Archive for February, 2014

The Help of God

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.  For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.  Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things that those which the prophets and Moses did say should come…

Acts 26:19-22

Throughout the book of Acts, we find the apostle Paul giving his testimony many times.  Here we find him describing his ministry of witnessing about the Word of God to “both small and great.”  He also gives the reasons that Jews tried to kill him.

The Jews caught him in the temple, and “went about to kill him.”  That would scare most people away.  That would make most people question what they were doing.  But not Paul.  Paul says something in verse 22 that shows the difference between him and the average man: “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue to this day…”  Paul had the help of God.

Nothing else can explain why or how Paul kept going after all he had been through.  Only by the help of God could a man do what he did.  He realized this and understood this.  And that realization and understanding no doubt helped him continue on with what he had been given to do.

We serve the same God as Paul.  We can obtain the help of God, just as Paul did.  There is no reason for us to be defeated.  There is no reason for us to give up.  Paul received the help of God and we can too!

A Good Conscience

But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.  And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

Acts 24:14-16

In this passage, the apostle Paul makes a powerful statement.  He says that he exercises himself “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.”  That is something that we all can and should be trying to do.  We can exercise ourselves to have a good conscience.

How do we get and keep a good conscience?  Paul said in verse 14 that he was “believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.”  Paul believed the Bible.  That might just be the first step to having a good conscience.  When we believe the Bible, we believe what God says about Himself.  We believe what God says about us.  We believe what God says about sin and judgment.  We believe what God says about mercy, grace and forgiveness.  We believe what God says about everything.  That is going to help us to live our lives like we are supposed to live them.  And that is going to help us to have a good conscience.  Doing right is really the key to a good conscience.

We do right to God by obeying Him, loving Him, worshipping Him, talking to Him and telling others about Him.  We do right to men by being honest with them, treating them fairly and loving them as we have been commanded to do.

Whether it be toward God or toward man, we can (and should) have a good conscience.  We need to work on it every day!

The Old Gospel Ship (Hymn)

The Old Gospel Ship
Alphus LeFevre

I’m gonna take a trip
In the good old gospel ship,
Christ the Lord has paid my fare;
I’ll hear the trumpet sound
And I’ll leave this sinful ground,
I’ll go sailing through the air.

Refrain
O, I’m gonna take a trip
On the good old gospel ship,
I’ll go sailing home on high;
O, I’m gonna shout and sing,
Hear the heavenly music ring,
When I bid this world good bye.

I know I won’t be late
For I labor, watch and wait,
Lift my voice to God in prayer;
He’ll hear my feeble plea
And will bid me come and see,
I’ll go sailing through the air.

Refrain

I’ll tell and sing the news,
Bidding men no more refuse
To be made with Christ an heir,
I know He’s coming soon,
It may be at night or noon,
I’ll go sailing through the air.

Refrain

My loved ones gone before
Now await me on that shore,
Soon I’ll join them over there;
For when my ship comes in
Then my voyage will begin,
I’ll go sailing through the air.

Refrain

I have good news to bring
And that is why I sing,
All my joys with you I’ll share.
I’m gonna take a trip
On that old gospel ship
And go sailing through the air.

Refrain

I’m gonna take a trip
On that old gospel ship;
I’m going far beyond the sky.
I’m gonna shout and sing,
Until the bells do ring,
When I’m sailing through the sky.

Refrain

I can hardly wait,
I know I won’t be late.
I’ll spend all my time in prayer
And when my ship comes in,
I’ll leave this world of sin
And go sailing through the air.

This is a great song about what the Christian is looking forward to.  The Christian has Heaven to look forward to.  The gospel is a wonderful thing – it is God’s salvation to mankind.  Are you preparing to take that trip?

Saturday Psalm (1b)

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

We have been looking at this Psalm and at the characteristics of the blessed man.  We have seen what he does and does not do.  We have seen him being compared to a tree planted by the rivers of water.  He is strong, fruitful and blessed.  The last thing that this passage says about him is that “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”  That is an amazing statement.  Whatever this man does is going to prosper.

Have you known people who seem to succeed at whatever they do?  Have you know anyone who just seems to have the “golden touch?”  Chances are, you might be seeing a “blessed man.”

If we want to be successful at whatever it is that we are doing, we need to have the blessing of the Lord.  We need to do the things that the Lord blesses.  We need to stay in His Word and love His Word.  We need to stay away from sin and wickedness.  If we will do what God tells us to do, we too can be like this blessed man and find ourselves prospering in whatever we are doing.

Personal Testimony

Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.  (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)  I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilica, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.  And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 

Acts 22:1-4

In this passage, Paul is talking to a group of Jews.  He is preaching Christ to them, but he starts with a bit of personal introduction and personal testimony, which is a powerful tool in getting the gospel to people.

Can you imagine a complete stranger coming up to you and telling you that everything you know and believe is wrong?  That would be a tough pill to swallow.  But that is the way most witnessing seems to get done.  While there is nothing wrong with finding a stranger and jumping right in with gospel, we would be wise to emulate the apostle Paul in this regard: he introduced himself and used his personal testimony to tell these people about Christ.

Sometimes we don’t witness to others because we are unsure of what to say.  We don’t know if we can explain all of the deeper doctrines of the Bible and we don’t know if we will be able to answer all of the potential questions that might be asked.  But we can start with our name.  We might include where we are from or where we work.  That is an introduction.  We can all do that.  From there, like Paul, all we need to do is give our personal testimony.  We can, again like Paul, tell what we were before we were saved, how we got saved, and what we are now.  That’s not too complex.

Sometimes we make getting the gospel to others more complicated than it really is.  Sometimes all we need to do is share our testimony!

Watch Out

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.  For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.  Therefore watch, and remember…

Acts 20:27-31a

In this passage, Paul gives a warning to the early Christians.  He knew that, after his departure, “grievous wolves” would enter in among them and would try to destroy as many people as they could.  They would also need to be aware of people in their own midst who would try to lead people away after themselves.

It is now nearly two thousand years after Paul wrote this and it is still as true today as it was then.  As Christians, we need to always be vigilant.  We need to pay attention to what is going on around us.  We need to make sure that we are following the Lord and the Bible, and not following some smooth talking person.

We need to watch out for those people, attitudes, and spirits that would destroy the flock of the Lord.  We need to carefully guard against all attacks on the things that the Lord has given us.  We cannot allow the world, the flesh or the Devil to sneak in and endanger the work of the Lord.

There are many things to watch for and many things to guard against.  In fact, as we get closer and closer to the coming of the Lord, there will be more and more things.  Paul told these people to “watch, and remember.”  We would be wise to do the same.

None of These Things Move Me

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Acts 20:24

To me, this is one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible.  It is Paul’s “here I stand” statement.  He is preparing to go to Jerusalem and he doesn’t know what is going to happen to him.  He does know that, wherever he does go, “bonds and afflictions abide me.”  Paul has been through just about everything a person can humanly go through.  He has been beaten, stoned, arrested, imprisoned, and just about everything else.

“But none of these things move me.”

Nothing that Paul had been through was enough to move him from doing the ministry that he had been given: to testify the gospel of the grace of God.  He just kept going through all of the trials and tribulations.  He preached Jesus Christ before he was persecuted, while he was being persecuted, and after he was persecuted.  None of those things moved him.

Imagine the difference that we could make in our world today if even a few Christians would up and take Paul’s attitude.  Think of the difference that could be made by a few people standing up and saying “I know it’s not going to be easy.  I know that I am going to face opposition.  The Devil doesn’t want me doing this.  The world doesn’t want me doing this.  Even our own flesh doesn’t want me doing this.  But, by God’s grace and for His glory, none of these things will move me.”

Paul lived out this powerful statement.  How are we doing?

Apollos

And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.  This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord…

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

Acts 18:24-25a, 28

We don’t know a lot from the Scriptures about this man named Apollos.  But the things that we do know are good things.  God chose to put these things about this man in His Holy Word, so we will look at them and hopefully receive some wisdom, instruction and inspiration from them.

Apollos had several things about him that were mentioned.  First, he was “an eloquent men.”  God had given him a talent for speaking and he used it wisely.  There have been many talented orators throughout history.  Some have used their talent for the Lord and for good – such as this Apollos or George Whitfield.  Others have used their talent for indescribable evil – such as Adolf Hitler or Jim Jones.  Being a talented speaker is a wonderful thing, if used in the service of the Lord.

The second thing mentioned is that he was “mighty in the scriptures.”  That is something that should be said of every Christian, but sadly, it cannot be.  We should all be “mighty in the scriptures.”

He was also “fervent in the spirit.”  He had the right spirit and was fervent in it.  The dictionary defines “fervent” as “having or displaying a passionate intensity.”  That sounds like what our attitude toward the things of the Lord should be.

He also “taught diligently the things of the Lord.”  Whether we realize it or not, we are always teaching someone.  What are we teaching people today?

And, last but not least, he spent his time “shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”  That is what we should be doing with our time.

While we don’t know much about this Apollos, he does seem to be someone for us to emulate!

Opposing Themselves

And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and Greeks.  And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.  And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

Acts 18:4-6

One statement from this passage jumps out at me every time I read it: “…when they opposed themselves…”

Doesn’t that sound like just about every person that we know?  Doesn’t that sound just like us sometimes?  Opposing ourselves.

It has been said many times that “we are our own worst enemy” and I think that there is a lot of truth to that statement.  We like to look around and blame everyone else for our problems.  We even like to find things and circumstances to blame for our problems.  But the cold, hard truth is that we usually have no one but ourselves to blame for whatever problems we might have.  We truly are our own worst enemies.

These people had just heard the gospel from the mouths of Paul and Silas and had rejected it.  Paul told them that they were just opposing themselves and that he was going to the Gentiles, who would listen to him.

How do we keep from opposing ourselves and how do we help others keep from opposing themselves?  We simply follow the Lord Jesus instead of following ourselves.  We simply encourage others to follow Jesus instead of following themselves.

We are always going to do wrong.  We are always going to oppose ourselves.  Jesus is never going to do wrong. Jesus is never going to lead us in the wrong way.  If we follow Him, we won’t have to worry about opposing ourselves!

The Old Fashioned Way (Hymn)

The Old Fashioned Way
Civilla D. Martin (1914)

They call me old-fashioned because I believe
That the Bible is God’s holy Word,
That Jesus, who lived among men long ago,
Is divine, and the Christ of God.

Refrain
My sin was old-fashioned,
My guilt was old-fashioned,
God’s love was old-fashioned, I know;
And the way I was saved was the old-fashioned way,
Through the blood that makes whiter than snow.

Old-fashioned, because I believe and accept
Only what has been spoken from Heaven;
Old-fashioned because at the cross I was saved,
At the cross had my sins forgiven.

Refrain

Old-fashioned, because I am bound to do right,
To walk in the straight narrow way;
Because I have given my whole life to God,
Old-fashioned because I pray.

Refrain

Old-fashioned, because I am looking above
To Jesus, my glorified Lord;
Because I believe He is coming again,
Fulfilling His holy Word.

Refrain

When I came across this song, I was surprised to see that it was written in 1914.  I always assumed that it was a modern song written about an “old fashioned” religion.  But it was old-fashioned even 100 years ago.  Christians have been reading the same Bible and have been worshiping the same Jesus for nearly two thousand years.