God’s Plan is Always Right–Acts 16 Part 1

So Paul and Barnabas split.  Paul and Silas started off for a second journey. Soon into the trip, Paul met up with a young man named Timothy.  It became apparent to Paul that God had a plan for young Timothy, and therefore, Paul prepared Timothy and took him on the team to help with ministry. Timothy would go on to become Paul’s right hand and dear friend.  Timothy took ministry seriously and while young he became a pastor and led many to Christ–but, hold the phone…

What if Paul would have agreed to take Mark and he and Barnabas would have set out as originally planned? Would Paul have taken on a new young man to mentor? So much of what we do day to day can have real impact on the kingdom of Heaven.  The problem is that often those things that have the impact are not readily apparent. That is why it is the job of those that follow the Lord to remain faithful and simply keep moving forward.

God can often times even use our knuckleheaded moves to advance his kingdom.  We simply have to trust that he has a plan for us. We daily rise with the intention to follow him closely and humbly. As we travel through our day, we remain focused on the prize and honor him with our lives.  Finally, he takes our daily journey and uses it to conform us into his image; and, in that process we influence others to know and follow Christ.  There is never a short cut, but there is always a path to an abundant and amazing journey.

God Bless You

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

You Never Conquer Sin–Acts 15 Part 2

So it was finally agreed, the Gentile Christians would follow the Lord and Him only.  They would not be held to the standards of Jewish law or tradition.  It was one of the great moments of the early church.  They figured out early in their development that it was never about their actions or traditions–instead it was about the God they served. Yet, as the grace of God was brought to the forefront of the Church–its star teacher parted ways with the one man that taught him that very principle.
 
It was Barnabas that tracked Paul down in his hometown.  He brought him back to Antioch where he disciple and trained  him for over a year.  They were sent out and faced all types of opposition to spread the Gospel–death, dishonor and torture.  They made great strides and literally facilitated a true doctrinal milestone. What could possibly go wrong…well, Paul and Barnabas allowed their pride to split their team.
 
John Mark, of  the Gospel of Mark fame–had failed and left for home on the first trip.  So when Barnabas wanted to give him another chance–Paul said no way.  Ironic, if you consider this was the main teacher of grace.  He was the primary persecutor of the early church–one would think he would be the KING of second chance.  Call it pride, call it vanity–but for some reason Paul would not give Mark another shot.  But, thank goodness–Barnabas did.  Meanwhile, Paul and Silas started another journey, “all things work together for Good…”
 
As we grow in our faith, it does not mean we are not still human.  On any given day, we can still exhibit fear, pride, unforgiveness, or a critical nature.  That is why our relationship  with God needs to be fed daily.  We need to start our day in his word and on our knees. Even then, get ready, Satan will do anything to take you off your game and send you back to square one–Then, Like Paul, You can admit your pride and arrogance and say you were wrong.  It is a bitter pill, but it is often the best medicine. In his last words before his death, Paul said, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”
 
God Bless You
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Farewell…36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

What Makes a Christian a Christian–Acts 15 Part 1

We mean well.  As Christians, we are forgiven of our sin and raised spiritually to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.  Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old is gone and the new has come.” So, after an amazing missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to meet opposition from the home church in Jerusalem.  The gist of the opposition came from Christians that had been from the Pharisees. In affect, it was their position that while the gentile Christians were clearly allowed–they should have to live like Jews and be circumcised and follow Jewish law.

 After much prayer and discussion, the Church leadership including Peter, James and others agreed that the gentiles that became Christians were not bound by Jewish law or tradition.  If God saw fit to accept them just the way that they were–then who was the Church to demand more of them than God did, himself. In the end, they were directed to leave behind the sexual immorality of their pagan gods and they were directed not to eat meat offered to idols.

 In our current day, God still directs the Church to accept his followers the way they are.  Like the early Church, God is not saying to allow sexual immorality, but he is saying that we, as believers, are not to impose our traditions and local rules on people as requirements to be saved.  All of God’s people are required to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.  They are to humbly seek him and follow the process that allows us to be conformed into his image. What we wear, what we eat, how we dress is not a prerequisite to our level of spirituality.  What God has, is and will continue to examine is what is going on in our heart.  If we allow him to lead and trust him with our lives–He and we should accept believers just the way they are!

 God Bless You

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are

Follow Up and Report–Acts 15 Part 1

I was taught early in ministry that prayer is not the preparation for the greater work, It is the greater work.   Such was the case for Paul and Barnabas’s 1st missionary journey.  While they were out literally changing the world, the folks back home in Antioch were praying and fasting and supporting Paul and Barnabas.  The results were amazing. All across Asia, people were being changed for Christ. Additionally, the conversation about how to become mature men and women of God and how to sustain a community of believers  was taking place.

The churches were setting up governance and people were looking at their communities with eyes for growth and change.  This once crazy idea of spreading the great news of Jesus across the globe was quickly becoming a reality. But, now it was time to return home and report to the people who sacrificed so the mission could happen.  Paul and Barnabas returned to various churches to assure their stability but then they went back to Antioch to report their progress and to thank those that sent, supported and prayed for them.

In our lives, we need to remember those that stand in the background and provide support. The warriors are not the ones on stage only, they are also the ones in the back room on their knees praying, providing child care, financial support and administration.  It is critical as we minister to provide them with the credit they deserve and the thanks they will never seek.  We need to keep them apprized of what is happening and make them a part of the celebration of victory.

Ministry is so much bigger than what is seen on the screen–Be a part and be grateful for those doing the greater work.

God Bless You

21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

 

From Deity to Dead guys–Acts 14 Part 2

People are fickle. Paul and Barnabas moved on to Lystra to continue to spread the gospel. Once there, They met a lame beggar. Paul healed the beggar. The crowd was amazed and proclaimed that Paul and Barnabas were gods. Paul and Barnabas sought to convince the crowd that they were just normal men. 

Immediately, the crowd turned from adoring fans to angry mob. They dragged Paul and Barnabas out of the city and stoned them to death. 

Once the crowd left, other disciples prayed for Paul and Barnabas and they were healed. They rose, reentered the city and continued to preach the gospel. In our current culture, men remain fickle. While they may admire a Christian’s honesty, empathy and kindness–once God receives the glory, their admiration quickly turns to anger and hatred.

Christians are in enemy territory. The best I can hope for, is tolerance and indifference. Only by faith, can we continue to share the gospel and allow God to complete his mission. If we do so in faith, he will do great things. We on the other hand, are always subject to death and persecution. It may not seem so dangerous in our time, but, like Paul and Barnabas, we can go from hero to zero in minutes. We must, therefore, trusting God to deliver us, prepare us, and protect us from the enemy, and from evil men. 

God Bless You.

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked.

He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed

and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”

Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.

The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:

“Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

In the past, he let all nations go their own way.Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.

man jumped up and began to walk.

Raising the Stakes–Acts 14 Part 1

Without fail, when one walks consistently with the Lord and ministers freely, two things happen. First, lives are affected. Second, the opposition grows and the stakes increase. As Paul and Barnabas preached in Iconium, people’s lives were being changed. The church was established and many were converted from among the Jews and among the gentiles. But, there was also rising opposition from among competing priests from the Jewish temple and rival foreign gods. Still, Paul and Barnabas remained faithful and simply spoke the truth without fear of the enemy or thought of personal consequence. 

In our journey, as we follow God, we see him do amazing things in our lives and the lives of others we touch. When we remain faithful, we have significant influence on our family and community. Proportionally, the greater the influence we have, the greater the opposition and trials in our lives. We are certainly in a spiritual battle with a seasoned enemy. If we do not recognize that truth we can be defeated, neutralized and destroyed. If, however, we remain faithful–trust God with our future and its timing, then he will also be faithful and lead  us, protect us and prepare us for what lies ahead. 

One can remain assured that it will not be easy, it will not be fun, nor will it transition quickly–this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. But, the faithful will–without a doubt, see God do incredible things in and through their lives. It is that truth that makes this an amazing journey. 

God Bless You

At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.

But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.

So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.

The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.

There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them.

But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country,

where they continued to preach the gospel.

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked.

He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed

and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.