Stormy Weather–Acts 27 Part 1

 Simply put, the journey is not easy.  In Paul’s journey to Rome, nothing about the voyage was simple.  Foreboding weather and travel difficulties made each day go slowly and cause the group to fall farther behind schedule.  By the time Yom Kippur–Day of atonement arrived (usually early to mid fall), The travelers were no where near the planned destination. Paul strongly advised them to stop, but again, no one listened. The sad news was, that Paul was right.  He could see the trouble ahead–but, because he was always speaking the truth that people did not want to hear–he was marginalized.
stormy-weather
Christians today are also marginalized.  They are considered judgmental and radical–their words are simply dumb and ignorant.  They are out of touch with the world. What the world does not see, is that we are right.  God made life, family, integrity and selflessness precious for a reason.  We as a church continue to promote those values and are dismissed and persecuted for doing so. If, the world would adopt the principles we hold dear–the nation would experience peace and order again and would become the greatest nation on earth.  But, as long as the basic common sense principles are ignored–well, the storms ahead forecast disaster.  We have to continue to pray and speak the truth in love.  In doing so–perhaps God will bring the next revival and great awakening to the one nation that is still under God!!!
 
God Bless You
When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us…Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

What are you Crazy, or Something–Acts 26 Part 2

The Governor, Festus was the one that asked what everyone was thinking…”What are you nuts?”  Why would a perfectly successful Jewish leader, at what seemed the height of his career, turn rogue on his group and become public enemy number one in the religious circles?  The answer was simply that God called him to repentance, restoration and revolution.  Paul, the king of the rules, was to teach the world about a life justified by faith and covered in grace.  This was truly one of God’s huge ironies.  Still in the midst of his trial, it became clear to Agrippa and Festus that the trial was a sham and that Paul was wrongfully accused of sedition.  He was simply guilty of sharing his beliefs and being passionate about his mission–neither act was worthy of execution or even trial court.
 
The world still thinks we are nuts.  For the world, we are all like Paul.  We are counter-culture.  We Love God and others more than we love ourselves.  We choose to give ourselves over to the service of others, rather than, taking from others to meet our wants and desires.  In the godless person’s eyes, “that is crazy stuff!”  But, in our experience, the reality of God’s paradoxical nature makes perfect sense.  We know by faith he is in charge of meeting our needs, we are simply to trust and follow.  While we are following, he uses us to meet the needs of others in big and small ways.  From a kind word to paying someone’s electric bill, we are at his service throughout the journey.  As we serve, the amazing miracle of his desire to make our lives full of purpose and meaning–shines through.  We, like Paul see God’s hand and are blessed in the mist of the world’s persecution and disbelief. That is what makes it an amazing adventure!
 
God Bless You
That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Then to Ceasar You Will Go–Acts 25 Part 2

The plan was to change the world.  Paul had traveled Europe and Asia for years–preaching the Gospel and turning both Jew and non-Jew to the Lord.  Still, after literal years of incarceration and being tried in Jewish and Roman courts–never adjudged guilty of anything–Paul stood before another governor pleading his innocence. Outside the court, the enemies of Paul waited to have him released so that they could kill him.
 
Paul claimed his rights a Roman–to appear and plead his case to the Emperor. In most cases, such a request would be laughed at–but Paul was not most cases!  God had a plan to have him inhabit the very palace of Caesar. There he could change the very inner workings of an Empire.  There, Paul would be safe from his “would be”  assassins and finally be able to encourage and disciple the Romans that already knew Christ.
 
Tough circumstances are never easily or eagerly welcomed by God’s people.  Personally, I like rainbows and unicorns.  I hate the trials, temptations and tragedies we have to face on this journey.  If, however, as his chosen people, we can use each event to somehow advance his kingdom, then, looking back–we will see his plan unfold and our legacy increase.  There is neither possessions enough or power enough to replace an eternal legacy. 
Paul said it best in Philippians 3–, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!” 
 
God calls us to face the journey with our legacy in mind–if we will, then we will experience a full and meaningful life. 
 
God Bless You
Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”

10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

The Foolishness of Men–Acts 23 Part 1

It is a difficult thing to trust in God.  Especially, in times when your fate rests in the hands of the foolish.  Paul stood on trial before the Jewish leaders.  No one knew the law and rules that governed the Jewish nation better than these men…or, so they thought. Within moments of the trials start, Paul had the entire group of Israel’s finest at each other’s throats and about to riot in the courtroom. Still, in the midst of the theater of false accusation, Paul knew that the intention of these men meant his end.
 
God, as he often does, picked that time to encourage and reiterate his commitment to Paul and his journey.  the Lord appeared to Paul personally.  In their time together, God reassured Paul that things were going as planned.  Just as you testified before these fools, now you must testify in Rome.  God knew that the events that lay ahead could shake anyone’s confidence.  The variable was how wicked and selfish men are.  Men say and do things that simply do not make sense–without God’s hand of protection, all that stand for God would be subject to death.
 
In the current culture, Men are equally foolish.  They strive to remove God from all aspects of their lives and replace him with SELFIES. They used to be called idols, but replacing God with the created is nothing more than self-absorption. Whether Hollywood or ISIS, men want God and all who represent him dead and gone.  Rest assured, beloved, that, as the Lord stood along side Paul, he also stands along side the church reminding us–the mission continues.  We have to trust Him with our lives and our journey.  As we move ahead, we can expect trials and temptation that would seem unimaginable, but as it descends, we lean into God’s spirit and keep walking–knowing he will execute flawlessly the plan He has devised.  God told us in Malachi 3– “Trust Me, try Me, prove me says the Lord of hosts, and see if a blessing, unmeasured blessing will not fall out on you!!!” Malachi 3:12
 
God Bless You
The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!”

Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’[a]

Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead

There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

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.

Missionary–Acts 11 Part 2

The greatest part of accepting that God holds the plan for our future and its timing is the discovery and recognition of the plan coming to fruition.  First, God brought the newly founded church to Jerusalem.  There he empowered it with His Spirit to start its growth.  Once its growth was established, he used various trials and tribulation to put a structure in the church and then spread the church throughout the region.

Now, as the church was growing out among other parts of the region, God used Antioch as the launching pad for European expansion—he prepared for a Mission.  God brought in a godly servant-hearted man named Barnabas (Son of encouragement).  Barnabas sought out that reactionary former Pharisee named Saul. He found Saul back in his home town.  He brought Saul back to Antioch and mentored him and prepared the two of them to begin the first “Christian” missionary journey–that was designed to primarily to collect food and funds for the new church to provide for a famine God was going to allow.

In these times, God is still in charge.  He is still executing his plan. While it seems we live in a time that is post-Christian and his impact diminished; truth is, he is preparing a new group to carry on his mission in these chaotic and difficult days.  We do not know who will be this generation’s Saul and Barnabas. But we do know that God has led for thousands of years, and his plan has worked every time.  We must continue to trust him, humbly follow and listen to his teaching.  We must also allow the trials and discipline he puts in our lives to prepare us for the days ahead.  It may be that we will be the next Paul and Barnabas.  It also may be that we are simply the structure God uses to prepare and send them out to change the world—either is fine, especially if we allow God to lead!

God Bless You

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

The Reverent Are A Blessing–Proverbs 28 Part 2

There is a sharp distinction between people who respect God and others and those who do not. Reverent people are blessed and bless those with whom they come into contact. The irreverent will not end blessed-  and rather than bless others—they send people scampering in all directions. 

The irreverent abuse all their relationships.  They misuse their jobs, their business, the courts, and even the church itself. People dread their contacts and no one truly calls them friends.

Conversely, the reverent are people who walk humbly with the Lord.  It pushes them to be kind, and respectful to others.  They work as if for God and not men.  They build legacies with their families and their churches.  They become iconic in their communities and draw folks together. The reverent avoid fanfare and simply push forward to become all God would allow them to be.

So where are we?  If your language, attitude and behavior seem to push everyone away…take a look at who you choose to make the star of your movie—if it is always you and never God or others—not very referent. If God stars in your show and you play a supporting role, odds are you respect God and others. 

The Great news is one can humble themselves before God at any time—If it is an issue, start now. Simple ask God to take control and step away from the throne!

God Bless You

Ladies and Gentlemen-Proverbs 26 Part 2

 

We have come to an age and culture that is in anarchy and chaos.  With endless law and regulations recorded in the courts across the world, we see less order and unity now than we have in ages.  Sadly, it is not difficult to tell what the source of change is. A simple review of history across the world shows the same common theme, as nations move away from God, their cultures become less stable.

In our current culture, it is much too easy to weigh in on every difference of opinion.  The web has given us social media; which in turn has somehow licensed the world and especially this country to drop all semblance of manners and decorum and weigh in on all matters of opinion. And since such intervention is two dimensional, we have no fear of reprisal beyond being blocked from another’s account.

As God’s chosen people—wholly and dearly loved, we ought to heed Solomon’s warning—mind your own business and be honest.  Watch your mouth, don’t use filthy language, spread gossip or be a source of conflict. 20 years ago, most would agree. Now, such behavior and restraint makes people seem aloof, out of touch and somehow socially irresponsible.  Funny thing, though—those who practice social grace and restraint grow to be loved and trusted. It is so rare, that over time such people become the most attractive and needed people in the community.  We need to choose to be those that stand out as ladies and gentlemen—it could literally be the source of revival. 

God Bless You

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears     is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

18 Like a maniac shooting     flaming arrows of death 19 is one who deceives their neighbor     and says, “I was only joking!”

20 Without wood a fire goes out;     without a gossip a quarrel dies down. 21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,     so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. 22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;     they go down to the inmost parts.

23 Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware     are fervent lips with an evil heart. 24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,     but in their hearts they harbor deceit. 25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,     for seven abominations fill their hearts. 26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,     but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. 27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;     if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them. 28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,     and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Showing God’s Character–Proverbs 24 Part 2

We are not our own, we were bought with a price.  That is as foundational of a truth as lives in scripture.  Still in this world it is difficult to remember that the salvation we received was given to us at the cost of Jesus sacrifice of relinquishing his Godhood and becoming a servant whose torturous death brought redemption for those who choose to follow him.

Knowing this, we should walk through our days showing God’s character. Simply put, we are not like everyone else.  We do not snicker when others fail.  We do not celebrate when others experience misfortune.  Instead, we show class and empathy when those around us—even our rivals, fall into hard times.  In addition, we do not exercise our power and authority simply because we can.  Instead we rule with grace and wisdom and make decisions that honor God.

Finally, we live a life that shows our respect for God.  We work hard, we love our family and we do our best to show as many of his character traits in our lives. If we live that kind of life, at the journey’s end—we will be able to part with joy and few regrets—leaving a legacy that lasts for generations.

God Bless You

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;     when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, 18 or the Lord will see and disapprove     and turn his wrath away from them.

Saying 29

19 Do not fret because of evildoers     or be envious of the wicked, 20 for the evildoer has no future hope,     and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

Saying 30

21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son,     and do not join with rebellious officials, 22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,     and who knows what calamities they can bring?

There is NO thing Too Difficult for God–Joshua 10 Part 1

Never has the term “If God is for us, then who can be against us!” been illustrated with such power.  Joshua and his army were summoned by their new Gibeonite allies.  The Gibeonites were being attacked by 5 different states. Joshua sought the Lord and was told—go get them, I will hand them over to you. Joshua obeys and the armies of the 5 kings are completely defeated by battle, by large hailstones and by the sun standing tall in the sky for an entire day. 

Neither Israel, the Gibeonites nor even the vanquished foes—doubted who was leading the charge and fighting the battle! Was Israel a formidable fighting force—absolutely. The thing that drove fear into their enemies hearts, however, was not their skills and victories; it was their God.  Their God made clear that he controlled the time of day and the conditions on the Earth.  No amount of strategy would stop his plan for his people.

Nothing has changed.  God is still God.  He still controls the conditions on earth and the time of day.  Even when the circumstances in life seem insurmountable, like 5 armies versus 1, as we seek the Lord, he says—I got this. He then will set about moving heaven and earth to execute his plan. As we march by faith, we simply have to cling to the truth of his power and authority.  As we do, our enemies will melt before us and He (Not We) will be victorious.

God Bless You

After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,     and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still,     and the moon stopped,     till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.