Monthly Archives: August 2013

Answering the Call ~ Acts 21:37-22:29

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ” ~ Acts 22:21

As the commander is about to lead Paul into the barracks, Paul asks if he may address the crowd. The commander grants his request, and Paul addresses the crowd in Aramaic, which immediately silences them.

Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus

Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul offers his personal background as a citizen and as a Jew, describing his persecution of the earliest Christians before his conversion. He describes the stoning of Stephen as he stood aside and guarded the cloaks of those who stoned him. He then describes his conversion on the road to Damascus and God’s subsequent instruction that Paul leave Jerusalem: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (22:21).

The crowd listened intently until Paul said this. The riot begins again, and Paul is taken into the barracks where a centurion prepares to flog him. Paul cites his Roman citizenship, and is thereby spared of the beating.

It appears that Paul’s ministry is drawing to a close, and he knows it. But, is it really? Centuries later, God speaks to us today through Paul’s letters to the churches he founded. Countless people have come to know Christ via the “Roman Road”, a series of passages from Paul’s letter to the Romans that walk the sinner through our sinful nature and resulting death to sanctification through Jesus’ act of mercy and grace and eternal life through Him. God continues to speak through Paul today, and He will continue until the end of the age.

God chose Paul to be a messenger of the Gospel to the Gentiles. We believers are to share the Gospel in our world. For some of us, it’s an office and for others a warehouse. For some, it’s a schoolhouse and for others an airport. It really makes no difference; we are called to witness where we are. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Our light is our very life; our words and actions always witness to something. Let us speak and behave as witnesses for the Gospel knowing that God can and will work through us.

Ponder this: Do my words and actions point to the Gospel? How can I live as God’s witness in my world?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I know that if I walk through life according to Your will, I will impact the world as You intend for me to do. Help me to fully trust You so that I may be an effective witness. Help me to live my life for You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

God’s Will be Done ~ Acts 21:1-36

Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” ~ Acts 21:13-14

When I consider the concept of placing God’s will above my own, it is not in the context of dying for Him, for I am not facing that threat. In Caesarea, the prophet Agabus predicts Paul’s arrest and demise in Jerusalem. The believers beg Paul not to go there, and he offers the response above. Knowing what is to come, Paul presses on.

Upon arrival in Jerusalem, the disciples tell Paul that word has spread among the Jews that Paul is converting Gentiles, and teaching the Jews that live among the Gentiles to “turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (verse 22). The disciples introduce four men who have taken a vow to follow Judaism. They ask Paul to participate with these men in their rites of cleansing believing that this would demonstrate to the Jews that Paul had not abandoned Jewish law. Paul agrees.

As the period of cleansing draws to its end, some Jews from Asia publicly accuse Paul, claiming he “brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place” (verse 28). An uproar ensues, and Paul is arrested with the crowd shouting, “Get rid of him!” (verse 36). Here in Jerusalem, the Jews who have been hounding Paul all along the way finally succeed in having him arrested.  Although he knows his demise is imminent, Paul presses on; he continues to preach the Gospel.

Satan uses all sorts of things to distract our attention away from Christ. For me, in this place in my life, it’s a question of priorities. These past few days have been very busy and I’ve neglected to read God’s word as a result. It’s not the fault of my “busy-ness”; it’s a case of misaligned priorities. Satan sometimes wins small battles; thank God that through Jesus the war is already won! Today I pray that God would give me that same degree of focus on Him.

Ponder this: What distracts me from God’s will for my life? Are my priorities distracting me from opportunities to serve Him?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending faithful servants like Paul to share Your Gospel and inspire us with their dedication to You. Thank you for modern-day believers who unwaveringly preach, teach, and live Your Truth. Help me, Lord, to continuously seek and follow Your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Fully Committed ~ Acts 20:1-38

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.~ Acts 20:24

The Farewell

The Farewell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the uproar in Ephesus, Paul and several companions depart. Paul’s ultimate destination is Jerusalem, but he makes several stops along the way. During a stopover in Miletus, Paul sent word to Ephesus for the elders of the church to meet him in Miletus. When they arrive, Paul recounts his witness to them, warns them of opposition that will arise both from outside and from within the church, and tells them they will never see him again.

I am struck by the wisdom from God that Paul displays. Paul’s unwavering dedication to God’s service and those who believe, his insight into how his trials and tribulations are worth suffering for God’s good purposes, and his love for those with whom he served are all noteworthy. The degree to which Paul lives these traits is not of his own accord – we see here the power and influence that God can have over a life that is fully committed to Him and we see how God can use such a committed servant to win many for the Gospel.

We also see throughout Paul’s ministry the constant attacks Satan levies against the Gospel and those who believe. Paul’s warning here to the elders must be heeded today as well:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (verses 28-30)

My heart breaks when I consider the thousands who have been misled through false, incomplete, or watered-down teaching and preaching. The savage wolves about which Paul warned the elders from Ephesus are active in the church today, and many have unwittingly succumbed to their false teachings. Christians, we must be in the Word. We must be in prayer. And if we hear false teaching in the church, we must speak out as God leads us. Stand firmly and boldly upon the foundation of the Gospel and be richly blessed.

Ponder this: God doesn’t call all of us to a missionary ministry as He called Paul; to what is He calling me? Am I willing?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for faithful servants like Paul and the apostles. Let me learn from them and be inspired by them, but more than that, fill me with your Holy Spirit and guide my footsteps that I might be fully committed to doing Your will in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Gospel Impact ~ Acts 19:23-41

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. ~ Acts 19:28-29a

The Artemis of Ephesus, 1st century AD (Ephesu...

The Artemis of Ephesus, 1st century AD (Ephesus Archaeological Museum) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Gospel’s impact on the people of Ephesus reaches a crescendo as local silversmith Demetrius raises concern among his fellow craftsmen that the Gospel message could damage their business. Demetrius made silver shrines of the Ephesian goddess Artemis and sold them to travelers coming to Ephesus on religious pilgrimage. If Paul’s message continues to spread, the silver trade could be hurt and Artemis’ credibility could be damaged thus having a negative impact on the Ephesians’ economy, Demetrius warns. Whipped into frenzy over this dire warning, the people seize two of Paul’s traveling companions (Gaius and Aristarchus) and drag them into the assembly hall.

The riot gains momentum. The Scripture tells us that there was mass confusion as people were shouting different things; “Most of the people did not even know why they were there,” we’re told in verse 32. Paul is kept from entering the hall, so Alexander, a fellow Jew attempts to address the crowd but they will not hear him. It is not until a civic leader, the city clerk, steps up to address the crowd that they quiet down and listen. The city clerk admonishes the crowd, telling them that these men have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed Artemis’ name. He tells them that this is not the proper way to handle this dispute. “The courts are open and there are proconsuls,” he says, “They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly” (verses 38-39). Upon hearing this, he dismisses the crowd, presumably peacefully.

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over about two years’ time, Paul’s ministry made a significant impact on the people of Ephesus and surrounding areas. The Gospel has taken root and begun to grow into what would become one of the strongest churches in Asia.

If we plant ourselves firmly in the fertile soil of the Gospel and share the Truth out of sincere love, God can and will use us to change our corner of the world as well. We don’t need booming sound systems or kitschy sermon themes; all we need is the Gospel and the will of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s instruction to Timothy would be well heeded by us today: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

Ponder this: What does an honest and straightforward presentation of the Gospel look and sound like? What impact could I have on my world for the Lord?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the power of the spoken word. That power is misused and abused at times; forgive me, Lord, for my abuses of your gift of language. Father, help me to speak all that I speak to Your glory. And when you give me the opportunity to witness, let my words be Your words so that the Gospel is in clear focus. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

It’s About the Gospel ~ Acts 19:1-22

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 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. ~ Acts 19:11-12

Eustache Le Sueur - The Preaching of St Paul a...

Eustache Le Sueur – The Preaching of St Paul at Ephesus – WGA12613 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We see in this passage what happens when the word of God is preached boldly and honestly according to the will of the Holy Spirit. We also see what can happen when one abuses the name of Jesus.

Paul spends two years in Ephesus, preaching first in the synagogue as was his custom. As opposition to the Gospel message grew in the synagogue, Paul began preaching in the public gathering place – the

lecture hall of Tyrannus – where both Jews and Greeks heard The Word. As the passage above states, God did extraordinary things through Paul. Through Paul’s preaching, God’s Word spread throughout the province leading many to confess their sins, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (verse 20).

We’re also told about seven sons of a Jewish chief priest who apparently wanted a piece of the action. They went around trying to drive out demons:

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 Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 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.  ~ Acts 19:14-16

Given the end result of this encounter, it appears that these men were not acting in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Why were they doing this? What was their motivation? We are not told; but their actions clearly were not aligned with God’s plan. Their serving of the proverbial “humble pie” by this demon-possessed man was likely never forgotten.

In this passage we see a stark contrast between a sincere ministry led by the Holy Spirit and an apparent effort to practice ministry under less than honorable pretext. Ministry that serves God has its focus on the Gospel. Such a ministry focuses on the Object of our worship, not on the messenger.

It’s not about me; it’s about Him. Now, let’s go out and live it.

Ponder this: Are my motives for action aligned with God’s plan? Is my message to the world about Him?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I surrender fully my life and my ministry to You. Give me a servant’s heart and tune me in to your Holy Spirit; that all that I do and every word I write or speak in Your name is fully aligned with Your good and perfect will. Keep me humble and keep me focused, I pray, in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, AMEN.

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