Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Plan’

Almost Is Not Good Enough

23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.

25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.

26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.

27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

26 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers:

7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 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.

21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

~~  Acts 25:23-26:29  (KJV)

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three time, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul’s reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or a simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 12 December 2009

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Peace Fruit

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5: 19-23 – NIV)

In our harried and hectic world, peace seems to be in short supply.

There are

  • wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:4-14),
  • terrorist activities,
  • factions,
  • demonstrations, and
  • miscellaneous unrest.

So just what peace are we talking about?

Back to the dictionary:

1:  a state of tranquillity or quiet: as
a :  freedom from civil disturbance
b :  a state of security or order within a community
provided for by law or custom <a breach of
the peace>
2:  freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
3:  harmony in personal relations
4
a :  a state or period of mutual concord between
governments
b :  a pact or agreement to end hostilities between
those who have been at war or in a state of
enmity
5           —used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell
— at peace
:  in a state of concord or tranquillity

Aha!  peace is “a state of being”.  A state of our being.
We have little or no control over the events of the world or the circumstances that surround us. But God is sovereign, and he does have control. Nothing that happens surprises him.
I have never taken something to God in prayer and had him reply “Oh, really?  I didn’t know that.” Whatever is going on in our lives is something for which he has made provision. He knew about it in advance.

Therefore, our peace lies in our relationship to the Lord. When we rely on him, disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions have no power over us because we know God is in control.

When we move in obedience to him, he is responsible for the consequences of our actions. He will never ask us to do something not according to his will and his plans for our lives.
 His plan is for us to love one another, so we will have harmony with interpersonal relationships.
Peace.
Father, God,
Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you that you have made plans for our lives, that nothing happens without your permission and provision. Help us to learn to lean quietly on you, no matter the circumstances around us. Help us to hear clearly and obey swiftly the promptings of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for your peace.
In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Voluntary Prisoners

Ephesians 4:1 -3   I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,  With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

“Prisoner of the Lord” – the phrase finally got my attention.  Paul, in a Roman jail, was actually a prisoner of the Lord. Of course, he was a prisoner of the Lord outside the jail as well.  I did a double take.  He was a prisoner …

I look at our judicial system and wonder what is wrong with this picture. A person commits a crime and is incarcerated.  His activities are limited, true. But he is given a bed, three meals a day, medical and dental care, all at the expense of the state.  He doesn’t have to worry about rent or house payments, utilities, transportation, none of it.

The victim of his crime is left to deal with the aftermath. Replacement of damaged property, medical expenses, reduced earning capacity perhaps, and all the needful expenses of living – rent, utilities, transportation, etc.  At least that’s the way it works in our world.

When we volunteer to become prisoners of the Lord by giving our lives to Him, the Lord does for us all the things that the state does for a prisoner of the state.  The Lord becomes our provider. Our responsibility is obedience. I’m not advocating that we be irresponsible for the financial things in our lives, but I do mean that we need not fret about them.

God knows our needs before we do. He has made provision for all the vicissitudes in our lives. He is there before us and has a plan to see us through them.

Father, God,

Thank you for making provision for our lives. Thank you for letting us be part of Your plan for humanity. Thank you for letting us be your prisoners. Give us the grace to listen for Your voice and be sensitive to the promptings of Your Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

The Circuitous Route

Focus verses: Acts 27:1-28:15

Paul, although a Jew, was also born a Roman citizen. Therefore when he is put on trial, he appeals to Rome for justice. I don’t believe that he thinks the ultimate outcome will be any different than had he simply been tried in Jerusalem.

However, his journey takes him to places where he can spread the gospel by speaking and healing. A trial in Jerusalem would have changed some things.

A boatload of people, 276 in all, would not have been told that God had a plan for their lives.

The sick on Malta (we don’t know how many) would not have been healed.

How many lives were changed during this trip? We have no count. But can’t you imagine that the prophetic words of Paul changed at least one or two lives from the ship? How many lives were changed because the the people healed on Malta?

We may never know the count. But Paul’s presence there surely had some effect.

Then Paul himself was reassured when the faithful men from Rome came to meet him.

Paul has expended himself in doing good throughout the trip. He is refreshed by the sight and love of the brethren when he finally arrives at his destination.

God sometimes allows us to take the circuitous route in our lives. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but it also touches the fewest places. If that line arcs, it touches more points. If you are going through something right now and wonder why God doesn’t just carry you through in a straight line, it may just be that He has a plan that your life will touch more people on the circuitous route.

People watch Christians through a magnified lens. As Christians, we are expected to be better, to do better, than all the rest of the world. When we go through trials, sometimes we are simply being an example of how to live with adversity.

A friend of mine is undergoing cancer treatment for a second time. I know this lady. She prays wherever she goes. She does all things with grace and equanimity. She touches lives with her love and prayers. I have no doubt that the cancer is actually gone. And I have no count of the lives she has touched with her encouragement and courageous example of faith.

But God knows. He knows who will stand and draw closer to Him in times of struggle. That visible lifeline between them and Him becomes a beacon to those seeking encouragement and security.

If you find yourself on a circuitous route, give thanks. He is using your trip for an eternal purpose.

Father, God,

Help us to see a larger picture than just the current difficulty we face. Grant us the vision to be faithful to You in all circumstances and to understand that we are not necessarily the focus of your purpose on this trip.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.