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The Importance of God’s Word and God’s Servant October 8, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Bible, Second Timothy.
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GOD’S WORD AND GOD’S MAN
2 Timothy 3:10-17

Many believers are fearful today. They look at the moral and political situation in our country and fear that we are fast approaching the end (and they may be right). About 225 years ago, however, there was a similar situation in our country. “There was, for a season, a woeful want of Bibles in America, caused partly by the prevalence of French infidelity, and partly by the general religious apathy which followed the Revolutionary War. In that period a man went into a book-store in Philadelphia and asked to buy a Bible. ‘I have none,’ said the bookseller. ‘There is not a copy for sale in the city: and I can tell you further,’ said he (for he was of the French [infidel’s] way of thinking), ‘in fifty years there will not be a Bible in the world.’ The rough answer of the customer was, ‘There will be plenty of Bibles in the world a thousand years after you are dead and gone to hell’” (The Christian Age quoted by C. H. Spurgeon).

A. We must learn God’s Word (verses 14-17). Why did America not go the way of French infidelity? Because there were backwoods preachers and small town pastors who preached the Word of God resulting in the Second Great Awakening that transformed this country into what later became known as Christian America. Why then today’s decline? Because too many believers lost confidence in and knowledge of the Word of God. Whatever strength there is in the church today can directly be related to God’s Word and what it is capable of doing.

1. God’s Word is capable of producing faith in Jesus Christ (verse 15b). “The Rev. James Wall, of Rome, relates the following [instance] of conversion through the reading of the Scriptures: – One… when first presented with a New Testament, said, ‘Very well; it is the very size for me to make my cigarettes,’ and so he began to smoke it away. He smoked away all the Evangelists, till he was at the Tenth Chapter of John, when it struck him that he must read a bit of it, for if he didn’t, there would soon be no more left to read. The first word struck home, and the man read himself into Christ” (C. H. Spurgeon).

2. God’s Word is capable of producing wisdom to salvation (verse 15a). W. A. Criswell tells of a man in his church who had been a wicked man married to a good Christian woman. She brought him to church where he heard the word of God and was saved. “He became a new and a different man. He loved to come to church where we read the Holy Scriptures together and where I preach the Bible. Both at home and in his business office he constantly read the Book … [One day] he was stricken with a heart attack and died immediately… I went to the memorial service…To my great surprise, his right hand pressed his Bible against his heart. I turned to his wife in astonishment. ‘What an unusual thing,’ I exclaimed, ‘that he holds his Bible in his hand! Why?’…’[Because], she replied, …he loved it so. We read the Bible at church; we read it together at home. He read it at his business office. It seemed appropriate that his Bible be in his hand as his last testimony to the saving power of the Word of God’” (Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True).

3. God’s Word is capable of producing life transformation (verse 16). Sometimes that transformation is instant. Sometimes it is progressive. Sometimes it is progressive and just appears instantaneous. God’s Word will, however, produce life transformation. It determines how to think, what to do, what to avoid.

4. God’s Word is capable of equipping you for every good work (verse 17). You don’t have to be mature to work but there are certain types of work that demand maturity. The problem sometimes is that those who are mature forget that there is no retirement in the Christian life.

B. We learn from God’s people (verses 10-13). It is true that Paul is writing about his relationship to Timothy but he also seems to be referring to Timothy’s mother and grandmother and perhaps to the elders of the church in Lystra who recommended Timothy to Paul for training. This, however, should be true of all of us. Other churches (see First Thessalonians 1-2) should be learning from us how to impact others for Christ. It is not that we don’t know how, it is that we don’t show how and I’m afraid the reason we don’t show how is because we don’t do it.

1. We learn from God’s people what to believe and how to live (verses 10-11a). We talk about a Christian heritage and about passing down a Christian heritage but it seems it is easier to pass down our political heritage than our religious heritage. It is easier to pass down our passion for our sports team or for hunting or for cooking or for a hundred other things but we need to pass along, intentionally, what we should believe and how we should live.

2. We learn from God’s people about our relationship to Jesus Christ (verses 11b-12). LeRoy Eims tells how after he and his wife became Christians they “met Waldron Scott…I asked him why there seemed to be such an obvious difference in our Christian lives…He came over that night and asked me some questions. Did I read my Bible regularly? No, hardly ever. Did I study it? Again, no. Did I memorize it? Aha, here I had him. The previous Sunday our pastor had preached on Matthew 6:33, and I had been so impressed by the verse that I memorized it when I got home. ‘Great,’ Scotty said, ‘Quote it for me…’ I couldn’t remember it… ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Well, yes,’ I told him. ‘At meal times I repeat a prayer I have memorized.’ …Scotty taught us how to read the Bible and get something out of our reading. He taught us how to do personal Bible study and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, apply its lessons to our lives. He taught us to memorize the Word…He taught us how to assimilate the Scriptures into the spiritual bloodstream of our lives through meditation on the Word. He taught us how to pray and expect answers from God… The next year I began my sophomore year…Midway through the first semester, a classmate came up to me and said, ‘You know, LeRoy, I’ve been watching you. Your Christian life is sure on a different plane than mine.’ …I smiled and asked, ‘Well, do you read your Bible regularly?’” (The Lost Art of Disciple Making). Eims then tells how the next year he got a letter from that classmate telling how he had met a fellow who noticed something about his life. He began to ask some questions like “Do you read your Bible regularly?”

When was the last time you taught someone how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to study, how to use Scripture to fight temptation? We impact other believers most when we show them the keys to our Christian life. Otherwise we are just letting them struggle along on their own.

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Vessels in the Master’s Household October 1, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Second Timothy.
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VESSELS FOR THE MASTER’S USE
2 Timothy 2:17-26

Paul uses vessels in a household to clarify something that Jesus himself made clear in the parable of the wheat and the tares. Not every person who says, “I’m a Christian is a Christian.” Even worse, not everyone who says they are teachers and preachers of the truth, teach and preach the truth. It is one thing to identify this as a fact. What do we do about it as the church of the living God?

A. Paul indicates that we need to identify what type of vessel we are (verses 17-21). This seems to contradict what Jesus taught in the parable of the wheat and tares. In the parable the tares are to be left until harvest time but in this passage we are to separate ourselves from those who do not teach the truth.

This underlines for us the importance of taking a passage in its immediate and biblical context. Jesus was addressing the Jewish nation and Matthew was writing showing the authenticity of Jesus as the King of the Jews. Paul was dealing with a local church situation in Ephesus. In the one, Jesus is referring to a future event when it would be shown who was following the true Messiah. Paul is referring to false teachers who are in the church overthrowing the faith of some.

1. What does this mean for us? It means that we must make sure that our core beliefs are approved before God. Are our beliefs presentable as approved before God (verse 15)?

• Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, without any error?
• Do you believe in the Trinity, one God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who created this universe out of nothing?
• Do you believe that God the Son became the virgin born son of Mary, Jesus the Christ, being 100% God and 100% man?
• Do you believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, died for our sins on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to His Father to take His rightful position as the Lord of the universe?
• Do you believe that all humans are sinners, guilty before God and condemned to hell unless they trust Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation?
• Do you believe that total forgiveness of sin is by grace alone without good works?
• Do you believe that we the Church are the people of God left here to proclaim the message of Christ until He returns to set all things right for all eternity?
This is what you must believe in order to present yourself acceptable to God.

2. Is your belief presentable as shameful before God (verse 15)? There are a lot of false beliefs and always have been. Which false beliefs are the biggest danger within the church?

In an older survey taken about twelve years ago (Source: Barna Research Group, Ltd. Based on national surveys of 1,000 or more randomly sampled adults 18 or older, conducted July 1999 through July 2000)…
• 40% of Christians did not believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teaching;
• 38% of Christians did not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living entity, that is in the Trinity;
• 37% of Christians did believe that Jesus Christ committed sins when He lived on earth;
• 40% of Christians did believe that Jesus did not return to life physically;
• 47% of Christians did not believe that people who do not consciously accept Jesus Christ as their Savior will be condemned to hell;
• 51% of Christians believe that if a person does enough good things for others during this life, that person will earn a place in heaven;
• 54% of Christians did not believe that we have a personal responsibility to tell others about our faith in Christ.
This is what happens when we do not separate the vessels of honor from the vessels of dishonor.

B. Flee sin and pursue righteousness (verses 19, 22-23). It is interesting that Paul writes in verse 22, flee youthful lusts. Timothy was a younger man than Paul and susceptible to youthful lusts. Paul recognized that even a man of God must guard himself against youthful lusts. Perhaps he would have agreed with “Ramsey McDonald, [who while prime minister of Great Britain] once said in an address to a gathering of British young men and women, ‘Youth is a terrible thing. It can be used to build heaven or hell’” (Cited by Morgan P. Noyes in The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 11, 1955 p. 494).

Verse 19, however, reminds us that not just young people should flee from iniquity but rather that all who put their trust in Jesus Christ should depart from iniquity.

Not only should we depart from iniquity and cleanse ourselves from sin but we need to run after righteousness. As we know, what we believe not only causes us to flee from sin but also to produce the fruit of the Spirit, some of which are mentioned here in this verse.

C. Oppose iniquity with humility (verses 23-26). This is the attitude with which we are to deal with vessels of dishonor, with humility. Name-calling and derogatory jokes are not to be a part of our toolkit. We must remember that we are vessels of honor because of God’s grace and not because we have made ourselves to be something special.

1. Know the truth (verses 15, 24). Do you know what the Bible teaches? One of the reasons a Bible is valuable is because it allows us to search the Scriptures for ourselves. If you don’t spend any time in your Bible, reading, asking questions, trying to find out exactly what our core beliefs are and what they mean for our everyday lives then your may be in danger of having your faith overthrown.

2. Know yourselves (verses 19, 22b, 24a). Are you saved? Being saved is more than simply knowing the truth but rather it is a commitment to Christ based on the truth that you know. Have you trusted Him as your Savior, are you part of the family of God?

3. Know the vessels of dishonor (verses 20, 25-26). I’m not talking about a witch hunt. I’m talking about recognizing where one stands in relation to the truth. When I look around the kitchen for a dish to put in the microwave I don’t reach for a Styrofoam plate. That is a vessel of dishonor. If I put a vessel of dishonor in the wrong place there will be negative results.

How many people never hear the gospel because we assume they are okay. They say enough of the right things for us to give them a free pass. Remember, not making a judgment about someone is a judgment. Not recognizing someone as sick may result in their death. We do it gently, humbly, with compassion and even tears but we dare not let the vessels of dishonor sit on the shelf.

No Generation Gap in the Body of Christ September 26, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Discipleship, Second Timothy, Suffering.
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NO GENERATION GAP IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
2 Timothy 2:1-18

In the last Olympics, it was fascinating to watch the 4-by-100 and the 4-by-400 track and field races. In all of these races there is a baton that is passed on from runner to runner. The baton is essential to successfully completing the race. If it is dropped the race for that team is over. It doesn’t matter if the drop occurs during the exchange of the baton or during the running of the race. The minute the baton is not where it is supposed to be, the team is out.

In the same way, Grace Bible Church is running a relay race. There is, however, a difference in that we are all running at the same time, we all have our hand on the baton. Some are ready to let it go. Their time in the race is almost over. Others have their hand fully on the baton. Still others are grasping at the baton so that they can get a greater grip on that baton. If, however, a generation drops the baton, the race for Grace Bible Church may be over.

A. The oldest of us need to be imparting their most important lessons (doctrinal/practical) because we will soon be gone (verses 1, 2a, 7-9, 11-13). These lessons are threefold…

1. Be strong in God’s grace (verse 1).
2. Remember God’s gospel (verses 2a, 7-8).
3. Be willing to suffer (verses 9, 11-13). By the way, the creed in verses 11-13 indicates that there was a generation before Paul, a generation that passed down truth in the form of hymns like this one and creeds like the ones found in 1 Corinthians 15 describing the gospel. Let us like Paul look forward to the future but let us also forget that the truth of our message is anchored in the early church who received it from our Lord Jesus Christ who confirmed what the Old Testament prophets revealed in their message from God. If God never speaks to you with a direct message you still have a message from God. Just because it is mediated does not mean it is not God’s word.

B. Those of us following need to be strong in the truth (doctrinal/practical) as we focus on entrusting those less experienced among us who are found faithful in the truth (verses 1-13). Paul, writing from prison, had just related how he had been encouraged by Onesiphorus, who had come to Rome, to his prison cell, and had ministered to him. Who, however, is going to encourage Timothy? Paul volunteers but just in case encouragement from a prison cell is not enough, Paul reminds him that there is grace to be found in the Christ, Jesus.

“The… movie “Black Hawk Down” contains a scene that is quite instructive at this point. A vehicle filled with wounded American soldiers has come to a stop in the middle of a street where Somali bullets are flying in every direction. The officer in charge tells a soldier to get in and starting driving. ‘I can’t,’ the soldier says, ‘I’m shot.’ ‘We’re all shot,’ the officer replies. ‘Get in and drive’” (from Ray Pritchard). Paul is encouraging Timothy to get in and drive.

If the first generation reminds us that we should be willing to suffer, this next generation reminds us that we should be down in the trenches suffering with others. We get tired, we get frustrated, we get discouraged but we need to remember that’s the way the Christian life is. We are soldiers in battle, athletes in competition, farmers laboring for the future. The reward is after the battle, after the game, after the harvest. Now, we need to be strengthened in the grace of Christ.

C. The less experienced among us need to focus on learning to be faithful (verse 2, doctrinally/practically) so that we will be worthy to teach others (verses 14-18).

Have you heard “about the Chinese Bamboo tree[?] When you plant it, it doesn’t come up for five years. The first year—nothing. The second year—nothing. The third year—nothing. The fourth year—nothing. Then in the fifth year, it grows 90 feet in six weeks! The question is, ‘Did it grow 90 feet in five years in six weeks?’ Obviously, it took five years, even though for most of the time it seemed as if nothing was happening” (Ray Pritchard). We give up much too early. We forget that much of the work of God is like the Chinese bamboo tree.

How do you learn to be faithful? (1) You learn the truth of the Bible for that is where faith, the foundation of faithfulness, is to be found (2:15); (2) you learn to give of your time, your money, and your relationships by spending time serving God, including him in your plans, and committing yourself to his people.

This faithfulness, however, is not only talking about what we do but also what we believe. This week we heard in the news that it was discovered that Jesus had a wife. If that worried you, then there are some things that you need to know.
1. The supposed evidence is no bigger than a business card. There is so little text, we don’t even know what it says about Jesus and marriage.
2. It was supposedly written well over three hundred years after Jesus died and it is not certain that it is authentic.
3. If it is authentic, it may well be produced by Gnostics who were heretics and did not even exist until the century after Jesus lived.
4. Jesus was a common name during that time. Just like the grave of Jesus, so what?
5. If Jesus was married, so what? Do we not believe that Jesus was a man like we are in every respect except that he did not sin? What is so sinful about being married and having children by your wife?

Paul says do not waste your time within the church debating things like this that you know are not true. Teach faithful doctrine. Yes, answer the questions of those from outside, defend the faith, but don’t tolerate such foolish teachings within the church. They are not to be tolerated.

D. Those not yet among us must receive that which is true or they will be damned (verses 12, 18, 26). The snare of Satan is a snare that leads to eternal damnation.

How do you assure that those not in this auditorium today will receive the word? By not wasting your time with those things that corrupt the gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that look like today? It looks like a return, not to the culture of the previous generations but rather to the truth that is eternal, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Many years ago, when [Ray Pritchard] taught through Colossians in a Wednesday night Bible class in Oak Park [near Chicago], a small group of people would come to the chapel for the lessons… [They] often only had 20 or 30 people there…One year [he] spent a long time going through Colossians verse by verse…[One] night [he] came to Colossians 1:28… Bob Allen was there that night. Bob must have [been] around 80 years old. He had come to Christ in a dramatic conversion many decades earlier. His faith was deep and genuine, and he was by nature a modest man who didn’t talk about himself very much. Because there weren’t many people there that night, [Pritchard] roamed up and down the aisle of the chapel, waxing eloquent about the true purpose of the ministry. At one point [he] had Bob stand up to portray the day he would stand before the Lord. [Pritchard] imagined [himself] saying, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, this is Bob Allen. I present him to you as complete in Christ.’ A hush settled in the room as the magnificence of that day dawned on [the congregation]… Bob whispered, “Thank you,” as he sat down.” Will the generation following you say, “Thank you” to you and your generation?

Keeping the Faith September 19, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Perserverance, Second Timothy.
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KEEPING THE FAITH
2 Timothy 1:13-18

In 1992 Jon Bon Jovi came out with an album titled “Keep the Faith.” Richie Sambora said, “‘Keep The Faith’ recognised how tough the nineties [were] and [tried] to encourage a positive message in… difficult times. [One of the songs, ‘I Believe’ [had the] message… that people should believe in themselves, not images they see on TV.” Keeping the faith, however, didn’t begin in the early 1990’s. Over two thousand years ago, Paul wrote about keeping the faith. The keeping of the faith also involved belief but it did not belief in one’s self but rather belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today I would like for us to understand what it means to keep the faith and what the consequences of keeping or not keeping the faith are.

A. Keeping the faith involves holding fast to the healthy teaching we have received through faith and love in Christ (verse 13). Where does this love and faith come from? In this case it came from the Apostle Paul to young Timothy just as earlier it had come from his mother and his grandmother to Timothy. When we talk of sharing our faith, we mean telling about it but these people shared the healthy teaching of the word of God because of the faith and love that they had in Jesus Christ.

B. Keeping the faith involves maintaining spiritual health through the indwelling Holy Spirit (verse 14). Notice that maintaining spiritual health is not described as coming through the filling of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit or even the anointing of the Spirit. It is simply through the indwelling of the Spirit that we are able to maintain spiritual health. It is not by becoming more yielded but rather based on the reality of our salvation. I trust Christ, the Spirit indwells me, and from then on my faith and spiritual health is dependent on the Spirit of God living in me.

Pastor Sugden of South Church was preaching once on “What God the Spirit Can Do for Us.” He said, “A fellow came to me not too long ago and said, ‘Do you tackle the dress problem?’ ‘No, I don’t.’ ‘Well, why?’ ‘Good common sense will teach us how to dress.’ Good common sense will teach us about our conduct…Good common sense will permeate our entire beings if we give God the Holy Spirit a chance in our lives. You know what I do? I pray for this every morning, because there are so many days I feel so low on common sense. There are so many situations where, humanly speaking, you have to be the one to call the plays. You have to be in touch with the living God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, who will give you in that hour good common sense” (taken from Classic Sermons on the Holy Spirit compiled by Warren Wiersbe, preached on February 4, 1970 at MBI’s Founder’s Week conference).

C. We must not turn away from faith in Christ (verse 15). If we do, there are consequences (Hebrews 2:1-3, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…”).

Now this seems contradictory. If I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I will maintain my faith but if I do not maintain my faith I will not escape eternal punishment. What does this mean for those who seem to have begun in the faith but have fallen away? This is not an easy answer but I think 1 John 2 answers it well for us. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they no doubt would have remained with us.” This should assure our hearts and help us to be serious without panic when we assess our spiritual wellbeing.

1. Turning away involves what we believe (2:17-18). There are some things that do not matter that much. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it is wrong or okay to bring food or drink into the auditorium here at church. We don’t but not because it eternally matters. There are things that matter but they don’t matter in eternity. Many of the issues we get excited about don’t matter. Sports, politics, finances, academia, entertainment. All of these have their place but they do not matter much at all. It does matter, however, what you believe about God’s Word. It does matter what you believe about Jesus. It does matter what you believe about sinful man. It does matter what you believe about God’s redemptive plan. To turn away from these things matters. To turn away from them is to allow the cancer of Satan to destroy us.

2. Turning away involves what we do (4:3, 10, 14-15). To say I believe the Bible is without error and then not to obey it is turning away. To say I believe Jesus is Lord and Savior and not to obey Him is turning away. To say I believe that God will save sinners through Jesus Christ and to try to get to God through good works is turning away from the sound pattern, the healthy regimen of doctrine.

D. We are rewarded by living out our faith (verses 16-18). We are not rewarded solely based on our belief system but rather on the outworking of our belief in Christ.

1. Our reward is undeserved (Compare verses 16, 18 with 4:6-8, 16). This is hard for us to understand. Olympians earn their medals. Soldiers earn their stripes. Our rewards, our medals, though they may identify us as faithful servants, suffering servants, and witnessing servants but the reward is not ours because the victory is not ours. Our victory is in Jesus.

2. Our reward is based on our actions toward others (verses 17-18).
“His official name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Amadeus Theophilus Mozart…He was only thirty-five when he passed on. He was living in poverty and died in obscurity. His sick widow seemed indifferent to his burial. A few friends went as far as the church for his funeral but were deterred by a storm from going to the gravesite. By the time anyone bothered to inquire, the location of his grave was impossible to identify…He is gone. Or is he? …Then what good lives on? …that ‘Mozart touch.’ No other sound is like it…In his music, Mozart lives on [a timeless trophy]…Okay, so you’re not brilliant…Your trophy is your contribution…” (from Chuck Swindoll). This passage and many others like it indicate that our trophy is based on how we minister to others.

The question today is this. Are you indwelt by the Spirit? If you are you have been changed and are being changed. If not then you cannot, you will not maintain your faith in Christ. You will look for salvation from another way, a different way. Look to Jesus alone and be saved.

What We Share In Christ September 5, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Faith, Gospel, Hypocrisy, Reward, Second Timothy, Suffering.
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WHAT WE SHARE WITH EACH OTHER
2 Timothy 1:3-12

One of the biggest misconceptions of our modern society is that we have to feel good about each other in order to have true community or, to use a biblical word, true fellowship. As often happens, we get the cart before the horse. We often compare the church to a family. Yet we would never say that it is good mutual feelings that form a family. We recognize that love for one another is characteristic of a good family but we also recognize that a dysfunctional family is still a family.

Perhaps I can explain it this way. When our children are conceived or adopted they become a part of our family, not because they feel good about life or about the faces that greet them when they come into the world but because they are conceived into or adopted into a family. At that moment they begin to share everything with their family. In the same way, the moment one is born again they begin to share with other believers. Today we want to look at some of those things we share with one another as members of the Body of Christ gathered together at Grace Bible Church.

A. We share with each other a genuine faith in Christ (verses 3-7). The word genuine means without hypocrisy, without pretending. Faith is either genuine or it is not. Genuine faith might be strong; it might be weak but it does not pretend.

1. Our genuine faith is characterized by a pure conscience (verses 3-5). In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul describes those without a pure conscience. They have a form of godliness but deny its power. They say I have faith but they live differently.

“Major Osipovich, an air force pilot for the former USSR, planned to give a talk at his children’s school about peace. But he would need time off during the day to give his talk, so he volunteered for night duty…Soon the Soviet pilot was caught in a series of blunders and misinformation. In the end, Major Osipovich followed orders and shot down [an] unidentified aircraft. The actions of an air force major preparing to talk about peace plunged 240 passengers to their deaths and sparked an international incident that pushed world powers to a stand-off” (Leadership, Summer 1994). We may say we have faith but our actions demonstrate whether our faith is real or not.

Those without genuine faith are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 2:2-4). If, however you have a genuine faith, the power of God will help you to love others rather than yourself or money or pleasure. If you have genuine faith you will live humbly, in submission to and thankful for authority. If you have genuine faith you will find a way to forgive and control your temper and your tongue.

2. Our genuine faith is characterized by a powerful spirit (verses 6-7). A genuine faith does not fear because it is confident in Christ. A genuine faith produces power in the form of love for others and for God. A genuine faith protects your mind from the deception of the devil.

B. We share with and in Christ the sufferings of the gospel (verses 8-11). Paul writes Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Suffering with Christ is not optional.

1. It is our calling (verses 8-9a). Christ has enlisted us as soldiers. Soldiers suffer. They don’t take breaks during battle. At Petersburg, Virginia the Union soldiers had dug a 500 foot tunnel to a chamber under the Confederate army. In this chamber explosives were placed in preparation for a surprise attack. When the explosion was set off there were immediately 278 casualties and a huge crater formed where the Confederate soldiers had been posted. Four Union divisions were to attack immediately after the explosion to take advantage of the confusion and to hopefully bring the war to an end. The first division belonged to Brigadier General James H. Ledlie but Ledlie was not with his troops. “He was immured in a bombproof [nearly a quarter-mile away], swigging away at a bottle of rum… joined [by another of the four divisions’ commanders, Brigadier General Edward Ferrero]…It…cost Burnside 3828 men, nearly half of them captured or missing” in great part because two commanders took a break during the battle (based on Shelby Foote’s account of the battle in Volume III, The Civil War: A Narrative).

2. It is our privilege according to His purpose and grace (verses 9b-10a). Before time began God purposed to give us grace through Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, that grace and love were revealed to the world. He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We have done nothing to deserve this calling but called we are nonetheless. We will suffer but it is a privilege that will be rewarded throughout all eternity.

3. It is our necessity (verses 10b-11). It is one thing to be called. It is another to fulfill that calling. Paul says, “God has appointed me to suffer for the gospel but I can do nothing else.”

C. We share with and in Christ a glorious certainty (verse 12). Only the soldier who fights receives the glory of the soldier. Only the athlete who competes wins the gold medal. Only the farmer who sows, reaps a harvest. The hymn Paul quotes from in 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.”

“Mario Cuomo, governor of New York, writes in Life magazine about…Poppa…We had just moved to Holliswood, New York…it had some land around it, even trees. One in particular was a great blue spruce that must have been 40 feet tall. Less than a week after we moved in, there was a terrible storm. We came home from the store that night to find the spruce pulled almost totally from the ground and flung forward, its mighty nose bent in the asphalt of the street…We stood in the street, looking down at the tree. ‘Okay, we gonna push ‘im up!’ [Poppa said]. ‘What are you talking about, Poppa? The roots are out of the ground!’ ‘Shut up, we gonna push ‘im up, he’s gonna grow again.’ …So we followed him into the house and we got what rope there was and we tied the rope around the tip of the tree that lay in the asphalt, and he stood up by the house, with me pulling on the rope and Frankie in the street in the rain, helping to push up the great blue spruce. In no time at all, we had it standing up straight again! With the rain still falling, Poppa dug away at the place where the roots were, making a muddy hole wider and wider as the tree sank lower and lower toward security. Then we shoveled mud over the roots and moved boulders to the base to keep the tree in place. Poppa drove stakes in the ground, tied rope from the trunk to the stakes and maybe two hours later looked at the spruce, the crippled spruce made straight by ropes, and said, ‘Don’t worry, he’s gonna grow again…’ If you were to drive past that house today, you would see the great, straight blue spruce, maybe 65 feet tall, pointing up to the heavens, pretending it never had its nose in the asphalt” (Leadership, Winter 1993).

This is what we share in Christ. We share in a genuine faith in Him, a faith that produces suffering here on earth and a glorious reward in eternity. We will reign with Him in His kingdom here on earth. We will celebrate with Him the great Passover, when He for the first time drinks of the fruit of the vine with those of us who have put our faith in Him and have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom of light.

Being in God’s Will Like Paul Was August 27, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Cross of Christ, Glory of Christ, Prayer, Will of God.
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BEING IN GOD’S WILL
Acts 28

As we come to the close of Paul’s career as recorded in the book of Acts, there are a couple of things that we need to recognize.

1. Paul still had several years of ministry ahead of him, yet he had already fulfilled God’s specific will in his life. God had said that Paul “is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Paul had already done all this. If he had never made it to Rome, Paul would have fulfilled God’s will in His life.

2. We also need to recognize that God’s will for Paul’s life and for your life is pretty much one and the same. God expects the same things from you that He expected from Paul. God expects all of us to be committed to the cross of Christ, to the body of Christ, to the glory of Christ in our life. So if you want to be in God’s will you have to commit yourself to telling others the gospel of Christ; you have to integrate yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, temporally, financially with some portion of the body of Christ, that is, the church. You also have to commit yourself to the glory of Christ. Why do we live righteous lives? So that He might be glorified through them. You may choose the wrong career, you may choose the wrong wife, you may choose to attend the wrong church but if you are invested in the cross of Christ, the body of Christ, and the glory of Christ, you are in God’s will.

A. Being in God’s will is a place of safety in the midst of danger; therefore, we can have peace (verses 1-10). I would refer you to today’s bulletin insert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He made a choice that put him in great danger because he was confident of God’s will. Yet he did not escape the wrath of the Nazis. Yet he died with peace that his death would be the beginning of life.

The story of Paul being bitten by a poisonous snake is a fascinating story. I have never been bitten by a snake but I can image the horror they all must have felt as Paul got bit. Once as a teenager I was entering the house we lived in. I opened the screen door and a little snake which had crawled up to the top of the door fell on to my wrist and began to wrap itself around my wrist. You have never heard such hollering or seen such dancing as I performed at that moment. I slung my arm so hard that the snake flew ten to twenty yards out in the air and landed in the grass. That snake never had a chance to bite me.

Notice, however, that the snake fastened his fangs onto Paul’s hand. I am sure Paul did not just calmly flick the snake into the fire. He felt the pain of the fangs entering into his hand. Whatever he did with his hand was certainly a reaction of pain, surprise, perhaps even fear. Paul, however, did not die. He did not even get sick. There were the marks in his hand but he did not die. I can imagine Paul wincing at the pain in his hand from the bite but the poison had no effect. Why? God was not through with Paul yet.

Later Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8, 13-14, 16, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant you…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…”

Are there dangers? Of all kinds! When, however, we are in Christ and we are committed to His cross, His church, and His glory, we can have peace.

B. Being in God’s will is a place of success in the midst of difficulties; therefore, we can take courage (verses 11-15). Bonhoeffer during his imprisonment at Tegel prison wrote about success, “We must be determined not to be outraged critics [of success] or mere opportunists. We must take our full share of responsibility for the moulding of history, whether it be as visitors or vanquished…To talk about going down fighting like heroes in face of certain defeat is not really heroic at all, but a failure to face up to the future. The ultimate question the man of responsibility asks is not, How can I extricate myself heroically from the affair? but, How is the coming generation to live? …The rising generation will always instinctively discern [whether] we are acting upon [concrete responsibility] for it is their future which is at stake” (Prisoner For God, p. 17-18).

The brethren Paul met as he approached Rome were probably strangers to him. It is likely that Paul had no idea how he would be received. Yet a small group came, thrilled to see him and Paul took courage that God had paved the way for his arrival with brethren who cared for him. This small group was a confirmation of God answering Paul’s prayer recorded in Romans 15:30-33, “Now I beg you, brethren…that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me…that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you…” Paul had thought he would just be passing through on his way to Spain but God had other plans and God prepared Paul’s way before him. That is why Paul took courage when he arrived at Rome.

C. Being in God’s will is a place of significance in the midst of obscurity; therefore, we can bold to preach the gospel (verses 16-31). Do you want to be significant? Then your message better have eternal value both in this life and the life to come. Do you want to be significant among the men and women of history? Then you better stand with the family that will rule the universe, the church of the living God. Do you want to glorify God? Then you must glory in His cross and in His people and live accordingly.

As our missions conference comes closer, we need to understand that our significance is found in proclaiming the gospel to this world.

1. Some of our hearers will turn away. These people had interest in Paul’s message. They listened to Paul’s message. They even understood intellectually Paul’s message. They still walked away because they did not believe the message and were not transformed by it.

2. Some of our hearers will be healed and transformed (verse 20). These people had the same background. They had the same interest in Paul’s message. They listened to the same teaching that the rejecters listened to. They had the same intellectual understanding that the rejecters had. They, however, believed the message and were saved by it.

“A TV news camera crew was on assignment in southern Florida filming the widespread destruction of Hurricane Andrew. In one scene, amid the devastation and debris stood one house on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when a reporter approached him. ‘Sir, why is your house the only one still standing? …’ ‘I built this house myself,’ the man replied. ‘I also built it according to the Florida state building code. When the code called for 2×6 roof trusses, I used 2×6 roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did. I suppose no one else around here followed the code’” (David R. Culver, Leadership, Winter 1993).

Are you in God’s will? If you are you will be saved. Are you inviting others into God’s will? That is the only way to guarantee they will be saved.

The Value of Faith August 20, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Faith.
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FAITH AND FOOLISHNESS
Acts 27

In Decision Making by the Book Haddon Robinson tells about a time when in Colorado he was speaking to a young lady at Denver Seminary about her seeking God’s as to whether she should go skiing. He writes, “I asked her how she expected to determine God’s will on the matter…she said, ‘Well, I put out a fleece. If my daddy sends me some money, then I’ll know that skiing is something God wants me to do…I haven’t asked him for any money lately, and I figure if he sends me money I’ll know God wants me to go skiing.’ … ‘Look,’ I asked her, ‘if you’re really going to put out a fleece, why not a good one? …Why don’t you pray that the president will send you a letter, and in that letter there will be a check that will give you enough to go skiing? And if you’re really going to follow Gideon’s example to the limit, pray that you get a second letter and a check from Britain’s prime minister the next day…That’s the type of miraculous sign that Gideon wanted from God…he was asking for two miracles, and he got them both!’”

We want to live by faith but sometimes in our attempts to live by faith we fall into foolishness. In this chapter we see clearly the difference between Paul, a man who lived by faith and a group of men who lived by foolishness.

A. We all have faith in something (verses 2, 4, 7). The sailors and soldiers in these verses put their faith in the natural protection that staying close to the shore provided. It is not that they are risk adverse but at that time prudence outweighed risk in their decisions. They were confident that they were safer staying close to shore.

Christians should not be risk adverse. In fact, to be a true Christian by definition is a risk. To believe in someone who we have never seen but not just to believe in that person but to love that person and to rejoice in the belief that what he has promised we will receive is seen as a great risk in this day. We would rather depend on money than God’s promises. We would rather depend on our political philosophy than God’s providence. We would rather depend on our educational systems than on taking up our cross and following Christ. Why? Because our faith is in something or someone besides Christ.

B. Faith, no matter where or in whom it is placed, does not guarantee us an easy life (verse 8). This verse is talking about the coasts but it applies even to our faith in Christ. Faith, whatever it is in, does not guarantee an easy life. In fact, it is the difficult times that prove whether your faith is real or not. Real faith does not falter. It is when you experience pain that your faith is tested. It is when you are offended that the reality of your faith reveals itself. It is tested like gold in the fire.

C. We all make mistakes in our decisions no matter where our faith is placed (verses 9-20). Leith Anderson in Leadership that Works tells how that his father was a successful pastor for over three decades outside of New York City in New Jersey. He later served briefly in Florida where he was not able to duplicate his success. “What was different? Frankly, it’s hard to say…No leader may ever assume that what works will in one place will work well in another. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. had traded places in history, we probably never would have heard of either of them.” Even if your faith is in the right place, even if your confidence is in Christ, you may make a mistake.

1. Sometimes our desires override our faith (verses 13-14). These men left the safety of the coast because they desired strongly to get to Rome and suddenly the wind seemed to cooperate. They are thinking, yes, ride the wave. The circumstances changed to fit their desires and so they set off. Unfortunately, for them the circumstances drastically changed again.

2. Sometimes our decisions result in hopelessness (verses 14-20). These men made a decision. It seemed like a reasonable decision at the time but it quickly became a disastrous decision. There is no hope. They will die because they made the wrong decision.

D. When our faith is in God we can have confidence even in the face of hopelessness (verses 21-26). Edwin “Bull” Sumner, called “the Bull of the Wood” because of the loudness of his voice “assembled his corps on the north bank [of a river], near the two bridges he had built [for an emergency crossing into battle], Foaming water had buckled them; torn from their pilings, awash knee-deep in the center, they seemed about to go with the flood. When the order to support…arrived and the tall white-haired old man started his soldiers across, an engineer officer protested that the condition of the bridges made a crossing not only unsafe, but impossible. ‘Impossible?’ Sumner roared. ‘Sir, I tell you I can cross! I am ordered!’”

This was the attitude Paul had. For over two years God had allowed him to remain imprisoned for this purpose, to preach the gospel in Rome. Paul had been ordered. God would deliver him to fulfill that order.

E. We should allow through the open expression of our faith to inspire hope in others (verses 27-44). Kent Hughes in Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome tells of going through a period of hopelessness in which he expressed his desperation to his wife. He asked her, “‘What am I to do?’” She said, “‘I don’t know what you’re going to do. But for right now, for tonight, hang on to my faith. Because I believe. I believe that God is good. I believe that He loves us and is going to work through this experience. So hang on to my faith. I have enough for both of us.’”

Many today are looking at hopeless situations. Maybe you blame the decisions of others. Maybe you blame your own decision. Maybe you blame the change in circumstances. Maybe you blame a combination of factors. Maybe you even blame God for your hopeless situation. If, however, you are following Christ then the situation may look hopeless but God will bring you exactly where you need to be. Hang on to your faith. Hang on to your faith.

Next week: Being in God’s Will (Acts 28)

Knowing Jesus August 14, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Christ, Deity of Christ, Humanity of Christ, Jesus.
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KNOWING JESUS
Acts 26

This week we will be teaching on the theme “Knowing Jesus” in our Five Day Club program. We will be telling the children who Jesus is and how they can know him.

There are, however, many today who say we cannot know much about Jesus. There is almost no one of reputation who claims that Jesus never existed but there are many who feel that we cannot know much about him. PBS, the History Channel, the major television networks and other major media outlets hold to this position. When you watch their specials on Jesus and early Christianity they hold to the position that a small sect developed a life of Christ based on what they already believed and through clever propagandizing and eliminating evidence of opposition they were able to establish themselves as the true followers of Jesus Christ.

Now this is theory but that doesn’t disturb the major media outlets. For them the Bible holds no real historical value and one speculation is as good as another when you feel there are no facts.

What I want to do this morning, however, is show, based on Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, who Jesus is. Paul’s testimony is important because he is considered by non-conservatives to be the most reliable witness we have of Jesus Christ. Luke records for us his defense before Agrippa and in that defense we see three important aspects of Jesus’ life that are corroborated in his earliest writings and which are foundational for what we believe and what we will be teaching the children during this next week.

A. As Jesus of Nazareth he was raised from the dead for our hope (verses 6-9). In this statement we see that Jesus was human, was humiliated, and was exalted and that in His exaltation we have hope of exaltation also in eternity. Paul saw this as being the fulfillment of the promises of God in the Old Testament.

Now why should we believe Paul? The reason is this. Paul at one time persecuted the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. This time of persecution, however, was brief because Paul became a believer in Christ anywhere from a year to four years after Jesus rose from the dead. Paul had plenty of time to confront eyewitnesses of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. This did not happen decades later but just a few years. He not only had the opportunity to confront Jesus’ followers but he worked for those who had caused the Romans to crucify Jesus. So it is clear that Paul’s testimony of Jesus of Nazareth as really a man who lived, was really crucified, was really buried, and who was exalted in that He really was raised from the dead; should be serious considered because of the nearness in time and proximity by Paul to the participants in the event.

Paul describes this resurrection as his hope but not just his hope but the hope of his nation and the hope of all men. If Jesus be not raised, then there is no hope for you and there is no hope for this world.

B. As the Lord, Jesus demands that we turn to him by faith (verses 14-18). Now we need to determine what Paul was talking about here. When he heard the voice from heaven, he replied, who are you, Lord? The word “Lord” had three uses in those days. One was in reference to a governing authority. On the road to Damascus there were no ruling authorities present. The word was also a common word of respect, much like our word “Sir.” That is perhaps possible but after being knocked off your horse to the ground by a blinding light the third possibility is more likely. Paul was not saying, “Who are you, Sir?” but rather “Who are you, God?” Paul, no doubt, already had a suspicion who he was talking to. The voice had said, “You are persecuting me, why?” The reason was very clear. Beginning from Pentecost the disciples had been preaching that Jesus is Lord, and that Jesus is God, and that apart from Him there is no salvation. Paul knew the message but now he was confronted with a choice: believe or not believe that Jesus is the one and only true God.

C. As our Christ, Jesus fulfills for us all that God intends with us (verses 19-23). Paul reminded Agrippa again of the promises of the Old Testament. The promised Messiah has come. Will you, King Agrippa, bow before Him as your Messiah, the one who will bring you to God, the one who will save you from your sin? You know what God has said through His prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus of Nazareth has fulfilled those promises. I know you believe the prophets. Will you become a Christian? Agrippa answered, “You’ve almost convinced me, I’m almost persuaded.”

“In 1871 Reverend Brundage expounded upon this sad story in Acts, and then ended his Sunday Morning sermon with the words “He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost” (Accessed at http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/almost-persuaded,-the-song-and-the-story.html on August 9, 2012).

P. P. Bliss heard that sermon and was so impressed he wrote the following verses for a song, “‘Almost persuaded,” Now to believe; ‘Almost persuaded,” Christ to receive; Seems now some soul to say, ‘Go, Spirit, go Thy way, some more convenient day On Thee I’ll call’”
‘Almost persuaded,” Harvest is past; ‘Almost persuaded,” Doom comes at last; ‘Almost’ cannot avail; ‘Almost’ is but to fail, Sad, sad that bitter wail, ‘Almost, but lost.’”

D. When we recognize Jesus of Nazareth as our Lord and Christ, we become a true Christian (verse 28). Agrippa recognized what it means to be a true Christian. It is not enough to believe in the man Jesus of Nazareth. He must be recognized as Lord and Christ, that is, as God and Savior. The only who we should worship and the only one who can meet our deepest need, salvation from sin, death, Satan, and hell.

1. The result is that we turn from serving darkness to serving light. No man can serve two masters. You can live in both darkness and light. This week as we minister to these children, as we tell them the story of Jesus, we will be showing them the light. On Thursday the theme will be Jesus is the Light of the World. Do you believe that? Have you been praying for children to turn from darkness to light?

“Members of a Russian sect found living in an underground bunker with some 20 children, many of whom have never seen the sun, have been charged with child abuse. Authorities said the Islamist cult had existed for nearly a decade without natural light or heating in their subterranean dwelling. The expansive man-made cave was discovered underneath a brick building on the outskirts of the central city of Kazan…Deputy prosecutor Irina Petrova told journalists the bunker’s rooms were like ‘cells,’ lacking sunlight and ventilation. ‘According to the agency for control of public facilities, there are eight levels of rooms, where not only children but adults live as well,” she said…Many of the cult’s children, aged between 18 months and 17 years old, were born underground and had never seen daylight until officials sent them for health checks.”
I understand that this is an extreme example of a spiritual truth but that is exactly what we are trying to do. Jesus has left us here as the light of the world. It is our task this week to help bring boys and girls and their families from darkness into the light of life, Jesus Christ.
2. The result is that we have confidence before God and man. Paul is bold here. Why? He need not fear death because His master, Jesus Christ, has cheated death. He need not fear the authorities for he serves the God of the universe. He need not fear disaster for he serves the Christ who came to save the world from the greatest disaster, the disaster of sin and death and darkness.

If you have been persuaded to follow Christ, are you doing all you can to get others to the light, Jesus Christ? If not, then pray tell me, with what are you as a Christian wasting your time. Introduce people to Jesus.

Next week: Faith or Foolishness (Acts 27)

The Providence of God July 30, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Providence.
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THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
Acts 24:11-23

The Puritans had “an extraordinary awareness of God’s providence. This, in turn, produced the Puritan practice of keeping diaries…John Bartlet advised Christians to ‘meditate on the experience you have had of God’s faithfulness, and[the] goodness you have had in all his providences…. To help you herein, you shall do well to make a catalogue and keep a diary of God’s special providences’ ” (from Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were by Leland Ryken, pp. 209-210).

In our passage today we see God’s providence at work. God is not working a miracle by changing the laws of nature to correspond to his will but rather is guiding natural events to accomplish his will. It may be that you have not been paying attention to God’s working in your life. I trust you will learn from Paul’s life that our times are in His hands and because of His providence we can rest now in Him.

A. We need to recognize that God’s providence is for the accomplishment of His purposes, not for ours (verses 11-15). That is what God is telling Paul in these verses.

1. Paul had plans to go to Rome (Romans 1:15; 15:22-33). He had plans to go to Jerusalem and had asked the church in Rome to pray that Paul would be accepted by the Jewish church in Jerusalem (which prayer God answered) and that he would be kept safe from his unbelieving enemies (which prayer God did not answer). After he left Jerusalem, he planned to stop in Rome on his way to the mission field of Spain.

2. God also had plans for Paul to go to Rome but they were not the same plans. God’s timing was different. It was several years later before Paul ended up in Rome. God’s purpose was different. As a prisoner of Caesar, Paul had opportunities to proclaim the gospel which he never would have had by entering the Roman house churches or in a Jewish synagogue. He preached to more Jews, he preached to more Gentiles, he even had the opportunity to go before Caesar. Whether he ever went to Spain, we do not know but he accomplished what God planned for him.

“Paul, in his letter to the Christians at Philippi, expressed his opinion about how God used the circumstances of his arrest: ‘I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (Philippians 1:12-14)’ ” (from Decision-Making by the Book by Haddon Robinson, page 104).

3. God used the evil intents of Paul’s enemies to accomplish His plans. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers when they feared after the death of their father that Joseph would get even with them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:19-20).

B. God’s providence is the explanation for coincidences (verses 16-22). As one goes through this story of Paul going from Ephesus to Rome, only once, near the end of the journey does God do miracles and those miracles had little or nothing to do with Paul ending up in Rome.

1. God puts people in place at the right time (verse 16). Henry Blackaby tells about his church trying for two years in Saskatoon, Canada to start without success a Bible study in the dorms. One day he told the college students in his church, “‘If someone starts asking you spiritual questions, whatever else you have planned, don’t do it. Cancel what you are doing’…. On Wednesday [of that week] one of the girls reports, ‘Oh Pastor, a girl who has been in classes with me for two years came to me after class today. She said, ‘I think you might be a Christian. I need to talk to you.’ I remembered what you said. I had a class, but I missed it. We went to the cafeteria to talk. She said, ‘Eleven of us girls in the dorm have been studying the Bible, and none of us are Christians. Do you know somebody who can lead us in a Bible study?’” (from Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, pages 70-71).

2. God controls the actions of those who are in authority (verses 17ff). The book of Proverbs tells us that the king’s heart is in the LORD’s hands. In the days of Augustus a decree went out that all the world should be taxed. As a result of that decree, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. I hate taxes and I generally vote against them but I pay them because it is right and and I do it knowing that God will use my taxes to direct His will in someone’s life.

C. We make our decisions confident in God’s providence (25:6-12). Paul said, “No, I am going to appeal to Caesar. I am not going to let you have me killed at the hands of my countrymen. I know my rights, give them to me.” Felix said, “You’ve appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go.”

“Years ago [Ray Pritchard] spoke to a man whose wife had been in and out of drug rehab several times. Her struggles with drugs and alcohol (and his struggles with anger) had reduced their marriage to a shambles. It may have been the most hopeless marriage [Pritchard] ever saw. But through nothing less than a miracle from God, they somehow pulled through and survived a crisis that lasted for the better part of a decade. One day the man looked [Pritchard] in the eye and said, ‘I now understand that it had to happen the way it did.’ It takes great faith in God to say something like that, and it could only be said at the end of the ordeal, looking back and seeing that even the worst moments were leading to something much better.”

We will not in every case be able to look back and say we understand. That is not promised us by God. What is promised is that whether those tough times are coming, or they are behind us, or whether we are in the midst of them, we can be confident that God’s ways are perfect.

This is not an excuse to make bad decisions or to pawn off on God our bad decisions. It is, however, an assurance to us that God always does what is right and that we need to align ourselves as best we can with His ways, His will, and His word.

If you live confident in God’s providence you will learn to avoid the bitterness that plagues so many people and will learn to forgive others more easily.

If you live confident in God’s providence you will learn to suffer patiently and with longsuffering, knowing that His will is perfect.

Are you confident in God’s providence?

Next week: Guilty of Hope (Acts 24-25)

Paul’s Defense Suggests What We Need to Do As We Witness July 10, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Testimony, Witnessing.
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PUTTING A BURR IN THE SADDLE
Acts 22

(From RBC by Martin DeHaan accessed at http://beenthinking.org/articles/giving-facts-a-chance/ on July 3, 2012) “In the early 1950s, a small Chicago-based religious sect predicted that the world was going to end on December 21, 1954. Their leader claimed to have received this information from an alien reincarnation of Jesus who went by the name of Sananda.
Their prophecy caught the attention of researchers from Stanford University, who decided to use the group as a case study in human nature.

Recently, author Chris Mooney wrote an article for Mother Jones magazine describing what the researchers learned. Since they were able to infiltrate the group to do their study, they were able to observe firsthand what happened when December 21 passed without incident.

First the researchers saw the confusion that occurred as members of the group tried to explain their mistake. Then the unexpected happened. The leader claimed to receive a new communication from Sananda. The new message was that the little group had not failed. On the contrary, they had saved the world from judgment by believing in the prediction. From that moment on, believers in Sananda were more convinced than ever of the truth and value of their mission. They adjusted their view of reality rather than admitting they were wrong.

So why is the study of this small religious sect worth thinking about? According to one of the researchers who studied them, this little group of fanatical believers remind us of a principle far greater than their numbers. ‘A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.’

The article goes on to suggest that many of the disagreements that divide us are rooted in our natural instincts for survival. To protect our beliefs and emotional attachments, we push threatening ideas away and pull friendly information closer. This begins to happen subconsciously even before we are aware of what is happening. Self-protective reactions mobilize thoughts and emotions to protect our beliefs as if our life depended on it.”
In our passage today we see an example of a group of people who did not want to face the facts. From this we can learn some lessons.

A. Our community may not moved by our personal testimony. It is interesting that in this scientific world that we live in, most of the decisions that we make and many of the things that we believe are not based on facts that can be demonstrated in the lab. I am not only talking about religion but about many things that intelligent people do, to take just one example, abusing their bodies with all manners of drugs, although it is clear that such abuse is destructive.

Why do people do this? Because many if not most of the decisions we make are not based on scientific facts but rather on what the accumulation of our personal experiences tells us.

1. Our society admires and confirms personal experience. This is true of conservatives and liberals. We value our experiences above any other source of truth. We value what we feel. We value what we think will give us safety or security or meaning or whatever it is that we think we need most. The problem with experience, however, is that not everyone has the exact same experiences. Maybe eating ice cream and Cheetos for breakfast has worked for you, made you more productive but I have functioned better on watercress and cucumbers. It is hard to judge and evaluate someone else’s experience. Unless we find someone’s personal experience threatening in some way, we tend to admire and confirm it in others.

2. Our society does not understand our personal experience with Christ. They may listen, they may affirm it, but they will not because they cannot understand our personal experience with Christ. That does not mean that we should not share it but they need more than personal experience. They need their conscience pricked.

B. Our community may not be moved by our miraculous experiences. It is interesting that the large number of books like “23 Minutes in Hell” do not seem to have an impact on the world. They may sell well among believers but the world seems not to be interested.

1. Many of them have also had miraculous experiences. It is not unusual to find unbelievers who have had amazing experiences. One of the leading atheists of the last century (A. J. Ayer) had an out-of-body experience in which he reportedly saw a “Divine Being” (see http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/roundtable/an-atheist-meets-the-masters-of-the-universe.php). Yet Ayer although noticeably different after “he died” did not become a Christian. Those who rejected Jesus did not disbelieve his miracles but simply attributed them to the power of the devil rather than the power of God. Belief in miracles does not necessarily open one to belief in Jesus Christ.

2. Those who doubt our miraculous experiences often will simply ignore us. This was true in Jesus’ day also. Marcus Borg, by no means a fundamentalist Christian, in “Jesus, A New Vision” wrote, “In the tradition in which [Jesus] stood, including the healings and exorcisms reported of him were not unique. Yet though the historical study of the miracles results in the loss of their uniqueness, it produces a gain in their credibility. Contrary to the modern notion that such events are impossible, we must grant that the historical evidence that Jesus stood in the stream of Jewish charismatic healers is very strong.” Perhaps this is in part why Jesus’ popularity before his death was short-lived and fickle.

It is also why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so powerful. To cast out demons, to heal the sick, these things are not unusual. To rise from the dead never to die again; that is powerful, life-changing, gives hope, establishes a foundation, a solid rock on which one can stand with full confidence in the future.

C. Our community will be bothered when they see life transformation. This is evidenced when Paul accuses them of Stephen’s murder and proclaims that God wants Gentiles to hear the message of Jesus Christ. It is only when men are held personally responsible for their own sin and what repentance should produce in lives that they will be forced to make a decision. They understood the implication of Paul’s message. Ethnic and religious loyalty resulted in sin against the resurrected Christ.

Yet that is exactly where we must touch them, where it really hurts. It does no good to operate on the big toe if it is the thumb that is broken. Jesus recognized this when he said, “It is the sick and not the well; which need a physician.” If you constantly tell people who think they are okay that there is something seriously, morally wrong with them, they will react. That is, however, what they need to hear from us. They need to hear that they are sinners in the hands of an angry God, a God who is angry with their sin and will be angry with them if they do not turn from all of their loyalties and give their sole loyalty to Jesus Christ.