Moving Toward the Inevitable–Acts 21 Part 1

When on mission from the Lord, it is difficult to explain the drive to keep moving forward; even though the eventual end for one is not good.  Paul had been warned that his return to Jerusalem was to end in his capture. still, he also knew that his mission was to carry the Gospel throughout the world and to the gentiles.  God was moving him to a place that would ultimately change the course of history.
Still, all the folks he encountered hated to see him harmed.  Time and again the friends and companions tried to wave him off of his return to Jerusalem.  The question is, were they wrong for caring? No, as brothers and sisters in Christ we are tasked with the duty of speaking the truth in love.  Paul’s friends and companions were simply telling him the truth.  He ultimately had to do what he was called to do, but, his people also had to be sure he was following the journey that God was leading.
In our lives, we are also tasked with the duty of encouraging each other and building each other up.  I Thessalonians 5:11. In that process, we can speak the truth, but like Paul’s companions, we have to let each person fulfill his God directed mission.  It is difficult, and often as we do that, we do it with great fear and trepidation.  But, God reminds us that we are to trust him with our future and its timing.  As we do, he will use us to in some way change our lives and ultimately change the world!
God Bless You 
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

Preparation forthe Journey Ahead–Acts 20 part 3

In the mad dash of following Christ, God had begun the process of warning Paul of what was ahead.  From his conversion, Paul knew that his mission was not going to end well,  But, Paul had discovered and realized that the mission of saving lives for Christ was exponentially  more important than even his safety.  So Paul spent time with the leaders he had discipled to prepare them for the mission ahead. he then prepared to return to Jerusalem, knowing the enemy awaited to destroy him.

The church is under attack.  Often, we are placed in positions that we are assured that our standing for Christ will not help our position in the World.  We are criticized, made fun of and in many cases persecuted, fired and even killed for the cause of Christ.  If we recognize that the journey with Christ will not end well and that we may face persecution–then we can honestly approach the journey trusting God to use us as he sees fit and execute his plan in our lives.  Paul said it best in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed to us!”  This is the Journey–not the destination.  We must focus on the destination and let God focus on the journey and the mission. 

God Bless You

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Raise the Dead??!!–Acts 20 Part 2

Paul was on a roll.  After 2 years of work, it was finally time to leave Ephesus.  So on the night before his parting, He spent the night giving final instruction and encouragement.  During the course of his emotional and final farewell, one of the young people fell asleep and then fell out of a window to his death.  Paul quickly went to the young man and raised him from the dead–then went back to his sermon…that carried on til dawn.  At the end, the people took the boy home alive, and were greatly comforted.
It is crazy that Paul’s raising of the dead barely raised an eyebrow. It was a tribute to Paul’s leadership, faith and God’s hand on the community.  Imagine, they went right back to the teaching.  They ate a midnight snack…No uproar, no media coverage–just business as usual.  If we trusted God to that level, imagine how the church would impact the world.  We, who trust God for life itself–would fear nothing or no one.  We would simply move forward with the mission knowing he would execute his plan.
In these chaotic times, God has not changed. The world really has not changed and the only moving part is our faith and our hearts.  We cannot control sin in the world.  We can cast our votes and pray without ceasing…but, at day’s end, God is still in charge.  and like the boy, we are in his hands–live or die, he brings life and works his plan.  We simply have to trust him to love us and complete his plan in our lives.  If we will, we will see life changing miracles.  Funny thing, however, we may become so used to them that they don’t even stop the sermon…!
God Bless You
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

Encourage One Another–Acts 20 Part 1

With the opposition growing, Paul knew it was time to move on.  After a great experience in Ephesus, he decided to move across Macedonia and Asia encouraging the young churches he helped to establish.  While he was encouraging the churches, several people were walking along side to encourage him.  Paul had built an entourage of men that protected, worked, prayed and traveled along side him through the journey.
For Paul, he was truly a man on a mission.  The once zealous Christian hunter, had now become the most prolific evangelist of the Gentile world.  But between beatings, shipwrecks and imprisonment,  Paul needed the assistance of others. Having the group of men with him, allowed Paul to serve and see God’s hand through out much of Europe and Asia.
No person can be effective on their own.  Each of us needs to encourage one another as we traverse the journey set out for us. It will make us more effective in building disciples and it will help others to stay in the game and serve as well.  In addition, as we encourage and are encouraged, it builds support and community.  Alone we are good, unified, we are great.  We must never try to bear our burdens singularly, but welcome others to come along side and walk, talk, pray and protect one another! Help me, Lord to be one that comes along side and builds your kingdom!
God Bless You
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

This Christianity Stuff is a Riot!–Acts 19 Part 3

There is no doubt, but that the greater the impact Christ has on a community, the greater the opposition will try to destroy the momentum.  In Ephesus, The Church was growing and having an amazing impact.  Lives were being changed and the community was truly transforming for the better.  But, as is often the case, those that led the worship of idols as well as those that profited from the worship of idols were seeing a dramatic drop in revenues.  They were unhappy to see the people change, they felt slighted because they were exposed as false prophets and they were feeling the crunch of offering and Idol worship recession.  So they did what any self-respecting enemy of God would do…They started a riot.
The riot raised the frenzy to such a peak in the city that they filled the coliseum.  They arrested Christian leaders and planned to kill them.  But, God used an unlikely group of local leaders to quell the riot and save the day.  This was notice, however, that the battle would not end.  The enemy was now set to do whatever to disrupt God’s impact on the World.
The war continues to rage today.  Around the world, Christianity is being persecuted and discredited at every turn.  America, “One Nation under God” is under continued attack to destroy the church, devalue life and dissolve the traditional family. It has risen to such a crescendo–that the world is in a state of utter chaos.  In the midst of the Chaos,  it is the church that still has the ability to make a difference.  If we will pursue God with the same intensity and commitment as our enemy pursues our destruction, then the Lord will bring revival as he did in Ephesus.
It seems impossible, but, when things are impossible for men–that is when God does his best work! Please, join me in praying and seeking revival in your community!
God Bless You 
About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

I Know Jesus and I Know Paul–YOU Ain’t them–Acts 19 Part 2

There is just a huge difference in being religious and being redeemed.  It all starts at the heart.  Since the time of Adam and Eve, all God wanted was for his chosen people to realize how he loved them and to have them simply want to be in relationship with him.  The idea of knowing about God as a means to further your life and purpose has always been man’s failed way of bringing himself to an equal place as God.
The Jews in Ephesus wanted to make themselves equals with Paul and his mission in Ephesus.  They knew all about God after all! So they went around attacking evil and entering spiritual warfare claiming Paul’s authority in Jesus.  The evil spirits and the enemy was not impressed.  He made it clear–I know Jesus and I know Paul–but you simply are not them!!! The result was horrific for the imposters.  They were beaten and left naked and bleeding.
It is not a great deal different in our culture.  So many people want to get their spiritual look on and claim God’s power with no real knowledge or relationship with him.  They act spiritual (or so they think)–but they have no clue of who God really is or what He can mean in their lives. So, they play church and play religion and when they enter the battle ground of spiritual warfare, they are soundly defeated and left bleeding and naked. 
Meanwhile, those of us who choose to follow Christ are prepared for battle and armed with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). We realize it is a difficult fight, a challenging journey but one we do not do alone.  The more we lean into God and his power, the more his victory and grace shine through!The enemy sees and respects him–and does not question or intimidate us.  We are his and we are victorious in him.  Galatians 2:20 says it best, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me!”
God Bless You

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.[c] 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

When The Spirit Moves–Acts 19 Part 1

It is often difficult to understand the true difference Christ can make in our lives.   Paul was in Ephesus, as he questioned the believers, they clearly understood the redemptive power of knowing Christ.  Sadly, they did not understand he not only saves us from our sin , but, he empowers us to conform to his image and to spread the message to the world.  When Paul laid hands upon them, they received the Holy Spirit’s power and were transformed into warriors for the kingdom.
From that beginning Paul began to transform the city of Ephesus into one of the Church’s strongest cities.  For two years, Paul preached and taught the word, effectively and transformed lives.  As his ministry grew, so did the opposition to it.  Paul, was not dissuaded.  That transforming power of the Holy Spirit continued to move the people and change Ephesus for Christ.
We have the same power today.  When we start the personal relationship with Christ, We not only receive redemption from our hopeless sinful lives–we also receive His Spirit to conform, empower and guide us in our Journey.  Sadly, so many in the church settle for his redemption and never allow him to empower them to be mighty warriors.  Such lives are wasted.  God did not call us to be simple spectators–instead, he made us to be his witnesses and ambassadors throughout the world.  We must not settle–We must press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us!
God Bless You
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?”They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[b] and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

There is More than One Way to Minister–Acts18 part 3

The Gospel was growing, the Church was gaining momentum and Paul was encountering stronger opposition as the time passed.  God was not caught off guard or surprised.  He brought anther evangelist on the scene–Apollos.  Apollos knew Jesus, his style was different than Paul’s and his education was not quite as complete–But his heart was on fire.  Paul’s friends Pricilla and Aquila shared what they had learned from Paul and Apollos became a mighty warrior.  He fearlessly took on the opposition in debate and moved the Jewish seekers to Christ.
Paul was still moving and strengthening the churches throughout the region and building the Gentile component  equally effectively.  God used the two men to have a mighty impact.  On their own each had a great and growing ministry, but together they were reaching an amazing number of people throughout the region.
In our culture, we have to realize our faithfulness will be used to influence the world for Christ.  We do not all reach the same people, our pasts, background and training uniquely prepare us for the mission he has laid out for us.  We should not compare or speculate what God’s plan for us is–instead we need to simply follow his lead and speak the truth.  The most amazing art is–we will have no idea the scope of our impact until we join him in Heaven.  He only asks that we remain faithful and available–he will do the rest.
God Bless You
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor[a] and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

Do Not Be Anxious–Acts 18 Part 2

Things were becoming more and more complex for Paul.  He and his group were making headway in Corinth–The Jews dragged him off and accused him in front of the Governor from Rome.  His accusers were very proud of themselves and made the case for Paul’s demise. What Paul’s accusers intended to harm him, was the beginning of their own end.  The Governor paid them no attention and basically threw them out.  Paul was freed and his accusers were beaten by the crowd–God carried out his promise and protected Paul.
Paul was then able to carry on with his ministry. He went to Ephesus, Jerusalem and Antioch–He continued to share the Gospel with the Jews and Gentiles.  His one goal was to Bring Christ to any and everyone that would listen. He also sent out his second team, Aquila and Pricilla, and left them in Ephesus to build there. As the group continued to grow, God blessed all that was happening.
If we remain faithful, God will also use us to execute his plan.  Those that oppose us will be thwarted, and those that need Christ will hear the message.  We simply have to take God at his word and fight our fear and doubt.  We press on forward and speak the truth in love.  As Paul told the Philippians, “Do not worry about anything–but, in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, bring your requests before God.  And the peace of God, that passes all understanding, will guard your heart and mind–in Christ Jesus” Phil 4:6
Go Bless You
While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

Do Not Be Afraid–Acts 18 Part 1

Paul’s mission was evolving.  He was now becoming more recognized by the people in the areas he preached and therefore more despised by the Jewish community.  In addition, the Church was being considered, along with the Jewish community an enemy of Rome.  So as Paul entered Corinth, he met up with Aquila, Pricilla, and Titus.  Once in Corinth, Paul started preaching to the Jews, but was rejected and threatened; so he moved to preaching to the Gentiles. 
During that time, God spoke to Paul.  He knew the threat was real, so he told Paul to focus on the message and he would keep Paul safe.  With that assurance, Paul settled in and built the church in Corinth up for the next 18 months.  In that time, the church in Corinth became a flagship for the Gentile church.  Still, looming in the wings, Paul had to be aware of the growing opposition to the church and to him personally. It was his faith through that opposition that allowed the growth of the church.
In our culture, we see the growing opposition to Christ around the globe.  While we are still free to worship in America, there is increased persecution in Africa, China and the Middle-East; the simple death of the church in Europe and the growth of Islam to fill those gaps.  As the church struggles and Islam rises, God reminds us not to be silent–but instead preach boldly, he will protect us because he has many people here.  If we do not preach boldly, we will become like Europe and see the church simply whither from lack of interest.  Once that occurs, the enemy will swoop in and fill the void.  When that happens, persecution will soon follow.  “Be strong and courageous, our enemy prowls like a roaring lion seeking whom ever he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
God Bless You
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

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