There are things that occur that we can’t wrap our heads around. Many non-believers use the deaths of innocent children and other such tragedies to explain away that God is ALL that is good. Therefore, he doesn’t exist at all. On the other hand we have believers that say God’s grace covers all my sins, so regardless of what I do, he can use it for his glory. Gods grace was never intended to be used as a perpetual “get out of jail free” card.
They say two wrongs don’t make a right. Really, no wrongs can ever make a right. If our intent is to do wrong, then it is wrong. When Joseph’s brothers did the unthinkable to him God never justified their actions. However, he did use it to raise up Joseph who saw the ultimate good that came from thier evil intentions. He then used it to bring his brothers to repentance.
You see God loves you so much that he will use your unrighteousness to bring you to see this love. In spite of all the wrong that we can do, God loves and will continue to pursue us in any manner he sees fit. He is omnipresent, that means right now, in spite of your unrighteousness, he’s looking for ways to bring you closer to him.
Romans 3:5 – But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?
They say, “it’s easier to catch flies with honey, rather than vinegar”. For the most part, I think we all agree with this premise. A few years back I entered a period with my son where I couldn’t seem to get my message across. The teen years tend to do that to the parent child relationship. In my frustration my messages became increasingly demanding. This didn’t help the situation one bit. It was only when I began to approach him in a more controlled manner did we begin to communicate and work through our issues. The message didn’t change much but my approach did.
Through the years we’ve all been witness to fire and brimstone preaching. Whether on TV or on a street corner, an evangelistic rant, damning people to hell, rarely serves to draw one closer to God. The message of Jesus is somewhere in there, but delivered in an overbearing tone it hardly resembles the heart of God. He understands that we can’t be guilted, coerced or threatened into repentance, nor does he want that. It is only when we come to terms that it his love, not damnation, that leads us to repentance, that we can begin to willingly pursue him and return that love to others. Seek the love that he offers, then show it to others so they in turn may come to know Him. Romans 2:4 – Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
In my continuing journey through the New Testament I’ve just began reading Romans. I was excited to read that men, such as Martin Luther & John Wesley, were greatly affected by this letter of Paul’s. In his introduction, he doesn’t pull any punches. He points out how the sin nature of man has engulfed the Roman populous. Paul describes a society much like ours is today. Rapidly decreasing morals had replaced the righteousness of living in a manner that honors God. Once again, man thought he new better.
Aren’t we always looking for a quick fix to happiness & contentment? We run to what makes us feel good in the moment, all the while knowing it probably isn’t the best long term plan. Paul knew this all too well, he himself admitting, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” ~Romans 7:15. True contentment comes from a life that is directed toward loving others before ourselves. That is Gods plan and clearly the message of Jesus. When we live in such a manner the urge to satisfy our flesh is replaced with the the joy that can only come from serving our fellow man. Romans 1:22 – Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
In studying the book of Acts the last few chapters tell of Paul’s journey through the Jewish and Roman legal systems. A literal and figurative journey that allowed Paul to reach countless numbers of people with the Gospel of Jesus. Luke the author of Acts documents these encounters leading up to Paul’s appearance before Caesar himself. The last chapter of Acts tells of Paul’s arrival in Rome and further opportunities to share the Gospel. However, it’s notable that Luke tells nothing of Paul’s appearance before Caesar. Everything written before seemed to be leading to the telling of Paul’s appearance before the great ruler but it obviously wasn’t the story God wanted us to hear.
Yes it did seem like the last half of Acts was leading to this encounter but maybe it was more about the journey. We’re very point A to point B oriented but isn’t it during the journey where most of the action occurs? God uses this time to carefully mold us into the person he created us to be. Due to our nature, this takes time. If you’re in the middle of a “journey” and are anxious to get to the end, try thinking about where you are today and how God maybe using it for your good. Often the journey is more rewarding than the goal at hand. Acts 28:20 – For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.”
Where do you turn in the midst of a storm? Paul, was being taken to Rome for his appeal to Caesar. They began their journey at a time when they knew the seas could be rough. Paul even warned of this possibility, yet they sailed on. Sure enough they hit a big storm. The ship and crew were in real danger as the storm began to do its worst. Then Paul recalled the words spoken to him by Gods messenger; and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ ~ Acts 27:24. So in the midst of this storm and the very literal carnage that was taking place Paul chose to believe in the unseen, the promise of God, not only for himself but also for those with him.
We are granted the same promise for our lives. One, that God will finish the work that began in us. Two, that for those who believe, God is working for our ultimate good. Three, that he will never leave or forsake us. When life comes barreling down on us like a storm it’s hard to see through it. However, we, like Paul have Gods word to not only lift our spirits but as Paul did, lift those around us that might be suffering. No storm is bigger than the promises of God!
Acts 27:25 – So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.
I’m taking Spanish lessons via a tutor over Skype. I’ve tried to learn before via Rosetta Stone and a couple other programs but it has never come together. Sure I’ve learned a few words here and there, but that’s far from being able to hold a conversation. I am now learning via my tutor and our dialogue. I’m slowly but surely beginning to use what he teaches me by speaking that back to him. This sharing of what I am learning has made all the difference in the world.
So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: Acts 26:1
As Paul stood before a great king he had more in mind than a mere defense of the accusations placed upon him by the Jewish hierarchy. This was another opportunity to share his testimony and in doing so the message of Jesus. As great as that transformation was Paul understood that like most things from God it was meant to be shared. When we choose to do this God takes whatever it is and magnifies it. We are then equally affected by sharing with others. We can’t truly live/experience a Christian life without the major component of sharing with others and giving of ourselves.
As I continue my journey to learn the Spanish language, I have come to realize that unless I share what I have learned through speaking, I will never fully grasp it. The same applies with OUR Christianity.
“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, ~Acts 26:2.
Yesterday I observed a truck that tried to cut across a median stuck in the mud. Is there anything more frustrating than this predicament? Not only are you going to be late to where ever you were going but in resolving the issue you can be assured of getting messy.
During his ministry Paul experienced many unfortunate delays. While awaiting trial he was held in a prison. Though prison was not where he wanted to be it was right where God knew he needed to be. This incarceration thwarted a planned assassination of Paul. His down time provided much needed rest that he otherwise wouldn’t have taken. Earthly delays to complete a heavenly plan.
God always sees beyond the surface of our delays. Are you in such a season, maybe an unanswered prayer? Rejoice that God is overseeing and planning for your good. Today’s messy delay is tomorrow’s revelation.
Acts 25:4 – Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly.
I remember an episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Opie meets a drifter. The man, while nice enough, quickly shows why he is homeless. He tells Opie that his favorite day is “tomorrow”. That is the day to get things done. Opie tries this new found “theology” in doing his chores. Let’s just say it didn’t work out too well for him.
We all have things in our life that we schedule for tomorrow. For some it may be exercise and eating healthy, for others it may be paying off debt. We justify it by thinking we still have time to get this done . . . . Tomorrow. Such was the story of Felix the Governor who heard the case against Paul. The Jewish hierarchy had laid an unproven case of Paul’s crimes before him. There was absolutely no evidence of guilt. To his credit Felix did not render a guilty verdict, however, nor did he declare Paul innocent. His inaction to do what was right was motivated by his fear of choosing sides and going against the Jewish rulers that had influence. The problem here is that in every indecision there is a decision, especially where Jesus is involved.
Back to our show, by the end of the episode Andy is able to show his son that putting off the inevitable is rarely a good decision.
What have you been putting off until tomorrow? If it involves your relationship with Jesus, may I kindly suggest that there is no tomorrow. 2 Corinthians 6:2b – “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”. It doesn’t say later, it doesn’t say when you’re ready . . . it says NOW! If you’re waiting to become a better person or getting through a season, you have it backwards. Jesus longs for you as you are. It’s through the relationship you form with him that change is made. Tomorrow never comes!
Acts 24:25 – And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”
I work with a fairly new mother. Her baby is almost a year old and she, like many, is having difficulty putting him to bed and letting him learn to go to sleep alone. Every time he begins to cry she feels the need to go comfort him. Truth be told, the darkness of night can be a scary place for us all.
While still in Jerusalem, Paul having been given another opportunity to deliver the message of Jesus, spoke the word “resurrection” which, long story short, caused another uproar and before he knew it he was whisked away to prison again. So there he sat in prison alone in the dark, only thinking of his lost opportunities. In his mind he had not only failed God but the possibility of his death was ever present. However, in the midst of the physical and mental darkness, Jesus came to his side.
If you’re like me, there’s no one harder on you than you. We take our circumstances and allow the seemingly bad in them to grow like yeast in a bakery. We pray to Jesus to bring us to the other side of the mess we’re in, when more times than not, Jesus wants to meet us in the middle of it. Just as he did that night with Paul, he will come to your side to reassure and comfort you. Spurgeon sums this up nicely, “A divine decree ordains for you greater and more trying service than as yet you have seen. A future awaits you, and no power on the earth or under the earth can rob you of it; therefore be of good cheer.”
Even as adults we are still afraid of the “dark”, like my co-workers baby it’s comforting to have our father come,……. when we cry out in the night. Acts 23:11 – The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
A couple of years ago on a flight to Miami I got into a conversation with a man across the isle. Long story short he didn’t like to fly and began to have a panic attack. Our conversation began after the crew had managed to calm him down. He was apologetic for the scene he caused. I brushed it off as it really wasn’t a big deal. Come to find out a big part of his episode was his anxiety about going back home for a funeral. A few years earlier he had told his family that he was gay and they didn’t take it well. So much that he felt the need to leave.
In Acts 22 Paul has convinced the Roman authorities to address the crowd that wanted him dead. When he began to speak in Hebrew they calmed down and listened to his testimony. They considered all he had to say about Jesus and how he was the Messiah. This was until he spoke the word “Gentiles” and that the same salvation Paul was offering to the Jews was available to Gentiles. The crowd turned on him once again. The Jews felt entitled to a relationship that others could not enter into, unless they first became a Jew.
Human bias has existed for centuries, it is no more or less prevalent today. While it can be a condition of our upbringing, in adulthood it is a choice. During my conversation with the man on the plane he spoke of the rejection he had experienced and specifically from Christians. I’ll never forget the hurt I saw in his eyes when he said, “we’re human too, please treat us that way”. Our conversation ended well. He thanked me but in retrospect I know God put him there to work in my life. How can we embrace our uniqueness and reject another’s? Our humanity means we are flawed to our core but it is also the one thing that connects us all, in His image. Acts 22:22 – Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.”