What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is Our Role in Spread of the Gospel? Acts 17

The question came to me while having my Quiet Time this morning. The reading was from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 with verse 8 saying, “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you [Thessalonians], not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” Paul had written to the Thessalonians, where he had established a church and where Timothy and Silas had stayed on to help the fledgling church mature, this letter of encouragement for them to keep doing what they had been doing. The account of Paul’s time with the Thessalonians is in Acts 17 (along with the accounts of his time in Berea and Athens).
In Thessalonica, Berea and Athens, Paul preached the gospel (starting in the synagogues) and got varying results. In Thessalonica there were many who came to Christ, but there was also a great amount of persecution from the non-believing Jews of the city. However, there were many believers as the result of Paul’s preaching. Paul continued his missionary journey, leaving Thessalonica before the mob could accost him and drag him before the judges of the city, and went to Berea. Paul again preached in Berea, starting in the synagogue. Acts 17:11-12 tells us what happened there:
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.
Paul, due to the agitation and instigation of the Jews from Thessalonica, who had pursued Paul to Berea, left Berea and went to Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea (vs. 14) and continued teaching and preaching, but Paul’s message went on to another city, Athens.
In Athens, Paul preached in marketplaces and eventually, in front of the philosophers and scholars of Athens. The Athenians were much more reluctant to believe, and this probably discouraged Paul. Yet, he kept preaching and trying to spread the word of the Lord.
This brings us to the title question. What is our role in the spread of the gospel? Our role is to keep preaching no matter where God leads us. There may be tremendous success with many converts or there may be dismal effect with few coming to Christ. Either way, just like Paul, we are to spread the gospel message as best as we can. One commentator, Michael Fronczak, wrote: “Even if only a few believe, it’s worth the effort.” That seems to be the principle that Paul lived by.
We also, need to be sharing the gospel to those around us, whether there is good fruit or no fruit. The results of our sharing are in God’s hands. We do not save people; God does through the workings of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Our job is to present the truth to others and give them hope for a better life and an eternity with the comfort of God. So, let’s share some aspect of Christ today with someone else. Whether it’s a smile at the grocery store showing kindness, or a full-fledged gospel presentation, the Holy Spirit can use us to proclaim the gospel to our world.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hallmarks of Conversion: Acts 16:11-40

In Acts 16 we read the story of Paul and Silas being miraculously loosed from their chains in the jail in Philippi. The jailer is ready to kill himself, fearing that the prisoners had escaped and that he would have to serve the punishment for all the escaped prisoners. However, Paul and Silas and all the other prisoners were still in the jail. They hadn’t left, so the jailer’s life was spared.
The jailer’s response was to ask Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [vs. 30] The disciples responded with the gospel message: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved you and your household” [vs. 31]. And, that’s exactly what the jailer did and his whole household came to believe, also.
How do we know that the jailer believed? His behavior toward the disciples drastically changed. Where, on his first encounter with Paul and Silas, he had bound them with chains and thrown them in the innermost dungeon of the prison, he was now taking them home and taking care of their wounds and needs for nourishment [vs. 33]. One commentator, Barnes, said, “Often one of the most striking changes that occurs in conversions is seen in the disposition to be kind and humane to the suffering.” There was also a cross-reference to James 1:22 which says, “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
So I asked myself the following questions: How am I doing in these areas? What opportunities have I let slip by? I can think of times in my past where I’ve cared for the needs of others, those suffering in some way, but I couldn’t think of anything current. I decided to pray for opportunities. As of writing this, I still have not seen any opportunities to directly help orphans and widows, but I have been able to contribute to the finances of our church as they have reached out to ministries in Haiti that work with orphans. I plan on praying more for those ministries this year. And, I’ll keep praying for the eyes to see where there is suffering and how I can help relieve it in the lives of people I come into contact with.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Positive Changes

Due to factors beyond our control, my Bible study partner and I agreed to skip a week and pick up in Acts 16 next week. So, I thought I’d just write a short piece about what I’m thankful for. Mostly, lately, it’s been a thankfulness for how I’ve changed.
I’m starting to work on my second book, a sequel to the memoir I published in 2009. So I pick up the story in late 2005 and plan on covering the next few years in my recovery from alcoholism and mental illness. I’m learning some things about myself, things I haven’t noticed because the change has taken place over time. I’ve grown and I am recovering (even if it will take a lifelong treatment plan).
One thing I noticed is how, back in 2006, I was still experimenting with not being compliant in taking my medicines as prescribed by my various doctors. I would make adjustments on my own and when things started to fall apart, it would become clear to my health care providers. I would eventually admit my “experimentation, ” but it would often be too late for easy fixes and I’d find myself in the mental hospital. I wasn’t doing it as often as I did in my early recovery, but I was still doing it.
I don’t do that anymore. Just this week, I felt like the combination of sleep medicines I was taking, might be contributing to a grogginess I was feeling in the mornings. I was having trouble getting up and going in the mornings. The thought went through my mind to just take less of the meds. Instead of starting that on my own, I called my therapist, and then, at the therapist’s suggestion, I called the psychiatrist’s office. It took a day and a half of waiting, but the doctor’s office called me back and said I could reduce a med, the one I was planning on taking less of, in small increments until I was down to 1/3 of what I had been taking. However, she also cautioned to monitor my sleep to make sure I was still getting seven to nine hours each night.
That’s just one obvious change that shows that I’m growing and developing healthier coping skills. There were many other incidents in my journals and emails to my best friend from 2007 that reinforce change in my thinking and behavior. For those changes I am truly thankful to God, my sponsors, my therapist(s), and my psychiatrist(s).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Who Are We Associating With? Acts 16:16-18

In the story of Acts, we follow Paul to Europe. In Philippi, he has several encounters that lead to people coming to be followers of Jesus Christ. However, there’s one story told about a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and “was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling.” (Verse 16)
“Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, ‘These men are bond-servant of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.’” (Verse 17) She was broadcasting the truth. How could a demon possessed person be shouting out the truth? Why would the demon(s) possessing her want her to cry out about the truth? She had been doing this for many days.
However, “Paul became greatly annoyed and turned and said to the spirit [not to the girl], ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out at that very moment.” (Verse 18) Again I ask the question, Why did Paul want the slave-girl to stop professing the truth about them? What was the harm?
There was great harm. The demon wanted to be associated with the apostles. This would discredit them from being of God, because they would be linked to the known demon in possession of the slave-girl. People can be professing truth and still not be followers of Jesus. They may do this to hopefully gain the respect of others and to give credence to their other messages (which are often false). Or they could be doing it, as in this case, to say essentially that the men of the Most High God are no different than them. Either way, it discredits the true gospel message.
If we are honest, we can see examples of this telling the truth to further evil plans in our world today. Politicians proclaim messages that sound good and will bring them followers. Marketing people do this all the time, too. Even some “pastors” of some “churches” employ this tactic. They say just enough of the truth to confuse people, to draw them into their camps, and to deceive for their own personal gain. The truth may come out later, but the “disciples” of the false teachers are already hooked and refuse to see the truth.
As a true follower of Christ, we need to scrutinize the statements of those in positions of authority, making sure they are not just taking bits and pieces of the gospel and using those pieces to try to gain an association with Christ. I know there have been times when I have been fooled by good sounding words. However, upon further study of the Word of God, the Holy Spirit has corrected me. I’ve had to publicly denounce my old beliefs and affirm the truth of Scripture. I have also had to evaluate the totality of another’s professions of telling the truth in the light of Scripture to determine what the truth really is. Sometimes my findings were that the proclamation agreed with the Word. However, there have been times when the proclamations and assertions were contrary to the Word and I’ve had to challenge those falsehoods, in my own heart and in public.
Let’s be careful to examine every claim (especially as they might relate to Jesus Christ and the truth of Scripture) by the measure of God’s Word. I think if we honestly did that today we would find that many of our leaders have false ideas and are trying to relate to Christ for their own evil uses.