Tag Archives: Paul

Numbers 30-34; Acts 22

The Book of Acts is filled with action and I find myself closing my eyes and imagining what is happening. Paul has been instructed by the Holy Spirit to head to Jerusalem amid much pleading by his friends to do otherwise. When he finally gets there, he goes to visit the elders to give an accounting of what God has been doing among the Gentiles. James suggests he follow the ritualistic cleansing so others will see he is still following Jewish customs. When he is at the temple, he is recognized by Jews from Asia, they cause an uproar claiming he is teaching against the law, and ends up being dragged off in chains as was prophesized in a previous chapter. Paul is given a chance to speak and stands before the crowd, unafraid, sharing his testimony of meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus and how he was chosen by Jesus to preach to the Gentiles.

19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr[a] Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”

22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”

23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. (Acts 22:19-24)NIV

I was so reminded of the crowd erupting in a rage when Stephen tried to share the gospel. They picked up stones and pummeled him to death. I think if the people in Jerusalem had stones they would have started throwing them at Paul. Instead, all they could do was throw dust into the air. The Gentiles were hated, they didn’t believe Jesus was resurrected, and they wanted to kill the messenger! The commander wanted to reestablish peace so he assumed Paul was doing something bad by the reaction of the onlookers. Paul was chained and dragged off to be flogged.

As I ponder how these verses apply to my life, all I can do is shake my head as Ecclesiastes 1:9 comes to mind: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Here in the U.S. we could probably give a testimony about Jesus revealing Himself to us in a vision and giving us an assignment, a mission, without too much reaction. People who don’t believe might scoff, roll their eyes, or they might even shout angry words at you. That would probably be the end of it. However, in certain countries in the Middle East, you would most assuredly be dragged off to jail to be tortured or killed. The name of Jesus, which is so precious to us as followers and disciples, elicits outrage in so many.

I, too, want to shout to people: “You don’t understand what He’s done in my life! He changed me from a person who was full of pain and shame; who hurt others but mostly hurt myself by my choices. I used to be Saul—but now I’m Paul!”

I do share my testimony! It may not be in front of a crowd as large as the one gathered at the barracks, but as I get the chance to encourage others along the way I can feel the Holy Spirit nudging me to tell my story. Jesus is too much a part of my life to be quiet about it. I pray that if I were asked to do so in a dangerous situation, the Holy Spirit would give me the courage to speak. Paul knew what awaited him when he went to Jerusalem. He had been warned. He chose to be bold no matter the cost. He knew God still had a purpose for him. Paul was ultimately headed to Rome as part of the Great Commission was fulfilled. It is my charge to continue to do so today.

Thank you Father for the words and life of Paul. As a Gentile, I am thankful for his obedience, courage, and tenacity to spread the word of Jesus. He never lost his focus on the goal and shared his story so others would believe. I believe, and because of my belief in Jesus, I have assurance of eternal life. It is in the name of Jesus I pray and rejoice! Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

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Judges 5; Acts 9; Jeremiah 18; Mark 4

As followers of Christ, we all have a conversion story. A story of before and after. A turning point. In Acts 9, Saul has a dramatic encounter with Christ. One moment he was headed to persecute Christ-followers, the next minute he is blinded and confronted by Christ himself.

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. (NIV)

Ananias was sent to deliver a message of deliverance from God:

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands onSaul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (NIV)

I used to be envious of people who had a testimony that was as drastic as Paul’s. Perhaps they were enslaved to drugs but met Christ and immediately were free of their addiction. Or maybe they grew up with an alcoholic parent, and found healing when they met Christ as an adult. Some speak of walking an aisle when given an invitation.

I have come to realize, though, that my story, though not dramatic is no less miraculous. That even though my entry into the Kingdom was gentle and unceremonious, it was no less remarkable than Paul’s. Our story of conversion is part of a bigger story and plan. God’ welcomes us all equally. We all have a part to play. It’s what we do with it that matters.

15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealthand the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” Mark 4 15-20 NIV)

Though I grew up going to church, I didn’t really hear about having a personal relationship with Christ until I was in college and got involved with a campus ministry. Sadly, many of the people that were involved in that group are no longer walking with God. I don’t know why I am still pursuing God and they aren’t. I can’t imagine life without God – it would be a life without purpose. Looking back, my faith story may not have had a sensational beginning, but it has had it’s share of sensational moments – times of blessing, hard times that led to incredible growth, restorative encounters and answered prayers. I am thankful for my story.

What’s your story? Have you taken the time to write it down? How have you changed since you met Christ? What are some of the things God has taught you? What have been your struggles? Your triumphs? Stories are powerful. God wrote your own unique story just for you. Be ready to share it. You never know how your story might impact someone else someday.

Ann (gardenlady)

 

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Leviticus 16; Psalm 19; Proverbs 30; 1 Timothy 1

Sometimes when I concentrate so much on my friendship with God, I forget I am made holy only through the blood of Jesus.  For God is a holy God and for the people in the New Testament and in the Old Testament who forgot that, died.

The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died. – Leviticus 16:1 NRSV

This Old Testament example must have made Aaron scared to even enter the tabernacle to serve God.  He had to come to a place where he understood that holiness was given to him in order for him to serve, but it did not cancel his sin.

I hear people say that we do not need the Old Testament anymore – but look at the words they are missing that declare God’s Word…

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. – Psalm 19:7-9 NRSV

The Scriptures are just that – holy – of more benefit to me than the air I breathe.  I need God’s Word to see His holiness, to see a way out of my sin.  It provides a direction that is true – a fountain of lasting hopes.  By them I discover my need for a Saviour.

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. – Proverbs 30:5  NRSV

I found this promise is echoed in the New Testament too – His Word is holy, His commandment is holy and just and good.

This is really important to me – I know that Jesus is the Word – and in Jesus I have hope.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope – 1 Timothy 1:1  NRSV

The Old Testament still wraps it up nicely – I am Holy, and besides me there is no saviour.

Lord God, Father, You are holy, You are true.  Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to be a Saviour to all who want to follow You.  May Your Word continue to strengthen me, guide me, lead me and may I yield to You in all that You ask of me.  I love You – thank you for seeing no sin in me because of Jesus and for accepting me into Your presence to be loved and to love You right back.  I want to be holy as You are holy.

evanlaar

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2 Kings 10, 11; 2 Timothy 1; Hosea 2; Psalms 119:97-120

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. (ASV)

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. (AMP)

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of strength and of love and of temperance. (JUB)

God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. (MSG)

God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control. (NCV)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (NIV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (NLT)

For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind. (NLV)

God didn’t give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment. (NOG)

For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them. (TLB)

You see, God did not give us a cowardly spirit but a powerful, loving, and disciplined spirit. (VOICE)

2 Timothy 1:7

Since I have been walking with the Lord, this is one of my go-to verses. When I am struggling in the battlefield of my mind – when I am full of anxiety and fear, filled with bitterness and resentment, feeling insignificant, overwhelmed, and out of control – it helps me remember that I have not been abandoned to my own devices. It reminds me that I am not alone, even when it sometimes feels like it, because He is in me and I am in Him (John 15:5). It reminds me that God has equipped me with the tools that I need to overcome every struggle. And, it prompts me to look to the Lord for the strength I need to triumph over the tactics of the enemy to control and manipulate my thinking and disrupt my journey.

God has given me so many gifts, not because I did anything in my life to deserve them, but because He is my Father and He loves me. The most important gift He gave me was grace given through the sacrificial payment for my sins by Jesus on the cross. At the moment I believed, in Christ’s death and resurrection, I was made new and filled by God’s Spirit. His Spirit became alive in me, and transformed my essence from one of fear and desperation to one of strength.

The original Greek1 offers deeper insight into this spiritual transformation. God gives me the inner quality and character of ability (dunameos), of love (agapes) and of sanity (sophronismou).

God is capable. He is effective, productive, powerful and mighty. Because He has empowered me and given me boldness; even in my weakness, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

God is love (1 John 4:7-9). His love enables me to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind and makes it possible for me to love others generously (Matthew 22:37-39; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

God is the epitome of self-control, discipline and balance. He gives me the ability to exercise good judgment, to govern myself, to manage my emotions and not allow them to enslave me. He gives me awareness in times of danger, wisdom, forethought, and common sense. He helps me use my resources well and helps me keep my priorities in godly order.

John MacArthur says:

…all believers possess these marvelous, God-given endowments: power, to be effective in His service; love, to have the right attitude toward Him and others; and discipline, to focus and apply every part of our lives according to His will. When those endowments are all present, marvelous results occur.”2

Just as I am assured that these good gifts come from the Lord, I am certain that when I experience a spirit of dread (deilias), it is an offering from my enemy designed to trick me into taking my focus off of God. At times, because I am human, I will still experience fear and anxiety; a lack of courage will creep into my psyche or my self-confidence will wane. But, putting my focus back on God, on His goodness and grace, will help me to quickly move from a self-destructive state to a position of strength and poise. His love removes the fear, injects peace, and quiets my heart (1 John 4:18-19).

Yesappa, Thank You for Your life-giving Spirit. Thank You for being with me always. Thank You for giving me wisdom, understanding, and direction. Thank You for building strength and instilling in me the knowledge and reverence of God. Thank You for casting away my fear and replacing it with power, love, and discipline. You are my hiding place and my shield. I love Your teachings, Your Word. Help me to meditate on them throughout each day, allowing them to become a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. Through You, and by You I live; only because of You, I am saved. In Jesus’ name. Amen.3

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

1Greek Word Study and Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:7

2MacArthur, J. 2 Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press.

3Isaiah 2:11; Psalm 119:97-120

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2 Samuel 21; Galatians 1; Ezekiel 28; Psalm 77

This letter is from Paul, an apostle.” Galatians 1:1 NLT.

Paul, who was a hater toward and hunter of anyone who followed Christ.

13 You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. 14 I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors. Galatians 1:13-14 NLT.

Paul, who would encounter Jesus on a road to Damascus.

11 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12 NLT.

Paul, whose life did a complete 180 turn, from hater to lover. From hunter to hunted. From Pharisee-know-it-all-judge-and-persecutor to slave and brother in Christ.

 

15 But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him 16 to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.

Before Paul was born, God had a plan. And he picked a man whose former self would resemble nothing of his new life in Christ. (I’m so glad.)

16b When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. 17 Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus. Galatians 1:16b-17 NLT.

Paul spent three years in Arabia, learning from the Holy Spirit.

He spent the rest of his life proclaiming the Gospel.

Lord, I’m thankful for the 180 turn in my life, for your word in my hands so I can learn too, for a brother in Christ like Paul. I’m thankful to study your word and to learn from those who came before–to slow down enough in my day to discover treasures wrapped deep in truth. You are so good. I’m thankful all my lost years are not wasted, and that my story can speak of your grace and power and mercy.

Courtney (66books365)

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Gen. 18; Matt. 17; Neh. 7; Acts 17

Singled out.

19 “I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.” Genesis 18:19 NLT.

The Lord singles out Abraham to direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord.

In Nehemiah, some were not singled out, their names not found.

64 They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. Nehemiah 7:64.

Paul was singled out too. God used him in the everyday … Paul was just doing life as usual, going to the synagogue–as was his custom.

As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Acts 17:2-3

And while it seems business-as-usual, it wasn’t. He was threatened, pursued, and on the run. He went from place to place with his message.

To Berea.

10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Acts 17:10

And Athens.

17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. Acts 17:17

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I used to feel a bit short-changed by that. Now I see things a little differently. Nothing is impossible with God–it’s mentioned a couple of times in today’s reading. I see his grace poured out all over my life–singling me out too in a variety of ways, some rather ironic. Actually, most of them. He’s got a deep humor–and a great love.

Dear God, I know who it was I could have been without you–and who I am because of you. You make all things new. Thank you for singling me out, for tasks I never dreamed possible–but made possible through you. Help me to navigate the everyday, to follow and serve you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 20, 35, 36; Colossians 4

These words stand out on their own:

Remember my chains.

I scroll online back and forth between Old Testament and New Testament. Two prisons and two prisoners. Jeremiah and Paul.

I didn’t catch on at first that I was reading about Jeremiah with a separation of many chapters. In Jeremiah 20, he’s whipped and put in stocks for his prophesy. In Jeremiah 36, he’s talking again through scroll; King Jehoiakim burns it piece by piece. And I laugh–because Jeremiah tells it all again. Rewritten–words that won’t be denied, because he can’t hold them in.

When I speak, the words burst out.
“Violence and destruction!” I shout.
So these messages from the Lord
have made me a household joke.
But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord
or speak in his name,
his word burns in my heart like a fire.
It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
I can’t do it! Jeremiah 20:8-9 NLT

Paul is also in chains. He writes to believers about The Why he is in chains: the opportunities God gives [us] to speak of his mysterious plan.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Colossians 4:2-6 NLT.

When Paul writes, “remember my chains,” I think on this … remembering how he was held back physically, remembering his desire to make Jesus known, remembering his vulnerability at the hands of men. Nothing could really hold back Jeremiah or Paul. So what’s holding me back from living intentionally?

Lord, I’ve been sleepwalking lately … living routinely and not so intentionally. I really want to wake up and be aware of opportunity around me to engage with others and serve them. Help me to make the most of every opportunity in your name. Every day.

Courtney (66books365)

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