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Archive for the tag “engaging and encouraging”

Paul’s Letters: Courage for the Times…

Paul&TimothyReview of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey:  Acts 18.23-21.17

  • Overview of Paul’s route and cities of ministry: Acts 18.23; 20.1-16; 21.1-17
  • The difficulties Paul faced in Ephesus:
    • Acts 19.9: The rejection by Jewish leaders in the synagogue
    • Acts 19.23-30: The revolt by Demetrius the cult of Diana
  • The message Paul brought: Acts 17.2-3; 18.5,28; 20.21,25
  • Where Paul began his teaching in Ephesus: Acts 19.1-8
  • Where God moved Paul to teach in Ephesus: Acts 19.9-10
  • The work the Holy Spirit did in Ephesus: Acts 19.11-12,17-20
  • The treasure Paul carried in his ordinary body was the message of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Word of God—fulfilling what is written in the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets: Acts 20.20-21. He carried this treasure in a body that was often weak and tired and hungry and sick: 1 Corinthians 2.3; he may have had a troubling problem with his eyesight: Galatians 4.15.
  • Paul lived in a world like ours where he was surrounded by Jews and Gentiles who were disobedient to God and who worshipped false gods. He faced dangers and difficulties everyday: 2 Corinthians 11.23-27. But none of these things kept him from preaching the message of the Lord Jesus Christ: Acts 20.24
  • The Holy Spirit worked through his earthen vessel to work the greatest miracle of them all: changing the hearts of rebellious people to bow before the only true and living God. The act of the Holy Spirit was to awaken these darkened hearts to the message Paul was bringing…”and fear fell on them all, and the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified…so the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19.17,20).

Stepping Stones to Rome – Acts 21.17-26.32

Paul in CustodyCourage In Jerusalem (10 days):

  • the attack on Paul by the Jewish leaders, and his confinement in jail; his escape from murder; escorted to Caesarea by armed Roman guards (Acts 21.17-23.33);
  • Paul’s witness of how God revealed the Lord Jesus to Him (Acts 22.3-21);
  • God’s encouragement to Paul (Acts 23.11)

Paul’s Witness In Caesarea:

Paul speaks to the Roman governor Felix, to the Paul Witnesses to Roman LeadersJewish leaders who follow him to Caesarea, held for two years in Herod’s Praetorium; speaks to Felix, Festus and to King Herod Agrippa and appeals to be heard by Caesar in Rome (Acts 23.34-26.32)

  1. To Felix:  “…This I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men…But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he…commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control and judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24.1-25)
  2. To Herod Agrippa and to Festus: Acts 26.2-23: “I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. …And…I persecuted them even to foreign cities. In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And…I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ …And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen Me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance…To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26.6-9,11b-23)

 

Paul on a Stormy Sea

On a Stormy Sea – Acts 27

 

Paul's Mercies at Malta

Mercies on MaltaActs 28.1-10

 

In Roman Confinement – Acts 28.16-31

“And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with thePaul in Roman Confinement soldier who guarded him. After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, ‘Brothers…I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.’ And they said to him, ‘We…desire to hear from you what your views are…’ When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved…He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28.16-17,20,21,22,23-24,30-31)

Reflection and Prayer

1 Thess 5vv16-18As I meditate on the Apostle Paul’s exciting journey to Rome, I pray courage for the Body of Christ in the shipwreck of this land, and for those who experience the grace of God in their unbelief only because they are in this shipwreck with us who know the matchless grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

Father, Your servant Paul and our brother endured many dangers, difficulties and sorrows to bring Your Word to all the lands where You drew him to witness the Lord Jesus Christ. His faithfulness has multiplied Your Name and Your Kingdom to reach the peoples who came to this land. I praise You and thank You, Lord, for Your great grace in blessing my life to see the Truth You shared with Your servant Paul.

Father, I ask now, in this place where I reflect on Your goodness, grace and purpose, that Your Spirit would strengthen the Body of Christ in this land, as we face the shipwreck that looms in our journey toward Jesus’ return. As Paul spoke courageously to the captain and crew of the vessel he occupied to Rome, let us speak courageously to those who occupy this American Ship in the same way: if they all will trust in the God in whom Paul trusts and teaches to this day in Your Word, not one will perish–only the ship will be broken.

Lord, protect the Body of Christ in this land from fear and anxiety and discouragement in this storm we face; give us the voice and bold kindness You gave our brother Paul who spoke the Truth to those who enjoyed Your grace because he was in the ship with them, although they had not yet embraced Your Truth. As Paul did, so help us redeem the time on this journey, that Your Name and Your Kingdom would be magnified and exalted.

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The Door Opened…

On the eve of All Hallows Eve, this is my second attempt at putting to print the thoughts swimming in my little grey cells…

 As I was studying some historical/cultural background of the exile of the Jewish people in Assyria and Babylon, I found some interesting and spine-tingling revelations. Among many things, like the correspondence of the pagan festivals to the change of seasons, was the Babylonian roots of many of the modern pagan observances…

220px-callanish_standing_stones_1One of the most unnerving finds was the pagan belief that at this time of year, between the end of summer and the start of winter, the earth’s energy forces become aligned in such a way as to allow the door to another world to open; hence, the expectation of any number of restless souls to go on a “walk-about” whether for evil or for hope of some good thing—but mostly, being restless as they are, none of the living believe it could be for anything but some ghoulish obsession…

 In our spiritual climate of the 21st Century, there are many who give no credence to such “primitive” beliefs; they only use them for entertainment purposes, like time-traveling stories into the ages of history. Somewhere in our imaginations lives the “what if?” about crossing that threshold into another world.  But there are many who give credence to these age-old beliefs, and use these beliefs to practice at gaining power of all kinds over all things on this planet by the favor of their gods. The reality of that fact of life ought to be something to make us uneasy; after all, pagans have the sense to realize they are not the ones who are in control of this world. Nevertheless, they believe they know how to manipulate the “graces” of their gods to obtain power to control what they seek to control…

I am not going to get into any details about the bizarre practices I discovered are at work in our “enlightened” age. What is priority in my notes here is to find a way to express what came to my mind as I was researching and realizing the significance of this particular time in the pagan calendar. At the heart of Hallowe’en is what I shared above about the opening of earth’s portal to another world. It reminded me of something in Scripture about how the Door to Another World will open; that Door is the one that is the veil that shields humankind from the unmasked gaze of the Lord of all creation. The apostle John wrote of the entrance across the threshold of that doorway of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His refulgent, terrible glory and power—not Mary’s little lamb of Bethlehem…

 The first chapter of the Book of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ (that’s the full name of the Biblical book) was a giant reality-check for the apostle John…

 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last…’ Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.

–Revelation 1.9-17

There are no images to adequately communicate the terror of seeing the unveiled gloryyeshua-shekinah of the Lord of all creation–the One who comes to judge all the other gods of mankind’s fabrications…

Those other pagan religions may be older than what is recorded in the Bible; but the God of all creation is older than those pagan religions…They are counterfeits conjured by the adversary of God to confuse and deceive the rebellious hearts of mankind…

In our world, there  many things which unsettle us and cause us fear. On All Hallows Eve, it’s fashionable to play at laughing about the things we think are not real, that we think have influence on our world–kind of like whistling the dark…

So, I’ll stop dancing around the subject and tell you straight: The Lord Jesus will return to tear the veil between the worlds. That prospect and its implications ought to give us all pause to feel unnerved; for the Scriptures remind those who will heed:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of Holy One is understanding.

–Proverbs 9.10

We know not the hour when that doorway will be opened. If the God of all creation so ordains to make sport of pagan “wisdom” concerning the earth’s energies at a given season, it would not be the first time in human history He has done so…

So, while you delight in your spook fest this year, remember that you’ve been told.

 ‘And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.’ Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.  ‘I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.’

–Revelation 22.12-16

Who is like You, O LORD…

themasterteacher“I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness.”

–Psalm 145.5-6

We live in a time when man is generally stuck on himself and has the means in unprecedented ways to further that narcissism… More than ever and in increasing lust man exerts and pursues power and control over everything in this world (and the next) except his own appetites and inordinate inclinations… And such is regarded by the world as virtue…

I have been thinking more and more about the attributes of the God who has created me and redeemed me and given me LIFE–His LIFE. It is hard to forget what life was like in the years while I walked at odds and opposition to the God who is all glorious… How did I come to see Him? By His grace and kindness… He took me to the end of my self-worship and showed me the yawning abyss, the cosmic futility of my self-religion… And He made me see my darkness and feel my futility… To the point sometimes when I entertained the logical reaction to it–how to cease to exist… And by His grace, I have lived to tell about it…

Now, beloved, in every season and circumstance, I can rejoice in His grace and kindness and wisdom and power and omniscience and omnipresence and providence and sovereignty… He, in all His majesty, woke me and drew me to hunger and seek and search for One like Him…  The One like whom there is no other…

Today, I have added another unit of study to the page on which I have posted Discipling the Messianic Believer: An Invitation for LIFE

Unit 2 is entitled:  “The God of Your LIFE.”  There are three study sessions in this unit, each one examining the being and character of the Godhead…

If you are feeling like there is no reason for your existence, consider the possibility that there is a God who is loving you enough to make you feel your futility… Consider the possibility that your god is too small… There is no such thing as atheism… If you have been feeling futile and worthless, your feelings are signaling your little grey cells to wake up and realize who/what is your god… What do you worship?

So, beloved, I invite you to view the material in Unit 2 and dig deeply into the very Word of this God…

…And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

–Jeremiah 29.13

FOOTNOTE: If you have just visited this page and find the terms in each study somewhat alien to you, please go to Page 1 on the DISCIPLING THE MESSIANIC BELIEVER page. There you will find a link to A Guide to Messianic Jewish/Hebraic/Yiddish Terms, found in the link to Appendix A.

One Man’s Dream, Another Man’s Nightmare…

Medusa WomanAfter a vividly disturbing morning dream, I awoke in a puzzled and troubled state. At first I wrestled with my initial reactions to it. Some people say it’s better to talk about nightmares, to try to understand what might be the stimulating factor in the hope that understanding will help ease any ill effects, and possibly alleviate any future occurrences. But my weaponry was at the ready, and I reached for it…


After a moment or two of prayer, calling on the Lord Jesus, the pervasive imagery faded and my thoughts began to be clear and steady. It occurred to me that many “creative” minds deal in dark and dread-dream-casting. There is a lucrative industry in peddling one’s nightmares, even projecting them on gigantic screens with all the techno magic available to induce over-stimulation of the adrenal responses of countless numbers of morbidly curious horror movie voyeurs… (Why do I need to pay precious pesos for two hours of someone else’s nightmare when I have my own vivid horror “movie” plots in my head? I could be making big bucks…)

I suppose that is one way to make something profitable out of a bad night’s sleep…

Throwing off the covers and swinging my feet over the side of the bed, I picked up my copy of “The Lord of the Rings” complete trilogy in one volume and my reading glasses, slid my mobile into my robe pocket, and shuffled off to the kitchen to heat the morning kettle. As I waited for the whistle, I opened the copy where my bookmark was set, and realized that I was embarking upon another literary nightmare for two dear hobbits trapped in the grisly grip of the Uruk-hai. Did I really need to read this after my own grisly dream…

Re-living Pippin and Merry’s nightmarish predicament and how it all unfolded and resolved, I was rewarded with these words:

As they walked they compared notes, talking lightly in hobbit-fashion of the things that had happened since their capture. No listener would have guessed from their words that they had suffered cruelly, and been in dire peril, going without hope towards torment and death; or that even now, as they knew well, they had little chance of ever finding friend or safety again. –The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, “The Uruk-Hai,” p. 458, 50th Anniversary One-Volume Edition, J.R.R. Tolkien, ©2004, Harper Collins, reprinted by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, New York, NY, USA

There I stopped and remembered the nightmarish predicament of two other dear “halflings”–blessed “halflings,” sanctified by the grace of God in the service the Gospel of the Messiah Jesus:

And they brought them [Paul and Silas] to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stock. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. –Acts 16.20-25

Chained to a filthy, stinking, dark dungeon wall, they sang. “No listener would have guessed from their words that they had suffered cruelly, and been in dire peril…”006-paul-silas-prison


I will allow you, if the Holy Spirit so wins the battle for your inclinations, to pick up and read the remainder of that true event in our history on this earth. It is recorded in the book of Acts, Chapter 16, in the Bible, New Testament. No fairy tale there; but a living and true dream unfolding in the grisly grip of a nightmare of sin and corruption…

Dare you spend some time in this truth tale? Will you face the true horror? Or is your appetite for horror only inclined to techno tales and the projected images of some man’s nightmares peddled by him and his companions in a greedy grasp for power over your mind while he picks your pocket?

And my fellow travelers in Messiah Jesus, to you, I bid you compare notes with each other at every opportunity, talking of the things that have happened since Messiah captivated your heart with His love and grace and mercies, calling you into His blessed service in the midst of this true dream unfolding in the grisly grip of a nightmare of sin and corruption…

…the days are evil…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord… –Ephesians 5.16b,18-19

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