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, May 25, 2017

Praise and Thanksgiving: Acts 27:35

Last week I talked about being calm in the storms of life because we believe God from Acts 27. Today I’m going to look at another example Paul left us in Acts 27. This example convicts me. I fear I am too timid and too afraid to be an effective witness for Christ. However Acts 27:35 gives us an example of Paul being bold and sharing his normal practices before the people on the floundering ship.
“And having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all; and he broke it and began to eat.”
Paul was unafraid, and even determined, to give the glory to God. This prayer of thanksgiving was probably the Jewish traditional prayer that is said before eating. It gives thanks to God and was in the customs that Jesus kept throughout His earthly existence. Everything Paul did had a purpose, and that purpose was to bring attention to the glory and love of God. However, here, Paul does this traditional praising and thanking in “the presence of all.” All those on the ship: sailors, soldiers, prisoners, and the few Christians on board. He did not shirk from his routine of bringing glory to God even though the believers on the ship were far outnumbered by those who worshiped idols (if they worshiped anything at all).
So, what’s this passage calling me to do? To not shrink back from talking about the great things God, in Christ, has done and is doing for me. That’s part of the evangelism process. Sharing from our natural lives is a great way to witness. We need to be authentic when we are doing it, and not just trying to sound righteous or religious. It needs to be filled with love and gentleness. However, it needs also to portray God as the mighty power He is. We need to be able to pray in such a way that uses the language that everyday people understand. Religious words and phrases don’t make sense to unbelievers (phrases like “washed in the blood of the lamb” may actually gross some people out; it would have grossed me out).
Therefore, believers need to use common language, not filled with religiosity, and let loose our praise and thanksgiving to God, even in public forums. This challenges me to pray in public, in the presence of all. It can be just a part of conversation with another, or it can be by myself. Giving glory to God is my aim and I will try to do whatever God calls me to do even if it means praying, praising and thanking in public.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Shipwreck!! Acts 27

Luke, the writer of Acts, who accompanied Paul on many of his missionary journeys, writes an accurate account of sea travel of ancient times. He used many details and navigation terminology. The details could’ve been used as the ship’s log. And, it is proof that Luke was there on the voyage with Paul as was stated early in the chapter (verse 2). All the information given by Luke lends credibility to the story and the truth of the occurrences described in the text.
All that being said, the key for me in this chapter is Paul’s trust and reliance on God’s promises. Paul had the promise from God that he would preach before kings and that he would be preaching in Rome. That had not yet happened, so Paul was confident that in spite of the devastating storm they were caught up in, it would not kill them. Verses 21-26 is a record of Paul reporting a visit from an angel of God, while being tossed about on the ship in the raging storm. He is again promised to survive to go to Rome and preach to Caesar. Paul reports the angel’s words: “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.” (vs. 24)
The storm did not abate; in fact, they were in greater danger of being shipwrecked. In fact, Paul says in verses 25-26, “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.” This verse contains the key verse for me: “keep up your courage . . . for I believe God.” O to have the same unshakable confidence in God!
This so obviously relates to my life right now. No matter what the future holds for me, I can have courage and confidence in God’s promises in my life being kept by God. There are many other places and people in Scripture that tell us to have courage and be of good cheer, however, Paul’s example here, in the face of a deadly storm where even the seasoned sailors were preparing to die, shows me an example of someone doing that. I can do it, too. There’s no reason to be downcast or depressed. There’s God and I believe Him. No matter what the future holds, even if it should be death, I believe God will do what He has said. My eternal salvation is secure forever.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sharing Our Stories: Acts 26

This chapter, 26, in Acts is a recounting of Paul making his defense before the Roman appointed Jewish king, Agrippa II. However, Paul was not required to give a defense before the king since he had already appealed to Caesar. He used this opportunity to lay out the plan of salvation to the king and the powerful people living in Caesarea.
I heard once that we should use every opportunity and every situation as a platform for the gospel. Paul does that here. He doesn’t really address the charges the Jews made against him. He shares his story of his life before (being a committed Jew persecuting Christians), his encounter with the living Jesus (on the road to Damascus), and the commission Christ gave him to preach to the Gentiles about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was his story and he used this opportunity to point to the wonderful, powerful, life-changing experience he had had with Jesus. The same experience of complete change each of us can have.
So, in view of some unsettling news from a doctor this week, I realized that I have not been diligent or faithful in boldly sharing my faith journey with the people in my life. I have not seen it as urgent. I put it off to a more opportune time. I rationalized that praying for those I come in contact with was enough. I haven’t been carrying God’s truths to those I love the way I should’ve always been doing.
I had that zeal once upon a time. When I first had my encounter with the saving power of Jesus Christ, I wanted to tell everyone – friends, foes, strangers, etc. Somewhere along the way I lost that zeal and got out of the practice of speaking out for Christ. I now feel a return of the urgency and the zeal, attitudes I should have had all along. I’ve had a wake-up call and it’s time to get busy finding out where other people are in their faith journeys, and sharing mine when the opportunity comes (every time the opportunity comes). I need to boldly speak for Christ and His salvation. I wish none to perish without my giving them the chance to choose a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Where are you in your faith journey? Do you have one? Have you had an encounter with the Savior, Jesus Christ? Do you believe in His resurrection? Do you believe He is in ultimate control? If you have questions about any of these things, contact me and I will try to meet you where you are at and share what Christ has done for me. Don’t wait. You are not guaranteed a tomorrow.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ponderings: Acts 25

As I studied and discussed Acts 25 with my friend this week, a question kept coming to my mind. Some background first.
In Acts 25, Paul makes his defense in front of Festus, leader appointed by the Romans to oversee affairs in Judea. Festus assumes and states at several places that the quarrel seemed to be within the Jewish faith, and not a question for the Romans to deal with. Festus saw the situation between Paul and the Jews as an internal, faith, religion-based, problem. His assumption was that Paul was a Jew and anything he professed and practiced was a question for his fellow-Jews to deal with. Basically, Festus viewed Paul’s profession of belong to the Way as a sect or part of Judaism, not a separate or new religion. Believing that gave certain protections to the Christians because they were part of the Jews who were the only religious group tolerated by the Romans (other than worshipping the Caesar).
So, the Romans viewed Christianity as part of Judaism. Paul also viewed it that way. We see several places in Paul’s letters to various churches where he made it clear that he was still a practicing Jew. He tells the Jews and the Gentiles he ministers to that he faithfully practiced all the laws of the Jews. Paul was Torah (the Jewish Law) observant throughout his life. This did not change when he became a Christian. He did say that a Gentile believer did not need to align him/herself with the Torah to receive salvation and the Holy Spirit. However, he never forbade it. He did try to make it clear that following the Law was not the way to salvation. That only comes through believing in Jesus Christ.
So, this brings me to my question – which I do not have an answer for: When did it become a Christian against Jews world? Eventually it did. Everything is separate now. Christians don’t mingle with Jews and Jews tend to avoid Christians. Why did this happen? When did it happen? And, how should we be responding to the nation of Israel now? How should we fellowship with Messianic Jews (Jewish Christians/believers)?
As I said, I don’t have answers for my ponderings. If someone does, feel free to comment or message me on Facebook. However, whether there are answers to these questions or not, I think it’s good to consider our relationships with our brethren in Christ of all backgrounds. I think we also need to be praying for them. That’s the only application I can come up with from these thoughts this week.