April 12th Acts chapter 26

In today’s study we read of Paul’s defense before king Agrippa.  Paul, more importantly than defending himself, takes an opportunity to witness to Agrippa at this time.  In the life of Paul and those who have truly put their trust in Him, sharing the good news of salvation through faith in repentance takes prescience over everything else in life; even in defending ones very own!  How much the church today could accomplish if we had the same mindset as that of Paul.  When the Kingdom comes first, then everything else only follows; in fact, everything else is only to position us to spread the Gospel.

As Paul lays out his story, he does so in a very simple, concise way.  I have often heard people give their story, or testimony and it comes across just plain old awful.  Some folks start at their birth and mention every insignificant detail until the listeners are nearly bored to death.  Then there are others who begin talking about their past life and they begin to glamorize it, it is as if they “missed the good ol’ days.”  While there are others who bog down their personal story with so many lofty words that much gets lost in translation.  Here we see Paul use four simple things in order to get his story across in a very pointed, direct and concise way. Let’s look at the four things mentioned in these verses:

  1. Paul’s life before Christ (Acts 26:9-11)
  2. God’s dealing with Paul (Acts 26:12-14)
  3. Paul’s repentance and obedience (Acts 26:15-19)
  4. Paul’s life after knowing Christ (Acts 26:20-23)

These four things are the most powerful thing in a believer’s armory.  We can simply tell people what we were like before we became followers of Christ, then simply tell how God revealed Himself to us, moving on to how we reacted to that drawing to finally close with what life is now like in Christ.

I believe that the reason that many church goers do not tell their story in this fashion is because there is not one to tell.  Sadly, a lot op folks just “start going to church.”  That’s pretty much the end of the story.  They may get busy with church activities, but as to the other points, they simply do not exist.  Today, as you have read this chapter please think about your life and perhaps the life of your spouse.  Do these four elements exist in your lives.  If they do, don’t be ashamed; instead be ready to “give a reason for the joy that is inside of you.”   If these elements do not exist perhaps it is time to take a closer look at where life is taking you.  Jesus said “In that day there will be many who say to me Lord Lord…and I will say to them ‘depart form me for I never knew you.'”  The PSPV (pastor Steve paraphrased version) translates it loosely as this:  There will be many church folk in hell who never had a relationship with Him at all.  I hope that each of us today will stop and look at our lives to see if there has ever been a life changing experience in Christ Jesus.

 

See you tomorrow,

Pastor Steve

April 11th Acts chapter 25

Today we will be focusing on Festus as we look at this chapter.  Here we have a man who had heard the Word on numerous occasions and as I mentioned in our last study, he was convicted over his sin and feared the coming judgement.  But Festus, instead of repenting had Paul sent out of his presence when he became afraid of the words that Paul spoke.  The true Word of God convicts all sinners, saved and unsaved.  For the lost person it is an all out assault on his or her life and character.  For the believer it is a constant “growing pain” as we become more like the Master.  Festus made a very disturbing decision with Paul and the words that he spoke.  Instead of freeing Paul, because as he has stated in today’s chapter, he had nothing to report about him, he imprisioned him.  Festus used Paul as a political pawn in order to make the people around him happy.  It would be hard for one to imagine on the day of judgement, as Festus stands before God, trying to explain the reason that he rejected the Gospel; the Gospel that was preached by Paul himself.  Sadly, today, many people do with the Gospel just as Festus did, they run away from it only visiting it in small doses as to not become offended or frightened.

Festus ended up looking foolish to his superiors.  Seeing that there was nothing to judge, when Paul, as a Roman citizen, demanded to be judged by Cesar, Festus’ foolish case would come to light.  If Cesar saw that Festus was unable to handle the most simple of cases, how long would Festus stay in power?  How far down the list Festus must have dropped when it was time to promote someone in the Roman government.  Once again we see someone who was trifling with the man of God.  In the end, it would ruin the career of the ambitious Festus and cost him an eternity in hell.  Oh! How often we look at the  things in life that just don’t have much merit at all;  and we trade the magnificent for the mundane.  See you tomorrow.

 

Pastor Steve

April 8th Acts chapter 24

In today’s chapter we see how God uses evil people and their  intentions to carry out His will.   What a lopsided battle the evil one fights as he opposes the God of the universe.  Even when Satan (and his minions in the form of disobedient men) get, what they believe to be, their way, it often turns out to work against him.  Paul, as we see, spent two years in Ciseria with with freedom to do as he pleased in the region.  Paul was in danger previously and if he were to try and leave in order to spread the Gospel he would have been killed.  So God allowed a situation to happen that fully funded Pauls next missionary expedition; and He did it so well that Paul not only traveled for free, but had at his disposal a company of men to act as his personal body guards!  Paul traveled (as a prisoner) in the same way our current president travels!  While Paul is now at Cesseria, he is still protected  and preaching in safety because he was awaiting a decision from Felix.  Paul now not only can speak to the people, but because Felix wanted a bribe from Paul (who was bringing financial aid to Jerusalem when he was apprehended) Felix called Paul before him on a regular basis.  Now Paul stands in Felix’s court and presents the Gospel before the entire court of Felix on a regular basis.  Evidentially, it was convicting preaching because when Paul began to speak in regards to self-control and the judgement, Felix couldn’t take it any more and had him removed from his presence.  Paul will go even farther up the “Roman food chain” before this ordeal is over.  I would love to have knowledge of the number of people who turned to repentance while standing in various Roman courts listening to Paul testify to Jesus Christ.

We can learn form the life and ordeals of Paul that God will use us where ever we are if we will allow Him to do so.

My apologies for missing yesterday’s blog. Missy, my wife, if you do not know me personally, was hospitalized after her back surgery.  She is home now and seems to be doing well and enjoying having me as her personal servant.  Thank you for all of your prayers.

Pastor Steve

 

April 6th Acts chapter 22

In today’s reading Paul is addressing the Jewish leaders who are in an uproar and Paul uses his life as a Pharisee to divide the crowd and gain an audience.  Paul claims that he too was a Pharisee and that he trained under Gamaliel (which is kind of a big deal).  He also speaks to them in their native tongue and they quiet down to listen.  But did you notice when the crowd changed from a quieted audience back into an angry mob?  They seemed to be in agreement with everything that Paul was saying until he mentioned that he had preached to the gentiles.  This is amazing to me!  The very purpose of the nation of Israel was that “the world would be blessed” by them.  This is what God had told Abraham so long ago.  God had pulled aside this man Abraham and his line of heirs to be set apart and an example that the entire would would turn to God.  Later Solomon, after completing the temple, prays in 2 Chronicles chapter 6  that the foreigner, when he were to come, could worship at the temple.  Solomon knew that the purpose and plan of God was to reach the world.  Solomon was blessed by God and most all nations had trade with Israel and he could attribute the success of the nation to the fact that God had drawn them out from the pagan wolrd.  The Jews simply forgot the purpose of their existence.

As I have written in these posts before, things don’t change much over time.  As God has ordained the church to make disciples and spread the gospel; so many have forgotten the very reason that we exist.  Just like the Jewish leaders, we can so easily be focused only inward that we lose sight of the original mission.  The focus often turns so far inward that people search out local churches that will meet their own needs and wants.  The visitor is shown all that the church has to offer them if they so decide to join them.  Gymnasiums, social halls, rock concert style of music that has become a show other than a corporate worship time are just a few examples.  What happened to aligning ourselves with a group of people insomuch that we can use our specific talents to join a body of believers to accomplish the great commission?

I remember playing (or as I should say, trying to play) baseball when I was a kid.  When batting they continually said “keep your eye on the ball.”  We should be careful to keep our eye on the ball.  Are we trying to accomplish the mission that God has created for us?  Or have we taken our eye off of the ball just like these Jewish leaders.

 

Pastor Steve

April 5th Acts chapter 21

Good morning!  Today we are looking in Acts chapter twenty-one.  As we read along in this journey of Paul’s mission we get a sense, as we spoke of yesterday, of his commitment and passion for the work.  Paul had a passion not only for the gentiles, but also a great passion for his own countrymen.  Paul could very much sympathize with the men and women in Jerusalem.  He had been in their shoes as a man who was incredibly devoted to religion but completely lacking a saving relationship with God.  I believe that this is where much of his passion came from.  Have you often thought, as I have:  “What if God had not called me out of my old life?”  Or perhaps the thought, that often crosses my mind; “What if those who showed me the Gospel were disobedient to God and I never understood it?”  This, I believe, was at the very heart of Paul.  Some believe that his passion for his people in Jerusalem was his downfall.  Some believe that Paul was so passionate for his people that he disobeyed God and payed the ultimate price.  I disagree with this line of thinking, and today we will look a little closer at Paul’s heading out to Jerusalem.  Below I have placed a couple of paragraph’s from John MacArthur’s commentary on Acts volume 2.  I read him this morning to see if good biblical scholars were in line with my thinking on the matter:

 That Paul was not disobedient on this occasion, however, is evident from several considerations.
First, the phrase through the Spirit is inconclusive; it merely means that someone spoke as from a spiritual gift of prophecy. As Paul motes in 1 Corinthians 14:29, however, not every manifestation of the gift of prophecy is legitimate. Whether it was legitimate in this instance must be determined by other factors.
Second, Paul lived a life sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. When forbidden by the Spirit to preach in certain regions, Paul did not disobey (Acts 16:6-7). When led by the Spirit to minister in Macedonia, Paul immediately obeyed (Acts 16:9-10). That long-term pattern of obedience makes it unlikely that he was disobedient in this matter.
Third, the Holy Spirit had never before prohibited Paul from going to Jerusalem. According to Acts 20: 22-23, He warned Paul repeatedly of what would happen to him when he got there but did not tell him not to go.
Fourth, Paul described his mission to Jerusalem as “the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20: 24). How could the Holy Spirit forbid Paul from doing what the Lord Jesus Christ had commanded him to? Further, Acts 19: 21 records that “Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem,” while in Acts 20:22 the apostle describes himself as “bound in the spirit . . . on my way to Jerusalem.” He was compelled in his innermost being by the Holy Spirit to undertake this mission.
Finally, the Scriptures nowhere suggest that Paul sinned by going to Jerusalem. After he got there he declared, “I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day” (Acts 23:1; cf. 24:16). It is difficult to see how he could have said that if he had just flagrantly sinned against God.
In Tyre, as in so many other places, the Holy Spirit warned Paul of the persecution he faced in Jerusalem. The believers in Tyre, through the Spirit, foresaw the suffering he would endure when he reached his goal.  It was only natural that they would try to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem- just as some of his older friends would soon do (21: 12). The Spirit’s message to Paul in Tyre, as elsewhere, was a warning, not a prohibition.
Taken from The MaCarthur New Testament Commentary Acts 13-28 by John MaCartur 1996 pages 237-238

Although Paul was warned of what he would face in Jerusalem; God did not forbid him to go there.  On the contrary God called him for that purpose.  The people who genuinely loved Paul wanted to stop him from going to his imprisonment; and although they had the best intentions, their intentions were flawed.  It says in Proverbs “There is a way that seems right unto man, but in the end it leads to destruction.”  We need to remember that popular opinion is not always the correct thing to do.  If Paul were preaching the “prosperity gospel” these warnings would have been looked at differently.  We have to imagine what the families and friends of the other apostles thought when Jesus told them to follow Him.  Peter and Andrew were mending their fishing nets when they abruptly dropped them and followed Jesus.  I don’t believe that their parents were very excited at the prospect of their boys leaving a livelihood that was suitable to meet their needs to follow Christ.  I imagine that their father was getting older and was left in quite a lurch when his younger sons left him holding his nets.  But those who have truly given all to Christ, must not follow the crowd; even if that crowd is well meaning people who love them.  When I realized my call to vocational ministry there were some folks who thought that I had lost my mind.  A few of them, I had the deepest respect for.  In all honesty, that was the hardest part of making that life altering decision.  I was leaving the home that I was raised in and had bought form my parents, I was leaving every one  I had known up to that point and I was leaving the security of a vocation that was meeting my needs.  But in all of that, the hardest thing, for me personally, was the doubt of those who cared for me greatly.  It was not necessarily their fault; they loved me and were concerned for me.  The calling was obvious though and I needed to live out what I had learned from the Word and the Holy Spirit of God.  I needed to deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow him.

Paul said in verse 13 “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”   Paul, in essence was saying, I know what lies ahead, but I must go.  Oh what God could do if we would decide that no matter what; we were going to fulfill His plan for our lives!  Before knowing any of the details, if we were to just say as the hymn that we so often sing says “Have thine own way Lord, have thine own way.  I am the potter thou art the clay.  Mold me and make me after thy will…”  God has not called many of us to go to a city to be imprisoned and die but He has called us to be willing to do what ever He has called us to do.  We cannot fit God’s will into our own will; friends it has never, nor ever will, work.  We must be willing to say “Have thine own way Lord.”

 

Pastor Steve

April 4th Acts chapter 20

In today’s reading we see what it looks like to be completely sold out to Christ and His calling.  I long for the day when I personally can say as Paul does in this chapter “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…”  This statement is a mouthful!  When we each evaluate our walk with Christ can we honestly say that this is our number one goal in life?  We try, so often, to fit Him into our agenda but that just doesn’t work.  He needs to become our agenda in everything that we do.  Every thing that we take part in should be rooted in the very purpose of “testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (vs. 24).  Paul here speaks of the race that he has entered.  At salvation he did not finish the race by “arriving.” He, at that point, pinned the numbers on his back and began to stretch.  The race had jut begun.  He says in Philippians that he presses on toward the mark to the upward call in Christ Jesus that he may attain the prize.  During his entire ministry Paul was pressing.  We can learn a lot from this powerful man of God.  In Philippians chapter three Paul states “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings being made conformable to His death.” I believe this is the pressing that he was referring to.  We have been taught that the ultimate goal in Christ Jesus is salvation.  Friends, this is such a selfish outlook on the Christian life and it doesn’t represent the one whom we follow at all.  Christianity is a selfless pursuit in which we are to follow the words of Christ in Luke 9:23 “If anyone will come after Me he must first deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Sadly today’s modern preaching is presenting a different gospel all together.  We have taken the gospel and turned it into the gospel of “me” instead of the Gospel of “He.”  A self centered gospel is not the true Gospel at all; in fact it is the exact opposite.  Paul stated “If any man preaches any other gospel unto you other than which we have preached let him be accursed; as I said before so say I now again, even if an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you other than that which we have preached let him be accursed”.  With out repentance and a changed life, there is no Good news of the Gospel.  For the good news of the Gospel is that through repentance, God will forgive our sins and make us into new creatures.  Not the same creatures with a real good retirement plan.

The other thing that stood out to me in this chapter is the fact that those who are on fire for Christ seem to have no acquaintances in the middle ground.  They seem to be loved very much or hated to a terrible degree.  I hope that we are ready for this as we give our lives completely over to Him.  People pleasers with thin skin do not make terrific disciples.  Sold out believers are more concerned with the Master’s thoughts of them than that of people’s thoughts of them.

As pastor, I want to try and preach all night as Paul did in this chapter.  Most see the miracle in this story as rising the boy back to life after he fell asleep and plummeted to the ground.  I find that the miracle is in the fact that only one fell asleep!  I have sleepers every week in a thirty minute sermon.  I guess I just need to learn to preach as well as Paul : )

I hope, and pray often, that God’s Word grows to be a part of our daily lives.  Stay in the Word friends; see How God will work in our lives when we do.

Pastor Steve