He Fell Down

Acts 20:9
“And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.”

When reading the Bible, we should always look for application to our personal lives. In some texts, the truths to apply are very straight forward, others, are a little more difficult to find. This passage tells the story of a young man, Eutychus by name, who nods off during a Bible study and ends up dead. I think the passage is a warning of more than the need to stay awake at church. Eutychus’ fall is a perfect illustration of the way sin works.

Luke tells us the room they had gathered in was illuminated with many lamps. These lamps burned oil and gave off smoke and carbon monoxide. In this dimly lit room, filled with smoke, our young friend chose to situate himself on a window sill. To make matters worse, the room was located on the third level. Now, it is not sin to be sleepy or to sit in a window sill, but his actions do illustrate the steps that lead to a person’s fall. Facing a tempting situation, instead of being on guard, Eutychus put himself in a precarious place. Solomon wrote,

“Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” Proverbs 6:27

When we put ourselves in certain places, a fall is inevitable. Eutychus could have avoided all this pain by simply choosing a different seat.

Second, notice he ignores the warning signs. We read that he was, “He was sinking into deep sleep.” He did not go from bright-eyed to sound asleep in a moment of time. Instead, he slowly, gradually, yet continually, nodded off. After the first or second time his head dropped, or his body twitched awake, it would have been smart to find a new place to sit; perhaps to stand up for a while or take notes. After all, Paul the Apostles was teaching; it was probably a study worth staying awake for. Instead, he stayed in the sill until he was fast asleep and ended up dead. Sin is like that. It never overtakes us without warning. Before we ever fall, we have to ignore the nagging of the Spirit within us, the Word of God, and many times, the people who God sends into our lives, in the midst of our struggle. How often, before you sin, has the door of escape become perfectly clear, yet you choose not to walk through it.

Finally, notice that this young man was failing to make significant spiritual investments. Sure he was at Bible study, but he was far from genuinely seeking the things of the Lord. To him a comfortable seat seemed more appealing than the Word of God. Showing up at church once a week is not enough to ensure spiritual growth. Personal investment in your walk with God is necessary. Those who find themselves growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus, overcoming personal sin, impacting others for the kingdom of God, are those who take time daily to invest in their relationship with Christ.

Thankfully, our story does not end with a dead young man. Instead, we read of the grace and power of God raising Eutychus back to life. Even when we fall, the grace of the Lord is enough to raise us up again. If you have failed, turn to Him right now.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 6- The Good Old Days
Judges 7- Fear Factor

12 Men

Acts 19:7
“Now the men were about twelve in all.”

Ephesus was a very large city with a diverse population. It is estimated, at the time of Paul’s visit, there may have been in excess of 400,000 people living in the city. Ephesus was the largest city in Asia Minor, and one of the largest in the empire. Because of its location, on a trade route, the city was very wealthy; it had become an important center for commerce. Like any large wealthy city, Ephesus had its share of vice. One of the greatest was temple prostitution. Overlooking the city, was the Temple to Diana; which was an awe-inspiring site. It drew pilgrims from all over the world to come and worship. The worship practice included sexual immorality.

It is in this city, we read, Paul met twelve struggling Christians. They believed in Christ, but due to lack of teaching, had a very limited understanding of Jesus and how to follow Him. The odds were so heavily stacked against these men, it seems impossible that they would be able to remain faithful to the Lord; much less have an impact upon Ephesus for the Kingdom of God. But as the story unfolds, we find this small group of struggling Christians becomes one of the most influential churches of all time. The church grew to change the face of Ephesus, to start other churches throughout Asia Minor, and to have an impact that lasted well over a century.

How is that possible? How do twelve struggling Christians impact a community? We read when Paul met them, he introduced them to the work of the Holy Spirit. He revealed that in addition to the baptism with water, a person can be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Jesus explained that the result of receiving the Holy Spirit, would be power to live for, and serve Christ. Immediately upon receiving the Holy Spirit, we read that these men received gifts from the Spirit that would strengthen, encourage, and equip them for service.

After receiving the Spirit of God, the text says the believers gathered daily in the School of Tyrannus for instruction from the Word. For more than two years they met and were taught the Word of God by the Apostles. Equipped with the power of the Spirit and Word of God, these believers were ready to have a positive impact upon their world for Christ.

We often look at the world in which we live and are filled with an ominous sense of inability. What kind of real, lasting impact could I ever have against such darkness? Allow me to encourage you. Like these twelve men, when you are filled with the Spirit and equipped with the Word, the gates of Hell will not prevail.

Ask Jesus to baptize you today with the Holy Spirit, then get plugged in, not occasionally, but consistently, in a good Bible teaching church. You will find  your life and influence is drastically changed for the better.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 4- Unlikely Hero
Joshua 5- When Leaders Lead

Enduring

Acts 18:9-10
“Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’”

Paul and his companions had been traveling from city to city and town to town; sharing the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches. They spent relatively short periods of time in each of these places until Corinth; we read, Paul remained there for a year and six months. Corinth did not seem to be one of the easier places for ministry. Scripture tells us the Jews were hardened to the Gospel. Paul and his companions faced persecution in the form of threats, arrest, and beatings. Later we read, even the gentiles who responded to the Gospel were very carnal; and Paul had to use cunning to ensure that they learned to trust Christ and not men. Yet, with all this, we read that Paul remained a year and six months pastoring this young and growing flock. What were the things that enabled him to remain, while facing such difficulty?

First, I believe Paul remained in Corinth because of the call of God. When first responding to Christ, Paul surrendered his life saying, “Lord what do you want me to do?” Jesus responded by declaring that Paul was a chosen vessel, one that would be sent to share the Gospel. In his times of discouragement, Paul could always look back to the call of God on His life. Have you ever surrendered like that? Have you taken your life and committed it completely to the care of Christ? When you do, you will find He has a purpose for you. He will begin to use you to impact others for the Kingdom of God.

Second, the companionship of Aquilla and Priscilla, no doubt, largely contributed to Paul being able to persevere in Corinth. We read, that while working together, a friendship was formed. The friendship was built on mutual love for Jesus, and a desire to serve Him. I have found the strongest, and most encouraging relationships, are the ones that are developed around serving Jesus together. This requires that we get involved in serving the Lord.

Third, the coming of Silas and Timothy seemed to energize Paul. He may have felt somewhat alone in the daunting task of sharing Christ in such a large and worldly city, but when his friends arrived, his faith was revived and he went out with a new-found boldness to share Jesus. Again, godly companions, who serve Christ, will encourage us to keep going when times are tough.

Finally, it was the promises of God that encouraged Paul. In the heat of the difficulty, he heard a great promise from the Lord. Although a handful of people had responded to Christ, there were so many who had not. That can be very discouraging for someone wanting to serve the Lord; until the promise of God arrives, “I have many in this city.” Although Paul and his friends could not see who would come to Christ, Jesus could. He promises Paul that many will turn to Him.

Sometimes, in order to see people won to Christ, all we need is to endure.  The end result will be, those who we least expect, will in fact, surrender to Christ. If you are discouraged take some time to get alone with Jesus. I believe He has a promise for you, a great and precious promise that will encourage you to continue.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 1- Team Work 
Judges 2- Roller Coaster
Judges 3- Cry Out

Fair Minded

Acts 17:11
“. . . more fair-minded. . . “

Paul and his companions were traveling throughout Greece. They had been in Philippi, Thessalonica, and would soon be in Athens. These were all very prominent cities. Philippi was the foremost city in the region of Macedonia, and Athens remained the scholastic capital of the Empire. Berea, on the other hand, was a small town, which in the large scale of things, was pretty insignificant. No one would be impressed with someone from Berea. They were not known for their universities, trade, or monuments.

While the world may not have been particularly impressed with the Bereans, Scripture certainly was. Luke takes the time to write concerning the character of these Christians. He speaks of their fair-mindedness; the King James uses the word, noble. These folks were considered nobility by the Apostles.

What is it that caught the attention of the Apostles? It was the fact that they were open to the Word of God, trusted it as the final authority on who God was and how to please Him. We read that they received the Word with readiness. This means, when their Bibles were open, they were expecting to hear from God. I imagine a scene where they have Bibles open in one hand and notepad and pen the other. They knew the Bible to be the Word of God, and anticipated that God wanted to instruct them when it was taught.

We also read, they searched the Scripture to determine if the Apostles’ teaching was true. The real authority in their lives was the Word of God. Too often, Christians will allow the church or church leaders, to be their authority and will believe anything  declared from a pulpit. The Bereans only accepted what was taught if it was consistent with the teachings of Scripture. This saved them from being caught up in the wild winds of false doctrine that could sweep through the church. Other Christians will allow culture to be their final authority and behave consistent with the world in which they live. Their practices are no different than the unbelievers that surround them; never taking time to look into the Word of God and examine what their marriage, family life, work attitude, recreational activities, and speech should be like. When we live like that, we are far from the nobility found in the Bereans.

Let’s determine that the Word of God becomes the final authority for our lives and our living. Search It daily and live accordingly. May it be said of each of us, the we are “more fair-minded.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Joshua 23- Parting Words
Joshua 24- Serve God

Timothy

Acts 16:1 
“. . .  a certain disciple was there, named Timothy”

The Scriptures are filled with men and women who had a tremendous impact upon their world for the kingdom of Heaven. Timothy is one of those men. We are first introduced to him here, in Acts 16. He is described as a disciple who was well-spoken of throughout the cities of Lystra and Iconium. The word disciple means, a learner and a follower. It describes a person who has chosen to surrender to Christ, follow Him, and allow the Word of God to write upon the tablet of his heart. The disciple lets God’s Word direct his private life, public life, family life and church life. Timothy was a disciple of Christ, and set an example for the believers around him on what it meant to follow Jesus. As we continue to follow Timothy’s story, we find he became a traveling companion of Paul and Silas; bringing the Gospel throughout Asia minor and into Europe. Later we learn he became the pastor of the church in Ephesus, and was the recipient of two New Testament letters.

What an amazing life this young man lived; and what an impact he had, and continues to have, for the Kingdom of God. How did he become such a man? Notice, he grew up in a mixed household, with two contrasting influences. His mother was a believer and his father was not. It can be very difficult for children living with two completely different standards. Mom does not allow certain behaviors because she is a follower of God, but dad allows them, and the children become very confused. In many such cases, we find the children grow up only to conform to the ways of the world, and struggle to follow God. Timothy was different, he went on to follow the Lord and impact the world. How was he able to overcome the dual influences upon his life? What did his mother do to influence him to follow God?

We know that his mom made a bad relationship decision. She, being a Jew, defied the Word of God, and got involved with a man who was not a believer. Whatever course they followed, they ended up married and having a son. But she did not allow that bad decision to keep her from turning back to the Lord, and making godly decisions. We read later in Scripture, how she raised her son on the teaching of God’s Word. From his earliest childhood days, Timothy was raised on a healthy diet of Scripture. Moses instructed parents how to teach the Bible to their kids. Instead of lecturing them, he said they should first live it, then use everyday experiences to teach it. Timothy grew up with a mom who lived it. We are also told of the great influence his grandmother had upon him. Instead of her being devastated by her daughters poor relationship choice, she determined to have a positive influence on her daughter and grandson (2Timothy 1:5). The result of forgiveness, godly choices, and the Word of God, was a young man who wanted to follow the Lord.

Regardless of your past, determine today that you are going to make positive godly choices in pursuit of following the Lord. We never know what a great influence we may have upon those around us.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Joshua 21- A Place To Stand
Joshua 22- Separation

It Seemed Good

Acts 15:28-29
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

A great controversy arose in the early church as a result of the Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Some of the church leaders in Jerusalem were suggesting that after coming to Christ, these new converts must be circumcised and keep the ceremonial laws. I think their motives were probably sincere. They wanted to see these new believers behaving correctly, and determined the best way for them to do so, was to make rules. We see the same thing happening in the church today. A young woman may come to Christ, and still dress the way she did before she believed, so the church is pressured to have a dress code. Or a young man comes to Christ and still listens to the music he did before coming to Christ; the church wants to establish a ban on secular music. Now it is true, there are people who dress inappropriately, and listen and watch things that they shouldn’t, but the question is, what is the best way to help them grow? The legalists, from Jerusalem, thought it was through the establishing of a system of rules to keep them in check. The apostles came up with a different plan, they wrote a letter exhorting the Gentiles to abstain from three things.

Abstaining from things offered to idols was important because they had been saved out of idolatry. In a sense, they are being encouraged to stay away from things that would lead them back into sin. Too often, a new believer will hook up with the friends they ran with before coming to Christ. That road leads them back into the activities from which Christ had set them free. If we want to succeed in following Christ, we need to stay away from the things that lead us to sin.

Abstaining from blood or things strangled was important because once they put faith in Christ, they became part of a family. The Jewish Christians were their brothers and sisters. To the Jew, eating something that had not been killed properly, or eating blood, was an abomination. If the Gentile Christians ate like they used to, they would offend their brothers in Christ. Essentially, this letter is encouraging them to follow the law of love, which requires us to do nothing that would cause someone else to stumble. We have great liberties in Christ. Some Christians may be able to partake in activities with no temptation, but if that activity causes someone else to sin, we must refrain. We need to be more important to one another, than our liberties are to us (1 Corinthians 8:4-13).

Finally, abstaining from sexual immorality was important because it is clearly forbidden in the Word of God. The legalist were adding rules not found in Scripture. These rules would suck the life out of Christianity, and distract believers from obeying the clear commands of Scripture. The Pharisees had that problem. Remember when Jesus rebuked them for tithing their spices and neglecting the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23)? We can put rules on each other that distract us from doing the things that are well pleasing to the Lord. Also, sexual immorality was rampant in the Roman world, as it is today. It is a sin that carries with it grave consequences. Whenever two people are involved sexually, it clouds their ability to look at their relationship properly. They become connected in a way that is difficult to break. They end up emotionally attached to someone who is perhaps not best for them. God’s ways are better than man’s. If we choose to live well pleasing to Him, we will find that life is better.

Let’s be sure we are staying away from sin, things that lead to sin, and things that cause others to sin.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Joshua 19- Fellowship
Joshua 20- City Of Refuge

They So Spoke

Acts 14:1
Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.”

We read, they spoke in a way that resulted in many believing in Christ; which in turn, results in eternal life. It is worth noting that there is a way to speak which will have an impact upon others for eternity. Their speaking included at least three things:

First, they spoke with boldness. Having experienced persecution in Cyprus and Antioch, Paul and Barnabas refused to cower, but confidently continued to share Christ with the people of Iconium. For some reason, people react to the name of Jesus. Many receive Him gladly and watch as He transforms their lives. Others become angry, even hostile, once the name of Christ is mentioned. Any who have attempted to share Christ, have experienced this hostility in one form or another. If we want to speak in a way that results in people coming to Christ, we must be willing to endure the backlash and persecution.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Matthew 5:11

Second, they spoke the Gospel. Paul later wrote to the Roman Christians and declared that the Gospel is the power of God that results in salvation (Romans1:16). When people hear the truth (that they are sinners separated from God, but that God loves them, and Jesus died for them), something stirs in their hearts. There is a realization, that although they may have never heard the Gospel before, they know it to be true. Faith is being ignited as a result of hearing the Good News of Christ. Too often, when we are attempting to win someone to Christ, we allow ourselves to get sidetracked. We end up arguing over politics, origins, or the church. If we want to win others with our speech, let’s be sure to share the simplicity of the Gospel.

Finally, their speech was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul was a brilliant man. He was well educated, not only in the Scriptures, but in the philosophy of the day. He was also, what the Victorian era referred to as a gentleman. Later, when he spoke in Lystra, they compared him to Hermes, the Greek God of oration. Yet, even with all of these natural abilities, Paul did not rely upon his human wisdom. He wrote to the Corinthian Christians about how to speak when sharing Christ.

“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

When sharing Christ, we can be confident that God will show up and provide us with words that are able to penetrate the heart, stir up faith, and lead a person to decision time.

If we want to speak in a way that leads people to Christ, we must step out in faith, unhindered by the opposition we may receive. We can be sure, sharing the simple truths of the Gospel, and relying on the fact that even if we are not sure what to say, the Holy Spirit will give us what we need.

Until the whole world hears…

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Joshua 17- Greatness
Joshua 18- Neglect