2593.) James 3

April 10, 2019

James 3   (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

How do we control this tongue? Make it a matter of daily prayer. Begin by praying Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” 
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Here are some other verses on words and the tongue to write in your prayer journal and pray into your life daily:
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Proverbs 10:21 — “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.”   Lord, may my lips nourish people today.
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Psalm 17:3 — “Today I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.”  Lord, help me choose righteousness, not sinfulness.
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Philippians 4:8 — “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. . . ”  May I think on these things today.
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I Timothy 4:12 — “Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  Let me remember, Lord, that I am representing you.

The responsibility of a teacher’s position

1Don’t aim at adding to the number of teachers, my brothers, I beg you! Remember that we who are teachers will be judged by a much higher standard.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:19   (ESV)

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

The danger of the tongue

“Three things come not back — the spent arrow, the spoken word, the lost opportunity.”

–Willam George Plunkett, the “man of a thousand sayings”

2-6We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the man who can claim that he never says the wrong thing can consider himself perfect, for if he can control his tongue he can control every other part of his personality! Men control the movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit placed in its mouth. Ships too, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are controlled by a very small rudder according to the course chosen by the helmsman. The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire,

and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentialities for evil. It can poison the whole body, it can make the whole of life a blazing hell.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 15:18  (ESV)

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.“

7-12 Beasts, birds, reptiles and all kinds of sea-creatures can be, and in fact are, tamed by man, but no one can tame the human tongue. It is an evil always liable to break out, and the poison it spreads is deadly.

A woman once came to John Wesley and said she knew what her talent was — “I think my talent from God is to speak my mind.” Wesley replied, “I don’t think God would mind if you buried that talent.” Speaking forth everything that comes to mind is unwise, poisonous speech.

–David Guzik

We use the tongue to bless our Father, God, and we use the same tongue to curse our fellow-men, who are all created in God’s likeness. Blessing and curses come out of the same mouth—surely, my brothers, this is the sort of thing that never ought to happen! Have you ever known a spring to give sweet and bitter water simultaneously? Have you ever seen a fig-tree with a crop of olives, or seen figs growing on a vine? It is just as impossible for a spring to give fresh and salt water at the same time.

Real, spiritual wisdom means humility, not rivalry

13-16Are there some wise and understanding men among you? Then your lives will be an example of the humility that is born of true wisdom. But if your heart is full of rivalry and bitter jealousy, then do not boast of your wisdom—don’t deny the truth that you must recognise in your inmost heart. You may acquire a certain superficial wisdom, but it does not come from God—it comes from this world, from your own lower nature, even from the devil. For wherever you find jealousy and rivalry you also find disharmony and all other kinds of evil.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God . . .

17-18 The wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions, with no breath of favouritism or hint of hypocrisy.

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

. . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness—in other people and in themselves.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:9   (ESV)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE is “Bite My Tongue”  by Relient K, a Christian rock band from Ohio. Confession and plea.

_________________________

J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
taming the tongue.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/taming-the-tongue.jpg
James 3:6.   http://carolinasnalc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/james3-6.jpg
Psalm 19:14.   http://scripturaltruths.org/Graphics%20-%20YV/Scripture%20Photos/Psalm%2019.14%20-%20Jan.2015.jpg
Fruit of the Spirit.   https://www.kidniche.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/fruit-of-the-spirit.png
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2592.) James 2

April 9, 2019

James 2   (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Luther was specially severe on James, and the adverse judgment of a great man on any book can be a millstone round that book’s neck forever. It is in the concluding paragraph of his Preface to the New Testament that there stands Luther’s famous verdict on James:

“In sum:  the gospel and the first epistle of St. John, St. Paul’s epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians; and Peter’s first epistle, are the books which show Christ to you. They teach everything you need to know for your salvation, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or hear any other teaching. In comparison with these the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.”

–William Barclay

But Luther’s remark should be understood in its context. He was sometimes frustrated because those who wanted to promote salvation by works quoted certain verses from James against him. His intention was to observe that there was little or nothing in James that preached the gospel of justification by faith alone. In another place Luther wrote regarding James, “I think highly of the epistle of James, and regard it as valuable… It does not expound human doctrines, but lays much emphasis on God’s law.”

–David Guzik

Avoid snobbery: keep the royal law

1-7Don’t ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ!

James used strong words to refer to Jesus Christ: The Lord of glory. Moffatt comments: “The Christian religion [is here called] more explicitly belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the divine Glory – a striking term for Christ as the full manifestation of the divine presence and majesty. The Jews called this the shekinah.”

This is especially significant because James is widely (and properly) regarded as one of the first letters of the New Testament written (perhaps somewhere between AD 44 and 48). This means that the earliest Christians considered Jesus to be God, and said so in strong, unmistakable words.

–David Guzik

Suppose one man comes into your meeting well-dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. If you pay special attention to the well-dressed man by saying, “Please sit here—it’s an excellent seat”, and say to the poor man, “You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor”, doesn’t that prove that you are making class-distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man’s quality?—a very bad thing. For do notice, my brothers, that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love him. And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor man that you are insulting.

To show partiality shows that we care more for the outward appearance than we do upon the heart. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God looks at the heart, and so should we.

To show partiality shows that we misunderstand who is important and blessed in the sight of God. When we assume that the rich man is more important to God or more blessed by God, we put too much value in material riches.

To show partiality shows a selfish streak in us. Usually we favor the rich man over the poor man because we believe we can get more from the rich man. He can do favors for us that the poor man can’t.

–David Guzik

Look around you. Isn’t it the rich who are always trying to “boss” you, isn’t it the rich who drag you into litigation? Isn’t it usually the rich who blaspheme the glorious name by which you are known? 8-11 If you obey the royal law, expressed by the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’, all is well. But once you allow any invidious distinctions to creep in, you are sinning, you have broken God’s Law.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Remember that a man who keeps the whole Law but for a single exception is none the less a law-breaker. The one who said, ‘Do not commit adultery’, also said, ‘Do not murder’. If you were to keep clear of adultery but were to murder a man you would have become a breaker of God’s whole Law.

12-13 Anyway, you should speak and act as men who will be judged by the law of freedom. The man who makes no allowances for others will find none made for him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 6:15 (NIV)
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

It is still true that “mercy smiles in the face of judgment.”

The relation between faith and action

Now what use is it, my brothers, for a man to say he “has faith” if his actions do not correspond with it? Could that sort of faith save anyone’s soul? If a fellow man or woman has no clothes to wear and nothing to eat, and one of you say, “Good luck to you I hope you’ll keep warm and find enough to eat”, and yet give them nothing to meet their physical needs, what on earth is the good of that? Yet that is exactly what a bare faith without a corresponding life is like—useless and dead. If we only “have faith” a man could easily challenge us by saying, “you say that you have faith and I have merely good actions. Well, all you can do is to show me a faith without corresponding actions, but I can show you by my actions that I have faith as well.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:16 (NIV)
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”

To the man who thinks that faith by itself is enough I feel inclined to say, “So you believe that there is one God? That’s fine. So do all the devils in hell and shudder in terror!” For, my dear short-sighted man, can’t you see far enough to realise that faith without the right actions is dead and useless? Think of Abraham, our ancestor. Wasn’t it his action which really justified him in God’s sight when his faith led him to offer his son Isaac on the altar?

Can’t you see that his faith and his actions were, so to speak, partners—that his faith was implemented by his deed? That is what the scripture means when it says: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.’

“Here is a proof that faith cannot exist without being active in works of righteousness. His faith in God would have been of no avail to him, had it not been manifested by works.”

–Adam Clarke

24-25 A man is justified before God by what he does as well as by what he believes. Rahab who was a prostitute and a foreigner has been quoted as an example of faith, yet surely it was her action that pleased God, when she welcomed Joshua’s reconnoitring party and got them safely back by a different route.

“In Rahab’s Window” by Bethany Vanderputten

26 Yes, faith without action is as dead as a body without a soul.

As I have often heard said, “The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul.”

_________________________

Music:

“My Own Little World”  by Matthew West.  Wow.  Are you willing to take a risk with your faith and serve others in a way slightly out of your comfort zone? Right  HERE, right now?

_________________________

J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Faith that works.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/screenshot2011-09-09at08-44-02.jpg
Abraham and Isaac.   https://biblestudynpt.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/genesis-22-11-abraham-intents-to-sacrifice-isaac-to-jehovah-god.jpg
Vanderputten.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/inrahabswindow_sm.jpg
James 2:26.   https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Inspirational-Images/large/James_2-26.jpg

2591.) James 1

April 8, 2019

James 1  (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

1 James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve dispersed tribes.

Which James?

Several different men named James are mentioned in the Bible, but tradition has long held that the author of this letter is James, the brother of Jesus. (Interesting that he does not trade on the connection, but rather refers to himself as a servant–or it could be translated slave–of Jesus Christ.) This James, who was a leader of the Jerusalem church and who presided at the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), is identified in Galatians 1:19 as “the Lord’s brother.” The early church historian Hegesippus called him “James the Just,” noting his extraordinary godliness, his zeal for obedience to the law of God, and his singular devotion to prayer. It was said that James’ knees became so calloused from kneeling in prayer that they resembled the knees of camels. Church tradition also has that James was martyred in AD 62, thrown down from the pinnacle of the temple.

The Christian can even welcome trouble

2-8 When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!

“Welcome them as friends!”

Many years ago when I was a student at Wheaton College (IL), I heard Elisabeth Elliot give a chapel message based on this verse, to welcome trials “as friends.” She spoke with great credibility of some of the trials she had endured, particularly the killing of her first husband, Jim Elliot, speared to death while bringing the Gospel to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. She described these things with tenderness and, at the same time, a matter-of-fact-ness — that the words of Scripture are true, and God does work all things together for good. This verse is a call to understand suffering from the vantage point of confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness. Such an understanding does not come lightly, but to know the truth of that is to experience the joy of heaven on earth. I have never forgotten the peace that was clearly shining on her face.

Psalm 66:8-9 (New Living Translation)

Let the whole world bless our God
   and loudly sing his praises.
Our lives are in his hands,
   and he keeps our feet from stumbling.

Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:48 (NIV)
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn.

9 The brother who is poor may be glad because God has called him to the true riches. 10-11 The rich may be glad that God has shown him his spiritual poverty. For the rich man, as such, will wither away as surely as summer flowers. One day the sunrise brings a scorching wind; the grass withers at once and so do all the flowers—all that lovely sight is destroyed. Just as surely will the rich man and all his extravagant ways fall into the blight of decay.

No temptation comes from God, only highest good

12 The man who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy man. For once his testing is complete he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:10   (NIV)
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

13-16 A man must not say when he is tempted, “God is tempting me.” For God has no dealings with evil, and does not himself tempt anyone. No, a man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive. His own desire takes hold of him, and that produces sin. And sin in the long run means death—make no mistake about that, brothers of mine!

17-18 But every good endowment that we possess and every complete gift that we have received must come from above, from the Father of all lights, with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency.

By his own wish he made us his own sons through the Word of truth that we might be, so to speak, the first specimens of his new creation.

Hear God’s Word and put it into practice: that is real religion

19-20 In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue,

Yes, we have two ears but only one mouth for a reason!

and slow to lose his temper. For man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness. 21-25 Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls.

See this verse in the King James Version:

21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness . . .

Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:21 (NIV)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness.

26 If anyone appears to be “religious” but cannot control his tongue, he deceives himself and we may be sure that his religion is useless.

27 Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 25:36 (NIV)
“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

_________________________

Music:

A cry to be pure and genuine in the sight of God, by serving others —  HERE  is “Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath.
_________________________
J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Count it all joy.   http://oneyearbibleimages.com/james1.jpg
Hello, friend.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/hello-friend1.jpeg
Jesus. https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/jesus.jpg
Doxology.   https://margmowczko.com/wp-content/uploads/doxology-1024×543.png

2590.) Acts 28

April 5, 2019

Beautiful Malta!

Acts 28 (NLT)

Paul on the Island of Malta

1 Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta.  (The word Malta means “refuge.”) 2 The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.

February 10 is a holiday in Malta, celebrating the Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck to their island. The bay where Paul supposedly landed is called St. Paul’s Bay, the main cathedral, in Mdina, is dedicated to him, and the patron saint of the island is, of course — him!

3 As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. 4 The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” 5 But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. 6 The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.

God didn’t preserve Paul from the storm just to let him perish by a snake. Paul was protected. It was promised he would go to Rome (you must also bear witness at Rome, Acts 23:11), and Paul wasn’t to Rome yet. It wasn’t so much that nothing would stop Paul as it was that nothing would stop God’s promise from being fulfilled

–David Guzik

7 Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. 8 As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. 9 Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. 10 As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. 12 Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days.

Ancient Greek and Roman ruins are easily found today in the area of ancient Syracuse on the island of Sicily.

13 From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. 14 There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them.

Just outside of Naples and not far from Mt. Vesuvius is the town of Pozzuoli, ancient Puteoli. It is the hometown of Sophia Loren and the birthplace of my youngest child, Devlin.

And so we came to Rome.

15 The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.

16 When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.

Paul was chained to a Roman guard who was likely on a four-hour shift. At first, one thinks to feel sorry for Paul. But on further consideration, one may pity the guards, who for hours at a time could not escape Paul’s preaching, teaching, and praying! Paul is the one who has a captive audience! And the Lord blessed:

Philippians 1:12-14 (NLT)  (written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome)

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.  For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.  And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

Paul Preaches at Rome under Guard

17 Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders.

This was Paul’s usual practice, to meet the Jewish leaders first in every city he entered.

He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. 18 The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, because they found no cause for the death sentence. 19 But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. 20 I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.”

21 They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here. 22 But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”

23 So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening.

Don’t we wish we could have heard this?! Paul, explaining how the Old Testament shows that Jesus is sent from God for the salvation of all humankind! Just as Christ had done before while traveling to Emmaus:

Luke 24:27 (ESV)

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

24 Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. 25 And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,

26 ‘Go and say to this people:
When you hear what I say,
you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
you will not comprehend.
27 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.’

28 So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”

In just a few years after Paul’s rebuke of those Jews who rejected Jesus, the Jewish people of Judea were slaughtered wholesale and Jerusalem was destroyed. 

30 For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, 31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.

Paul’s chains did not matter. The Word of God was proclaimed without hindrance!

The End of the Book of Acts

What actually happened to Paul? The book of Acts does not say. The pastoral letters, however, suggest that he was freed after a first trial (2 Timothy 4:16). Possibly, then, he went to Spain (Romans 15:24), and to Asia Minor (Titus 3:12), Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), and Crete (Titus 1:5).

Once back in Rome, Paul was brought to trial a second time and convicted (2 Timothy 4:6, 16). Finally, outside Rome, around AD 67, he was beheaded.

Why did Luke leave Acts unfinished? Some scholars believe the book ends here because Luke wrote it as a “friend of the court” brief for Paul’s trial in Rome. But does this book end at all? Do not the “Acts of the Believers, and of the Holy Spirit” continue even now? We are writing our own chapters of Acts in the daily events of our lives!

St. Paul in Prison, by Rembrandt, 1627 (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart)

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

SHACKLED IN ROME

I love the ending of the book of Acts, which is the final story of the apostle Paul in the early church. Paul was a courageous spokesman for the gospel of Christ. He had given his life for the message, and at the end of his life he found himself under house arrest in Rome. In spite of the fact that he had to live shackled to a Roman soldier, he spent his time teaching people about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God.

If you had lived in Rome in those days, where would you have thought the future was? The typical person would have looked to Nero’s palace for the power and the future, believing that the significant figure was the emperor ruling from his throne. The reality is that today, two thousand years later, we name our dogs Nero and our sons Paul. The world’s ways are never the ways of God, and the world’s people are never the people of God. The one who cast a long shadow over the next two thousand years was one who was tucked away in a simple house and shackled to a Roman soldier, not the one who sat on the throne, dictating to people how they should please him.

Do you feel your life is being wasted? Are you in some sort of captivity? If so, take heart. I am sure that Paul felt exactly the same way. Instead of taking the gospel to Spain, he was chained to a guard in Rome, influencing only those who came to visit him. But God’s ways are not our ways, and God used Paul in the place of his captivity, with all its limitations, to change all of human history.

_________________________

Music:

How do you close the book of Acts?!  HERE  is a Taize song which I think makes a good connection between then and now.

“The kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit;
Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”

_________________________

Well, what did you think of ACTS as you read it this time? What seemed new to you? What spoke to your heart / mind? Please share your impressions with the rest of us! Reply by leaving a comment below! Many thanks!

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Malta.    https://inspirationseek.com/valletta-malta-beautiful-city-with-baroque-architecture/
Feast of St. Paul Shipwreck parade.    https://traditioninaction.org/religious/images_F-J/H135_Festa.jpg
ancient ruins near Syracuse, Sicily.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/siracusa-roman-ruins.jpg
Pozzuoli.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/pozzuoli1.jpg
Paul chained to a guard in Rome.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/paul-and-guard.jpg
Road to Emmaus.    http://adventus.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/road_to_emmaus1.jpg
Rembrandt.     http://www.rembrandtpainting.net/complete_catalogue/storia_b/paul_prison.htm

2589.) Acts 27:27-44

April 4, 2019

St. Paul’s Shipwreck Church in Malta. The present structure of the Church was started in 1950 and completed in 1956. However there has been a church on this site for some considerable time. According to tradition the site of the church is where a fire was lit to warm the survivors of a shipwreck, including Paul, in AD 60.

Acts 27:27-44   (NLT)

The Shipwreck

27 About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria, the sailors sensed land was near. 28 They dropped a weighted line and found that the water was 120 feet deep. But a little later they measured again and found it was only 90 feet deep. 29 At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight.

 They spent two entire weeks in the misery and terror of the storm!

30 Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. 31 But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.

Paul knew two reasons why they had to stay together. First, the ship’s passengers desperately needed the crew’s expertise, and it would be fatal if the crew abandoned the passengers. Second, Paul probably sensed that God’s promise to give him the lives of the whole ship’s company assumed that they would stay together.

–David Guzik

33 Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said. 34 “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.” 35 Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. 36 Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat—37 all 276 of us who were on board. 38 After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.

Their last great desperation and their last hope of profit, now that the grain is at the bottom of the sea.

39 When morning dawned, they didn’t recognize the coastline, but they saw a bay with a beach and wondered if they could get to shore by running the ship aground. 40 So they cut off the anchors and left them in the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail, and headed toward shore. 41 But they hit a shoal and ran the ship aground too soon. The bow of the ship stuck fast, while the stern was repeatedly smashed by the force of the waves and began to break apart.

42 The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. 43 But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. 44 The others held onto planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore.

To the soldiers, it made sense to kill the prisoners, because according to Roman military law a guard who allowed his prisoner to escape was subject to the same penalty the escaped prisoner would have suffered – in the case of most of these prisoners, death.

But God gave Paul favor in the eyes of this Roman centurion, and that favor kept Paul and all the prisoners alive – in fulfillment of the word spoken to Paul, God has granted you all those who sail with you (Acts 27:24). God’s word never fails.

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

Hmmm, a song for a shipwreck . . . I doubt if you want “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic. How about Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald”?  Much better!  HERE.  I love the old newscast footage included!

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore – 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they’d been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T’was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it’s too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it’s been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral
The church bell chimed, ’til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
St. Paul’s Shipwreck Church.    https://judycoster.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/img_3288.jpg
reaching land.   https://apetcher.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/saint-paul-shipwreck.jpg

2588.) Acts 27:1-26

April 3, 2019

Acts 27 (NLT)

Paul Sails for Rome

Click on this map for a larger, clearer image of the route to Rome.

1 When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. 2 Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a ship whose home port was Adramyttium on the northwest coast of the province of Asia; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province.

It was common for Roman soldiers to accompany the transport of criminals, those awaiting trial, and merchant ships filled with grain going from Egypt to Rome.

3 The next day when we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul and let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs.

It is likely that Paul was different from the other prisoners.  He was an uncondemned man, on his way to see Caesar.  The others were probably condemned to death, perhaps on their way to the Roman arena.

4 Putting out to sea from there, we encountered strong headwinds that made it difficult to keep the ship on course, so we sailed north of Cyprus between the island and the mainland. 5 Keeping to the open sea, we passed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, landing at Myra, in the province of Lycia. 6 There the commanding officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board.

7 We had several days of slow sailing, and after great difficulty we finally neared Cnidus. But the wind was against us, so we sailed across to Crete and along the sheltered coast of the island, past the cape of Salmone. 8 We struggled along the coast with great difficulty and finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. 9 We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it.

Mid-September through mid-November was considered dangerous for sailing; after mid-November, all sailing stopped until spring.  In his various journeys, Paul had spent considerable time at sea, so he could speak to the ship’s officers as a quite experienced traveler. Pictured above is an idea of an ancient Roman freight ship.

10 “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.” 11 But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. 12 And since Fair Havens was an exposed harbor—a poor place to spend the winter—most of the crew wanted to go on to Phoenix, farther up the coast of Crete, and spend the winter there. Phoenix was a good harbor with only a southwest and northwest exposure.

The Storm at Sea

13 When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. 14 But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. 15 The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale.

16 We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. 17 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.

18 The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. 19 The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. 20 The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.

No sun, no stars — their only tools for navigation gone. No wonder they felt all hope was lost.

21 No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. 22 But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. 23 For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, 24 and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ 25 So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. 26 But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”

Such encouragement for the others on board!

Paul believed God when there was nothing else to believe. He couldn’t believe the sailors, the ship, the sails, the wind, the centurion, human ingenuity or anything else – only God and God alone. This was not a fair-weather faith; he believed God in the midst of the storm, when circumstances were at their worst. Paul would say along with Job: Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15). His terrible situation was real, but God was more real to Paul than the dreadful circumstances.

—David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a creedal song, “Because We Believe.”

__________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Acts 27:25.   https://i.pinimg.com/originals/55/61/1f/55611f5cb0fda1fb7e10bc9b3fcc25ad.jpg
map to Rome.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/shipwreck_map.jpg
sailing in the Mediterranean.   https://i.pinimg.com/736x/fe/89/30/fe8930d73f0c7a3ec9531a1abb74391f.jpg
I believe God.   http://elmwoodbaptist.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-I-Believe-God.jpg

2587.) Acts 26

April 2, 2019

“Paul on Trial before Agrippa” by Nikolai Bodarevsky (1875). Notice that Bernice also is on a throne.

Acts 26 (NLT)

1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”

So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: 2 “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, 3 for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!

Paul stands before Herod Agrippa II, whose great-grandfather had tried to kill Jesus as a baby; his grandfather had John the Baptist beheaded; his father had martyred the first apostle, James.  Paul is being quite generous in his evaluation of Agrippa’s open-mindedness towards people who followed Jesus!

On another note, Herod Agrippa II gave extensive information to Josephus which then made its way into his history, Antiquities of the Jews.

4 “As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. 5 If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. 6 Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. 7 In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! 8 Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?

9 “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.

“I cast my vote against them” clearly implies that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, having a vote against Christians who were tried before the Sanhedrin (like Stephen in Acts 7).

If Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, it also means that at that time he was married, because it was required for all members of the Sanhedrin. Since as a Christian, he was single (1 Corinthians 7:7-9), it may mean that Paul’s wife either died or deserted him when he became a Christian.

—David Guzik

11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests.

Michelangelo’s “Conversion of St. Paul”

Here is the third account in Acts of Paul’s conversion
(see also chapters 9 and 22).

13 About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

15 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. 17 And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles 18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

19 “And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven.

“When the Lord reveals His will to us and we obey, our mission will be a success regardless of the results.”
– Chinese house church leaders, Back to Jerusalem movement

20 I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. 21 Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. 22 But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—23 that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

These are the three main themes of Paul’s preaching:  Jesus’ death, Jesus’ resurrection, and the spreading of the gospel to the whole world.

24 Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”

25 But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. 26 And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”

28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love,

And in my soul am free,

Angels alone that soar above

Enjoy such liberty.

–Richard Lovelace, English poet  (1618 – 1657)

30 Then the king, the governor, Bernice,

Bernice was Agrippa’s sister.  They lived together “in too great familiarity,” as one Bible commentator has said . . .

and all the others stood and left. 31 As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”

32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

from Peculiar Treasures,
by Frederick Buechner

AGRIPPA

There’s something a little sad about seeing anybody for the last time, even somebody you were never particularly crazy about to begin with. Agrippa, for instance. He was the last of the Herods, and after him that rather unsavory dynasty came to an end.

When Saint Paul was on his way to Rome to stand trial, King Agrippa granted him a preliminary hearing, and Paul, who was seldom at a loss for words, put up a strong defense. He described how on the road to Damascus he had come to believe Jesus was the Messiah and how all he had been doing since then was trying to persuade other people to believe he was right. He said the fact the Jews were out to get him showed only that they didn’t  understand their own scriptures because the whole thing was right there including the prediction that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead just the way Jesus had.

After he finished, Agrippa came out with the only remark he ever made that has gone down in history. “Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian,” he said (Acts 26:28).

Almost is apt to be a sad word under the best of circumstances, and here, on the lips of the last of his line the last time you see him, it has a special poignance. If only Paul had been a little more eloquent. If only Agrippa had been a little more receptive, a little braver, a little crazier. If only God weren’t such a stickler for letting people make up their own minds without coercing them. But things are what they are, and almost is the closest Agrippa ever got to what might have changed his life. It’s sad enough to miss the boat at all, but to miss it by inches, with a saint right there to hand you aboard, is sadder still.

_________________________

Music:

The old hymn, “Almost Persuaded,” is one I remember very clearly from my childhood, as the Lutheran country church my family was a part of had revival meetings every year with Lutheran evangelists coming to preach. They were wonderful meetings, full of people who loved the Lord and had a heart that all should have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. This hymn addressed the urgency of salvation! It was written in 1871 by the American composer and evangelist Philip P. Bliss, who also wrote the hymns “Hallelujah!  What a Savior!”  and “Wonderful Words of Life” — as well as the tune for Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.”   HERE  it is sung by Josh Turner.

  1. “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.”
  2. “Almost persuaded,” come, come today;
    “Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
    Jesus invites you here,
    Angels are ling’ring near,
    Prayers rise from hearts so dear;
    O wand’rer, come!
  3. “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!

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Bodarevsky.     http://www.tickledpinklife.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Boldness.jpg
Michelangelo.    http://www.mystudios.com/art/italian/michelangelo/michelangelo-st-paul.jpg
bright vision from heaven.    http://galerie-appassionata.com/bulkupload_Cloud-Wallpaper_Visions-of-Heaven.jpg
bird in cage.   http://diysolarpanelsv.com/images/pet-bird-clipart-4.jpg
man missed the boat.   https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-bb586ebf4aec5d1669f80fa7949d5880-c