Troubling words

Re:Verse reading–Luke 1:1-38 (day one) 

“And she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be.”–v 29

“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”–Joseph Mohr

Sing it all you want, but it will not be the whole truth.  When God touches the world, calls you to His purpose, it is not always calm.  Not even close.  When Mary told Luke the story of the angel visit she described it as upsetting.   A crisis.  Troubling.

But doubt didn’t delay her trust!  Even with her old goals shattered (and probably some of her old friendships,too) Mary rested in God and His plans for her life.  She had no expectation that truth was supposed to be comfortable.

Is it wonderful when God touches the world?  Yes!  Is it calm and convenient?  Easy to understand or accomplish?  Not always.

When God upsets your world, will you still trust Him?


Ears to Hear

Re:Verse reading–Acts 23:11, 25:12, 28:16-31 (day seven)

Who will listen to the Gospel?  Our heart tells us that everyone everywhere will listen to the Gospel, but our experience in the world reveals very few who open their ears long enough to hear.  Paul lived out his Christian walk with this very question defining his life.  He worked hard to get his Jewish brethren to listen, and as they refused he sought out anyone else who might have an ear for the Kingdom of God.  Paul’s priority of finding those people with open ears is miraculous.  He never worried about getting run out of a city by an angry mob, he didn’t lose faith as his ship wrecked in Malta, he didn’t give up when he was bitten by a snake, he didn’t pout when he was chained to an armed guard, Paul saw these tragic moments as one more opportunity to find someone with open ears to the Kingdom of God.

May we never be demoralized by circumstances, but use those inevitable moments of life as one more chance to witness.

When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.  Acts 28:23 NASB

Real Gospel

Re:Verse reading–Acts 23:11, 25:12, 28:16-31 (day six)

I have stood outside the small cathedral in Rome where Paul’s apartment has been enshrined. I have also been in his jail cell, and stood near the site he was martyred a few years after his initial house arrest. Church tradition tells us that Paul was released from house arrest, only to be arrested once again in Rome a year or two later and executed shortly thereafter.

Paul was a real man, who had a real encounter with Jesus, whose life was forever changed by the Gospel, who gave the rest of his life to spread the message of the Gospel to the known world at great cost to himself. He wasn’t a myth, a fabrication, or an exagerration. Paul was real because the Gospel is real; Jesus doesn’t leave people the same.

How has the real Gospel impacted you?


Re:Verse reading–Acts 23:11, 25:12, 28:16-31 (day five)

Acts 28:15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.

I spent time yesterday thanking the Lord for FBCSA.  A place where the fellowship among the members and presence of the Lord is such an encouragement and joy to so many (including me).

Sing or say these words with me today…

“There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place,
And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord;
There are sweet expressions on each face,
And I know they feel the presence of the Lord.
Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet heavenly Dove,
Stay right here with us, filling us with Your love.
And for these blessings we lift our hearts in praise;
Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived,
When we shall leave this place.”

Will look forward to gathering Sunday and finding the Lord and the encouragement His Spirit provides!

Give Thanks

Re:Verse reading–Acts 23:11, 25:12, 28:16-31 (day four)

 “Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.  Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, He also is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are idols But the Lord made the heavens.  Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and joy are in His place.  Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering and come before Him; Worship the Lord in holy array.  Tremble before Him, all the earth; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.  Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; And let them say among the nations, The Lord reigns.  Let the sea roar, and all it contains;  Let the field exult, and all that is in it.  Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord;  For He is coming to judge the earth.  O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  1 Chronicles 16:23-34

I can’t think of a better reason to give thanks today!  Happy Thanksgiving!


Re:Verse reading–Acts 23:11, 25:12, 28:16-31 (day three)

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.”  This situation looks like an old man who’s finally settled down after his nomadic ways and now spends his days regaling wide-eyed young hangers-on with war stories, doesn’t it?  Don’t be fooled.  The man in this narrative is none other than Paul “Straining-Toward-What-Is-Ahead” the Apostle.  In his welcoming guests to his home, he is wielding the shaping power for the future of the human race.  In these “Rome sessions”, he’s teaching people, forming spirits, enlightening minds.  He speaks not of the old days, but of new possibilities.  He’s hasn’t “ended up”, but rather he presses on.  We think aging means fading.  Paul new the older he grew, the newer he became.  And that’s what he showed the world.

Then again, some will

Re:Verse reading–Acts 23:11; 25:12; 28:16-31 (day two) 

Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. 28:24

Here is Paul, arguably the greatest evangelist of the early church, and there were some who just wouldn’t buy what he was selling. If ever there were a thoroughly converted man convinced of his duty to spread the gospel, it was Paul. And yet some didn’t believe. Do you think it frustrated him? Do you think it altered his approach or his message? Probably not. Paul understood his role. He knew that there would be those who would reject this truth, but his part was to spread the Word without apology. Why do we lack that kind of conviction? Why are we so easily swayed from our task when things don’t go as we plan. Is our call from God? Do you know your assignment? Get to it. Finish the race. Keep true to the message. Some will not believe, but then again, some will.


Re:Verse reading–Acts 23:11, 25:12, 28:16-31 (day one)

“He stayed two full years. . . preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”–28: 30-31.

Strange ending.  Abrupt.  Unsatisfying.  We wish Luke would tell us more, but he doesn’t.  Paul’s story is left unfinished.  A reminder that in this book,  and all others, the subject is Jesus.

Actually, not an ending at all.  Like a final note in symphony, the last word is a summary of the past and a prediction of the future.  Paul was unhindered.

The word means “unpruned”.  Not cut back.  Not limited.  (The Greek word for dwarf was kolos.  Unhindered translates the word akoluo.  “not dwarfed”)

Nothing defeated Paul–not prison, not criticism.  Nothing stopped his evangelistic zeal or forward progress.

“I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me” Paul will later write.  I am convinced the Lord wants me to believe the same thing about myself.  He wants me unhindered too.

Cheerful Giver

Re:Verse reading–Acts 20:17-38 (day seven)

“remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35b

We say this very same thing to our kids during the Christmas season, but do we believe it?  I would like to think that I believe it, but the proof is in the pudding.  You have to try it if you say you believe it.  You do not need a special formula or occasion to give.  Just step out and give.  Give to someone you care about, give to someone who really wants something you can afford, give to someone who has been on your mind recently.  Just as an exercise in obeying Scripture experimentally give and see what happens in your life.

I would guess many good things will happen because of your generosity.  The most important thing that will happen though is that you will become a little more like God, and a little more like Jesus Christ.  They were the ultimate givers.  God gave his one and only Son, and Jesus gave up his life.  That generosity was specifically for you as a free gift.  Let God bless you by teaching you to be a cheerful giver in the same way.  Try it today even before Christmas rolls around.


Re:Verse reading–Acts 20:17-38 (day six)

“You yourselves know how I lived…”-Paul, Acts 20:18

Paul spent more time in Ephesus than any other city on his missionary journeys, all together almost three years. He knew these elders better than most; he was their father in the faith and mentor. They had likely planted churches together throughout the region, even experienced hardship together. So when he says, “You yourselves know how I lived,” it makes complete sense. Of all people he had invested in on his missionary journeys, the Ephesians knew him best; they knew what his life was all about.

This got me thinking about my own life. How would my wife or my kids describe my life? How about those I work with? Or the guys I train jiujitsu with during the week? Do they know how I live, or what matters most in my life? And if they did would it have anything to do with Jesus? Do I even have the kind of relationships that allow others to see beyond the surface, or is everything always “fine?” (That word is full of nondescript superficiality.)

Do the people I spend time with know me? Maybe the better questions is, does what they know about me really matter? I mean, really matter? Paul’s life mattered, and the Ephesians knew it.