Blameless

Acts 25:8
Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.”

Jesus instructed His followers that their lives are to be lived as a testimony to the world. He taught “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”(Matthew 5:16).  In other words, the way we live should testify of a living God.

Paul lived that way. He not only believed that Christ was alive, he spoke about it, and lived it. His life was a living testimony of a risen Savior. While the religious leaders were in an uproar because of his preaching, they had nothing to hold against him regarding the law or customs.

We all ought to live that way. Writing to the Church in Philippi, Paul stated,

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, . . . ” Philippians 2:14-15

That word “blameless” really stands out to me. It speaks of having nothing of which to grab hold. I remember, years ago, watching a group of young people attempting to catch a greased pig. It was quite comical seeing them run around attempting to grab hold, only to have the pig wiggle away from them. There was nothing to grab hold of, and the pig remained uncatchable. We ought to be a bit like that. How we live at home, work, and around the community, testifies loudly of the reality of Christ. When we seek to be a witness of Christ, it will affect the way we live. The way we work, the way we talk, the things we look at, will all be affected, when we see them as a way to win others to Christ.

Let’s determine today, that we want to be those, who not only declare Christ as a Facebook status, but those who live like Jesus is actually alive from the dead.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 16- Super Strength
Judges 17- Homemade Religion

 

Convenient Time

Acts 24:25
“Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

Time is an interesting thing. We are always spending it and it cannot be saved. Failing to do something today, does not guarantee we will have the time for it tomorrow. Felix’s encounter with the Gospel message teaches us something important about how we use this moment for eternal things.

Paul had been promised, early on in his walk with the Lord, that he would have opportunity to share Christ with kings, or political rulers. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he finds himself standing before the Roman Ruler of Judea, with an open door to share Christ. In true Pauline fashion, he “swings for the fences”, and declares how Christ was risen from the dead and offers eternal life. He warns of the coming resurrection; that all men will one day stand before God to give account for this life. Those who have received Christ will enter into eternity, and those who have rejected Him, will face eternal judgment.

After hearing the truth of Christ so clearly explained, Felix’s response is striking. He sends Paul away, anticipating that in his future he will have “a convenient time” to decide for Christ. Sadly, as the story unfolds, Felix never finds that time. He is given many more opportunities to receive Christ, only to find further reasons to put it off.

Tragically, Felix is not alone in this. Many, upon hearing the Gospel, recognize it to be true; the Spirit of God is speaking to them, and stirring within them to respond. Yet, like Felix, they put it off. Perhaps they too, think tomorrow will be a more favorable day. Those who put off Christ, do so for many reasons. Some are concerned how their response to Christ will impact them socially. They are concerned about what others will think of them, how their friends will react to the news, or how their co-workers will treat them. Others are hoping for one more experience with sin. Perhaps another night of partying, or a final chance of sleeping with their girlfriend; only to find that they are never able to satisfy the craving for one more.

The truth is, there will NEVER be a more convenient time to get things right with the Lord than this moment. If need be, take time to surrender all to Jesus, and begin a fresh new walk with Him

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 14- Wasted Potential
Judges 15- Bound

He Is Risen

Acts 23:11
“But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.’”

Unknown-1.jpegWebster defines a trial as, “A test of faith through subjection to suffering or temptation.” Paul’s current situation may be the text book case of a trial. He came to Jerusalem with the goal of sharing Christ with his friends and countrymen, spent his time preparing to share with them, but before he ever spoke a word, he found himself under attack. After his unjust arrest, he had two opportunities to share the Gospel; both times he was cut short, as the people become enraged with him. To make matters worse, his Christian friends had warned him not to go to Jerusalem in the first place. They said he would be beaten, arrested and perhaps killed. Paul believed the trip was the Lord and ignored their warnings.  Now, incarcerated and facing the threat of death, it would be natural to feel as though he had failed the Lord and his situation was hopeless.

I love the fact that while facing this great trial, the Lord spoke to Him. The voices surrounding him said  he was a blasphemer and he was going to die, and perhaps a voice within, saying he had failed. However, one voice cried out louder than all the rest. It was the voice of Jesus, providing Paul with a promise that would carry him through all the trials of the next few years. Prison in Rome, the threat of death, a late night escape, forgotten in Caesarea, ship wrecked on an island, and being bitten by a poisonous viper, could not shatter the strength given from these few simple words uttered by Christ. No matter how bad things became, he was promised safe passage and opportunity in Rome.

The Word of God is like that. A timely promise from God is able to sustain us though whatever difficulties we are facing. I have had times that seemed hopeless, and all I had to sustain me was a simple truth from the Word of God. As time continued, I found that no force on earth could shake the foundation given by the promise of God. No matter what you are facing, get in the Word and allow Jesus to whisper His great and precious promises, and strengthen you from within.

Mark 13:31
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 12- The Wrong Fight
Judges 13- Did I Do That?

The Whole World

Acts 22:22
“They listened to him until this word.”

After his arrest, Paul shared Christ with the mob that tried to kill him. They listened intently to him because his message was fascinating and relevant. It seemed they had a true interest, and even an openness to the Gospel. But that all changed once Paul mentioned the Gentiles. That single word caused the hearers to close their ears, harden their hearts, and reject the message of Christ.

Paul was not the only one to experience people coming close to responding to Christ, only to hear something they did not like and to shut down. We read in John 6, Jesus had developed a very large following until He spoke about His suffering and death. When they heard that, we are told they responded,

“This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”  John 6:60

To which John commented,

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

On another occasion, a man approached Jesus with a question about how to receive eternal life. Jesus spoke with him about morality then told him to forsake his old life and come follow after Jesus. He seemed to enjoy a discussion about morality, but when it came to transformed living we are told,

“But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  Mark 10:22

What about you? Is there anything keeping you from committing all to Christ?  Perhaps the requirement of repentance or the need for total surrender? Maybe it is simpler than that; perhaps there is one area in your life that you have been unwilling to give to the Lord. That one area is keeping you from following wholly after Jesus. Sadly, this crowd that was so close to responding to Jesus, became harder and harder.

If there is an “until” in your life, surrender now, at the feet of Jesus, and begin to experience the living water He promised would flow in the lives of those who followed Him.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 10- The Blame Game
Judges 11- A Big Misunderstanding

Jerusalem In An Uproar

Acts 21:31
“. . . all Jerusalem was in an uproar.”

The scene in Acts 21 might best be described as a riot. The people of the city had lost all sense of the Temple worship, and had become a violent mob determined to put Paul to death. Their rage escalated to the point where the Roman soldiers had to almost beat them back, in order to pull Paul out of their clutches. We read, when they reached the stairs (the way of escape) Paul could no longer walk on his own, but had to be carried by the soldiers. It seems that even after the arrival of the soldiers, the crowd was still taking shots at Paul.

We have all seen this kind of rage leading to riots. Some of us remember the Los Angeles riots of the 90′s, others back to the riots of the Civil Rights movement. People became enraged, violent and destructive. What was it that caused this intense, violent rage among the people of Jerusalem? What had Paul done that made them so angry? The fight started because someone falsely claimed Paul brought a Gentile into the Temple area. As things escalated, it became clear their rage was really brought on by the fact that Paul was teaching things that were not culturally acceptable. It was his preaching of ideas, contrary to popular opinion, that made him an enemy of the people.

The Gospel always has that effect. The teachings of Jesus are not just contrary to popular opinion in Paul’s day, but in every day. The Gospel message is counter-cultural in every age and to varying people groups. No matter when or where we live, when we believe, follow, and proclaim the teaching of Jesus, we will be going against the tide. The louder we speak, the more controversy will arise. This is due to the fact that Jesus came as king to set up a kingdom unlike any of the kingdoms of men. Remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2? He saw an image that represented the kingdoms of men, then he saw a kingdom unlike all others. He saw the Kingdom of God.

The teachings of Jesus are revolutionary, not because He wants to create an army and battle men, but because He loves humanity, and wants to save them. When you feel like the odd man out because you do not buy into the world’s view on sex, sexuality, marriage, worship, God, religion, human dignity, the unborn, or countless other positions, understand that you follow a different King, and are living for a different Kingdom.

Even in the midst of all this violence, Paul remained in love with the people of his world and desired for them to come to Christ. I pray we do not allow the opposition we face as believers, to turn us against the unbelieving world, but instead, to give us the resolve of Paul to see them won to Christ.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Judges 8- He Who Dies With The Most Toys
Judges 9- Pride

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