Archive for January, 2014

Singing through the Storms

And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.  And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Acts 16:22-25

This was not a pleasant time for Paul and Silas.  They were preaching to the people when a multitude rose up “together against them.”  The leaders commanded that they be beaten.  They were given “many stripes,” and then cast into prison.  Any of those things would be enough to make me want to cower in a corner and never come back out.  They had been mobbed, severely beaten and put into prison.  But then we come to verse 25 and find this: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God…”  They had, in the matter of a few hours, gone through more abuse than most of us will likely deal with in a decade (or longer).  Yet they did not cower, they did not lose their faith.  They “prayed, and sang praises unto God.”  That is a powerful lesson for us.

When we have been beaten around by the world and the devil, how do we react?  This verse gives us a blueprint on how to react if we find ourselves in a similar position.  We need to pray and we need to praise the Lord.

It would seem that being beaten and being imprisoned would not be the time to praise the Lord.  But it is.  Any time is a good time to praise and thank the Lord.  As bad as that beating might have been, and as bad as the jail might have been, Paul and Silas knew that they still had the most important thing in the world: they still had Jesus Christ.  He had not left them, and He had not forsaken them.  And that is a good reason to praise Him!

How do we react when faced with adversity?  The next time we are faced with it, let us respond like Paul and Silas and pray and sing right through the storm!

The Grace of God

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.  Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Acts 15:7-11

These verses are of great importance to us who are not Jewish by birth.  After Peter started preaching to the Gentiles, they started receiving the Word.  They started believing in the Lord Jesus and they started coming to Him for salvation.  This was good, but there were some (especially in the Pharisees’ camp) who wanted these new converts to submit themselves to all of the Jewish law.  After “much disputing,” Peter rose up and said something that echoes through the ages.

He asked the men who wanted to put the new Gentile converts under the law this: “…why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”  In looking at the law, Peter understood that even the best of the fathers and ancestors had not been able to keep it.  He understood that, as good as the disciples were, they had not even been able to keep it.  Why would they want to put that yoke on these new converts?

God had something better.  “…we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”  It is not through the keeping of the law and/or the observation of customs that we are saved.  It is simply through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ!  What a wonderful truth and what a wonderful Saviour!

Nothing Between (Hymn)

Nothing Between
Charles A. Tindley (1905)

Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
Habits of life, though harmless they seem;
Must not my heart from Him ever sever;
He is my all, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between, like pride or station;
Self or friends shall not intervene;
Though it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between, e’en many hard trials,
Though the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self denial,
I’ll triumph at last, there’s nothing between.

It is a wonderful time in the life of a Christian when he or she can sing this song with a pure heart.  “Nothing between my soul and my Savior.”  There are so many things that can come between us.  As the song says, even “Habits of life, though harmless they seem.”  We have to be on constant guard for things that would separate us from fellowship with Him and this song is a good reminder of that and of the sweet fellowship that can take place when there truly is “nothing between.”

Saturday Psalm (1a)

I would like to start something a little different – on Saturdays, instead of a normal post, we will look at a Psalm, or just a few verses of a Psalm.  I hope that it will be a blessing and an encouragement to you.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Psalm 1:1-6

This week, we will look again at the first Psalm and the characteristics of the “blessed man.”  The Bible says here that “he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season…”  The blessed man is going to be like a well-watered and fruitful tree.

Over the last two summers, we have had a bit of a drought in my area of the country.  Many of the trees look dry and withered during the heat of the summer.  Some fruit trees have died or not produced much fruit.  But it is different along the river.  The trees along the river are still lush and green.  They are still producing fruit.  They still have a source of water.

It is the same with the blessed man. The blessed man produces fruit while others are withering under the heat of the world.  The blessed man has a source of blessing that will never dry up and never go away.  The blessed man is just blessed!  Let us be one of those blessed men today and every day!

The Encouragement of a Testimony

And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.  And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.  And there they abode long time with the disciples.

Acts 14:26-28

These verses give us a simple, but encouraging thought.  After Paul and Barnabas had gone around preaching and teaching the gospel, they came to Antioch.  When they got there, they gathered the church together and “rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

It is a good thing to let other Christians know what the Lord has done in you, for you, and through you.  Just a simple thing like sharing your testimony with fellow Christians can have a huge impact both in you life and in the lives of those you are sharing with.  In this passage, the church at Antioch probably didn’t have a lot of information about what Paul and Barnabas had been doing.  They were no doubt encouraged by hearing their testimony.

When someone tells us about good the Lord has been to them, it helps them and it helps us.  It helps them to verbally praise the Lord and thank Him and make known what He has done in their lives.  And it helps us by encouraging us and reminding us that the Lord is good.

When God has been good to you, never be afraid to let others know.  You will benefit from it, and it will be help and encouragement to others.  A simple testimony to the Lord’s goodness is a powerful thing.  We should use it often!

Keep Going!

And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.  Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.  And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch.

Acts 14:19-21

We all get knocked down sometimes.  Sometimes we get knocked down and we don’t feel like getting up.  Life it difficult sometimes.  When it gets difficult, we get worn down.  We know that we should get up and keep going, but that isn’t always easy.  In this passage, Paul gives us a good example and a little inspiration.

Paul was preaching to the people, just doing what he was supposed to be doing.  But some Jews there started to stir up trouble and they ended up stoning him.  They dragged him out of the city and stoned him.  They thought they killed him, but they didn’t.  I’m sure he was a little sore, but he was alive.

What did he do?  He got up, went to the next city, and kept right on preaching.  He just kept going.  I’m sure it would have been easy to give up at that point.  He had been stoned.  It would have been easy for him to just “take a few months off to regroup.”  It would have been easy for him to stop preaching.  But he kept on going.

That is a good example for us.  We will probably never be physically stoned.  But we might get metaphorically knocked down in life.  When we do, we need to remember the example of Paul and get up and keep going!

Fickle People

And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.  And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.

And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.  And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

Acts 14:11-12, 18-19

Proverbs 24:21b tells us to “meddle not with them that are given to change.”  James 1:8 says that “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”  These verses do not say that we should never change anything or never change our mind.  Sometimes, we need to change our mind about things that are not right.  And something there is a better way to do something.  But I do think that there is a warning in these verses, as well as in this story from the life of Paul, about being fickle and dealing with fickle people.

The definition of “fickle” is “changing frequently, especially loyalties.”  Those are people we need to look out for and people we do not want to be.

These men in Acts were ready to worship Paul in verses 11 and 12.  They said that he and Barnabas were “gods.”  They brought in oxen to sacrifice to them.  Paul had to quickly talk them out of that notion!  But just a few verses later, we find some Jews coming in and “persuading the people.”  The people turned on Paul within one verse.  In one verse, they were trying to sacrifice to him, and in the next verse, we find them stoning him, dragging him out of the city and leaving him for dead.

We need to guard against this “I love _______.  Wait, now I hate ______.”  attitude in our lives.  We need to guard against being fickle!

Paul’s Way or Herod’s Way

And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.  And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.  Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates and would have done sacrifice with the people.  Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things?  We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Acts 14:11-15

When Paul and Barnabas starting preaching to these people, they wanted to worship them.  They said “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.”  They even went so far as to call Paul “Mercurius” and Barnabas “Jupiter” after their “gods.”  They brought oxen and garland to the city and were ready to sacrifice to them.  Not too long before this happened, a man named Herod gave a speech.  The people said that his voice was like “the voice of a god.”  Herod and Paul (and Barnabas) were put in the same position and they went two totally different ways.

As we know, Herod accepted that praise, was immediately filled with pride, and was immediately destroyed, being eaten by worms.  Paul, on the other hand, responded by rending his clothes, and telling the people this: “We are also men of like passions with you…”  Paul wanted no worship.  He wanted the people to worship God.

Herod took the worship and the glory from God; Paul directed the worship and glory to God.  They were two different approaches that ended in two very different places.  When we receive praise from men, what do we do with it?  These two examples certainly give us something to think about.

Shake off the Dust

And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.  But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.  but they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.  And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.

Acts 13:49-52

Paul and Barnabas were constantly preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.  Some listened and some did not.  But they continued to preach His Word.  In this area, they preached and the Jews decided to stir up trouble.  They stirred up many people against Paul and Barnabas and eventually had them persecuted and finally expelled from their area.  Being persecuted and kicked out of a place would make most us hesitate to continue preaching.  But it did not stop Paul and Barnabas.  They just kept right on going.

Verse 51 tells us that they “shook off the dust of their feet against them…”  We find the Lord Jesus Himself giving instructions to do just that in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Luke 9:5 says “And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

Sometimes we need to do the same thing.  It’s never pleasant or enjoyable to be rejected when talking about the Lord.  But we have to remember that people are not rejecting us, they are rejecting the Lord.  The Lord sees what is happening.  He knows and He will judge.  We just need to do what we are supposed to do.  It’s not easy to preach the gospel to people who do not want to hear it.  But each time we get knocked down, we need to get up, shake off the dust, and move on.  It worked for Paul and Barnabas and it will work for us.

Standing In the Need of Prayer (Hymn)

Standing in the Need of Prayer
Traditional Folk Spiritual

Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer;
Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer;

Refrain
It’s me, it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer;
It’s me, it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer.

Not the preacher, not the deacon, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer;
Not the preacher, not the deacon, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer.

Refrain

Not my father, not my mother, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer;
Not my father, not my mother, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer.

Refrain

Not the stranger, not my neighbor, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer;
Not the stranger, not my neighbor, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer.

Refrain

While this might not be a “traditional hymn,” it is a good one to have running through your head during the day.  Obviously, our brothers, sisters, preachers, deacons, fathers, mothers, friends and neighbors all do need prayer.  But it is also important for us to remember that we need just as badly, and often, more badly.  It is often easy to see the flaws in the lives of others and ignore our own.  This song reminds us that we need prayer: every single one of us.