False Accusations

False Accusations

We’ve all been falsely accused of something at some point, but very few have been falsely accused to the point where our very life depended upon the outcome.  This was the case for Paul on more than one occasion.  However it is his response to Felix that we focus on today.

Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.” (Acts 24:10b)  Paul was so confident in the fallacy of these accusations that he was prepared to make his defense “cheerfully”.  Rather than being defensive, he cheerfully gave an account of his actions.  Part of his response gives a clear explanation as to his attitude.  “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” (v 16)  When you are absolutely confident you have done everything to be right with both God and man, then you should have nothing to fear.

I’ve dealt with the exact opposite situation with my kids.  If there’s an accusation towards them and they get extremely defensive, then odds are, they are at least partly guilty.  I have never seen this fail actually.  The more agitated the response, the more defensive the child is, the more likely they are not being forth right in their response.

The clearest difference is that the child feared repercussion for their actions and Paul had nothing to fear.  His lack of fear is what empowered him to have the cheerful response.  That lack of fear came from the fact that he believed what he wrote to the Philippians, to let his “manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil 1:27)  By always living in that manner, always having a clear conscience toward both God and man, he is able to defend himself cheerfully.

No doubt a time will come where you face another false accusation.  However if between now and then you have lived in a way that is worthy of the Gospel, then you will have nothing to fear in your response either. Remember, “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24)

I pray that you appreciate my blogs.  They are my way of journaling as I read His word.  If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word.  Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.

Knowing the Future

Knowing the Future

If you ever watched the show “24”, you know how intense it can be.  The hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is regularly in a nasty situation with potentially no way out.  However when I began watching the show, the fourth season had just completed.  This meant that as we watched the first three seasons, we already knew that Jack Bauer was alive and well in future seasons.  We even knew other certain characters were still around.  While we didn’t know the details, we at least knew a significant enough part to know that Jack will live.  This did take away the suspense of IF he would survive but not HOW.  We still sat on the edge of our seats watching the other episodes.

Now imagine if you were Jack, and you were going through the same things he was going through.  Being captured and tortured and left for dead.  If he knew as confidently as I did that he would still be alive for another chapter in his life, how confident he would be through the ordeal.

This is the situation Paul finds himself in while being held in Jerusalem.  In the midst of a situation where his life was in danger, he was given a glimpse of a yet to be written chapter.  The situation was turning dangerous. “And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.” (Acts 23:10) But it is while he is in this protective custody that the Lord gives him a new level of courage.  “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.'” (v 11)

Jesus was telling Paul that he will live through this because Christ still has yet another mission for Paul… in Rome.  Up to this point, Paul had been beaten, jailed and left for dead on more than one occasion.  But now he had news from Christ Himself that this mission he was on was not to end here in Jerusalem.  God was not finished with him yet.

Guess what.  God is not finished with you yet either.  Pastor Ken Hutcherson was in the final stages of cancer, struggling to get through the day, but still sharing the gospel.  He said, “as long as I have breath, God’s not done with me.  That means I just keep sharing His good news until He calls me home.”  His statement near the end of his life is true for each and every one of us.  We may not have a visit from Christ to tell us what our next mission is, but we know that as long as we still have breath… He’s not done with us.

Toby Mac wrote a song titled “Move” that says the same thing.  Here’s part of it…

I know your heart been broke again
I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet
I know you’re feeling like you got nothing left
Well, lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet so

Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
Move, keep walkin’ until the mornin’ comes
Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
And lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet

Are you still breathing?  Then it ain’t over yet… He still has more in store for you.  He still has a purpose for you.  So continue to serve Him until your last breath, and then run into His arms.

I pray that you appreciate my blogs.  They are my way of journaling as I read His word.  If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word.  Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.

Who is Your Teacher?

Who is Your Teacher?

In the movie Good Will Hunting, Will (played by Matt Damon) has an interesting conversation with a graduate student about where his thoughts come from.  As Clark (the student) is attempting to assert some of his knowledge learned from his classes, Will interrupts him because he already knows what Clark will say, based on who he’s studying at the time.  Will’s point in the debate is that these students full train of thought was based on who they were learning from that quarter.

While not everyone is as spineless as Will is suggesting to change their entire point of view on each new teacher, the point is still accurate.  Most of us are significantly influenced by who we learn from.  For this reason, knowing who a person studied under can give some insight to their point of view.

It is for this very reason that Paul brings up his education during his defense in Jerusalem.  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” (Acts 22:3)  To know the full power of this statement, we have to know a little about Gamaliel himself.

Gamaliel was a respected Jewish scholar, a Pharisee held in high regard.  He is also referenced earlier in the story while Paul was still Saul.  “But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.” (Acts 5:34)  He is also quoted many times in the Mishnah.  So when Paul mentions that Gamaliel was his teacher, this statement means something to the men charging Paul.

Paul wasn’t simply a student in the crowd of Gamaliel either.  He didn’t just hear some great sayings and study his writings, he was ‘educated at the feet’ of Gamaliel.  Paul was clear about this so the crowd would understand where he was coming from.  He was like them.  In order to appreciate the journey he had been on, the conversion he had faced, they had to appreciate the man that Saul was prior to the conversion.  The best way for them to understand where he came from, was to explain who trained him.

So, who trained you?  What influences do you have from those whom you have learned from.  Not all of us can point to a single influence like Paul did, but most of us can point to a handful of major influences.  How have those influences shaped your point of view?

I pray that you appreciate my blogs.  They are my way of journaling as I read His word.  If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word.  Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.

Without Sin

Without Sin

It seems obvious to most people familiar with the Bible, that man simply cannot be without sin.  It is impossible for us to actually sin no more.  In the story of Jesus protecting the prostitute from being stoned, he comments about this.  His first words are directed to those about to stone the woman. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)  Then his last words in this story were to the woman.  “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

He knew these men were not without sin since it was impossible for man to be without sin, yet He tells the woman to go and sin no more.  How would it be possible for her to live and sin no more?  We see the answer to this in the later epistles of John.  In 1 John 3 to be exact.

First John discusses those who make a practice of sin.  “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”  Then he draws the contrast to those who are in Christ.  “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (v 9)

The key John is focusing on is the phrase, ‘make a practice of’.  This phrase shows intention which goes to the heart.  Those who make a practice of sin are consciously choosing to sin.  As John says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil” (v 8).

If you have been born again, you have Christ in you and can no longer make a practice of sinning.  It doesn’t mean you will never sin again, but it does mean you will no longer make it a practice.

Abide in Him and live without sin.

Do for Man, Not for Jesus

Do for Man, Not for Jesus

Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  Yet I title a blog what seems to be the opposite.  How can that be?  Believe it or not, these two statements are not in conflict with each other.

One of the most important points of Paul’s entire mission is to emphasize the power and importance of grace.  If there was anything we could actually DO to earn eternity with God, then the sacrifice of His Son on the cross would have no purpose.  The cross only has purpose because there is nothing we can DO, He has DONE it.  However with such a strong message of grace, Paul still seems to periodically fall ‘under the law’.  Doesn’t this contradict his overall message?

The subtlety between these seemingly opposing views is small but important and can be found in several places along Paul’s journey.  Today we find it in a conversation with James in Jerusalem near the end of his journey.  Despite the success that Paul has had, James seems to be chastising Paul for his lack of respect for the law and requests that he correct this.  “Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.” (Acts 21:23-24)

James even goes on to give more instructions for the Gentiles who believe, that they too should practice certain parts of the law.  Why would James be so focused on the law and why would Paul then immediately follow these instructions?  Hasn’t he even debated Peter in the past about his over emphasis of the law over grace?

The difference between Paul’s debate with Peter and Paul following the instructions of James, comes to the heart of why follow the law.  Even just a few chapters back we saw Paul have Timothy circumcised.  How can it be that an apostle that preaches so strongly on grace, would occasionally have these significant times of emphasis on the law?  The reason can actually be summed up by Paul’s own words to the church on Philippi.  “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil 1:27)

What Paul’s concern was with Timothy a few chapters ago is the same thing that James is concerned with now.  If the desire is that the audience hears you and respects you, then insuring you are still living under the law helps to earn their ear, before you can win their heart.  This is the significant different.  In these cases, the actions under the law are not to win over Jesus, but to win over other men.

So in the end, these actions are not contradictions to the teachings of grace.  If we were doing the things of the law to win Jesus, then we would be missing the boat.  However if we are doing the things of the law to win over men’s ears… to eventually win over their hearts, that is another matter all together.

So as you go throughout your day, working ‘heartily, as for the Lord’, you are not doing so to earn favor with the Lord, but serving Him by earning favor with His lost sheep.

I pray that you appreciate my blogs.  They are my way of journaling as I read His word.  If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word.  Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.

There’s a Snake in My Boots

There’s a Snake in My Boots

Who doesn’t know the phrase made famous by Woody the Cowboy from Disney?  You probably even had Tom Hanks’ voice in your head when you read the title of this blog. No, I’m not writing about boots, or cowboys or any Disney theme, but I am talking about a snake among us.

The snake I am referring to is similar to the first serpent to appear in the Bible, the one who tricked Eve. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’” (Gen 3:1) Notice that Eve was not surprised at this conversation.  She was open to this conversation because she felt she had nothing to suspect or fear.

Paul warns of a similar snake we need to be careful of.  He was speaking to the Elders of the Church of Ephesus before he continued his journey towards Jerusalem and there are two powerful lessons to be learned in this statement.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. – Acts 20:28-30

Fierce wolves will come in

Paul knew that when he left, this young church would be more vulnerable to negative outside influences.  He also warned that these outside influences would intentionally come in among the group seeking to disrupt the faith.  They would spare nobody with the goal of completely destroying this young church.

From among your own selves

Remember that Paul is not addressing the whole church, he is speaking to the Elders of the church that “the Holy Spirit has made overseers, to care for the church”.  This was a selected group of men, deemed strongest in the faith.  Paul is stating that some of these wolves will actually come from within this group of leaders.  Does this sound familiar?  It should, remember this comment? “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me
(Matt 26:21)

Just as Jesus warned He would be betrayed by one of His selected disciples, Paul was warning these Elders of much of the same.  The fact is, this warning was not only for the church of Ephesus, it is for us as well.

The enemy is constantly seeking a stronghold in the church.  He wishes to deceive the flock in any manner he can, and there’s no more effective way than from the inside.  We must always test the Spirit, and use nothing but the Scriptures to confirm or reject teaching.  When Paul gave this same warning in Galatia, his language was even more through.  “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9)

I pray that you appreciate my blogs.  They are my way of journaling as I read His word.  If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word.  Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.

Reason in the Midst of a Riot

Reason in the Midst of a Riot

In a few days, Seattle is going to have it’s regularly scheduled annual riot.  Yes, technically by definition a riot would not be organized or scheduled but Seattle manages to do it every year on May 1st.  Under the pretense of the socialist and communist protests on May Day (which happen all around the country in major cities), Seattle has become known as a place friendly to the anarchists who change the protests into riots.  Despite the predictability of this event (each May 1st for over a decade now), nothing is done to stop or prevent it.  The city simply expects it and tolerates it and then moves on.

How does this relate to a biblical study?  Because Acts 19 talks of a riot in Ephesus.  There are similarities at the formation of the riot.  However because reason eventually prevailed, there was not future riots on an annual basis (unlike Seattle).

First the similarities.  There was a normal way of life that was acceptable to many people in this region and now Paul was teaching something that was going against this acceptance.  Those impacted by this change were frustrated and organized a way to challenge this new Way.  This all began as a legitimate protest but soon blossomed out of control into an actual riot, where people no longer have an understanding of even why they’re there.

Those who were profiting from the worshiping of idols were not impacted by a teaching that there is no power in idols.  “And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.” (Acts 19:26)  As the protest grew beyond the makers of idols and involved a growing number, this protest eventually grows to a riot. “Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.” (v 32)

This same thing will happen Monday.  People upset at capitalism will protest, more and more will gather simply from the energy and eventually there will be people there who have no idea why they’re even there.  Then the violence will begin.

However the leadership in Ephesus was quite different, seeking reason over irrationality.  “And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd” (v 35a).  Then after some discussion, he continued,  “If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.” (v 38-39)

In Greece in the first century, reason and rationality prevailed in the midst of the riot.  Unfortunately the same will not happen on Monday here in Seattle.  What is our lesson?  Even in the midst of complaint and frustration, there’s nothing wrong with pausing to consider the actual facts of the case.  If there is an actual argument to be had, we have forums for such confrontations to occur and not disrupt the natural flow of life in the community.  However, if you desire anarchy over discussion, then riot is your only option.

I pray that you appreciate my blogs.  They are my way of journaling as I read His word.  If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word.  Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.