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.”

Denial–John 18 Part 2

The greatest folk have made grave mistakes in times of fear for their lives. Poor Peter—He was the disciple that often stepped out first and then put that foot in his mouth. He was a man with heart, courage and loyalty, yet, when the time came as Jesus was taken away, Peter was deeply shaken. No doubt he cared—He cut the ear of Caiaphas’ servant. But as Jesus was led away, there were strong doubts turning the disciples upside down.

While Peter’s denial was highlighted—the followers all became scarce. None rose to testify on Jesus behalf, none stormed the chamber—they were all afraid and completely devastated by the capture of the Lord. Such a turn of events seemingly destroyed the movement that had grown that so quickly over the last few years. It was the start of a difficult few days!

Life gets turned upside down—We get our foundations rocked by circumstances all the time—health, jobs, conflict and family crisis always drill straight to our spiritual core. Those that can cling to their faith and survive the crushing waves can rebuild their faith and weather those storms. Few of us has escaped a dramatic fall. I have failed so much that I have lost count. The great news is that God’s grace allows us to recover and still be used despite our frailty and fear. The falling and failures are not what defines us, it is the dusting off, standing up and pressing ahead that makes us the followers we are called to be. Jesus said it best, “In this world you will have trouble—but take heart, I have overcome the world!”

God Bless You

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow

If I Am Bereaved, then I am Bereaved–Genesis 43 Part 2

Letting go is incredibly difficult. We gain a picture of what life is going to be; then when circumstances change, we are faced with the unenviable task of clinging to our picture of life or letting go and trusting God to lead us through his picture.  Israel, never imagined he would lose his son Joseph.  Now after years of realigning his picture of family, he is asked to let go of Benjamin as well.  For Israel, this was the ultimate step of faith. he was the last son of Rachel–the love of his life.  Now, she was gone, Joseph was gone and his family was starving.  He had to let Benjamin go–no matter the cost.

In our lives, we have our picture altered as well.  Life intervenes and we are often completely devastated by the result.  When it happens, though, we have to trust the Lord to recast and repaint the picture to follow his plan for our lives. Admittedly, the ability to accept God’s plan is both difficult and scary.  We, like Israel, have to release our hold and also say, “If I am bereaved, then I am bereaved.”  When we reach this point in our journey, God will be able to work his plan in our lives and lead us to the place where we are in his will.  That point, scary as it may be, is the best place in the entire world.  Help me, Lord to reach that level of faith in my life.

God Bless You

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. 10 As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty[a] grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”

What is Your Legacy Worth–Genesis 25 final

When your life is controlled by your urges, there is little hope that it will end with a great legacy. So many people chase the next big toy, meal, job, relationship or other stimulus never realizing fulfillment does not come from things. 

Esau traded his life for stew. Sadly, as ludicrous as that sounds, it is no different than those that trade for drugs, alcohol, pornography or acceptance. 

We must set our heart and minds on things above. Then, we can enjoy the eternal inheritance provided by our Lord. We also will remain unencumbered so we can address the issues we face. In Christ,we are fully armed and  ready to fight the battles of life and walk with discipline.  As we do, we honor his name and become eternity minded and prepared.  Then when we are faced with a short-term choice that could wipe out our legacy, we seek his kingdom first.  That is what Abraham would do, but that is the opposite of what Esau did.

God Bless You

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.

He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” That is why he was also called Edom.

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.So Esau despised his birthright.

Wow You Are Not Kidding!–Genesis 15 Final

There Abram stood looking at the Stars and listening to God promise him the Land of Canaan and many descendants…and he asked the most transparent question imaginable–So how do I know what you promise will really happen…?  God says, “Son go get a Heifer, a goat and a lamb!”  Covenants, in those days, were not nicely drafted components of a contract.  Instead, Covenants were life and death promises that required absolute performance or absolute sacrifice. 

Specifically, the parties would cut an animal into quarters and lay them out on the ground walk between the quarters to signify that failure to perform on the covenant would require like treatment of the failing party! Ouch! Here God took 3 animals as if to say not only me, but the entire trinity makes this covenant.  The Heifer representing the father, the lamb representing the son and the Goat (Scape goat) representing the Holy spirit! God was serious.

That is the same level of commitment God has made to us.  If we will follow him he promises to redeem us from the sin we are enslaved to and restore us to a family relationship with him.  Take comfort, believer–God is not kidding!!!

God Bless You

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

An Impressive Resume–Revelation 1 Part 1

I often take for granted that God is so awesome.  He created all things.  He spoke a command and  the universe came into being.  He waved his hand and stars filled the sky; fish filled the sea; birds filled the air and creatures roamed the earth.

He is was and always will be.  He sees all, knows all and is all powerful.  He planned this journey back at the beginning of time and will execute it for eternity.  God is truly amazing.  He loves us individually and personally.  He knows us better than any other being and loves us for whom we are.  We would be literal fools not to want to follow him

God Bless You

John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”[b]
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”[c]
So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Confession is Great for the Soul–1 John 1 final

I heard in a sermon a few weeks ago that no one simply drifts into a great life.  We were designed by God to be intentional and God Like.  That is why sin has had such a terrible impact upon us and upon the world as a whole.  The natural man defaults away from God and drifts toward a selfish and empty life.  Even with eternity in the balance, men choose to be separated from God naturally.

But God chose differently.  Through his spirit, we are drawn back to him.  In that, if we confess our sin–our natural desire to be Lord of our own life, and follow his lead and begin the personal relationship with him as Lord of our lives–our affirmative decision to surrender allows him to forgive us and restore our eternal life and journey with him.

While simple, it is by no means easy.  we have to choose each day to follow him and not run our own show.  But, when we choose that life–we have a Great Life Indeed!

God Bless You

This is the message we heard from Jesus[c] and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

He Who Calls You is Faithful–I Thes 5 Final

Paul’s final instruction to the Thessalonians was two-fold—Live well and allow God to provide what he requires.  Paul listed the reqirements—1.  Acknowledge those that work hard  2. Live at peace with each other  3. Set a work ethic  4. Encourage the discouraged  5.  Help the weak and 6. Be patient with everyone—in summary, do good for others and not evil (even if they deserve it) This instruction is very counter to the culture, but very practical for a life of peace.

The Second instruction, however, is life changing—He who calls you is faithful and he will do it.  It is liberating once we realize that If God wants us to do something he will provide the means and the tools to do it.  Like any father, Our Lord—would never set us up to fail.  But, we have to trust him and allow him to make the provision.  Too often, we ask him to provide and then press forward without waiting for him to do so.  One of the great verses in the old testament is Isaiah 40:31—Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.  What a Promise!!! What a Lord!

God Bless You

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

 

I Samuel 6–The Ark Returned

The Philistines were a little more teachable than others of God’s enemies.  As he struck the lives of the captors of the Ark—they realized they had angered God.  As such,  they repented and changed direction.  They assembled a guilt offering and followed the protocol returning the Ark.  The ark once returned was out of the life of Philistines.  One set violated God’s laws and died.  The people of Israel celebrated greatly upon the Ark’s return.

In our lives, we always face the temptation of straying from the Lord.  As we pray and stay in the word—and seek his face, he will guide us and carry us through the difficult times.  If we do struggle and slip away, he calls us to repent and turn around.  He is always ready to welcome us back.  He values repentance and transparency.  If he will relent at the repentance of his enemies, then he will certainly accept us and receive us as we submit to him.  Seek him, follow him and return to him.  He will receive you with love and joy.

God Bless You

13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 The five rulers of the Philistines saw all this and then returned that same day to Ekron.

17 These are the gold tumors the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to the Lord—one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 And the number of the gold rats was according to the number of Philistine towns belonging to the five rulers—the fortified towns with their country villages. The large rock on which the Levites set the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.

19 But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy[a] of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them. 20 And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?”

 

Ruth 4 final–you can’t make this stuff up.

Disney could not of created a better story.  Ruth married Boaz.  Their great grandson was David—A man after God’s own heart.  The King that would unite Israel and finally bring peace to God’s people.  David the patriarch of Jesus.  All from a Moabite woman that refused to leave her dear mother-in-law in a desperate situation.  So many times, the selfless act we complete carry such huge dividends that we are unable to get or minds around them.  Neither Ruth or Boaz acted the way they did for the impact and reward that followed—they simply acted in a way that honored God.

In our lives we do the same thing.  We often take steps to honor God with no expectation of changing the world…Yet, the world gets changed because we did.  That should be motivation enough to always behave in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel.  We may never see the impact, but, by faith we can know that God’s plan is flawless and our willing obedience and submission is a recipe for blessing and success.  Then, when we stand before him the crowd will roar and we will say, “what is all the fuss—and they will respond—Great job my friend the world was a bit different, because you changed it for the Lord!”  Well done—my good and faithful servants.

God Bless You

 13 So Boaz took Ruth she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.