Monthly Archives: September 2019

Today’s Scripture – September 30, 2019

Acts 20:13-17 (NIV)
We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.

The majority of Paul’s group boarded the ship he had taken passage on and sailed around the point of land between Troas and Assos. Paul, on the other hand, walked across the point and met the ship at Assos.

Paul was anxious to reach Jerusalem soon, preferably by the day of Pentecost, so he could celebrate the feast there. He had been gone for a few years at this point and hadn’t been able to get to Jerusalem for any of the feast days. But he was also cautious. He knew that there were still people out there anxious to silence, or even kill him. So, he took no chances and walked for the first leg of the journey.

Paul knew that if he took time to stop in Ephesus, he would be prevailed upon to stay for some time and would miss his window to arrive in Jerusalem on time. So, he made the decision to sail past Ephesus and to stop instead at the next port to the south, Miletus. He wanted to see the leaders of the Ephesus Church, but figured that if he had them come to him there, he could meet them with less chance of them begging him to visit the city again. So, he sent a message to Ephesus to extend the invitation, knowing that they would come quickly.

Father, this narrative seems insignificant on first reading, but there is a clear message in it for us. When we catch a vision from You, we can get so driven toward the goal line that we can pass by opportunities for ministry that lie along the way. Just as Jesus stopped along the road to Jerusalem on His last journey in order to do ministry, teach, heal, change lives, and restore sight, without losing track of his destination or timeline, so Paul did on this journey by ministering to the Ephesian elders, but doing it in a way that allowed him to stick to his timetable. That’s a great lesson. Thank You! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 28, 2019

Acts 20:7-12 (NIV)
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

This episode all began when Paul, trying to cram as much instructional time as possible in before he left in the morning for Syria, had no end time planned for the class meeting.

People were soaking in all he was teaching and were asking many questions, so Paul kept teaching and answering with no end in sight. The room was lit with many lamps, as Luke points out, making the room acceptably bright, but also smoky and warm.

Eutychus, who was drowsy due to the lateness of the hour, had decided to sit on the windowsill of the upper room to get some fresh air and to catch the occasional cool breeze. But he was still nodding off and jerking awake from time to time.

Finally, at about midnight, Eutychus fell into a deep sleep, and when his body fully relaxed, he went toppling out of the third-floor window. Those standing nearby saw him go, and shouted as they raced down the stairs, followed by all the rest gathered in the room.

When they reached him, they found him dead, no pulse, zero breath. A wail rose up from his friends and family, a wail that was soon picked up by several others in the group.

But then came Paul. He pushed through the group, his prayer even then on his lips and his ears listening intently for the voice of the Lord, which he soon heard clearly. He bent over the still body, wrapped his arms around him, and proclaimed the Lord’s message to all those gathered there: “Don’t be alarmed. He’s alive!”

And sure enough, it was so. Eutychus opened his eyes, his face growing a bit troubled by the sight of the crowd gathered all around him. His family and friends gasped, dried their tears, and helped him back upstairs, where they found him a seat (away from the window) as Paul continue to teach until morning.

Some debate whether Eutychus was actually dead, or just unconscious. But the people in that time and place knew death when they saw it, and they knew that this young man was unquestionably dead. Add to that the fact that Luke, careful reporter that he was, had adequate skill to communicate the error in perception if one had occurred, but clearly reports that the young man “was picked up dead.”

The fact that he was dead, but then raised to life was no great surprise to those who knew God. God is able to raise the dead in an instant. He did so in the days of the apostles and is still able to do so today.

Father, it is sad sometimes to see how we will doubt the words of the witnesses present at miracles, based on nothing more than our own opinions of what is possible or likely. But it is clear that Luke only included this particular event in his record because it was a mighty miracle. Thank You for Your power working through Your people, the same power that You can and do use today. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 25, 2019

Acts 20:1-6 (NIV)
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Paul knew that, even though he was an emissary of the kingdom of God, he was living and moving in hostile territory. Therefore, he moved deliberately, but always with his eyes and ears open.

The group passed through Macedonia, collecting the promised funds for the Church in Jerusalem, and then went south into Greece, staying for three months in Corinth as promised. But, as they were preparing to sail for Syria, someone heard about a plot to assassinate Paul on the ship. So, Paul sent much of his party ahead on the boat, while he and seven others took the land route around to the north, and into Troas on the extreme northwest corner of the province of Asia. There the party met up again and made arrangements to depart a week after their boat arrived.

Paul understood that his message of peace with God through faith in Jesus was extremely threatening to the status quo. Even though it promised freedom and true spiritual life, it stood in direct opposition to the Greek philosophers who preached self-discipline and self-improvement, while the gospel promised genuine transformation. It stood in opposition to the Jews, who preached salvation through strict obedience to the law, while the gospel promised a changed heart that would spur obedience from the inside out. And it stood opposed to the pagans, who tried to please their many gods through offerings and rituals, while the gospel taught that Jesus had already paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind through His suffering and death, and had made real life and real relationship with the true God possible through His resurrection and ascension.

The threat came because, even though anybody could immediately come into the kingdom of heaven through faith in Jesus, it meant leaving behind their old ways of doing things, their old belief systems and, in some cases, their old livelihoods in serving the pagan gods, or even serving the true God in old ways that had been supplanted by Jesus’ sacrifice. And, sadly, far too many were unwilling to give up what they had held onto for so long.

Father, it is the same today. Those who stand in opposition to the gospel have erected a protective wall around their own belief systems and their old livelihoods, so that they can only see what they must let go of, instead of seeing what they will gain by letting go of what is false and taking hold of Jesus. Help me, Lord, to live such a powerful and holy life today that it takes down every argument against the gospel in the hearts of those who see me, and melts them all away in Your truth. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 23, 2019

Acts 19:35-41 (NIV)
The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

The crowd was so emotionally charged that it took two hours for someone sensible to get them quiet enough to listen to reason. The city clerk was afraid that this demonstration would draw attention to the Roman governor, because Asia and Ephesus were indeed part of the Roman Empire. If the city officials were not able to keep order, troops would be sent in to do the job.

The clerk’s points were very simple. First, the mob had no legitimate legal case against the men that they had rushed into the amphitheater. Those men had committed no crime that could be prosecuted, but simply differed in their religion and in their opinions. And that was not something that could be legally prosecuted under Roman law.

The men’s activities had not denigrated the goddess Artemis, even if it had negatively impacted the trade of the metal workers. But, again, that could be chalked up to normal commercial competition, not something prosecutable. Finally, the assembly, which was really a demonstration on the verge of becoming a lawless mob, could easily result in graver consequences than what the people were protesting.

This man’s speech carried the day. If Paul had appeared as he had wanted to, it would have only served to inflame the crowd, and perhaps push them over the edge into overt violence. So, God prevented that, and gave the city clerk the wisdom and the words needed to tamp down the energy and cool down the passion.

Father, You do all things well, even when Your work is behind the scenes and unseen by the majority of people. Sometimes, like Paul, we really want to spring to our own defense. But sometimes that is actually not what is needed and might actually escalate the situation. Instead, a simple calming of hearts is required, something which You can do but we cannot. Help me, Lord, to always listen for Your direction before I simply react. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 19, 2019

Acts 19:30-34 (NIV)
Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Paul wanted to go into the arena where the riot was taking place, believing that he could persuade the crowd about what he was teaching and the truth of the gospel. But God placed wise friends around him, including some officials of the province, who knew his proclivities, that he was likely to try to wade right into the riot, and warned him away.

This was wise because this was not a group that was interested in reason or logic. That moment had passed. It was now just a mob, some of whom were not even sure what they were protesting but had simply joined in the mayhem.

The Jews in the crowd saw this as the perfect opportunity to turn the whole group solidly against Paul. They pushed Alexander, a member of the synagogue, forward to testify about the mayhem that Paul had caused among their own numbers.

Alexander got the crowd to quiet down enough to hear him, and he began. But as soon as he mentioned the synagogue, the crowd realized that he was a Jew, another “foreign cult” that endangered their own religion, and they shouted him down with a unison chant of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” a chant which they kept up steadily for two hours, until the city clerk was able to silence them.


Father, as Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time for everything, including (verse 7b) a time to be silent and a time to speak. Even though Paul was wanting badly to speak, this was his time to remain silent. Thank You for putting wise people around him who could discern that, and who were able to persuade him. We all need people like that in our lives from time to time. Keep putting people like that around me, and help me, from time to time, to be that person for someone else. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 18, 2019

Acts 19:23-29 (NIV)
About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater.

People are notoriously easy to manipulate and to rouse into a mob, as most politicians can tell you. In this case, it wasn’t a politician doing the inciting, but a craftsman.

Demetrius was a worker in precious metals (silver, gold, and copper, as opposed to iron or bronze), who had made a good living from crafting miniature replicas of the temple of Artemis for which the city of Ephesus was famous. But since Paul had arrived in the city, and since his preaching of the gospel had turned people’s hearts away from Artemis to the true God, not only in Ephesus, but in cities throughout Asia, his business, and that of others in the same line of work, had fallen off.

If Demetrius had focused only on the impact that this had on the “god trade” in the city, he could have stirred up the craftsmen. But in order to broaden the outrage, he pointed out how the gospel Paul incessantly preached was causing a lessening of the worship of Artemis herself, and thus lessening the importance of Ephesus as a noted city.

That was enough to whip that whole segment of the city into a rage, and from there it was a short journey to inciting them to action. The crowd grew as it moved to the amphitheater, shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” as they went.

Some of them even turned aside to grab Gaius and Aristarchus, who were known to be traveling companions of Paul. The people in the mob had no idea what they were going to do with them once they got to the amphitheater, but they were quite angry, and felt that they simply had to do something.

Father, we haven’t changed much in 2,000 years (sadly). We can still be easily manipulated into rash action if the right buttons are pushed. And there are plenty of people out there pushing them on a daily basis. Help us, Lord, as Your people, to not be gullible, to be governed by reason instead of emotion, and to look to You and Your word to see what needs to be done, so that our every thought, word, and deed will glorify You every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 17, 2019

Acts 19:21-22 (NIV)
After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

Paul wrote about this determination to visit Jerusalem in 2 Corinthians 9. He wanted to take a collection of money to the poor in the Jerusalem Church. There were many needs there, and Paul believed that, as an act of goodwill, it might heal some divisions if this primarily Jewish Church received a great contribution from the primarily gentile Christians throughout Achaia and Macedonia.

Paul had already received a wonderful pledge from the Corinthian Church, a pledge which other churches in Achaia and Macedonia had heard about and were thereby inspired to pledge their own contributions. So, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him to Corinth to ensure that their promised contribution would be ready when he arrived to spare them embarrassment. These two faithful men carried with them Paul’s letter that we now know as 2 Corinthians.

Almost eerie is Paul’s assertion that “After I have been (to Jerusalem), I must visit Rome also.” Paul had been longing to see Rome and to interact with the Christians there, and he believed that after he delivered the gift to the Jerusalem Church, the way would be open for him to travel to Rome (Romans 15:22-29). So, he wrote the letter to the Romans at this time and made plans to head there on his way to Spain in the very near future.

Paul was right, but in a way that he didn’t fully understand. When he got to Jerusalem, shortly after he delivered his gift, he was arrested and kept in prison for over 2 years before he appealed his case to the Emperor and was shipped off to Rome, where he finally got to interact with the Church there.

Father, it’s amazing to me to see the way that You worked in and through Paul, always showing him just enough that he could clearly see the next steps that he was to take but leaving things beyond that much less distinct. It’s the same with us today. We really want to see the future with crystal clarity, so that we can know what we are to do, even several years from now, with certainty. But that’s not the way You work. You have always shown those of us with eyes to see only the next step or two with much clarity. The more distant future is still hazy to us, although You do inspire in us hopes and dreams that we can see come to pass if we remain faithful. Help me to be like Paul, faithfully doing what I know I am to do, and holding the future lightly until I can see it clearly. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 16, 2019

Acts 19:18-20 (NIV)
Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

It is one thing to profess faith in Jesus. But it is another thing entirely to come face-to-face with the power of Jesus. The story of the seven sons of Sceva had a profound impact on the people of Ephesus who had professed belief, many of whom were still practicing their old, idolatrous ways, including magic.

They were all powerfully convicted and surrendered even more fully to Jesus than they had before. They confessed the sins that they were still involved in, turning away from them fully. Some of them were even practicing magic, or sorcery. This was not what we would call magic tricks or illusions. These people bought and sold charms and magic spells that were supposed to be able to manipulate natural and supernatural forces.

A sign that this was true, heart-felt repentance and not mere profession was that these people brought their charms and formulas and burned them all together in a big fire. They had all paid significant sums for these spells. In fact, Luke notes that their value came to around 50,000 drachmas, about 50,000 cumulative days’ wages.

As a result of this true repentance and complete turning to the Lord, the Holy Spirit was freed up to work more powerfully in and through all these people. The result was that the word of the Lord spread more powerfully and more widely throughout Ephesus and the whole province of Asia.

Father, we don’t usually consider that the “little sins” that we hold onto after we believe in Jesus can actually damage the witness of the gospel and suck all the power out of our ministry and that of our whole congregation. But that principle is seen throughout the Scriptures. Help us, Lord, to continually stay open before You, so that You can point out to us anyplace that sin is lurking in our lives, and so that we can immediately and completely repent of it, even if that full repentance costs us a lot. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – September 2, 2019

Acts 19:8-12 (NIV)
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Paul’s process of going first to the synagogues in the cities he went to and preaching to the Jews was not just a process or a formula. He cared very deeply for the Jewish people, wherever they lived. He wanted with all his heart to save them by bringing the gospel to them in a way that they could grasp. (Romans 9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 9:19-20) And it was always a great sorrow to him when they rejected the gospel and the Savior at its heart.

In this case, Paul worked with the Jews for three long months, reasoning with them, preaching to them, even pleading with them to receive Jesus and be saved. But even though he had some success, some fruit among them, there were others whose rejection ultimately became abuse. At that point, Paul’s response was to leave and set up meetings in the public spaces in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Those who believed left with him.

God was gracious to Paul, empowering him to heal, cast out demons, and do other amazing miracles. As with Jesus and the first apostles, these miracles were never an end in themselves. Neither were they merely “good works” done for the benefit of the people. Instead, they were signs that the kingdom of God that Paul preached was a reality. It made the spiritual truth visible, the theology tangible.

Paul never lost track of the purpose behind the power. He rejected outright any self-aggrandizement that people tried to impose on him, always pointing people past himself to the Savior and Lord who made the miracles possible.

Father, sometimes I wonder if the reason that we don’t see more of Your miracles today is that we have lost track of what they are for. We pray for our own needs (and wants), we plead for healing for ourselves or those we care about, but we really have no plan to use the miracles that we see or that answers that You give to grow Your kingdom. We tend to see the answers, the miracles, as ends in themselves, certainly praiseworthy, but not as tools to empower our witness. Help us, Lord, to see things differently, to see them the way Paul did, and to keep our focus not just on praising You for what You have done, but on growing Your kingdom in Your strength and power. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: Thanks, and God bless you all!

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