The governing authorities in charge of Paul's trial are at a loss on what to do with him. He's an honest man who has been an upstanding citizen and has shown great respect for the governing authorities over him during his imprisonment. Despite the sentence of condemnation against him and the petition from the religious leaders that Paul deserved to die, those in charge of officially examining his life decided that he had "done nothing deserving of death."
In our Lord’s regenerating work in the life of the apostle Paul, he prophesied that Paul would be his chosen instrument who would carry the Lord’s name and message before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem and the trials that followed proved these prophetic words to be true.
As the apostle Paul makes his way to Jerusalem, we notice at every stop along the way Paul “sought out the disciples” in each city that he visited. It is a wise Christian principle and practice to seek out the Christians already present in all the new places that we may find ourselves visiting or relocating to.
What compelled Paul and Silas who had been stripped, beaten and thrown into jail to not escape at this moment of opportunity? All the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened and yet these two men decide to stay in the cell?
Paul preaches the gospel in Antioch, Iconium and then Lystra but runs into fierce opposition from some unbelieving Jews along the way. Their opposition was so intense that they end up following Paul to Lystra and drag him outside the city to crush his skull with stones. Paul is left for dead. He is so beaten and battered that the Jews assumed he was dead.
One of the original disciples of Jesus had just been executed by the same man who proceeded to arrest Peter with the intent on executing him in front of all of Jerusalem. Peter was the prominent leader of the early church and now the church needed to do something quick to rescue their great brother and leader. So what’s the first action they decide to take?
I can hardly comprehend the level of love that it takes to pray for your enemies while you are suffering a brutal death at the hands of those same enemies. The way in which Stephen handles himself during his violent and unjust execution is awe-inspiring and on a whole nother level.
In the midst of an extremely divisive climate in our culture, we could use some wisdom on how to best engage in heated conversations without throwing gas on the fire. As we also live in what has become a post-Christian society, we could use some wisdom on how to best share the teachings of Jesus in a way that corrects misunderstandings about him and that confronts the ways that he is often misrepresented.
Following Jesus requires sacrifice. We must beware of any teaching that disregards this reality. Therefore, we must consider the question, “What has it cost me to follow Jesus?” And what are some things in life that could hold us back from truly being a follower of Jesus?
Many of us are fine with Jesus as the great teacher or advocate of social justice. It’s the Jesus who claims to be the Lord and Master of the Universe that we have difficulties accepting. There’s a particular story that Mark records in his gospel where Jesus says something and then does something that dramatically reveals how much everyone was underestimating his ability and authority.
As I’ve been spending time the last few weeks reading over Paul’s last letter to Timothy, I’ve been humbled and convicted and challenged by the tone in Paul’s voice and how he’s pleading with Timothy to not compromise his commitment to Jesus. To be honest, I’ve struggled with what’s being said in this letter because it just seems so far away from my own experience and my own commitment to Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we should never give people a reason to criticize us, but we shouldn’t compromise our commitment to Jesus in order to avoid criticism either. We should not be ashamed to be associated with Jesus.
The fact that Paul could be at peace and stay content in the midst of everything that he had experienced was an amazing mindset, but it’s also one that’s available to every other follower of Jesus as well. And so, how can we get to a place in our own life where we can actually say with integrity that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”?
Paul’s life had been completely transformed by Jesus. His worldview and the trajectory of his life was completely changed by Jesus. And Paul understood that the only way to respond to what Jesus had done for him is to become like Jesus — to imitate Jesus.
When we talk about reaching others, in a sense we are talking about what most people would define as evangelism. This means actively trying to share the good news about what God has done through Jesus with the hope that people will respond to this news by repenting and following Jesus as King. However, if we’re not considerate in our efforts to do this, we begin to fall into the trap of becoming Christian-salesmen peddling Jesus as our product and strictly focusing on ‘closing the deal’ and moving on to the next customer.
I know I'm not the only one, but I must confess that there are too many days in my life where I overlook the incredible privilege of having access to the Creator of the universe. I have been given the freedom to come to him with all my cares and concerns, and yet I don't.
Is there anything more reassuring than to know that the Almighty Creator over all of creation has chosen to be with us? God had promised his presence all throughout human history and delivered on those promises in the various ways that he guided and protected his people.
What is the appropriate response to hearing and embracing the gospel? Sometimes we are told that all we need to do is repeat a prayer and raise our hand. But if this was indeed the way that we were intended to respond to the gospel then there’s no doubt that it would have been made clear right here in Scripture. However, Scripture provides a different answer concerning “What shall we do?”
Minor League Baseball can breed this awkward team dynamic where everyone's individual pursuit of the Big Leagues secretly but not-so-secretly trumps the overall performance of the team. Sadly (but truthfully), this can cause players to struggle with the success of their own teammates (especially those who play the same position). And so, even though your teammate's success will help the overall performance of the team, it can also be seen as a potential threat to your individual pursuit of being the next guy who gets called up to the Big Leagues.
The history of humanity's progress is often characterized by advancements in empire, discovery, renaissance, enlightenment, industry and information. Mankind has worked tirelessly to subdue the universe and with great success has brought to light many of the wondrous things hidden within it. However, in spite of all his great discoveries and progress, man is still searching for that most illusive treasure that seems to continually escape him.