Tag Archives: wisdom

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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Today’s Scripture – June 18, 2019

Acts 14:1-7 (NIV)
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the good news.

Iconium was about fifty miles to the east of Antioch. Paul and Barnabas followed their normal process of first taking the gospel to the synagogue. And just as they had in Antioch, many of the people responded with joy from among both Jews and gentiles, much to the consternation of the Jewish leadership.

Again, the unbelieving Jews stirred up the gentiles against the gospel and against the messengers, Paul and Barnabas. But there was no concerted effort at first to kick them out of the city, so they stayed, teaching the disciples and gaining an even larger following because God enabled them to do many miracles, giving powerful credibility to the message they were bringing.

The city was soon divided into two factions whose base worldviews were in exact opposition, as the gospel naturally divides people (Matthew 10:35). On one side were those who believed the gospel and who supported Paul and Barnabas. On the other side were those who opposed the gospel and the missionaries.

Finally, things reached critical mass when the anti-gospel faction developed a plot to stone Paul and Barnabas to death for blasphemy. Jesu’s instructions for this situation were very clear: “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” (Matthew 10:23) The Christians were not to stand and oppose their persecutors, but to pray for them (Matthew 5:44), and go back later after things had cooled down.

So, as soon as the pair found out about the plot, they moved further east to Lystra, leaving behind another group of powerful, mature Christians who would continue the work in Iconium.

Father, leaving a place when a murder plot against you has been formed is not cowardice but wisdom, and Jesus Himself did the same on several occasions (Luke 4:30, John 8:59), until it was time for Him to surrender Himself to those who would crucify Him. Help us, Lord, to be faithful, bold in our proclamation of the gospel, unless and until it becomes time for us to move on to a new harvest field. 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 – April 30, 2019

Acts 9:26-31 (NIV)
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

In his enthusiasm to be part of what God was doing in Jerusalem, when Saul got there, he just assumed that a quick “Hey, I’m one of you now!” would open the door to immediate fellowship. But he was wrong. Saul had caused or contributed to a lot of damage in the Church in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including the imprisonment and death of many. So, all he found were closed doors, and people who were completely unwilling to trust him.

The one exception was Joseph of Cyprus, also known as Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36-37). He heard the stories of Saul’s conversion and had the nerve to sit down with him to find out what was really going on. Once he was convinced that Saul’s salvation was valid, he talked to the apostles and acted as a bridge-builder into their fellowship. Once they met Saul and heard his story for themselves, they saw that this enthusiastic young man really was sold out for Jesus, and they allowed him to stay with them while he was in the city.

There was trouble on the horizon, however. For some time, the apostles and some of their family members were the only Christians remaining in Jerusalem due to the persecution (Acts 8:1). Since that time, they had been slowly and quietly rebuilding the Jerusalem Church, working quietly so as not to attract a lot of unwanted attention.

But Saul was on fire. Before long, he was debating heatedly with the Greek-speaking Jews. His arguments were amazing, Spirit-filled, and completely unassailable. But instead of converting his opponents, he only angered them to the point that they were plotting his assassination.

The apostles didn’t want to see a resurgence of persecution, so they sent Saul out of the country, back to his hometown of Tarsus until things cooled down. And their strategy was effective. They were able to continue their quiet rebuilding efforts, and a time of relative peace for the Church spread throughout the region.

Father, this teaches me that, as Your people, we must be aware of the times and of the atmosphere where we are living and working, and do the work of the kingdom faithfully, but in ways that will be effective under the current circumstances. There is a time for passionate presentations of the gospel and strong discussions of theology, and a time for a more subtle approach and a quieter methodology. Lord, help me to always listen for the guidance of Your Spirit, and to be a shrewd as a snake and as innocent as a dove (Matthew 10:16) in the way I conduct myself as Your man in the world, so that I can help grow Your kingdom without engendering unnecessary conflict.

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 – March 27, 2019

Acts 6:8-11 (NIV)
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)–Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”

As was stated earlier in verses 3 and 5, Stephen was a man full of wisdom, faith, and the Holy Spirit. That was the basis of his being full of God’s grace and power. It was also the basis for his ability to do great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Without God’s wisdom, faith in God’s promises, and the Holy Spirit being freed up to work powerfully in and through a person, that person will remain powerless. But when those things are present in a person’s life, anything and all things are possible.

But where there is great power and great success in ministry there is also the opportunity for great opposition. This had been experienced by Jesus Himself, and He had warned His followers that it was in store for them as well (Mark 13:9 among many others).

The opposition to Stephen came from a group of Jews who called themselves the Synagogue of the Freedmen. They listened to Stephen’s gospel presentations and questioned him about his theology. But they would not accept his teaching that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, or that His disgraceful death was an intentional sacrifice to pay for the sins of all mankind, orchestrated by God Himself.

But no matter how vehemently they argued, Stephen calmly and logically refuted their arguments. No matter how many Scriptures they brought forward to try to destroy his theological points, Stephen simply brought out more, and also showed them that their own Scriptures, read in context, proved that Jesus really was the Messiah.

And, of course, there was the problem of the miracles that Stephen was doing. For all their protestations that they were right, and Stephen was wrong, HE had the power to do miracles, a power that he testified was the result of the Holy Spirit working in his life, while their lives were completely powerless.

In the absence of reasonable and compelling evidence, they decide to spread lies about Stephen in order to take him down. Instead of yielding to the obvious logic of his arguments and the clear evidence of the miracles, the devised a plot to falsely accuse him of blasphemy against Moses and against God.

Father, when sinful men can’t defeat their opponents with logic, time after time their next strategy seems to be to lie. It seems like they so identify with their positions, whether philosophical, theological, or political, that they can’t allow for the mere possibility that they are wrong, and their opponents are right. It would destroy all they stand for and put their whole identity at risk. So, they preserve their identity by resorting to lies, smears, and innuendo designed to destroy the credibility and even the lives of those who oppose them. But Lord, You are not stymied by their vain attempts. Their attacks and persecutions will ultimately be clearly seen for what they are, and their attacks will be turned back on their own heads and used for the ultimate advancement of Your kingdom. This has been proven over and over again, not only in the Scriptures, but throughout the last 2,000 years of world history. Thank You for Your love, Your grace, and Your power for us who love, serve, and follow 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: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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