Archive for February, 2014

Always About Jesus

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ out Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ

Romans 1:1-6

Paul was always trying to tell others about the Lord, and he used whatever means and methods he had available.  In this example, he was able to tell all about Jesus in the opening of his letter to the Romans.

He told who Jesus was, what He did and how that affected him personally.  He was able to say all of that in an introduction to a letter.  There are a couple of things that we can take from this introduction.

First, we need to always be ready to talk about the Lord Jesus.  Being ready to say something about the Lord Jesus involves wanting to say something about Him and it involves having something to say.  Every Christian should have both of those things.

Second, we need to be mindful of opportunities that arise to speak of the Lord.  Most people wouldn’t think that an introduction to a letter would be a good place to do this.  Paul could have just as easily said “Hello, Romans, this is Paul.”  But he saw the opportunity and used the opportunity to be a witness for the Lord.

We need to learn to recognize these opportunities in our own lives and we need to be prepared to take advantage of them!

Like a Moth to a Flame

And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.  But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.  And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

Acts 28:21-23

After having survived the shipwreck and after securing another ship, the captain finally got all of his passengers to Rome.  This included the apostle Paul, who was waiting for a hearing or trial from Caesar.  The people who were put in charge of him at Rome appointed him a day to stand before Caesar.

During the time between his arrival in Rome and his time in front of Caesar, what do you think Paul did?  He did the same thing he had always done.  He preached and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Except this time there was something a little different.  Usually, Paul had gone to the people to tell them about Jesus.  This time, the people were coming to Paul and asking about Jesus.

“…there came many to him into his lodging…”  They came to him.  And he obliged them, “persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”  Paul’s testimony had gone to Rome before him.  They knew about his “new religion” and wanted to hear about it.

There is a quote often attributed to John Wesley (although I don’t think it has been proven that he actually said it) that says “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.”  Whether Wesley said it or not does not matter.  That is exactly was Paul did.  He sold out for the Lord.  He was on fire for the Lord and people came – like a moth to a flame.

Showing Kindness

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.  And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed…

Acts 28:1-2, 9

After being shipwrecked in the great storm, the passengers and crew of Paul’s ship found themselves cast away on the island of Melita.  On the island, they found a barbarous people.  Normally, I would probably be a little nervous if I was shipwrecked on an island and found it inhabited by barbarians.  But these “barbarous people” we not like that.  They were kind.  In fact Paul says that they “shewed us no little kindness.”  They were very kind.  They were generous and they were helpful to these shipwrecked people.  They “received us every one” after having made a fire to warm them.

These people showed simple kindness to others and were richly repaid for it.  In verse 9, we find Paul returning their kindness: “…others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed…”  Paul healed all of the people who came with diseases.  Being healed of an otherwise incurable disease is a handsome reward for showing simple kindness to strangers and making them a fire.

Think of the great blessing these people would have missed had they not showed this kindness.  If they had treated these shipwreck survivors as enemies or trespassers, they would never have seen these miracles and would never have experienced this healing.

All of these things happened because some “barbarous people” showed kindness to others.  We should be always looking for ways to show kindness to others and we should always be looking for ways to repay kindness done to us.  It is simply a matter of Biblical sowing and reaping!

You Should Have Listened

And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.  But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.  And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.

Acts 27:21-23

Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.  Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.  Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.

Psalm 107:17-19

God is good to us.  In the passage in Acts, Paul warned the captain of the ship not to sail because they would run into serious problems.  The captain did not listen to him and sailed anyway.  They ran into a huge storm and feared for their lives.  Paul then stood up and said “Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me…”  You should have listened to me… but you didn’t and now we’re in a mess.  How many times in our lives has something similar been said to us (or thought about us)?  Probably more than once.  “You should have listened to me and now you have problems because you didn’t.”

But after reminding them that they should have listened, Paul comforted them and told them that none of their lives would be lost.  That reminded me of Psalm 107.  Fools do foolish things and have problems because of their foolishness.  They didn’t listen and their problems are their own fault.  But – “then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.”  God still has mercy on us even though we often don’t listen the first time He speaks to us.  God is good!

Be of Good Cheer

And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.  But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 

And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.  For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.  Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

Acts 27:13-14, 22-25

When they encountered this tempestuous wind, the passengers (and crew) of this ship were probably nervous.  Going through storms is never easy.  Often, during the storm, people wonder if they are even going to make it through the storm.  But Paul stood up and gave some words of encouragement.  “… be of good cheer…” and “Fear not.”

Hearing words like those in the midst of the storm is helpful and comforting.  But they are only helpful and comforting if they are coming from a reliable source.  Paul had the most reliable source possible: God Himself.  The angel of God told Paul that, while the ship would be lost, there would no lives lost in the storm.  When God says that you are going to make it through the storm, then you are going to make it through the storm.

In the last verse, Paul says something that we should also say when we find ourselves in a storm of life: “…sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”  When we are in a storm, we simply need to look to the Lord and remember that He has promised to bring us through it!

The Old Ship of Zion (Hymn)

The Old Ship of Zion
M. J. Cartwright (1889)

I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea,
And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be,
When away at my side, there I dimly descried,
A stately old vessel, and loudly I cried:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!”
And loudly I cried: “Ship ahoy!”

‘Twas the “old ship of Zion,” thus sailing along,
All aboard her seemed joyous, I heard their sweet song;
And the Captain’s kind ear, ever ready to hear,
Caught my wail of distress, as I cried out in fear:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!”
As I cried out in fear: “Ship ahoy!”

The good Captain commanded a boat to be lowered,
And with tender compassion He took me on board;
And I’m happy today, all my sins washed away
In the blood of my Savior, and now I can say:
“Bless the Lord! Bless the Lord!”
From my soul I can say: “Bless the Lord!”

O soul, sinking down ‘neath sin’s merciless wave,
The strong arm of our Captain is mighty to save;
Then trust Him today, no longer delay,
Board the old ship of Zion, and shout on your way:
“Jesus save! Jesus saves!”
Shout and sing on your way: “Jesus saves!”

I have always loved ships and, therefore, I enjoy the imagery found in this old hymn.  We all find ourselves in that position – shipwrecked, alone and helpless.  We are all drifting aimlessly through life without the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the captain of the ship.  He has compassion on us.  He takes pity on us.  He saves us.  He is a wonderful Captain and a wonderful Savior!

Saturday Psalm (1d)

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

As I read this Psalm and think about the blessed man and how to be a little more like him, I can’t help but notice something.  The blessed man is established and fruitful.  He  prospers.  He is like a tree planted by the rivers of water.  His fruit lasts even beyond his years.  But the contrast of the ungodly man is a stark one.  The ungodly is compared to chaff that blows away in the wind.

The thing that strikes me about this ungodly man is the complete waste of his life.  He is chaff that the wind blows away.  There is nothing about him that remains.  He is born.  He goes through life.  And then he dies.  And none of it matters.  Nothing he does lasts.  Everything in his entire life is gone in an instant.

There was an old commercial that used to say “the mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  While that is true, an even greater truth is that a life is a terrible thing to waste.  But this is exactly the plight of the ungodly man.

The only way to make your life count is to live it for the Lord.  How are we doing?

The Storms of Life

Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.  And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.  And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.  But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.

Acts 27:11-14

If this passage teaches us anything, it is that the storms of life will come.  Here, the master of the ship had done everything he could have humanly done to ensure a safe a profitable voyage (except listen to Paul, but that is another story).  I’m sure the ship was solid and ready and I’m sure men sailing it were capable men.  And, “when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed…”  The current weather conditions and forecast looked good.  There was no storm on the radar and they had a nice, soft south wind blowing them in the direction they wanted to go.  Everything was going smoothly.

But then a “tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon” came up and the storm began.

That sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it.  Just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, some problem or trial arises.  Just when it seems like you are going to have smooth sailing, a storm comes up and shatters the tranquility.

There are always going to be storms.  No sailor ever lived his life without ever going through a storm.  Storms will come.  The question is this: what are we going to do in the storm?  Who are we going to trust?  It helps to know the “Master of the winds.”  It helps to know the One Who tells the storms what to do.  We can rest safely in that knowledge, no matter what storm we may be going through!

Listen to the Man

And when we had sailed many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Slamone;  And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.  Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.  Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.

Acts 27:7-11

In this passage, we find Paul getting ready to sail to Rome.  Paul told the captain of the ship that sailing the ship was going to be a disaster.  He (correctly) predicted that the there would be “much damage…”  The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not God specifically told him this or not; it simply says “I perceive…”  But, for the man of God, there is often something more to this “perception.”

As we see in the rest of the story, Paul turned out to be right.  But the captain of the ship didn’t listen to him.  He listened instead to the owner of the ship.  To our natural minds, that decision makes sense.  Most captains would likely listen to the owner of the ship before they would listen to a passenger who also happened to be a prisoner.  But we are not dealing with natural things here.  Paul knew God.  Paul may not have been the owner of the ship, but he knew the owner of the sea.  He knew the owner of the winds and waves.  He had some insight that the owner of the ship did not have.

God has put His men in our lives to help us and to give us wisdom.  We need to make sure that we are listening to them and paying attention to what they say.  It might help us to avoid a shipwreck in our own lives!


But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.  For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this things was not done in a corner.  King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?  I know that thou believest.  Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Acts 26:25-28

To me, this is one of the saddest passages in all of the Bible.  Paul had just finished giving his testimony before King Agrippa.  He had recounted all that God had done for him, to him, and through him.  He spoke of the prophets and he spoke of the Saviour.  Then, he asked the king a question: “believest thou the prophets?”  Paul could see that he wanted to believe.  He said “I know that thou believest.”  Paul wanted the king to believe and hoped that he would believe.

Then King Agrippa said this, which has been echoed many times through history: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”  Almost.  “Almost” has to be one of the saddest words in the English language.  King Agrippa almost became a Christian.  Many, many people through the years have, like him, almost become Christians.  So many people have come right to brink of accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, only to pull back and continue on in their own way – the way that leads to destruction.

We should take this sad account and use it to inspire us to pray for those who are at this crossroad today.  We need to pray that these “almost” Christians would become true Christians.  Don’t let your friends and loved ones be “almost Christians.”  Work and pray for them.