Be on Guard!

Mark 13

Thursday, August 4, 2022

   In comparison to the previous several chapters, Mark chapter 13 takes a rapid shift into a different topic. Recently Jesus has been responding to the trickery of the Sadducees and corrupt chiefs and priests, but as he and the disciples leave Jerusalem, he begins to speak on the nature of the end of times. Other than the fact that several of the disciples specifically questioned Jesus on the matter privately, I am assuming that this is sparking the point at which Jesus is coming to some sort of terms with what is about to happen. He has been warning the disciples of his death in somewhat cryptic manners, but I would imagine that seeing the state of the city and the leaders who were about to crucify him only made him feel worse.

               Now of course, as is always the case, it is important to be able to read the Bible with discernment between literal and poetic/prophetic verse. Interpret with great caution for yourself what makes the most sense in the context of what is being said, so that we don’t confuse literal for metaphor or vice versa. For this reason, I will go through some of what Jesus is about to say and without completely putting a definitive interpretation to it, as much as I can (as is so difficult to do with revelational scripture), I will provide objective fruit for thought that is applicable regardless of your interpretation.

               Alright, Jesus begins answering four of the disciples’ questions on what will happen at the end of days, when the stones and buildings will be thrown down. Jesus starts explaining the things that will happen, presumably in order although that is not clarified here, in detail. He first says, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” Mark 13:5-6. Already he explains that false prophets will come claiming to be the Messiah, and that we are not to believe them. This is the main delineating difference between Christians and the Jewish beliefs; they still await a Messiah. This first point is fairly simple; we must be careful that we do not accept or invite another Messiah, for the one and only has already come. Let’s continue.

               “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” Mark 13:7-8. Is this not incredibly applicable with what’s going on in the world right now? The news, 24/7, is pumping us with the prospect of potential growing war as the war in Europe is expanding and tensions between America and China heighten day after day. Increased frequency of earthquakes and constant food shortages around the world as farmers are told to stop planting their farms… But remember, “Do not be alarmed.” Have we not already won the war? Our battle is not in the flesh but for the salvation of our souls. The world will always be a bad place, as it is destined to be, but we aren’t put here to worry and cower in fear.

               The passage continues with, “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:9-10. This is a tale as old as time, but ever more important to be prepared for as rights and freedoms around the world are being slowly and quietly removed or revoked in the heat of terror. Not only that, but believers will be brought forward within the church to be punished for the truth. We’ll be thrown in jail and persecuted for his sake. But again, we are told not to worry. What better cause is there to not worry about ridicule than the unquestionable word of God and truth? We have won the war with God on our side, have no fear in the face of adversity.

               But what should we do in light of these things? Sure, we can say that we should have no fear, but it’s much easier said than done when facing the edge of tyranny’s sword against faith that is coming. Let’s continue reading to find out. “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:35-37. Be prepared! Fortify your heart and soul with the truth of the word and watch for the second coming of Christ! Don’t wait until tomorrow to finally start that Bible reading plan, or tell your family you love them, or volunteer to work at that homeless shelter. We know not when Jesus is coming back, so we must be prepared at all times for when he does.

               Remember, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:13. Our battle is already won, in the face of all worldly adversity, so be prepared for his coming.

-Mason Kiel

Application Questions

  1. How many times in Mark 13 does Jesus warn to watch, watch out or be on guard (or whatever terms your translation uses)?
  2. Why is this important to Jesus? Is it important to you?
  3. What will it look like for you to be diligently watching for the owner of the house to return?
  4. Do you sometimes find yourself worried about the condition of the world or the end times events? What would Jesus say? What can we do to overcome these fears?

Do Not Be Silent

Acts 18 

May 6

Paul leaves Athens and arrives in Corinth at the start of Acts 18. Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila and works with them as tentmakers in Corinth. Paul visits the synagogue and tries to appeal to the Jews and Greeks. He was reviled in the synagogue and then shakes out his garments and declares that he will only speak to the Gentiles. Even with the ruler of the synagogue being converted he still faces danger in the city. 

Paul had been chased from the towns of Thessalonica, Derea, and Iconium. I am sure Paul must have been wondering if this was his time to get chased from this city as well. The anxiety of knowing that in every new city he came to there was a chance of being thrown out of it and physical harm coming to him would have been a lot to bear. 

God comes to Paul in a vision. God giving Paul this vision is an act of grace towards Paul. God is trying to comfort Paul and give him direction. God starts out with the simple statement of “Do not be afraid”. This feels a lot like Joshua 1.9. God gives Paul two more commands; Go on speaking and do not be silent. Paul has probably realized that most of his trouble befalls him when he speaks and he is not silent. The same thing is true of me except it normally isn’t because I’m preaching the gospel. God gives three commands and the unique thing about this vision is God also gives Paul three reasons why he should do those things. 

We have plenty of commands of God and God very often gives us the reasons why we should follow his command. Sometimes we aren’t willing to look hard enough for the reasons but there are almost always reasons. Sometimes we won’t find out the reasons until later or maybe we find out the reasons why in the kingdom. There is an element of faith in following Christ. 

God’s reasons for why Paul should obey his commands are that God is with him. God being with you may result in a kind of fearlessness. God’s next reason why is that no one will attack Paul to harm him. This statement must have relieved a lot of anxiety from Paul. God’s third reason why is that God has many in this city. 

God makes good on his promises to Paul. In verses 12-17 Paul is brought before the proconsul of Achaia, the ruler of that region, by the Jewish rulers and the new ruler of the synagogue. He is accused of persuading people to worship God contrary to the law. Just as Paul was about to speak the proconsul says that because it is a quarrel about words and there is no wrongdoing that he refuses to rule on this. The proconsul drives all of Paul’s accusers away. The mob that had formed ends up beating the new ruler of the synagogue, one of Paul’s enemies, in front of the proconsul. 

When we follow God’s lead and direction it will put us into positions where we get to see God work in situations. This situation for Paul worked out well for him. He didn’t even need to do anything to get out of the situation. He relied on God and God worked it out. The proconsul responded in his favor before Paul spoke. God was clearly at work in this situation because after that his enemy, the ruler of the synagogue, ended up being killed by the mob. His enemy was killed by the people who had originally intended to kill him. 

When we join God in what He is doing we will see this provision for us as well. There will be suffering and some pain but there will also be moments where we get to see God do God things and experience Him through those events. That’s part of what makes Christianity so exciting, fulfilling and awesome. 

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of a time you didn’t speak up for God, perhaps because of fear or discomfort? What promises of God might you have missed out on with that failed opportunity?
  2. When have you had the pleasure of “see(ing) God do God things and experience(ing) Him through those events”
  3. What can we learn from Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila later in this chapter?

Jesus Has A Job for You

Matthew 10

January 10

One result of the covid pandemic that we find ourselves struggling with is the shortage of workers. Packages may take longer to be delivered, restaurants are slower and have shorter open hours (if they aren’t closed up altogether), hospitals and emergency crews are operating on a skeleton workforce. It makes life – and saving lives – hard. There is another life-giving job that also seems to have run into a worker shortage, beginning at least two thousand years ago.

In the final two verses of Matthew chapter 9, Jesus tells his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38 – NIV) Immediately after this statement, we have the whole passage of Matthew chapter 10 in which Jesus is giving final instructions before sending 12 new recruits out into that harvest field. He’s preparing his disciples for what they will face in this new job. And, it’s a tough picture he paints.

First of all, let’s look at the job description given by Jesus. Their mission is to go to the lost sheep of Israel, preaching that the kingdom of heaven is near (which should be sounding familiar now as we have already heard this from both John the Baptist and Jesus). And, when they aren’t preaching they will, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:8) Simple enough – just doing a little raising of the dead in their spare time in between sermons. We may be starting to see why there’s a worker shortage. Much is expected and it is far from an easy job.

Before you start any job – easy or hard – it is important to know what the employer will provide to help you do the job well. Does the position come with a company car? What does the training look like? Did you catch the opening line in Matthew 10:1? “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” They were going to be well-outfitted to do this difficult job. These men weren’t acting on their own power alone. They had participated in an amazing on-the-job training program and they were stepping out armed with the authority of Jesus. They had been changed from their time with Jesus and now they were empowered to go and do likewise – to tell others about the coming kingdom and change lives. As Jesus said so well, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

A good employer will warn his new hires of the difficulties they will face on the job. Jesus certainly did. Isn’t it better to know what to expect, even if it’s not what you wanted. He warns his disciples of rejection, trouble with the local authorities, being beat up and arrested, deep family division and rebellion, hatred, persecution, and the sword. This is what it may look like to carry your cross on the narrow road. Preaching Jesus and the kingdom saves lives, occasionally at the cost of the preacher’s life. It’s a job hazard. That helps further explain the worker shortage. Even when the difficulties are not to the point of physical pain and death, being hated is hard.

But what about the benefits of the job? Surely it has some good ones to make anyone willing to take this job. Yes, let me tell you about the benefits! How about life, eternal life, salvation. Picture standing before God with Jesus at His Father’s side and Jesus introduces you as one of his faithful workers. The pain will all be worth it.

On the flip side, imagine the one who gave up on the job (or never started), the one who decided it was too hard, the job demanded too much, the one who turned his back on Jesus’ job and went the other way on the wide road, through the wide gate. Whoever disowns Jesus before men, will be disowned by Jesus in front of the Father. (Matthew 10:33)

There is a job to do. And, the worker shortage continues. Will you work for him? Will you tell others what he has done for you? Will you step up and be one of the faithful, regardless of the difficulties? In the end, it will be worth it.

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection & Discussion

  1. If you have served as a worker for Jesus in the harvest field (carrying your cross and following him), what was the hardest situation you have been in? What did you learn from the experience? What do you think Jesus would say to you after this experience?
  2. Create a poster, advertisement or commercial for more workers in the harvest field. Don’t forget to include the great benefits and job training.
  3. What job can you do for Jesus today? How will you “preach”? How will you change lives? How will you take up his cross and follow him? What might you run into? What might it cost you? How have you been prepared and equipped? Pray before taking on today’s job for him.
  4. At the time of Matthew 10 the disciples were just to go to the lost sheep of Israel, not to the Samaritans or Gentiles. Why do you think these were the original directions? Did it change? If so when and how and why? (Hint: Matthew 28:16-20)

Wrath and Reward

Revelation 16

If you’ve ever needed an incentive to remain obedient to God, read about the 7 bowls of God’s wrath as recorded in Revelation 16 – if a stick motivates you.

Bowl 1.  Revelation 16:2, “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

This is a good reason not to worship the beast, better known as the antichrist.  But it gets better…

Bowl 2. The sea turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

Bowl 3. The rivers and springs of water turned to blood.

Bowl 4. People were seared by the intense heat of the sun, which grew very hot.

Bowl 5. Darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in agony.

Bowl 6. Demons gathered the kings of the earth for the war of Armageddon.

Bowl 7.  An earthquake more devastating than any since man has been on the earth.  Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.  From the sky, huge hailstones of about 100 pounds each fell upon men.

This should give us the incentive to remain faithful to God in the midst of persecution from the antichrist.  But we can’t endure alone, we will need God’s help.  This brings us to a promise in Zechariah 4:6, also in today’s reading, which says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”

We need to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God.  And when tough times come, He will give us the strength to endure, with the power of His Holy Spirit.

Personally, I’m more of a carrot kind of guy.  So I look more at the promises of Revelation 21:4, which says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

So whether you’re motivated by a carrot or by a stick, the important thing is to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God today.  Once the tough times come, it will be really hard to start serving Him then.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 3-4 and Revelation 16

Hero of our Faith

Acts 7-8

            Stephen is a great hero of our faith who does not get a lot of limelight, as he is only covered at the end of chapter six and chapter seven.  He is an honorable man we can all learn a lot from, as he was willing to lay it all on the line.

            At the end of chapter six, Stephen was seized for preaching about Jesus of Nazareth.  Some false witnesses ensured that he would get into trouble with the high priest and other Jewish officials.  The high priest had Stephen speak for himself, and that is the majority of the content in chapter seven.  In the first 50 verses of Acts chapter seven, Stephen provides a pretty nice summary from Abraham to King David.  At the conclusion of this summary, he begins to rip into the Jews for being a “stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears,” (Acts 7:51).

            The Jews did not take too kindly to the words of Stephen, so they decided to stone Stephen.  I can’t even imagine the level of pain Stephen would have been going through, as he was being stoned to death.  If it were me, I would have been so riled up in anger, and I would have wanted to retaliate.  However, that is not the course of action that Stephen took.  Just moments before Stephen’s death, he fell “to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’  And when he had said this, he fell asleep,’” (Acts 7:60).  What a way to go out!

            Stephen followed the example set by his Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, as Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of the people who crucified him.  There is so much to be learned in this short recording of the life of Stephen, a lesson of strength and grace.

            At the same time that Stephen’s life comes to an end, we are introduced to the man who wrote nearly half of the books of the New Testament.  It is an introduction that is only made for the movies (and, well, the Bible).  This man proved to be a foundational piece in the spreading of the gospel message.  He would go by the name of Saul.

            Saul is introduced in the scriptures as approving the execution of Stephen, a hero of our Christian faith.  Not only did Saul approve the execution of one man, but he “ravaged” the church.  Saul went from house to house finding people who claimed to believe in Jesus.  Once he found these people, he would send them to prison.  Surely, this led to many of them having to die for their faith.

            What an awful start to one’s life!  Thank the LORD that Saul did not follow this course of action for much longer, as we will see in the coming chapters.  We can learn from Saul that God is willing, able, and wanting to use anybody, no matter what someone has committed in their past. 

Let this serve as an encouragement to you, as you may struggle with some choices you have made in your past.  Don’t let decisions you made in your past prevent you from being an instrument of God’s work, as God was even willing, wanting, and able to use the likes of Saul, a man who persecuted many Christians.  Praise God that we serve a forgiving God.

There’s a lot to learn here, as we take a look at the life of Stephen and the introduction of Saul.  It’s my prayer that we all learn to have the strength and grace of Stephen, and we don’t let our past stop us from serving God like Saul.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 7-8

Tomorrow we continue the story of Saul with chapters 9-10. Don’t miss it!

Share Jesus – at all costs

Acts 4-6

            Earlier this year, in June, I experienced a first.  Let me walk you through the moment.  I was preaching at the North Hills Church of God in Springfield, Ohio, as I do every Sunday.  At this point in time, our church chose to worship outside because there were a lot of unknowns of the Coronavirus.  There were very strict rules in place to help prohibit the spread of the virus.  During my message, a police officer slowly pulled through our long driveway and checked what was taking place.  For a split second, I thought that I was maybe going to get in trouble for hosting a large group gathering.  I thought I could get in trouble for preaching to a group of people.  It was the first time in my life that I ever wondered whether or not I would get in trouble with preaching God’s Word.

            To say that we have it pretty easy in the United States is quite the understatement.  I praise God that we have the freedom to share God’s Word with others without even having the fear of being persecuted.  I have spent all of maybe 5 seconds in my life thinking that I could get in trouble/persecuted for sharing God’s word.  If I had to guess, I would say that most people reading this would have a similar experience to myself.  There are people today who do not have this luxury, and this was especially true in the book of Acts

            In Acts chapter 4, our heroes, Peter and John, were sharing God’s Word with others.  When they did this, they were arrested and presented before the Jewish council.  The council questioned Peter and John, and the council commanded them to no longer share the good news about Jesus and remain silent.

            I absolutely love Peter and John’s reply to this command to remain silent: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:19,20).  Burn baby to you, council!  Peter and John made it obvious to the council, that they must listen to the voice of God over the voice of men.  They had to preach the good news of Jesus, for that is what God wanted them to do, not the council.  Peter and John did not care what the consequences would be for preaching about Jesus.

            Peter and John were eventually released after receiving more threats from the council.  Word got out of what had taken place to Peter and John.  The Christ followers responded by praying to God for boldness.  The early Christ followers did not succumb to the external pressures of the world.  Rather, they prayed to God and came together as one to share this radical message of the Messiah.

            These Jesus followers gave their all to further spread this message.  They were even willing to contribute all of their possessions to spread the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah, and that is literally what they did.  They pooled all of their possessions together for the good of the gospel message (outside of a few greedy people *cough* Ananias and Sapphira *cough*).

            My oh my!  Imagine what good we could accomplish today if we had the same mindset of the Jesus followers in Acts.  These people had no cares in the world what would happen to them for sharing the gospel message, even though the threat was very real and evident.  All they did was pray for more boldness, and it didn’t stop with just their voices either.  They were willing to give all of their possessions to help spread this gospel message.

            What great examples these early Jesus followers provide for us today.  In comparison, today, we seem to be a whole lot more reserved in our approach to spread this gospel message.  Maybe we should take a note from the early church and take some more extreme measures in our life to spread the gospel message.  If we do, God can work so many wonderful wonders in and through us. 

            Be bold and give it all to God!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 4-6

Tomorrow we continue the exciting, inspiring historical account of the early church with Acts 7-8. Come read along!

The Dark Side – and God’s Side

2 Timothy 3

 

2Tim3 1617 (1)

The first half of this chapter paints a rather bleak picture of thriving human sinfulness.  “Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.  … who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth“  (2 Timothy 3:2-5, 6b-7).  That’s a pretty good list of nastiness.  And it hits so many types of people: the materialistic, the teen rebel, the violent criminal, the power-hungry politician, the educated professor who denies God.

 

And sometimes, it hits me, too.  I can be proud – especially when I think I am right, but “they” are wrong.  I can be ungrateful – to God and to those who have given of their time and talents for me.  Sometimes love does not shine through me.  I don’t always exercise self-control and bite my tongue when I ought.  Too often I have chosen loving pleasure over loving God – watching one more episode and then suddenly “too tired” to read His Word.

 

It is so easy to point the finger at evil and the dark side around us.  And, definitely DO be aware of its prevalent influence in the world so you don’t unknowingly get sucked up in it yourself.  But carefully watch yourself as well.  Where do you need to work so you reflect more God and less world?

 

In the second half of this chapter Paul flips to writing on the light/Godly side of things.  He speaks of his own life – his purpose, teaching, faith, and love as well as persecutions and suffering (3:10,11).   This bed of roses indeed comes with many thorns.  He writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (3:12).  Because of the wickedness and deception in the world (see verses 1-9), Christians must expect and be prepared for many trials when they are actually acting like and following Christ.

 

But, don’t give up says Paul!  “Continue in what you have learned and what you have become convinced of…the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation”.  Who couldn’t use more wisdom for salvation??  Sign me up!  I am ready for more wisdom that leads to salvation.  I saw in the first half of this chapter my own darker side.  I am in need of more and more wisdom for salvation.  And, that is found in God’s Holy Scriptures.

 

But, that’s not all!   There’s more good found in God’s Word.   For, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (3:16).  Here is the key to standing against the evil in the world and in myself – God’s Word!  He breathed it for me.  He breathed it for you.  And it is useful, over and over again, every time it is opened.  It gives wisdom for salvation, it teaches, it rebukes (which I do indeed need from time to time), it corrects, and it trains me to be righteous (which I always need).

 

But, there is still more!  With God’s Word we can be, “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (3:17).  Do you long to do good works for Him – open His Word.  Are you discouraged by the evil of the world – open His Word.   Are you ready to be wise for salvation – open His Word.  Breath in what God breathed out for you.

 

Marcia Railton

Power. Love. Self-Discipline.

2 Timothy 1

2 timothy 1 7

 

Here we are – seven days away from the start of FUEL, the week-long youth event where this daily devotions blog began 3 years ago when the week’s theme was GROW.  On their website, Turning Point Youth Ministries says of FUEL, “We make every effort to create an environment that challenges, encourages and equips students to pursue intimacy with God, connect with others, and ask hard spiritual questions.  We have a lot of fun and work hard to help students see what loving God and others is all about.”

 

I think Paul had a similar mission as he was writing this letter (which would become 2 Timothy) to his dear friend and son in Christ.  Paul was now in prison (not just house arrest) for preaching the name of Jesus.  Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and it was a very difficult time to be a Christian.  Consequently, some were falling away from the faith, some were fleeing persecution and many were deserting Paul (1:15).  From his prison cell he was writing to challenge, encourage and equip his younger spiritual son in the faith who would be carrying on the work.

 

Paul could be bitter or scared or quietly submissive – but instead we see thankfulness and prayers night and day for Timothy (1:3).  We hear him urge Timothy to keep testifying about Jesus and keep telling Paul’s story without being ashamed of the gospel or the chains (1:8, 16).  The prisoner appeals to Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” – not necessarily as a prisoner – but as one who makes daily sacrifices for spreading the word of life – even when it involves suffering (1:8).  The teacher instructs the student to keep teaching what is right and true (1:13).

 

This chapter is beautifully summed up in the words of verse 7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”   It is a great reminder whether we are preparing to serve – or be served – at FUEL.  It is a great reminder whether we will be praying at home – night and day.  It is a great reminder for God’s people.

Love.  Power.  Self-Discipline.  From God – to You.  How will you use them today?

Marcia Railton

Jesus and Paul, Paralleled

image

Acts 23

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to persecution. He saw it from both sides. He was at times the persecutor and the persecuted. While he was a zealous Pharisee in Jerusalem, he targeted Jews who joined the sect of followers of Jesus called the Way. When he became a follower himself and preached the Gospel throughout Asia Minor and Macedonia, he was imprisoned multiple times and warned by friends not to return to Jerusalem, because if he did, he would likely be killed. Yet in chapter 23, we see Paul is not only in Jerusalem but in the custody of the Romans, facing the Sanhedrin.

About a quarter century earlier, another Jewish preacher stood in front of the same group of religious leaders. The name of that preacher was Jesus, and it was because of him that Paul found himself in an identical position. Like Paul, Jesus had also returned to Jerusalem that final time knowing it could mean death. And both times, each was the target of a treacherous plot. But neither Paul nor Jesus were moved from their mission because of this threat. They were both willing to die for the cause.
But there are several important differences between Paul and Jesus during their final days in the Jewish Holy City. Unlike Paul, Jesus put up no defense while in front of the Sanhedrin and Roman rulers. The prophecy in Isaiah 53:7 puts it this way: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Paul, on the other hand, started his remarks to the Sanhedrin by stating that he has lived his life with a clear conscience. Then, after inadvertently insulting the High Priest, he cleverly changed the subject from himself to a disagreement between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The ensuing bruhaha allowed Paul to get out of there without facing any penalties.
The following night Paul was told by the Lord that he would not die in Jerusalem but would make it to Rome to testify there also. Despite the fears of his friends, Jerusalem would not be the end of the road for Paul. And this is the other difference between Paul and Jesus. Because Jesus would not defend himself when he had the opportunity, the intimate Passover meal he shared with his twelve disciples would be their last together; the following day he was beaten and crucified.
Paul and Jesus both went to Jerusalem to save lives. The latter accomplished this goal by taking on the sins of the world and offering his life as a sacrifice for all. The former did this by telling any who would listen about that sacrifice and how to receive the salvation offered as a result of it.
Usually, I would say that we should follow the example of Christ. But when it comes to facing charges that are unfounded, we should look to Paul as the model. Yes, Paul was willing to die for what he believed in, but he didn’t intend to because of false accusations. Paul defended himself so he could advance the Gospel; Jesus didn’t so he could guarantee it. We must be willing to die for the cause of the Kingdom, yet always seeking to put ourselves in the best position to champion it.
-Joel Fletcher

A Farewell

ACTS 20

acts 20 26 27

In Acts 20 Paul travels around some more, and is heading towards Jerusalem, but on his way he meets with the Ephesus elders one last time to talk to them and encourage them.  He knows that God’s plan for him will not bring him back to Ephesus and that he would never see them again. He had spent three years with them and knew that they would be a strong pillar in the growing Church and he wanted to make sure that they would be okay.  The Church had come under attack from the Jewish communities and from the government many times during Paul’s ministry and he knew that would continue, so he wanted to prepare them. He knew that those who would come after and try to lead them astray would try to attack him personally in order to get the Christians at Ephesus to doubt him and his message, and therefore their own faith.  Paul reminds them that at all times when he was with them he took care of his own needs, and did not profit off of them in any way and only cared about their spiritual well being.

 

One of the biggest detractors in the Christian faith is hypocrites.  How many times do you hear about the pastor at a church somewhere being involved in a scandal and then the church folding or many of the people walking away from the faith.  As Christians we are held to a higher standard and when we do not live up to that standard it affects any who look up to us as a role model. Paul’s ministry was successful and had a deep impact on all of western culture because he preached boldly, and he backed it up with a righteous life.  This is also why you need to make your faith your own. People will invariably let you down at some point, but Jesus is a rock on which you can build your life. Of course it is good to have role models, but know that they are only human.

-Chris Mattison

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