Monday, February 28, 2011

Your Slip is Showing!

Heb 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

I just hate it when important things get neglected. Like when we spend so much time trying to help others that our own family gets neglected. Many times we are so busy on incidental ministry that new believers fail to get discipled. How about when we serve the Lord so much that we don't have time to pray! Add to that list, people in the nursing homes that drop to the bottom of our "to do" list, Bible reading that gives way to TV viewing, healthy eating and exercise giving way to frequent quick trips to the drive-thru and immobility behind a computer screen typing blogs. Oh, and then there is the business of trying to keep a home operational while the love life disappears.

Oh, the wiles of the enemy and the snares of life which keep us from the important stuff. How often do we say "yes" to the good and then have to say "later" to the best? And “later” seldom comes.

How we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, know and are assured of, the things which should never be allowed to slip. Is your slip showing?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Better than the Angels

Heb 1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Please do not misunderstand, Jesus has always existed uncreated. We read that He was “made” so much better than the angels, but note that the word made, ginomai, means that He was caused to be superior in authority, nature and excellence than the angels.
And, not a just a bit, but a bunch, because in comparison, man was made "a little lower than the angels." 2:7, and we understand how far superior Christ is to man.

However, Christ was made to be a little lower than the angels only in that He was caused to suffer death, whereas angels do not taste of death.

What does it mean then, to be better than angels? Here is what we know about them:
1. They are messengers of God whose attributes are strength and wisdom. (2Sa_14:20); (Psa_103:20); (Psa_104:4).
2. They are referred to as masculine in gender, though sex is never ascribed to them. (Mat_22:30); (Mar_12:25).
3. Their number is inconceivable. (Mat_26:53); (Heb_12:22); (Rev_5:11); (Psa_68:17).
4. They possess amazing power. (2Ki_19:35).
5. Many of them occupy the throne room of God. (Rev_5:11); (Rev_7:11).
6. They are dispatched to each believer to minister to and protect them. (1Ki_19:5); (Psa_34:7); (Psa_91:11); (Dan_6:22); (Mat_2:13); (Mat_2:19); (Mat_4:11); (Luk_22:43); (Act_5:19); (Act_12:7-10).
7. They observe us. (1Co_4:9); (Eph_3:10); (Ecc_5:6).
8. They conduct the believer home at the end of life. (Luk_16:22).
9. They will accompany Jesus at His second coming. (Mat_25:31).
10. They will participate in the judgment of the nations. (Mat_13:30); (Mat_13:39); (Mat_13:41); (Mat_13:42).

As great as the angels are, the Lord Jesus is infinitely better.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snake in the Wood Pile

Act 28:3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

Bible detractors like to point out that there are no poisonous snakes on Malta (called Melita in Acts). What they don't realize is that, unlike today, in Paul's time, the Mediterranean islands were well wooded. Luke was the one who accompanied Paul (Col 4:14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you). He authored Acts. He ws an eye witness to this incident.

It really doesn't matter if there are poisonous snakes on the island today or not. The record shows that the Maltese barbarians recognized this snake as extremely poisonous and expected Paul to suffer immediately.

The 4 snakes that do populate Malta today were inadvertently brought to the island in loads of wood from the mainland. Perhaps a venomous serpent wound up there in that fashion. Moreover, who is to say that the deadly ochia snake of nearby Greece wasn't living on Malta back then?

The fact is, God saved Paul, and that miracle, coupled with the healing of Publius and others caused the locals to see the power of God.

Oh, watch out for that other old serpent in the woodpile. Be sober and be vigilant, he is coiled and ready to strike.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Told You So!

Act 27:21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.

You have to refer to yesterday's blog, when Paul warned Julius the Centurion not to sail, but he believed the ship's owner rather than the man of God.

It turns out that Paul was right. Sometimes, I hate being right! When I tell someone who has gone and messed their life up, "I hate to tell you that I was right, but I was right" it gives no pleasure whatsoever. You parents know what I mean.

Damage has been done and sorrow and regret has ensued. Why is it that so many people refuse to hear wisdom borne of experience and a knowledge of things holy?

But some just have to learn the hard way. Oh well, I'll do my best not to say, "I told you so."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Look Before You Leap!

Act 27:10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. 11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.

Julius had an important choice to make. He could take the word of an experienced sailor, who knew the ports and the accommodations. Or, he could go with the preacher, whose instincts told him that to sail away would be dangerous at this time.

I suppose the fact that Paul was also a prisoner lent further weight to the ship owner's opinion. the Centurion had no reason to disbelieve Paul. Obviously, he had gained respect by this time. Yet, it just made sense to go with the gut of the captain.

Let's face it, we have decisions to make many times daily, most of them of little consequence. But some of our choices have huge implications. It is easy to take the road that makes sense, but we must lean on the Lord and be sensitive to His Spirit.

It may be that an investment confronts us, a can't miss proposition. Yet, the Lord speaks through a verse or the pastor's message leading you not to buy. Or, a new job opportunity arises, the money is great, the job is well matched to your skill set and it just feels right. But the Lord is not through with you where you are and His Spirit speaks to you to wait. These are those times where we have to pay attention to open or closed doors, when we have to pray and have perfect peace about the matter, when we seek godly counsel from trusted, spiritual leadership.

Look before you leap, it could mean the difference between smooth sailing and ship wreck.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

They Had the Power

Act 25:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go. 13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. 14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:

In the Footsteps of Pontius Pilate, Felix, Drusilla, Agrippa, Bernice and Festus were 5 nobles sitting in judgment of none other than the great Apostle Paul. They had the power to set him free but washed their hands in the fashion of Pilate.

What did all these people have in common?
*They were pompous, thinking of themselves more than they ought.
*They were swayed by popular opinion rather than doing what is right.
*They sat in judgment of one infinitely greater then they.
*They were persuaded and convicted, yet still chose foolishly.
*They sealed their eternity, coming down on the wrong side of guilt and innocence.

It is no wonder James says "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." James 3:1

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tertullus, the Orator

Act 24:1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. 2 And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that
very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, 3 We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words. 5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: 6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. 7 But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, 8 Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.

Tertullus was a bag of hot air, a hired gun for the religious elders and Ananias, the high priest. He used flowery words and flattery to butter up Felix. Oh, he knew how to work this pontificating governor. There was nothing noble about the nobility in this account. They were dead set against the cross of Christ and the servant of the Lord, Apostle Paul.

But Tertullus had met his match in Paul. Highly educated and full of the Spirit, Paul brought a defense that caused Felix to favor Paul's plea, so much so that Paul was given liberty to move about, receive visitors and an opportunity to preach the gospel to the governor and his wife, Drusilla.

Note to all believers: No matter how honest, sincere and noble your words and actions, the devil hates you and will employ any and every evil measure to destroy you. He is not bound by the rules of fair play. He is a liar and the father of all liars, like Tertullus. Jesus warned us that, in the last days, we would be brought before the law and falsely accused, persecuted and martyred. Stay sober and vigilant, and be faithful unto the end. A crown awaits you in glory.

Monday, February 21, 2011

So Sad, You See!

Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? 5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. 6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. 7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. 9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. 10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. 11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

So sorry to use this old, worn out description of the Sadducees, but how miserable they must have been, not believing in the resurrection, angels or the spirit.

Tsadok was a heretical Israelite who earned a following with his teachings. His disciples were known as Sadducees.

Clarke has this insight, "It is strange, since these denied a future state, that they observed the ordinances of the law; for they also believed the five books of Moses to be a revelation from God: yet they had nothing in view but temporal good; and they understood the promises in the law as referring to these things alone. In order, therefore, to procure them, they watched, fasted, prayed, etc., and all this they did that they might obtain happiness in the present life."

Matthew Henry enjoins, "The Sadducees were deists - no friends to the scripture, or divine revelation. The books of Moses they admitted as containing a good history and a good law, but had little regard to the other books of the Old Testament."

Perhaps Paul was thinking of Sadducean-type Christianity when he declared in 1 Cor 15:19, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

How these Sadducees ever made it to power within Jewish leadership, I cannot imagine. The Pharisees were as narrow a group as we can imagine. They were strict interpreters of the Bible. It is hard to fathom how they would work side by side with these liberals of the 3rd order.

Imagine Shiites and Sunnis at the same table. Or, try to picture Independent Baptists and United Methodists in cooperation.

So you see how unlikely these two groups were as bedfellows. Paul was no dummy. He perceived this theological divide and pounced upon it as a tactical advantage to create a smokescreen so he could be whisked away from an untenable situation. As the literalists and the allegoricalists locked horns, the soldiers took Paul into the castle to testify another day in another place.

It worked!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Blessed Lord's Day to All!

This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.

It is another day to worship corporately in the house of the Lord. May your fellowship be sweet, may your worship be in spirit and in truth, may the preaching and teaching of the Word make its way deep into you heart. Sing out, say "Amen!" and respond to the message. May souls be saved and may Christians rejoice!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh Brother!

Act 22:12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.

Here, Paul reports of the first time he is called by the endearing Christian term, "Brother" by Ananias.

How did it feel for Saul, the very persecutor who was on his way to Damascus for the sake of delivering Christians up for incarceration and even death, to now suddenly be among the chosen band of brothers he worked against so zealously.

Imagine the enemies of the cross of our day who work so hard to destroy the faith of Christians, actually coming to Christ and becoming chief among believers. What if a renown Christian hater like Fidel Castro, Rosie O'Donell, Bill Maher, George Soros, Howard Stern or Ted Turner saw the light as Saul did and converted to Christ after a Damascus Road experience?

How would they be received among the brethren? How surreal to call her, 'Sister Rosie' or him, “Bro. Fidel!”

Then imagine what it was like to witness the 180 degree turn of Saul to Paul. This is the only instance (Acts 9:17 and 22:13) where he is called Brother Saul. From now on it would be Brother and Apostle Paul.

The fact is that God can save anybody, anywhere, anytime. Continue to pray for and work on that one that you are about to give up on, for God doesn't give up as easily as we do. Imagine, someday calling that individual Bro. _______ or Sis. _______.

With God, nothing shall be called impossible.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Position of Prayer

Act 21:4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. 5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.

This presents to our mind a beautiful picture. Sailing into Tyre, the evangelists had found disciples and spent a week with them. When the time had come for departure, they went to the Mediterranean shore, knelt there and prayed together. Picture them kneeling there, arms about each other, thanking and praising God and imploring Heaven’s blessing on their endeavors for Christ.

Special occasions call for special prayer. The kneeling together added an exclamation point to the poignancy of their fellowship, leave-taking and mission.

Is kneeling the only way to pray? I would hope not, otherwise, those with very bad knees would be challenged in their prayer lives. The fact is, that Bible prayers supply us with all types of positions in prayer. Jesus lifted His eyes heavenward to pray, the publican looked toward the ground and smote on his breast while addressing the Lord. Some knelt, others sat, some stood. Some prayed with opened eyes, while others closed their eyes, avoiding distraction. Heads are sometimes bowed, other times, not.

Is one position in prayer more correct than the other? I believe that culture, custom and appropriateness all have a direct bearing on the way we pray. The main thing is that our hearts bow in reverence to the Lord when we pray.

Since Paul said that we ought to pray without ceasing. It would be hard to bow while driving, or working.

So, we find that it is not really the position of our bodies, eyes or heads that is important, but the inclination of our hearts. It is not whether we pray standing, sitting or kneeling, but that we pray!

I challenge you to consciously spend a significant amount of time in an attitude of prayer today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Many Lights Upstairs

Act 20:8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. 11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. 12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Poor Eutychus, sleeping in church! He fell into such a deep sleep that he sunk down and fell from the third floor loft.

On the one hand, it was midnight and Paul had been preaching a long time. But, on the other hand, there were a lot of lights on in the room.

We notice that Eutychus was not chided for sleeping. No one questioned his salvation or spiritual state. Rather, they were troubled for him, they ministered to him once he revived and talked with him for quite a while.

As I look out across our congregation, I will generally see two and sometimes more of our people sleeping during the average sermon. The furthest they could fall is off their padded pew chairs and onto the carpeted floor, so we are not concerned about having a resurrection service. There are plenty of lights on, but the preaching seldom goes over 35 minutes. And we never preach at midnight!

So, why are people sleeping in church? Like Eutychus, I don't think it is a spiritual condition. But unlike his situation, I think it indicates the lack of spiritual fervor in our lives and in our churches. We need stirring worship services and convicting preaching which engage our people. We need more people ministering and fewer folks spectating.

Let's wake up in church, “Amen!” the truth, rattle the peas in the noggin, pray for power, and drag some folks forward for the invitation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Mighty Growth of the Word

Act 19:20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

Is not what we want, the prevalence of the Word of the Lord? Our commission from Jesus demands that we find platforms to get the gospel to the ends of the earth, without neglecting our area. Do we find a pattern in Acts which we might follow so that the Word of God might grow mightily in our communities as it did in Ephesus?

Here is what we observe here in Acts 19:

1. The believers had become disciples, that is pupils of the Lord. vs 1
2. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. 6
3. They spake boldly and persuasively for the Lord. 8
4. They didn't give up. 10
5. The Christians publically gave up and renounced their evil ways. 19

I believe these things are basic to God working mightily among us.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Christians Who Upset the Apple Cart

Acts 17:6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

Paul, Silas and Timothy, among other believers, had so affected their world with the Gospel, that it was said that they turned it upside down.

You read in the title of the book of Acts the words, "The Acts of the Apostles." So used by the Spirit of the Lord were these godly servants that the landscape of religion would forever be altered.

Contemporary Christianity envies the early movement of apostolic evangelism. We see a soul saved every now and we greatly rejoice. But we covet that golden age of Christianity when God added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Is it possible to have such evangelistic fervor and Spirit-induced revival today, or are we doomed to Laodicean lethargy?

Although there are many hindrances to a great movement upon our preaching today, such as over saturation in our gospel-hardened nation, I believe we limit our effectiveness by our lewd lifestyles, our lackadaisical attitudes and, dare I say it, our slothful laziness.

As I read about Paul and company, who turned the world upside down for Christ, I see that they were completely consumed with ministering the gospel and they clearly counted not their lives dear to themselves. They were motivated, bold, filled with Spirit power, living with deprivation, caring little for fleshly comfort or pleasure and completely single minded in their purpose.

In contrast, we seem pleased with the status quo of our world, not seeing the need of turning it upside down for God. If people go to hell, we feel that is upon them, and not at all our concern. Paul felt himself in debt to those in need of the Savior, we are ambivalent.

If we are involved in a spiritual movement, we thank God for an unusual event and go on with normality. But our spiritual forebears would think it unusual if they were not witnessing the miraculous on a very regular basis, as well as experiencing the persecution backlash that always came on the heels of God doing something great.

We cannot, we must not get comfortable with little or no movement from heaven, no zealous desire on our part to see people saved, lives changed, apples carts upended and our world rocked for God!

Get filled with the Spirit of the Lord right now and witness for Jesus to somebody today.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pastor Hosni Mubarak

He's gone now, but I am a little miffed. Despite the issues of "stability in the region" I can't believe he took his people and ours for anywhere between $2 billion and $70 Billion. Some have said that it was a good investment for America on behalf of Israel, but right is right and wrong is wrong. So, I have a parable for perspective...

Pastor Mubarak is entrenched at Nile Road Baptist Church for 30 years. He is looking toward retirement and is dead set on his son taking over when he becomes Emeritus.

Nile Road has been receiving a large amount of support from another church for years. This supporting church is very concerned about Nile Road’s strategic position in its area.

The people of Nile Road, for the most part, despise his leadership, which has been very dictatorial. Pastor Mubarak is well known to have henchmen who mistreat, persecute and even torture members. Somehow, the pastor has amassed an unbelievable fortune, even though the church is struggling tremendously. Yet, the supporting church, Freedom Baptist continues support, knowing that he is misappropriating the funds for himself. They fear that, to withdraw funding would make the work in that area unstable. Also, Freedom thinks that if the pastor is forced out, legalists in the church might take over, which would be a disaster because then representatives from Freedom might have to come and dispose them of leadership. So, they continue pouring the funds of their own congregation into this rat hole.

Perhaps we should all enable the pastor to continue with his graft and corruption for fear of what might happen if he were gone?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Counting the Cost of Ministry

Act 16:1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: 2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

We never know when we are going to come across a real keeper, but Paul and Silas found one in the town of Lystra. His name was Timothy, his pedigree was half Jewish and half Greek. He was grounded in Scripture by his mom and grandma from his childhood. Timothy had a good name among the believers.

This young man caught the attention of the Apostle and was invited to join their evangelistic team. Here is one young man whose contribution to the spread of Christianity was unparalleled.

But there was a price he had to pay. Just to quell any criticism, Paul circumcised Timothy. As traumatic as this is for a baby in the hospital, it is extremely painful for a young adult male. The Old Testament records that a whole male population was slain just after they had received circumcision because they didn't have the ability to defend themselves.

I have witnessed several guys who desired the office of a bishop, but they were totally unwilling to pay the price. When a man is so convinced that God would have him give his life to full time ministry, he must willingly forsake anything and everything for the cause. He will face deprivation, poverty, slander, attack, sacrifice, obscurity and a whole plethora of hardship.

Some that I have dealt with who desire to be in the ministry can't even get themselves to church half the time. They are not willing to give up bad habits. They reserve the right to occupy the throne of their own hearts. This will not do! A servant of the Most High has to surrender it all for the opportunity to be counted among that holy band of brothers awaiting the shepherd's crown in glory.

It is a good thing that tests like Timothy's circumcision arise, it thins out the ones who aren't going to make it in the long run.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Divide and Conquer or Unite and Thrive.

Acts, chapter 15 shows us that even good Christians part ways over philosophical differences.

The first half of the chapter shows a divide between the old-paths traditionalists, stuck in the Old Testament economy, and the Apostles, who were riding the wave that God had provided. The debate had to do with the Gentiles being saved and their subsequent lifestyle practices. The traditionalists were demanding that Gentiles which became believers must be circumcised and follow the law of Moses.

But the Apostles were averring that even the Jews couldn't keep the law, so why burden the Gentiles with law-keeping while yoking the Apostles, demanding that they add to the message of the gospel? Which, by the way, would no longer be the gospel because the gospel, plus or minus anything, is no longer the gospel, but a perversion.

After a lengthy round table with the elders and the apostles, and a diatribe by Paul, an agreement was made that the Gentiles would be saved by trusting Christ and not subsequently saddled with keeping the law of Moses. Three demands would be made of them, but had nothing to do with their salvation.
1. Don't eat meat that had been offered to idols.
2. Don't eat or drink blood and don’t eat the flesh of animals that had been strangled.
3. Stay sexually pure.

That's it! nothing about going to the movies, eating bacon, worshiping on a particular day, nor the length of the hemline, the hair or the AM service.

Seems we need another Jerusalem conference to determine that the gospel must stand alone in the matter of salvation and that God is more concerned about a relationship than rule keeping.

Split number 2, (verses 36-41) : The great evangelistic team of Paul and Barnabas was divided asunder over what to do with John Mark.

Because he had earlier abandoned the team due to a severe case of mommy-itus, Paul wanted nothing to do with this home boy. Barnabas however, rightly named "son of consolation," still saw much potential in Mark and demanded that he accompany them on the next mission trip. Besides, he was Mark’s uncle.

The argument got so overheated that the team was broken up and there wound up being two evangelistic teams;
Team 1, Paul and Silas,
Team 2: Barnabas and John Mark.

Thus, the old Baptist method of "Divide and Conquer" was employed once again.

The good news is that years down the road, in the twilight of Paul's ministry, he had this to say about John Mark, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry." Don’t give up on people for whom God still has a plan.

For those on both sides of misunderstandings and other issues, if they have good and godly hearts, time can and does heal all wounds.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Holy Cow! Men aren't from Mars!

Holy Cow!
Act 14:8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: 9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, 10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. 11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. 12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Holy Cow! It turns out men aren't from Mars, but these superstitious people in Lystra thought these two apostles were gods from Jupiter and Mercury because of the miracle of healing this lame man. They wanted to sacrifice a cow to them.

From gods to goats. Because of the Jews who had been dogging their tracks, since Antioch and Iconium, came in to stir the people up, now they stoned the one whom they had just been worshiping, leaving him for dead. How fickle can folks be?

Ministry tends to be this way. Some will exhibit a sort of "what have you done for me lately" attitude. They may forget the victories of yesterday and dwell on the gossip going around today. They hail you as a great man of God on Sunday, but a great tyrannical dictator on Sunday night.

How many preachers feel as if they have been dragged to the edge of town and left for dead, only to get back up and go on to the next pastorate to do it all over again?

Though women are not from Venus nor men from Mars, sometimes you gotta wonder how they got so luney!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How Saul Became Paul

Act 13:6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: 7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Can you imagine changing your name in honor of one of your converts? That's how Saul became Paul.

This is a fantastic story. Barjesus, also called Elymas the sorcerer opposed the gospel message brought to Mediterranean Island, Paphos by Barnabas and Paul.

I can only imagine, by reading between the lines, that he was trying to put a hex on the preachers. He was employing sorcery. Paul had strong words for him. He told him that he was full of all subtlety (trickery and deceit) and mischief (malignity). He called him a child of the devil and an enemy of everything right, a perverter of God's ways.

So Paul turned the tables on him and cursed him with blindness. Alas, Elymas left with his tail between his legs, begging for someone to lead him by the hand.

This altercation between good and evil, God's men and Satan's slave, left quite an impression on the Roman Proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Seeing this display of God's power and hearing the gospel, he apparently trusted Christ. In honor of this conversion, Saul told him, "I am changing my name to Paul. Been nice knowing you, we gotta sail now."

I am thinking that he was needing a new name anyway. Everywhere he went, his reputation as Saul of Tarsus preceded him. People had a hard time believing that he was for real as a Christian. So the name change was a welcome blessing.

Had this not happened, we would be used to hearing of St. Saul's Cathedral and listening to Peter, Saul and Mary. Sounds strange, doesn't it?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Losing Some Sunday School Teachers

Act 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Antioch Church, where they were first called Christians, had 5 adult Sunday school teachers. They were Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius Manaen and Saul. Now, these weren't just your run of the mill, Sunday morning only Christians. These were ministering, fasting, praying, hard-working, soul-winners.

But 40% of their teacher corps is about to be lost to the mission field. Antioch's loss, the world's gain. Antioch's sacrifice would mean churches planted in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Rome, Thyatira, Pergamum, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Sardis, Laodicea and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Oh, that the Holy Ghost would count our workers faithful enough to separate many of them unto great works whereunto He has called them.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Bride!

Acts 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. 7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. 9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.

Acts 12:21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. 22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. 23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. 24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

You mess with the bride of any man and you have asked for some serious problems. But if you mess with the bride of Christ, have your funeral plans in place.

How hot the nether regions have burned! Hell has several Herods in residence who have been suffering for a long time now, regretting the persecution of Christ and His church.

An interview with any of them would reveal how mistaken they were in there malicious activity against the faith.

Fact is, Jesus does not countenance evil actions against His body, His Bride, His church. Persecution abounds around the globe, but woe to those who act maliciously against those that are Christ's.

Make sure you are with the church, and not working against it. Don't mess with the Bride.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Go Thy Way!

Act 11:25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. 27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.

The great church at Jerusalem had been scattered by tremendous persecution. Having grown to over 100,000 in membership, the government decided enough was enough and clamped down on the believers, forcing many of them to leave town.

Great things were going on at Antioch. The Apostolic band relocated in Antioch, and was eventually joined by the new convert Paul. Then, another great man of God came to the church, Barnabas.

This Antioch church enjoyed great teaching, fellowship, growth and revival for a whole year. Imagine the vast amount of spiritual gifts endowed to this single body of believers. Among them was a prophet named Agabus.

His prophecy forewarned of a global dearth and portended the initiation of missionary activity. It was because of the sufferings of believers elsewhere that the church commissioned Paul and Barnabas to bring relief to the elders from place to place. What began as a social relief program would become the spreading of the Gospel as God predicted in Acts 9:15, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

Whatever the circumstances, whether it be persecution in Jerusalem which brought about a dispersion of believers, or a famine which would send relief efforts throughout the region, or God leading you to go downtown for lunch or to the other side of the globe for a missions trip, God has one thing in mind, preach the gospel to every creature.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

All Manner of Creeping Things

Act 11:5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: 6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. 8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

The sheet let down from heaven 3 times in Peter's vision contained a zoo full of live, non-kosher animals.

Who knows, maybe there was a piglet, an owl, a rabbit, perhaps a snake and a lobster. None-the-less, it would be enough to make any self-respecting Jew turn his nose up in disgust.

Did you hear about the guy caught red-handed hunting spotted owls in California? At his trial, the judge decided to go easy on him because he was so back-woodsy and ignorant of the law.

Finally, the judge asked the fellow, "By the way, what does a spotted owl taste like?"

"Well," he drawled, "Somewhere between a bald eagle and a California condor."

Overcoming Peter's distaste for unclean foods was simply preparation for overcoming religious bigotry. Jews would be reluctant to believe that repentance could be granted to the Gentiles. But this little zoological lesson would serve as a big hint, God loves everybody and sent His Son for every one of every race.

Once, while teaching in a Navajo church, we took a coffee break and I was relating to one gentleman about our church on the Ute reservation.

"Ugh!" He said, "Waste of time! Utes have no souls!"

As sad as that was, later on, I couldn't help but chuckle. Old prejudices die hard. Some are reluctant to bury the hatchet.

God has indeed granted repentance unto the Gentiles, and anyone else because, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Pass out a tract or witness today to someone who doesn’t look like you, God loves their eternal soul.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And the Wall Came a' Tumbling Down

Act 10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

Goyim, that's what the Jews would call us Gentiles. Some would even have considered us dogs, because we were outside of the covenant.

But God so loved the world, not just a particular race of people that He sent His Son to die for all and as many would believe on Him could be saved.

The wall which separated Jew and Gentile would have to come down so that all believers could be one in Christ.

Enter the man that changed it all. His name was Cornelius. He was an Italian, a soldier among soldiers. It so happened that he loved and feared God when the rest were bowing to Caesar. He was a big hearted giver to the poor. His prayer life would have made many Jews jealous.

This is the Gentile that would first come to an apostle to show that the Goyim were indeed eligible to become equal to the Jew in the sight of God. Old ways die hard, but die they must if God's plan of world evangelization would come to pass.

So the Lord prepares two men, Cornelius that Gentile and Peter the Jew for a meeting that would change the economy of God's dealing with mankind.

It is because of this historic tete a tete between these two godly greats that we Gentiles have been brought in to the family. There is now no difference to God whether we are bond or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile. We are all made one and brought near to God through the blood of Christ.

Thank God for this godly Italian who was worthy to be the first of millions to be a part of a new dispensation of grace for the Gentiles.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Speak for Yourself!

1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Almost 400 years ago, a couple of my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfathers, John Alden and William Brewster came to the new world on the Mayflower. I hope I got the right amount of ‘greats’ in there.

Anyway, the captain of the ship, Miles Standish, was smitten by the beautiful Priscilla Mullins (gr, gr, gr, etc… grandma). He had to vie for her affections with the ship’s carpenter, John Alden. Alden eventually acquiesced to his friend, the captain. He gave up the fight to allow Miles to be the lone suitor.

One problem, the captain was unable to speak in the presence of Priscilla, so he prevailed upon his friend to ask for her hand in marriage for him.

As John knelt before Miss Mullins to propose for Captain Standish, she interrupted him by stating, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” So he did. “Priscilla Mullins, will you marry me?” and John and Priscilla officially became America’s first couple. You have them to thank for me being with you today!

John Alden Foods existed until the mid-1960’s with the motto on their cans, “It speaks for itself.”

All that to say, we ought to always be ready and willing to speak up and give an answer to any and all for what God has done for us.

Why don’t you speak for yourself!