Keeping Calm in Turmoil

Click here to read Acts 24.

After reading the scripture for today, do you relate to Paul in any way? After all, he had people rise up, spreading gossip, and telling the truth in a twisted way. My guess is we all would like opportunities for the complete truth to be told. We all may want for us to come out looking good in the situation.

The truth is Paul is still made to look like a trouble maker in the eyes of the accusers and the people they talk with the most. How does Paul react? We do not see him getting angry, or upset. Instead we see a person who is allowing the accusers to make their case and keep silent in the process. If he has a chance to speak, he will speak truth; but he stays quiet and still while they declare all of these “bad” things about him.

So, how do you think you would be in that situation? I believe most of us, at some point in our lives, go through something like this. The first thing we have to remember is not everyone is going to like us. This can be for all kinds of reasons: being hurt unintentionally or even intentionally, jealousy, and even more reasons. The point is for us to be able to remain calm and share grace whenever we can.

Do we allow people to walk all over us and say whatever they want to? No. You will get a chance to speak the truth. We find ways to talk with the right people who will actually listen and be able to discern what’s really going on. Finding peace in the situations is not always easy. It is better for an outsider to come in to carefully examine the facts.

Paul has been facing trouble similar to this his entire ministry. Jesus, our Lord and Savior faced trouble. We should not ever think that just because we follow Jesus Christ that our lives are going to be easy and perfect. What we can expect is because we follow Jesus Christ, we will face opposition because the gospel challenges the world.

Through whatever you are facing, have faced, or will face, it is important to rely on the movement and working of the Holy Spirit in your heart and life. The Holy Spirit will guide you and give you greater comfort and peace than you could ever have imagined. Trust that this is a great blessing and reminder of God’s presence in your life in the midst of strife. You just never know how God will use the situation, the people, or the people in power.

Keep these verses in mind:

Philippians 4:6-7 CEB

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 25:21-22 CEB

If your enemies are starving, feed them some bread; if they are thirsty, give them water to drink. By doing this, you will heap burning coals on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.

Colossians 3:15 CEB

 The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people.

Galatians 5:22-23 CEB

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.

Lasting Words of Encouragement

Click here to read Acts 20.

Paul had experienced incredible ministry while he stayed in Ephesus. He also experienced hardships and turmoil.

One of the things I love about the life of the Apostle Paul is how, according to the scriptures, kept his joy amidst everything he endured. Think about it. He was jailed, beaten, harassed, plotted against, and more. How would you feel like responding after this kind of treatment? Paul refused to let the joy of Jesus Christ out of his heart and life. Just read the letter to the Philippians as a great example of the joy of Jesus and how his life was completely changed. Our can be this way too.

Joy. That’s a word we don’t always seem to understand. Joy is more than simply being happy. Joy is from deep down in our soul. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit Paul writes about in Galatians 5 (love, joy,…). This is able to see and experience the Kingdom of Heaven among everything that is going on around us. Can you grasp how awesome that is?

Not only does Paul keep experiencing this joy, that comes from God’s grace through the Holy Spirit; but he is continually working so others may know of true joy also. This can really only come into our lives after we experience the amazing grace of God through Jesus Christ.

As Paul proclaimed the gospel, he endured so much; but he keeps his focus on the one true Christ. This is what he hopes continues on, within the people, after he sails away on to his next mission.

Paul has to tell his beloved Ephesians he is going away and will not be back to see them. I’m am sure he is as heartbroken as they are. Even though he will not be with them, he encourages the people to basically stay true to the gospel message of Jesus the Christ.

Do you think you could say similar words to the people around you? Reread his speech here:

“You know how I lived among you the whole time I was with you, beginning with the first day I arrived in the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears in the midst of trials that came upon me because of the Jews’ schemes. You know I held back nothing that would be helpful so that I could proclaim to you and teach you both publicly and privately in your homes. You know I have testified to both Jews and Greeks that they must change their hearts and lives as they turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus. Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. What I do know is that the Holy Spirit testifies to me from city to city that prisons and troubles await me.But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace. I know that none of you will see me again—you among whom I traveled and proclaimed the kingdom. Therefore, today I testify to you that I’m not responsible for anyone’s fate. I haven’t avoided proclaiming the entire plan of God to you. Watch yourselves and the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as supervisors, to shepherd God’s church, which he obtained with the death of his own Son. I know that, after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and won’t spare the flock. Some of your own people will distort the word in order to lure followers after them. Stay alert! Remember that for three years I constantly and tearfully warned each one of you. I never stopped warning you! Now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all whom God has made holy. I haven’t craved anyone’s silver, gold, or clothing. You yourselves know that I have provided for my own needs and for those of my companions with my own hands. In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

The challenge for today is to find a way to give encouragement to those around you, especially if they have wronged you in anyway.

May God’s Spirit of peace and joy be with you all today and each day after.

Between Two Friends

Click here to read Acts 15:36-41.

Just when everything seemed to be going well, or at least moving in the right direction, another conflict arises. This time it does not come the outside world; but inside the Christian faith. The argument is between Paul and Barnabas about whether or not John Mark should continue to go with them.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, on the surface. Paul was really hurt when John Mark left (deserted) them in Pamphylia. Why did he leave? Acts 13:13 says, “Paul and his companions sailed from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia. John deserted them there and returned to Jerusalem.” We know where he went; but why did he leave? It doesn’t say. Maybe he got scared after “Bar-Jesus’ eyes were darkened and he began to grope about for someone to lead him around by the hand.” (Acts 13:11) John Mark would have been there when “Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Saul, also known as Paul, glared at Bar-Jesus and said, “You are a deceiver and trickster! You devil! You attack anything that is right! Will you never stop twisting the straight ways of the Lord into crooked paths? Listen! The Lord’s power is set against you. You will be blind for a while, unable even to see the daylight.” (Acts 13:9-11a) Constantly seeing acts like this and being there when Paul and Barnaba were thrown in prison and treated harshly, would make be nervous as well.

Maybe John Mark left because he needed a break. The point is Paul felt hurt by the desertion on their colleague. They wanted and needed him to be there with them; and he left. He went back home to a safe, familiar place. Paul did not want him to rejoin their group, Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance. Paul and Barnabas split ways.

This is how it seems to happen, even for us today. We can look at this passage and say that Paul was being too harsh and should have shown more grace. But Paul was too hurt and had a hard time believing John Mark would continue to stay with them even in the difficult times to come. But did he really have to get angry over the situation?

We should remember that anger is a secondary emotion. This means anger is manifested because we are hurt, tired, emotional, or a whole host of possibilities. When someone is angry, the best thing to do is let them calm down. Nothing productive comes to pass when both parties are angry and not listening. Staying in a state of anger can, and does, ruin relationships. So, listen to what is being said, ask questions (without making it worse), and be patient.

Maybe going different directions is what is needed at times. Maybe it is easier to part company than it is to work things out and get to the heart of the matter. But maybe we can allow our pride to get in the way and miss out on even greater things if we continue to pursue tasks out of anger.

Keep in mind, we are all human beings. We all live in this fallen state of humanity. It is when we experience the Holy Spirit living and moving in our lives that we will produce the fruit of the Spirit in us. It will not always be easy; but the time it takes to develop love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control will eventually prove to be worth it.

Yes, we will continue to respond in anger; but I hope and pray that we can all learn to get past ourselves and really listen to the other side. Maybe, just maybe, we can all learn how to better live with each other, developing more and deeper relationships instead of having more division.

NOTE: Paul does let John Mark rejoin him later on. J

Separating Out

Mark 10:9 “Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”

This is a verse that can get taken out of context, if it is used incorrectly. Remember, yesterday, Jesus was answering the question from the Pharisees about whether or nor it is legal for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus answered it was because of the people’s hardness of heart that Moses allowed divorces to happen.

This verse begins with a “Therefore.” Whenever we see a “therefore,” we have to ask what is that “therefore” there for? It is here because Jesus is continuing his answer to the Pharisee’s question.

We all have been through situations that make us want to separate ourselves and leave. In this context, Jesus is stating that God is the One who joins a man and a woman together, therefore what God has put together, man should not try to separate.

Why would this be a big deal? Let’s think about it. When God brings two people (or materials) together, He is stating there is a purpose behind the union. When God creates, He only makes good things. Therefore, when we separate what God has joined, or created, we end up saying we can do it better.

What are somethings (besides marriage) that God has joined together that would be bad to separate? How about our gifts and our vocations. Our personality and our character. Our faith from our thinking. It is when we combine these (and many other joinings) that we can experience and see fruit and positive growth when we use everything together. If we begin to separate (i.e. our mind from our faith), we begin to not see the big picture; and, become very one-sided.

Therefore, do not separate what God has joined together. God has great plans for you.

What Drives You?

James 3:14-18 “However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.”

This week, we’re continuing to look at wisdom and our lives. Today, I’ll ask the question, “what drives you?” Maybe a better way to ask this is, “where do you get the motivation to do what you do?” I think this is a very important question to ask because it shows where we get our “wisdom” from: culture around us or God in heaven.

If we get our wisdom from the culture around us, we’ll be more interested in what the majority of people think. We’ll look to news and media for sensationalism and entertainment instead of seeing the world as a broken place that God is working in. We’ll say it’s okay to be jealous because people are messing with “our possessions” or our relationships. We’ll focus more on what we want and do anything to get it instead of doing what we can to improve the lives of those around us, including our own.

Wisdom from God is different. It is a way of life that sows the seeds of the gospel for the good of the Kingdom of God. We’ll see evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our way of life, our actions will show this. God gives us a spirit that, if nurtured, will grow and bring forth fruit that will transform the world with the power of God working in us and through us.

What drives you?

Jesus, we call on you to work in our lives and nurture the gifts you and given us. May we have the wisdom to hear from you and allow you to continue to work in us and through us for the transformation of the world. Amen

Cookie Cutters?

Romans 12:4 “We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us had the same function, same mindset, same gifts and talents as each other? Wouldn’t that make life easier? I know we say (and hopefully tease), “If only [insert name or group] would think (or act) just like me, then everything would be right.” After all, I am the one that is always right, correct?

Sometimes I believe we slip into the mindset and attitudes that it would be so much better if everyone else acted and thought just like we do. One of the beauties of the creativeness of God is how much diversity is out there for us to enjoy. Let’s be honest, we like diversity and can get a little bored of the same thing over and over. We like to make choices.

We are not all “cut out of the same mold.” We are all created individually with specific gifts, talents, interests, preferences, etc. This is one of the beautiful parts of our world – how much diversity there is. Yes, we all have differing gifts and talents. Yes, we live in different communities and countries. But I believe this shows the creativity of God.

What this tells me is that we are all part of the same “body.” I also think of this as community of faith or universal church. The body of Christ is the church here on earth. Each part of the body has different functions, and this is what makes the body work.

The challenge I think we have today is to think about the diversity there is around us and how we are really all (hopefully) working toward the same goal. There are people we do not agree with; but this is an opportunity to be thankful and praise God for their gifts and talents being used to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. You and I have a great part to play, even though we may have different functions.

God should be praised daily for the diversity.

What A Joy!

What a joy it is to wake up each day and see what the new day brings. Each day I wake up is a reminder to thank God for the opportunities that lie ahead, and thank God for His presence with us. This is truly a great gift.

What are some of the gifts you have been given? What would you say is your best gift? I asked these questions to some teenagers recently and I was actually surprised by their answers. They started off by saying things like forgiveness, love, family, friends, talents, humor, etc. Just when we think we have teenagers figured out, they go and say what they really value.

We all have special gifts we have been given by God and it is good for us to use them to work with God to help people live into the Kingdom of God here on earth. These gifts can probably be viewed as several things, but my encouragement for you and I today is to see how we can help people see and experience the Kingdom of God here and now and live into life. So, what gifts do you have that can be utilized for this?

I love this passage from the book of Romans. We’ll look into it for the next few days; but this is a glimpse of how we can begin to live our lives today. We get to work with God and the gifts given to us today. What a JOY!

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful. ~Romans 12:3-8