Wednesday, October 23, 2019

It’s Going to Be Ok … Don’t be intimidated - You’re going to be saved …We don’t bow; We don’t bend; and We don’t burn!

It’s Going to Be Ok …
        Don’t be intimidated - You’re going to be saved …
                We don’t bow; We don’t bend; and We don’t burn!

We are going to begin our study of the 16th Chapter of Acts this evening with a passage from the book of Philippians. Seeing that much of the 16th Chapter of Acts deals with the time and events that took place when Paul and Silas first visited the city of Philippi, it’s only reasonable that we include some portion for perspective’s sake.

Paul and his companions: the prophet Silas from Jerusalem; young Timothy from Lystra; and the beloved physician/historian, Luke of Antioch, arrived in Philippi in the year AD51/52. They were only in Philippi for a matter of days, perhaps 3 weeks at most, before Paul and Silas were arrested, stripped naked in the town center, beaten and thrown into a dark dungeon with their feet held fast in stocks. It seems young Timothy, half Greek and half Jew, along with Gentile born Luke, were spared the humiliation, the beating and the prison.

10 years later, AD61/62, Paul decides to write a letter to the Believers in the Church at Philippi. Quite a lot had happened to the Apostle Paul on his continuing missionary journeys since first arriving at Philippi a decade earlier. He describes just a little in:

2 Corinthians 11:25  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep…

One of the three beatings with rods to which he refers happened in Philippi. Paul had not forgotten what it had cost him personally to preach the Gospel in that city. He had also earlier written to the Church in Thessalonica:

1 Thessalonians 2:2  But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.

Now, a decade since he won those first Philippians to Christ, Paul writes to them from his Roman prison. In that time, things had only gotten worse for Followers of Christ. There had been a new surge of persecutions levied against Christians and the Churches throughout the Roman Empire. He knew the Philippian Believers remembered what he went through in their city to bring Jesus to them, and he knew they would understand the challenges that lay before them as well. Paul encourages the Believers in:

Philippians 1 NLT
28  Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself.
29  For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.
30  We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

“The privilege of suffering for Him?” Yes! We are in this struggle together. The world hates God and they hate His Son, Jesus. If you love Jesus, the world will hate you too. It is no secret. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But, Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies … you are going to be saved, even by God Himself.

Now, let’s turn our attention to our main text for this evening: (Note: Catch everyone up on the events leading to verse 19)
·        Paul saw a man in a vision saying “come over to Macedonia” …
·        Arriving at the city of Philippi, Paul met a woman named Lydia …
·        Some Jewish men owned a slave girl who had a demon spirit …
·        Paul casts the “python” spirit out of the woman, angering the men.
·        When they realized they were going to lose money, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the city authorities … let’s read:

Acts 16
19  But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.
20  And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city;
21  “and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.”
22  Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.
23  And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.
24  Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 ¶  But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
26  Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

“Don’t be intimidated by your enemies … you are going to be saved, even by God Himself.”

At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns … most likely songs from the Psalms of David. Perhaps an angel reminded them about:

Psalms 119:62  At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You, Because of Your righteous judgments.

All those who lived in Philippi knew the price Paul had paid to bring the Gospel to their city, their nation and ultimately to the whole Roman Empire. They understood it could be intimidating and so did Paul. However, no matter the personal costs, it still paled in comparison to the price paid by our Lord and Savior Jesus. Life can be tough, but we are tougher still!

Here are 5 things we need to focus on in our difficult times:
1.  Keep praying and praising the Lord …
2.  The prisoners are listening …
3.  You are going to be saved …
4.  Deliverance will come suddenly …
5.  God will use you to save others.

Acts 16:32-34  And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household … And immediately he and all his family were baptized …having believed in God with all his household.

Don’t worry … Everything is going to be ok. You are going to be saved, delivered, set free and increased. Remember: We don’t bow; We don’t bend; and We don’t burn!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Our Only Hope

Our Only Hope

Sin is a debt owed to God. Some have a small debt and others have a great debt. However, whether little or much is owed, we have nothing with which to pay. And, we will not be welcomed into heaven owing this debt to God. Forgiveness is our only hope.

One day while Jesus was ministering in the Galilee, He was invited to have dinner at the home of a Pharisee. Pharisees were members of a religious order of Jewswho were known for their strict legalistic interpretation and observance of the Law of Moses. They are often seen in the New Testament as educated, judgmental, self-righteous, piously critical men, who felt it their responsibility to govern the behavior of other Jews. As a group they argued with Jesus and attempted to trick and trap Him so they could accuse Him before the High Priest. Eventually the Pharisees were largely responsible for the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. While some believed, most remained antagonistic to Jesus and His teachings

The particular Pharisee we are going to read about in Luke 7 was evidently undecided about Jesus and wanted to observe Him so that he could see for himself if Jesus was really a prophet or just another man claiming to be sent from God. Jesus accepted the invitation and went to the home of this religious man and sat down with him and his guests to eat. 

The culture did not afford a table surrounded by chairs as we might see today. Dinner was served on the floor or on a low bench around which the guests would gather. Usually men would recline on their left side and bend the knees to gain comfort and allow room for others to get close to the table where attendants couldstill move and reach around to serve the guests for the hostJesus evidently took this or some similar posturebecause the Bible says:

A certain immoral woman” heard that Jesus was there,and she came into the room where they were eating. This was not all-together odd since this culture encouraged doors to be open and visitors to be welcomed, even the widows and beggars, whenever there was a special feast in the home. It was often the case that some hungry person might come in unannounced and ask for bread. So, when this “certain immoral woman entered, little notice was given to her approach.

However, instead of asking for foodthe womanhumbly came around behind Jesus and knelt down at his feet weeping. She had brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfumed oil. Perhaps this was her life savings; or maybe she heard Jesus was in the house and she went and spent all she had to purchase this fragrant oil; or it is possible this perfume was left over from the accessories she used to lure men to her bed in hopes of taking their money in exchange for her favors. We don’t know how she came by this costly ointment, but we do know it was the greatest treasure she had to offer and nothing less would do.

As she knelt and wept, her tears showered the feet of Jesus and she used her hair to clean and wipe them dry. A woman’s hair was something of a mystery in the culture of that day. We still see chaste and modest religious women with their hair hidden and coveredfrom public view so as not to provide temptation for men to lust after their beauty. Harlots taunted and teased men by letting their hair down as a promise of more to come. Here, this “certain immoral woman”, only a step away from her former life, rather than protecting one of her most valued assets, is wiping the dirty, dusty feet of Jesus, now soaked by her own tears. She isn’t standing in a doorway calling to the simple but is rather kneeling behind Jesus, humbly and modestly serving Him with the love that comes from her broken heart. 

As she dries His feet, she begins to kiss them as a sign of worship and adoration, then she rubs them with the precious fragrant oil she brought as her offering to the one who set her free. The words used in this passage paint the picture of her continuing to kiss and anoint His feet with this costly perfume, weeping as she humbly offered her best.

While this is happening the Pharisee is observing Jesus and, in his mind decides that he doesn’t need to know any more about this man. Jesus is not a prophet sent from God. If He was, He would surely know who and what kind of woman this was, and He would not have allowed her to touch Him. After all, she is a sinner!

Isaiah 65:5  Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.

Rather than proving He knew what sort of woman she was, He proved to Simon that He knew what sort of man Simon was. Jesus revealed the private thoughts Simon considered within his own mind. Then, Jesus begins to teach truth through the use of parables so that the person being taught might easily draw their own conclusion and pronounce their own remedy. This seems the favored approach even for Nathan the prophet who delivered the word of the Lord to David in parable. (2 Samuel 12)

Luke 7 continues with Jesus speaking of two debtors. Of course we all know these debtors to be Simon and the woman. The debt represents sin and the creditor in the parable is God. The debt of the woman was clearly acknowledged to be ten times greater than that owed by Simon.

Herein Jesus reckons sin as debt owed to God. Some owe little and others owe much. However, whether small or great, no person is able to satisfy their debt because they have nothing with which to pay … Forgiveness is their only hope.

It is possible that the amounts chosen by Jesus were reflections of how much money each of these twodebtors had spent preparing an offering for Jesus. The meager meal, without sufficient hospitality, could easily have cost the Pharisee a mere 50 pieces of silverwhile the costly perfume 500.

Evidently there are categories and differing levels of sin and sinners. When Jesus asked the Pharisee which one of the two debtors loved God the most he replied, the one who was forgiven the most. Jesus acknowledged that the Pharisee had judged right. Some people love God more than others do.

The Pharisee did not owe God much for his sin. Evidently, he was a pretty good man. So good in fact that he barely needed Jesus. He wasn’t hungry or lustful or lonely. He was accepted in Synagogue and lived a good life. He had invited Jesus into his home to see if Jesus had anything to offer him. He only needed a little forgiveness and didn’t need to change much. 

The woman on the other hand had been forgiven of so much. This is why she was demonstrating suchunbridled love towards Jesus. She had been desperate and had experienced the difference Jesus makes in the life of someone so undeserving. She was beside herself … her whole life had changed. And in her brokenness,she came to worship and serve her King.

The Pharisee thought he knew her, but she had changed, and he never noticed. It wasn’t Jesus who did not know who and what she was, it was the Pharisee.He had failed to see the change. Others do not need our permission before they repent and receive forgiveness but at least we should notice when they come before the Lord with a true heart of repentance, weeping and humbly giving themselves to Him.

Allow me to give you a couple of points to ponder before we read our passage of scripture today.

1. God does not always feel like we do about others.
a. He looks on the heart while we judge the actions
b. It would have been a different story if the woman had intended to continue in her sin, but this woman was a changed woman.
2. People can change without our permission but hopefully, not without our notice.
a. A broken and a contrite heart the Lord will not despise …
b. Neither should we. It is evidence of a changed life.

Luke 7 NLT
36 ¶  One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.
37  When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.
38  Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
39  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
40  Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
41  Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people — 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.
42  But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
43  Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said.
44  Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.
46  You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
47  “I tell you, her sins — and they are many — have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
48  Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49  The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
50  And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

What did change look like for the woman?
• She was broken; grateful; humble; thankful; loving and demonstrated a servant’s heart. 

What would change have looked like for the Pharisee?
• It would have looked the same …
Without regard as to how little or how much we owe, we have no way to pay … 
• Forgiveness is our only hope!
Jesus said to the Pharisee named Nicodemus in John 3, “You must be born-again!”
Jesus said to the young rich ruler in Luke 18, “One thing you lack … come and follow me!”
• Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee, a man of position, power and promise yet when he met Jesus, it changed his life forever. 
No matter how great or how little our debt of sin may be, only Jesus can pay that debt and set your free.
• Change in the life of the Pharisee would look exactly like it looked for the woman:
Broken; Grateful; Humble; Thankful; Loving; Sincere and filled with the desire to serve Jesus.

What would change look like for you?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Acts 15


We are continuing our study of the book of Acts this evening with several important points to note as we survey the 15th chapter. Let’s begin and I’ll  provide commentary and we will conclude with a great take-away.

Note: Chapter setup before James, speaking at the Jerusalem council, said:

Acts 15:18  “Known to God from eternity are all His works.”

1.   God always planned, from the very beginning of eternity, to include the Gentiles in His plan of salvation. (Acts 15:16&17 quoted from …)

Amos 9
11  “On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old;
12  That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the LORD who does this thing.

Genesis 9:27  “May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.”

2.   Silas was already a well-recognized prophet before he became a missionary partner with Paul.

Acts 15:32  Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.

3.   The Church in Antioch was a hub of activity with many teachers and prophets.

Acts 15:35  Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

We don’t know how long Paul and Barnabas were there, but this is probably the period of time when the incident between Paul and Peter took place as recorded in:

Galatians 2:11 ¶  Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;

4.   Paul and Barnabas had their differences before their split in Acts 15.

Galatians 2  NLT
13  As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14  When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?

In Chapter 3 of Galatians, Paul called it a “bewitching” as though someone had cast an evil spell on Peter and Barnabas and those who were acting as though they were better than other Believers who weren’t Jews by birth.

5.   The separation of Paul and Barnabas was perhaps not so sudden …

Acts 15: 36 ¶  Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”

·        Note: it was first Paul’s vision to begin a new mission trip … perhaps God was speaking to him - he seems to be the one inspired by God.
·        It is apparent at the end of the chapter that Paul had the backing and support of the established Church leadership at Antioch, his home Church.
o   Paul was sent … Barnabas may have just went
o   Perhaps their differences should have been submitted to the Church leadership for a time of prayer, fasting and counsel.

Acts 15:37  Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.

·        John Mark was the nephew of Barnabas. Mark’s mother, Mary, was a strong prayer warrior and supporter of the early Church in Jerusalem.
·        Barnabas was determined …
o   I have found it a good practice to never invite someone to another person’s party, or to play on another person’s team.
o   It can be embarrassing and end up offending and dividing family and friends. It’s usually best to follow the leader.

38  But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

·        Paul insisted and he had his reasons. Barnabas disagreed strongly.
·        A person does not have to be unforgiving to disagree or to have reasons why they do not prefer to team up with someone who has let them down in the past.
·        Forgiveness does not always equal restoration.
·        We aren’t privileged to know the conversation between Paul and Barnabas, or Mark, prior to Mark leaving them during the first mission journey … but it seems like nothing had sufficiently changed in Paul’s estimation that suggested greater success at this time.

39  Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;

·        The indication is that Barnabas reacted … He took Mark and left …
o   Leaving somewhere does not equal doing somewhere.
·        And … Barnabas was never heard from again.
·        Mark on the other hand continued to grow and later became a disciple of Peter; penned the third Gospel, believed by many to have been dictated by Peter; and was later invited by Paul to join him.

40  but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

·        The commendation of the Church leadership in Antioch seems to be the one factor which separates the continued impact of these two strong men of God.
·        Paul ended up being the one followed and written about in the inspired and preserved teachings of the New Testament while Barnabas simply fades from view and perhaps, from more significant impact as well. Eternity will tell …

Our take-away from tonight:

Acts 15:18  “Known to God from eternity are all His works.”

God sees the problems you have had, the problems you are having and the ones you will have and yet He chooses to use you anyway …