Tag Archives: wisdom

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.

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: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/198668153X?pf_rd_p=183f5289-9dc0-416f-942e-e8f213ef368b&pf_rd_r=D3G7PM43KZDWVSD0YTB9 Thanks, and God bless you all!

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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.

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: https://www.amazon.com/When-We-Listen-Devotional-Commentary/dp/198668153X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=when+we+listen+robertson&qid=1569265915&s=gateway&sr=8-1 Thanks, and God bless you all!

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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.

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: https://www.amazon.com/When-We-Listen-Devotional-Commentary/dp/198668153X/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=when+we+listen+william&qid=1568922971&s=gateway&sr=8-3. Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – August 7, 2019

Acts 17:5-9 (NIV)
But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

Paul and company had been in Thessalonica just a bit over three weeks and had had moderate success bringing some of the Jewish people and lots of God-fearing gentiles into the kingdom. It wasn’t all the success he wanted, but he saw it as a good start, and planned to continue working in the synagogue to get more to believe.

But those plans were cut short. A large contingent of Jews were jealous of Paul’s success, and of the power that he continued to demonstrate, a power that they themselves completely lacked. But rather than giving themselves over to Paul’s instruction to learn from him the secret of his power, they decided to take him out. They raised a mob and fomented a riot that made its way through the city to Jason’s house, where Paul and Silas and their group were staying.

They were very disappointed to find that the targets of their wrath were not there, but rather than go away empty handed, they dragged Jason and some of the other believers out of the house and rushed them through the streets of the city to the magistrates.

Their charges were many and serious:

  • Paul and Silas were troublemakers (the Greek indicates that they were “turning the world upside down” wherever they went). They had caused problems and unrest all over the empire and had now come to Thessalonica.
  • Jason, a citizen of Thessalonica, had become complicit in the trouble they had caused by allowing his house to serve as their base of operations.
  • They were all guilty of treason and rebellion against Caesar, pledging loyalty to a new king, Jesus. This kind of rebellion could not go unchallenged, so they felt it their civic duty to bring them to the officials.

Even though there was some truth underlying every one of these accusations, the accusations were false because of the context in which they were cast. But Paul and Silas were not there to present their side of the case, so the truth could not be properly understood or adjudicated.

The magistrates had no idea how to handle accusations of this nature and only a few limited tools in their arsenal to try. So, they imposed a fine on Jason and the others, wagged a disapproving finger in their faces, and told them to stop associating with those troublemakers.

Paul had been through this kind of thing enough times to know that the best course of action was to simply leave town, to move on and to start again in the next city. He gave as much last-minute instruction as possible to the disciples, and then left the city under cover of darkness, traveling to Berea, about 25 miles to the west.

Father, I find it interesting that the truth can be presented in such a way that the resulting information can end up being a lie! Facts are facts, but context determines how facts end up being interpreted.

  • There had indeed been trouble in many places that Paul had visited, but the trouble was not stirred up by him, but by his opponents who had objected to the truth he was binging and the success he was having.
  • Jason had let Paul stay in his house, a simple act of hospitality, but there was no “crime” that he was abetting.
  • Christians did commit to living in Your kingdom and to serving Jesus as their king. But they also pledged to be good citizen of their nation, to pay appropriate taxes, and to respect their leaders (Romans 13:1-7).

Help me today, Lord, to be as wise as Paul and Silas, as meek as they were, and as diligent in following Your lead as they were. 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: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – July 23, 2019

Acts 16:35-40 (NIV)
When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.

The city officials had acted hastily in the case of Paul and Silas. They had assumed that they were “just Jews” from Judea. It never once entered their minds that these two men could be Roman citizens, so they beat them and imprisoned them without due process, despite their protestations.

Now that it was daylight, the city officials, confident that they had taught these troublemakers a lesson, ordered that they be released. They figured that they would both leave town immediately with their tails between their legs and never come back.

But Paul was already indignant at the way they had been abused and not afforded the due process that was the right of every citizen. And Paul was not the kind of person to take that kind of affront lying down!

Paul was not trying to overthrow rightful authority, but he believed that those authorities needed to be taught a lesson, to be shown how they themselves had violated Roman law and were themselves subject to severe punishment because of it. He wasn’t going to turn them in, but he did want them to understand the dangerous ground that they were on.

So, he told the officers who had come with his release to tell their superiors what they had done: beaten and imprisoned two Roman citizens without even a trial. His demand was simple: the superiors themselves had to come to the jail and escort them out in person.

The officials were alarmed at this information, and so were their superiors, who went to the prison at once, full of apologies. Their whole tone was changed. Instead of making demands of Paul and Silas, they politely requested that they leave town “for their own safety.”

Paul’s point had been made. He let the officials know that they would indeed leave, but that they had to go and get their stuff and say their goodbyes first. They went back to Lydia’s house, their home base in Philippi, encouraged the Church members that were there, gathered their belongings, and headed west, further into Macedonia.

Father, Paul’s example shows that, even when we have been severely wronged, even persecuted, there is no call for revenge. Paul made his point very clearly to the officials, and then obeyed their mandate to leave town. He could have done them a great deal of harm and been well within his rights, but he didn’t. He helped them to see their wrong, and then left. That’s a good model for us to keep in mind. Thank You, Lord. 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: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – July 15, 2019

Acts 16:6-10 (NIV)
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Paul and the rest continued westward, preaching in the cities that they passed through. At one point, they decided to head due west, to go deeper into the province of Asia. But the Holy Spirit intervened and made them understand that going that way was not God’s plan for them at that time. So, they continued on the road to the northwest.

A while later, they reached a point where the road turned westward again, and there was a fork in the road that headed north into Bithynia on the south edge of the Black Sea. They thought seriously about taking the gospel to the people in the north, but again, they were warned off that route by the Spirit of Jesus. So, they continued to the west.

Finally, they arrived at Troas on the shore of the Aegean Sea. Now the were stuck. They had been pushed by the Holy Spirit further and further to the west, but all that was to their west now was water.

As they went to bed that night, they were all praying for guidance. They didn’t feel led to go back the way that they had come, but they hadn’t received instructions for the path forward either.

In the middle of the night, Paul saw the vision of a Macedonian man pleading with him to come and help them. This was the guidance they had been waiting for! Macedonia was northwest of them across the Aegean, just to the north of Greece. And by the vision, Paul knew that somewhere in Macedonia was where they were headed.

Even though it was the middle of the night, Paul woke everyone and shared the vision with them. And they all got up and started packing, intending to find a way to get to Macedonia as soon as it was light.

Paul serves to illustrate the way to follow God’s guidance. At each juncture, he didn’t reason out the best course of action. Instead, like Jesus Himself, he sought wisdom and guidance from God. Then, no matter what guidance he received, even if it seemed counterintuitive, he followed it to the letter, confident that God’s plan would be successful.

Father, this really is good instruction for us. All too often we make plans for advancing Your kingdom based on our own intellect or ideas, and then execute them on our own. We only seek You if our plans don’t seem to be working, or if we end up in trouble. Of course, after we have built our plans based on what we believe should be done or on what we want, we often ask You to bless them and to help us succeed. But You already have a plan You are pursuing. You already have a way for us to work in accomplishing that plan. Forgive me, Lord, for all the times I have pursued my own goals and plans and have put Your goals on the back burner, if I consider them at all. Forgive me for all the times I have proceeded on the basis of my own wisdom and understanding instead of waiting patiently for the guidance of Your Spirit. And help me to do better from this moment forward. 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: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – July 14, 2019

Acts 16:1-5 (NIV)
He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

As Paul and Silas went through Galatia, they came back to Lystra, where Paul and Barnabas had been mistaken for Greek gods, and where Paul had been stoned outside the city (Acts 14:8-20). This time the missionaries dealt primarily with the circle of believers which Paul and Barnabas had planted, but which had grown markedly during Paul’s absence.

Among these was a Jewish believer named Eunice and her mother, Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Eunice was married to a Greek man, a gentile, and had a son, Timothy, who had also become a devout believer. Even though Timothy’s mother was Jewish, which meant that Timothy was Jewish according to the law, He had never been circumcised. His father wouldn’t allow it. In Greek culture, the human body was lifted up and celebrated. To cut part of it off in circumcision was seen as a defilement, a marring of what was already bodily perfection.

The believers spoke well of Timothy, and Paul felt moved to take him on as a protégé, and to take him along as he and Silas continue their journey westward. Timothy was of age and made the determination to go.

Some find it odd that so soon after the Jerusalem Council, and in light of all he wrote against circumcision, Paul insisted that Timothy be circumcised before he went along. But Luke clearly tells us that it was because of the Jews who lived in the area.

In reality, Paul only spoke against circumcision for gentiles. He saw it as a reliance on works of the law for salvation. But he didn’t criticize circumcision for the Jews, because God had told His people that it was to be a sign in their flesh for all generations, basically forever (Genesis 17:12-14). If Paul had taken Timothy along uncircumcised, the Jews in the area would have been able to accuse him of being a lawbreaker, and could turn Jews across the empire against him, closing many doors for future growth of the kingdom.

At the same time, Paul delivered the Jerusalem Council’s decision to the disciples in Derbe, Lystra, and all across Galatia, much to the relief and encouragement of the gentile believers. And with this new encouragement, the Churches continue to grow strongly.

Father, Jesus warned us that we were to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NIV) as we take the gospel to the people around us. And this is a good example of Paul’s doing just that. There was no contradiction in his mind or heart in having Timothy circumcised. There was only a desire to obey You wholeheartedly, and to prevent problems from cropping up further down the road, which definitely would have been possible, if not likely, if he had not been diligent here. Keep my eyes and ears open, Lord, so that I can follow You in every way, even when Your way makes scant sense to those outside. 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: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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