

I wonder how many of us could say that about people we serve and minister to. It is much, much easier to hold back and not upset the apple cart and keep the peace. In our rightful attempt not to offend we can easily be tempted to now do the whole job and preach everything that we need to preach.

However we need to be sure that we preach and teach the whole counsel of God, even when it may not be the most comfortable thing to do. Only then can we be sure that we a ‘innocent of the blood’ of our hearers. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

None of these things move me

And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. – Acts 20.22-24

While devotions are always a blessing and God uses them every day, sometimes they are there and you are grateful and you take the lesson and move on.

Other times devotions come up and are a clear and obvious answer to something in your life. The latter is the case for me today.

Paul was on his way to Jerusalem after he finished at Ephesus. He had no idea what the future held. He did know that it seemed every place he went his ministry was accompanied by ‘chains and tribulations’ while the Holy Spirit did His work.

‘But,’ he said, ‘none of these things move me. I don’t consider my own life worth anything if I can just finish my race with joy, and my ministry to testify to the gospel.’

None of these move me. None of them – not one. That challenges me. I don’t have near the difficulties that Paul had. I have seen trials, but never chains.  And yet, I do find myself constantly ‘moved’ by my own minor and insignificant challenges. Sometimes I am so moved by them that I am tempted to give up.

And yet here is Paul. Knowing that he would probably be arrested again, knew that he would possibly be beaten, and that the very least faced huge opposition. 

But he wasn’t moved and I am.

What’s the problem?

Paul had his goals sorted. He wanted to finish his race with joy and faithfully testify of the gospel. Perhaps if I (we maybe?) kept that focus in mind I (we?) could also be unmoved by the difficulties and challenges we face.

Lord, help me, like Paul, to be unmoved by all of these things. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Serving the Lord

And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. – Acts 20.18-20

Wow. There is a lot packed in to these few verses about Paul and his service in Ephesus. This is Paul's address to the elders of the Ephesian church as he is about to leave his ministry there. He had been focusing his work there for about two years. It had not been easy. There have been plenty of trials. His experience is a great example of the kind of ministry that God will bless.

There is a whole list of things here:

I lived among you
I served the Lord with humility
I served with tears and trials
I kept back nothing helpful
I preached to you publicly
I taught you in your homes
I witnessed to the Jews and Greeks that they needed to depend and come to faith in Christ

Like I said earlier - wow!

I look at that list and imagine that it is my own ministry tick list. How many of those boxes could I tick. I many could I tick with total confidence and how many would I have to fudge?

I think this is a list that anyone in any ministry should keep close to hand. We have among the people. There is no room for pride. We are going to she'd tears and go through trials. We must hold nothing back in our service. We must proclaim the word of God publicly and we must teach it where people live. And lat, but not least, we need to be testifying to all about their need to put their faith in Christ.

How are we doing?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Not a little comforted

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted. – Acts 20.7-12

Okay, I have to admit, I don’t think I have a great application here. I’m not even sure I have a practical application today. I just love the reality and the normalcy of this Bible story. So, bear with me.

Paul was preaching in Troas on a Sunday. The believers were gathered together in a third storey room of a building. Paul was leaving the next day. The room was well lit. Paul was preaching. We think we have long winded preachers today, but Paul preached till midnight. Sitting in the window was a young man named Eutychus.

I can imagine this myself. It’s late. The room is cozy. The lights are flickering. Paul is preaching…and preaching…and preaching. The old King James put it this way ‘Paul was long preaching.’ Try as he might poor Eutychus just couldn’t keep his eyes open. And so he dozed off.  But he didn’t just doze off. He fell into a deep sleep.

I have sympathy with Eutychus. I know how that feels. No matter how good the preacher is or how interesting his message sometimes it is incredibly hard to stay awake. I don’t think I have ever fallen into a deep sleep, but I certainly have dozed.

But, back to the story. Eutychus was sitting in a third floor window. When he fell asleep he fell out of the window. When he hit the ground the people rushed out and found out that he was dead.

Paul went down, revived Eutychus, and brought him back to the meeting. They observed the Lord’s Table, had a meal, and Paul went right back to preaching. In fact, he preached till dawn!

Paul left the next morning, and the people were ‘not a little comforted’ that Eutychus was alive.

I could try to be funny and joke about the dangers of falling asleep in church, or about how if he a preacher puts someone to sleep it is his job to wake him up. But instead I just want to mention how blessed I am to see just a little bit of our ancestral church history. These were just people like us. I am glad to get a glimpse of a very unusual event during a normal day in their lives. It kind of draws me closer to my brothers and sisters of so long ago.

I hope I get to talk to Eutychus or some of the others in Troas in heaven one day. 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Protecting a brother

And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. – Acts 19.30

The riot in Ephesus went from bad to worse. The people of the city were out to get any Jew, thinking they all were in cahoots with Paul.

Things got so confused that people didn’t even know why they were there. This is a great picture of what we call the ‘herd mentality’ today.

Two of Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus rushed to the amphitheatre in the city where the crowd was gathering. Paul wanted to go back to the city as well, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. He must have still wanted to go because a few authorities, who were his friends, also advised him not to go.

Eventually cooler heads prevailed and the crowd was dispersed.

I like a couple of things here.

I like the fact that Paul had men watching out for him. We already know the kind of man Paul was. He was liable to rush to the theatre fearlessly to stand up for the gospel. The disciples knew that was a bad idea. Paul had made friends with some of the authorities and they knew it was a bad idea.

So they persuaded Paul not to go.

I like their concern for Paul and I like the fact that Paul, the leader of the team had the wisdom to listen to their advice and did not storm into trouble. I like that they had his back and he was wise enough to let them have it.

But I also like the courage of Gaius and Aristarchus. They did not run from the fray, but sought to defend the Way.

Praise God for men of character and the examples they set for us today. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

No small stir

So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time. And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands.  – Acts 19.22-26

First of all I like what the followers of Christ we called in these days. They were referred to as ‘the Way.’ I suppose because they followed ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’

Here in Asia, where Paul had remained after Timothy and Erastus left, there was a great commotion concerning The Way. It involved the city of Ephesus where, as we just saw recently revival had broken out.

One of the silversmiths who made the idols for worship in Ephesus realised that his profits had dropped since the revival broke out.

Something had to be done, so he incites an anti-Paul riot. ‘Not only in Ephesus, but throughout almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded many people to turn away from buying our idols by saying that these are not gods.’

The riot in itself it quite a story, but I like what Demetrius said about Paul. ‘He has persuaded many.’

I find this, like so much of this journey through Acts, to be terribly convicting. Paul’s ministry had enough of an impact on his community that it made a visible and dramatic change.

I realise that this was a different time, and what was going on was a work of the Holy Spirit, but I have to ask myself where that kind of an impact is today? How are we impacting our communities with the gospel? Are we shaking things anywhere near like what was going on then? 

Friday, 1 March 2013

I must go to Rome!

So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." – Acts 19.20-21

Paul had just wrapped up another visit to Ephesus, a city that was full of wickedness and sin. God did many great works through Paul in Ephesus and ‘the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.’

But now Paul was done in Ephesus, or at least he thought he was.. The work there was finished for now. Paul laid out his plans. 'I need to go back to Macedonia and then Achaia.  After that I need to go to Jerusalem.'

'And then I have to go to Rome.'

Paul did not get to Rome immediately, but he was determined to get there. Rome was a great metropolis. It was the greatest city in the known world.

But Paul did not want to go just to see the sights. When we read the book that Paul wrote to the Roman believers we see that he was determined to get there to help them and teach them.

I am not so sure why I am so impressed with this, but it really grabbed me. We read several times about Paul’s efforts to get to Rome. We also read his words to them about his great desire to get there to see them.

Eventually Paul does get to Rome, but he has to go as a prisoner.

I don’t know. I guess I just like a determined guy who kept his purpose in mind and eventually did it. I am grateful for Paul’s example. May I have just a measure of his determination.