Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Julius (Acts 27)


Acts 27 records the incredible story of Paul’s journey to Rome through the Mediterranean Sea. They are traveling on a very large ship (Luke reports that there were 276 people on board, 27:37). A Roman centurion by the name of Julius is in charge of transporting prisoners to Rome aboard this ship. One of those prisoners (Paul) will have a huge impact on his life. At first, Julius pays little attention to Paul’s advice concerning sailing (v.11). However, it can’t be deduced that Julius is unfair in his treatment of Paul because verse 3 records quite the opposite,

Julius, in his kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his
friends so they might provide for his needs.


Apparently Julius had a certain amount of respect for Paul. We’re not sure why; maybe it developed from the way Paul treated him, maybe Paul’s Roman citizenship helped him connect to Julius, or maybe good words from other Roman soldiers were spoken about Paul. Whatever the case, Paul and Julius know and communicate to each other.

As they continuing sailing Paul informs Julius and the men aboard the ship that the voyage is going to be dangerous. His advice is ignored and they continue sailing. It’s not long after this that the crew finds themselves in a violent “northeaster” storm. The storm is so bad that even Luke seems to indicate he’s lost hope. He writes in verse 20,

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

An interesting change takes place in the heart of Julius during this trying time. He moves from treating Paul’s words as weightless and empty to believing everything Paul has to say (read verses 29-32 & 42-43). The previous night an angel of the Lord visited Paul and promised him that God would see everyone through and to safety (v.23-24). Paul holds tight to God’s promise and it gives him new inspiration during a difficult time. As we continue reading through Acts 27 we see Paul, in a way, take command of the ship. He’s their voice of reason during uncertainty and doubt. He relays God’s message to them, a message of hope and encouragement. A message that says, “Everyone will be saved!” And it’s amidst this backdrop, a horrible storm and no hope, that Julius finds trust in Paul’s words.

Questions:
- Does God use outside circumstances (e.g. a natural disaster, suffering, death, troubling time, etc.,) to bring us into a relationship with Him?
- If yes, how?
- Does God use outside circumstances (e.g. a natural disaster, suffering, death, troubling time, etc.,) to nurture our relationship with Him?
- Why?
- Do you think He cause events (e.g. a natural disaster, suffering, death, troubling time, etc.,) like that to happen?
- If you believe He causes events like that to happen, what does that say or teach about God?
- How does your view line up with what Scripture teaches?
- How would Julius answer these questions?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Paul before Agrippa II (Acts 26)

Digging into Acts 26 we find Paul ready to speak before King Agrippa II and his high-class audience (see Acts 25:23 for a rundown of who all was present). Paul opens his speech by buttering up King Agrippa II. Luke writes in verses 1-3,

Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: "In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

We see the Holy Spirit working here in Paul’s life by the way he respects those in authority. He’s living out what he asked other Christians to do in Romans 13:1,

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

Paul had every right to be angry and seditious towards those above him, but he wasn’t. This was an honest man being accused of something he didn’t do. What an example for us today in how we should respond when the world rises up against us. Continuing, we hear Paul again tell his testimony. He starts from his childhood and retells his journey to becoming a Pharisee. He gives details regarding his obsession with persecuting Christians (v.9-11). Then, he transitions into his encounter with the Living Christ on the road to Damascus. From this point on Paul was adamant in preaching repentance, turning to God, and proving repentance by what you do; to both Jews and Gentiles.

During Paul’s discourse on Christ Festus interrupts and basically calls him crazy (v.24). Paul defends himself and even adds, “What I am saying is true and reasonable.” Paul says Christianity is reasonable? He then asks Agrippa II his thoughts and if he believes the prophets and what they have to say in regards to Jesus. Agrippa II responds, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replies, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
The tenacity of this man is amazing and inspiring! My prayer is for the Holy Spirit to give me that type of boldness before the world.

Questions:
- How would you have responded to Agrippa II/Festus?
- Would you have been able to respond in respect and love like Paul?
- What does this teach us about Paul’s conversion?
- What does this teach us about the power of God?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Festus (Acts 25)

Well, we’re almost through the book of Acts. It’s been a long journey, but very rewarding. We get an up close and personal example of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world around us through the Lord’s disciples. Some of the benefits in reading Acts straight through have been:
- A chance to see God at work in ordinary people.
- A chance to see what those ordinary people can accomplish with the Holy Spirit living in them.
- A chance to see many lives transformed by God through the Holy Spirit.
- A chance to see what a community of believers working together in unity to spread the Gospel looks like.
Those are just a few generic observations. Reading the text and connecting people and places has been rewarding for me. I’ve come away with a new respect for Paul and his missionary journeys. What an amazing man!

Moving back to our story in Acts 25 we find Paul back in familiar territory and ready to stand before a new Roman governor by the name of Festus. He doesn’t seem to be as corrupt as the previous one (Felix). Again, some Jews think up a plot to kill Paul on his way to Jerusalem. Luke writes in verse 3,

They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way.

Festus wisely summons Paul’s accusers to Caesarea and the plot to kill Paul is foiled again (ha!). Next we find Paul standing trial and speaking boldly in the presence of his enemies. A turning point occurs in this trial when Paul appeals to stand before Caesar. This was something all Roman citizens had a right to do. Who was the Caesar that Paul would be appealing to? None other than the fun-loving compassionate man named Nero (yeah right!). So, this pretty much seals the deal on Paul’s trip to Rome. We shouldn’t be surprised because back in Acts 23:11 Jesus says to Paul,

“Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem,
so you must also testify in Rome.”


Paul is going to Rome to spread the Gospel. It may be under different circumstances (as a prisoner) then you or I would like to go, but he’s going. Before Paul leaves however, someone wants to see and hear him. Who is it? King Agrippa II and his wife/sister? Bernice. He was great-grandson to Herod the Great (Remember him? He tried killing Jesus as a baby). His father (Herod Agrippa I), if you forgot, was the one struck down by God in Acts 12:23 for not giving praise to God. So, Paul, in chains and prison garb, gets an impressive audience to speak before. What kind of message will he bring? What type of miraculous things will God work out? We’ll find out next week as we explore Acts 26.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Book Review (Gutsy Faith)


In Jeff Edmondson’s book Gutsy Faith (Hard Conversations with God) we learn how to hear and obey God’s voice and will for our lives. The title of the book (Gutsy Faith) gives good credence to what self-surrendered obedience to God takes. Not shy to address tough issues Jeff dives headfirst into a hard conversation with God. One of the key points to this book is that it is never God’s desire to say no to His children (pg.25). From this we’re launched on a no holds barred journey of what our lives would/could look like if we embraced and believed this.

Positive: I appreciated the extra reading of Scripture before each chapter. It set the stage nicely for what each chapter contained. A nice job was done connecting the Scriptures to the chapters in the book. I also appreciated Jeff’s inductive Bible study skills of pulling truth from the Scriptures.

Usually the chapters will start with a re-telling of the Scripture chunks (the ones you’re asked to read at the beginning of each chapter) in a bit more drawn out and readable way (I really liked that!). This was a nice way to pull the reader into the story and maybe make him/her see some things they missed or see from a different perspective. Jeff then explains the passage in its historical context. Answering the question: What did this mean back then? He also looks at the passage of Scripture within the context of the previous and following chapters of the book. We find this to be the key in interpreting some of Jesus’ sayings and teachings. Jeff also is very mindful of the Scriptures as a whole and their teaching about human salvation and redemption.

The Bible study within this book was very well done. I actually wanted more of it. I think it shows how much time the author spent studying, reading, and re-reading not just the passage of Scripture, but the whole book. The story was told, personal illustration was given, sometimes practical advice was given, and through the Thought Questions section application was given.

The Thought Questions section at the end of each chapter move this book into the workbook/small group genre. I personally think this book would best be used within a small group or one on one situation. Sure you can go through by yourself, but working with someone else and hearing how he or she answered the questions would build fellowship. The questions weren’t surface level questions either. This is something I appreciate because so many times bible studies and/or devotional books ask shallow thoughtless questions. To answer these questions you’re going to have to sit down and think. It’s helpful because it helps you hammer out what you really believe. Used within a small group setting, this could be priceless, because you could help one another in developing a systematic theology.

This book is also very practical. Chapter 14 Too Tired To Deal With It is an extremely helpful chapter to anyone wanting to hear from God or anyone wanting to know how to hear from God.

Negative: Although this book is for everyone, at the same time it isn’t. Anyone could read it, but not everyone will pull from it what Jeff is intending to be pulled. This book is meant for someone already in a relationship with Jesus. If you don’t have that, you may find this book interesting and a good read, but nothing more. This is especially true when it comes to the Thought Questions section of the book. These questions play off of one’s relationship with God. They seek to develop and grow a deeper understanding of God and to nurture a deeper relationship with Him. So, those who read this and don’t have that (personal relationship with God) will feel left out. But, Jeff knew this when writing the book and I believe he was targeting a specific group (late teen to twenty somethings) who will no doubt find this book a helpful guide as they walk with the Lord.

Final thoughts: I highly recommend this book to any youth pastor/pastor needing a discipling tool for older teenagers and college career. It wouldn’t hurt for adults to read too. This could also be a helpful tool for any pastor engaged in evangelism and discipleship. Once new converts are won to the Lord, they will no doubt find themselves having hard conversations with God. This book is also a perfect fit for one on one and small group discipleship. It’s enjoyable, easy to read, and challenging. If you interested in purchasing this book you can do so by clicking here --> Gutsy Faith by Jeff Edmondson.

Thoughts on Acts

Acts

Below is compilation of my thoughts and personal study in the book of Acts. This is a result of teaching through each chapter in the book of Acts, something that took a year to accomplish. I thank my teenagers for their patience and insights. If you want to adventure along I recommend you have your Bible near so you too can read and discover God’s truth in Acts. Hope you enjoy!

Waiting on God
(Acts 1)

Have you ever been told to wait? It can birth feelings of frustration, impatience, humiliation, and invigoration. Even all four at once! Usually the emotions following waiting depend on what we’re waiting for. Some say, “I can’t wait to get married! I can’t wait to get out of school! I can’t wait in line, I’m an important person!” Despite who we are, we all find ourselves waiting. What is it about waiting that perturbs us humans? Yes, waiting for something pleasurable (like a gift) is a lot different then waiting to hear a doctor’s report on if you have cancer or not. But I’m not focusing on the thing we’re waiting for, but on waiting itself.

In Acts 1:4 Jesus tells His disciples,

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

Some suggest Jesus is restoring His disciple’s faith by asking them to wait in Jerusalem. He’s giving them a second chance to not run off and desert Him like they did when He was crucified. Others say it was to fuel their desire and want for the Gift He promised. No matter how you view this, one thing remains…they had to wait. More importantly, Jesus asked them to wait. What? God asking us to wait? Seems kind of absurd! Especially since we live in a society drenched in instant this and instant that. Waiting just doesn’t fit into the picture here. Or does it?

Throughout the book of Acts we find people waiting. Numerous times we find the disciples waiting in jail (Acts 5:18, 12:5, 16:23), Paul had to wait to receive his sight back after his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:9), and the Gentile Christians at Antioch had to wait to hear the verdict on if they were to be circumcised or not (Acts 15:1, 5). Waiting is everywhere! *Even before the book of Acts, in the Gospels, the disciples have to wait three days for their Savior to rise from the dead.

In our day and age people are cleverly thinking up new ways to make waiting shorter. We have drive-thru restaurants, drive-thru banks, and now drive-thru prescription pick-ups. Imagine your grandparent’s reaction to hearing that when it was first announced. Think of how frustrating it is when you have to wait in a drive-thru? (There has to be some irony here. The drive-thru was invented so you wouldn’t have to wait, right?) You know what I’m talking about. The guy/gal in front of you orders that “special burger” that takes 10 minutes to make. So, you’re forced into staring at their bumper sticker, which reads, “Proud parent of an honor student.” Or the other classic, “Proud parent of a kid who beat up your honor student!” Nevertheless, you’re left waiting.

I once heard it took all day to do laundry by hand, now it takes an hour or two. We can have dinner ready in minutes. That should give us at least an hour or so of extra free time from the normal time it would take to prepare a hearty dinner, right? With things working quicker and us not having to wait so much, you would think we would have more free time. Think again! I surveyed my own life during the week and I was amazed at how little free time I have. It seems every shortcut taken to save time was canceled out. Why? Because I kept filling my schedule with one more thing. The fact that we can do more things quicker only means we can do more things. It’s like I don’t want to have to wait around, so I busy myself doing something else. I try really hard to eliminate waiting in my life. Should I be doing that?

Looking back to Acts 1, I think Jesus was on to something when He asked His disciples to wait? Maybe there’s something to learn about God here. If Jesus deems it necessary to wait, then maybe waiting isn’t so bad. Jesus could have instantly given the disciples the Holy Spirit, but instead He asked them to wait. Maybe He was preparing them for the Christian life, which waiting is embedded in. How? As Christians, we all universally have something we’re waiting for. Maybe I should say Someone. The return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Someday (I hope it’s soon!) the waiting will be over. So, the next time you find yourself waiting, let it remind you of the hope we have as Christians. Hope in our Lord’s return. Let Him teach you in that sometimes frustrating, impatient, humiliating, and invigorating moment of waiting that He is one day coming back.


Questions:

- Do you cringe when you have to wait for something?
- What do you think God is trying to teach us by having us wait?
- Is there anything you have learned about God or life through waiting?
- Do you think it’s cruel that God sometimes has us wait for things?
- Why do you think Jesus told them to wait?


Fellowship
(Acts 2)


After Peter’s Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2, we see some radical changes implemented into the lives of the early believers. Read Acts 2:41-47 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. To kick start this special event, Pentecost was a special time for Jews all over the region. During this time (50 days after Passover. The Greek word for “fiftieth day” is Pentecost), they would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. Thousands of Jews would be in Jerusalem during this time. Now we see why God was waiting to pour out His Spirit. As they were gathered the Holy Spirit was given to all in the upper room who were praying and they began speaking in tongues. Following this, Peter (now filled with the Holy Spirit) delivers a fiery sermon calling for repentance and baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ (v.38).

The aftermath is incredible. Listen to Luke’s words as he records the events in verse 41,

“Those who accepted his
message were baptized, and about
three thousand were added to their number that day.”

Luke doesn’t stop there, good things continue to happen. Listen to verse 42,

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

One of the things I note from this passage is the fellowship the early believers were devoted to. In the Greek language the word is Koinonia. It means communion with, close association with, and community. This word is also used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:14 to described the type of fellowship we believers have with the Holy Spirit. He states,

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

That’s a pretty intimate type of fellowship.

One of the things I cherish about J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is the close fellowship between the characters. One example is the fellowship between Frodo and Sam. They are in such a tight fellowship with one another that what one does or feels, the other does or feels. We even discover that Sam is willing to risk his life to protect and follow Frodo. In the book you have a fellowship on a journey and this fellowship involves people making sacrifices for one another, helping one another, and sticking with one another despite despairing circumstances.

The fellowship in Tolkien’s novel shadows the type of fellowship the early Christians in Acts display. Acts is a real life documentation of Christians in Agape love with one another. I think it’s important to note that this fellowship happens after the Holy Spirit is poured out. So, we see a close connection between loving one another in an Agape type way and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Could we love one another like that without the Holy Spirit? This must have been an exciting time for the early Christians! Luke goes on to describe them as meeting together every day (v.46). There had to be something supernatural going on for that to happen!

It’s like pulling teeth today to get Christians to come together for one Sunday morning service. I won’t dare touch Sunday night or the midweek service. You pastors know how well those are attended (some pastors and churches have dealt with the problem by canceling services). Maybe we need to be praying for God’s Spirit to fill us in such a way that we want and desire to come together. Then, when we do come together, it’s out of our love for God and commitment to one another. Do you long for real and authentic fellowship with one another? If yes, don’t throw away those longings, but keep praying, because God answers our prayers.


Questions:

- How does this portrayal of fellowship stack up to our portrayal of fellowship today?
- What are some ways we could improve our fellowship with one another?
- Why do you think the early Christians were so adamant about coming together?
- What hindrances keep us from coming together like the early Christians?
- What ideas do you have to help improve our fellowship as Christians?

Enabling
(Acts 2)

Acts 2 opens up with a firestorm (literally) of action! Listen to Luke’s description in the opening verses,

1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

In the next verse (v.4) we see the disciples speaking in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. In Greek (the language the New Testament was originally written in) the word “enabled” is didomi (to give, grant, or permit). First and foremost we must see that this giving/enabling comes from God. The disciple’s part in all of this was to wait (see Acts 1:4). God’s part was enabling them to speak in different languages. God was the supplier of the power. This is only the beginning of God through the Holy Spirit enabling His disciples to do miraculous and amazing things. Throughout the book of Acts the disciples are enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues, heal the sick, stand bold amidst persecution, and even raise the dead! It’s amazing what God wants to do through us.

I wonder how willing we are to be used by God? How willing and open are we to Him enabling us? Our culture focuses on self-empowerment. I’ve seen late night info commercials flaunting the slogan “The real power is within you”. Yikes! If that’s the case, I’m in trouble! The Bible makes it pretty clear that humans are born with sinful natures (Ephesians 2:3). Implying we’re marred from birth. The only power inside us is the power to naturally do evil. Does that sound like the type of power you want? In light of this, it makes sense that God would want to come live inside of us (through the Holy Spirit). If He doesn’t, we’re doomed to spending life chained to our sinful nature.

One of the dangers in reading Acts is to think, “God will never work like this again.” God will and is working like this and has been for the past 2,000 years. Acts isn’t just a parade of God’s best in action. It’s showing us what life in the Spirit is like. Those of us who have accepted Christ have the Spirit living inside of us (Ephesians 1:12). We have that same enabling power the early disciples received. God through His Holy Spirit wants to use us like He did those early disciples.

If you have trouble seeing the Holy Spirit at work, go and ask some of the saints in your church for examples. Be prepared for a long list of stories, because they are living testimonies to the Spirit’s work. We cannot doubt the Spirit’s work. The book of James tells us,

6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
If you doubt the Spirit will ever work in your life and perform the type of miracles He did through the early disciple’s lives…He probably won’t. Even though God is way more than we can ever expect, sometimes what we expect is what we get. So, I challenge you to spend some time reading and re-reading this first part of Acts (v.1-4). Remember that the disciples had nothing in themselves to produce the type of power they received when the Holy Spirit came on them. These were regular men and women (they were there too).

Questions:
- Do you ever doubt what the Spirit can do in your life?
- Have you ever witnessed the Spirit doing something miraculous? If yes, what?
- What are some of the stories the saints in your church tell about the Holy Spirit?


Crippled from birth
(Acts 3)


Imagine being born crippled. Imagine the often taken for granted things in life you would never know or understand. Things like running, jumping, and walking. But then one day, out of the blue, you are healed. Imagine the excitement and splendor in learning how to do all the things you’ve missed out on in life. Such is the story at the beginning of Acts 3. Peter and John are on their way to the temple to pray (Jewish custom) and they encounter a man, a beggar, who was crippled from birth (v.1-2). He makes his usual requests for money and receives something more; a healing, and more importantly the Gospel.

This healing is a miraculous story for two reasons:

First, this wasn’t a healing done by Jesus, but by one of His disciples. A disciple that had abandoned Him a few months earlier (read Luke 22:54-62). I’m talking about Peter. Before Pentecost, Peter was guilty of desertion, but after God poured out His Spirit on him, Peter became something better. What I mean is that Peter, after being filled with the Holy Spirit, became more original. He was in tune and in fellowship with God. This was what man and woman were originally created for. Remember Genesis and the Garden of Eden? Man and woman were supposed to live in perpetual fellowship with God there. But, after being deceived by the serpent, the fellowship with God was broken. Their sin carried with it harsh consequences. Kicked out of the Garden of Eden and kicked out of fellowship with God. (Here’s the full story if you want to read it, Genesis 3:1-24)

Second, this story could almost be used as an analogy to describe the condition of every human being before they encounter Christ. We are all born crippled in a spiritual sense. The Bible constantly reminds us that we are born with sinful natures. Listen to the words of Paul as he writes to the Church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:3) describing life before coming to know Christ,

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings
of our sinful nature and following
its desires and thoughts.”

Sinning comes natural for us. Even if Satan and all his cronies were wiped out, we would still sin (*See note below). They don’t make us sin, we choose to sin because of our sinful natures. They aren’t the problem, we are. I heard somebody once say, “If you want to see the most evil creature on earth, you’re going to need a mirror.”

*I’m not trying to downplay or deny the influence Satan and his demons have on people. I’m not saying they sit around and do absolutely nothing, because they do try and entice us to sin in numerous ways (ways we probably aren’t even aware of). My point is that they are not the ones who make us sin. Yes, Sate did entice Eve in the Garden of Eden, but he didn’t make her take the fruit or the bite (same goes for Adam), she made the choice as well as Adam. If we blame our sins and sinful nature all on fallen angels, Jesus shouldn’t have died for us, but for them. We are responsible for our sins and our sinful nature.

The Good News for us who believe in Christ is that we receive a healing. God’s Holy Spirit was given to us for this very purpose. To cleanse us, to purify us, and to put to death our sinful nature. Despite your theological background you cannot deny that God wants His Spirit to live in us. He wants His Spirit to live through us. He wants His Spirit to make us like His Son Jesus Christ.

The crippled man saw and heard Someone that day in his encounter with Peter and John, Someone who would change his life forever. He heard the Gospel and saw the Spirit at work in Peter and his own life (his healing). God’s Spirit is going to change the Ancient World forever with the help of men and women willing to submit to Him. He wants to do miraculous things in and through us. We just need His grace to allow us to let Him do it. Are you willing and ready?

This story is a remarkable way to start a ministry. The crippled man was just as happy as I’m sure the disciples were. Acts 3:9 talks of him jumping and praising God. Before we come to God we are crippled, remember that. Read Acts 3 again and see humanity in the crippled man. I hope this story opens your eyes to the need of God in men and women around the world.

Questions:
- Do you find it amazing the Peter healed this man?
- Why or why not?
- When’s the last time you saw a display of God’s power like this?


Festus
(Acts 25)


Well, we’re almost through the book of Acts. It’s been a long journey, but very rewarding. We get an up close and personal example of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world around us through the Lord’s disciples. Some of the benefits in reading Acts straight through have been:
- A chance to see God at work in ordinary people.
- A chance to see what those ordinary people can accomplish with the Holy Spirit living in them.
- A chance to see many lives transformed by God through the Holy Spirit.
- A chance to see what a community of believers working together in unity to spread the Gospel looks like.
Those are just a few generic observations. Reading the text and connecting people and places has been rewarding for me. I’ve come away with a new respect for Paul and his missionary journeys. What an amazing man!

Paul’s now back in familiar territory and ready to stand before a new Roman governor by the name of Festus. He doesn’t seem to be as corrupt as the previous one (Felix). Again, some Jews think up a plot to kill Paul on his way to Jerusalem. Luke writes in verse 3,

They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way.

Festus wisely summons Paul’s accusers to Caesarea and the plot to kill Paul is foiled again (ha!). Next we find Paul standing trial and speaking boldly in the presence of his enemies. A turning point occurs in this trial when Paul appeals to stand before Caesar. This was something all Roman citizens had a right to do. Who was the Caesar that Paul would be appealing to? None other than the fun-loving compassionate man named Nero (yeah right!). So, this pretty much seals the deal on Paul’s trip to Rome. We shouldn’t be surprised because back in Acts 23:11 Jesus says to Paul,

“Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem,
so you must also testify in Rome.”

Paul is going to Rome to spread the Gospel. It may be under different circumstances (as a prisoner) then you or I would like to go, but he’s going. Before Paul leaves however, someone wants to see and hear him. Who is it? King Agrippa II and his wife/sister? Bernice. He was great-grandson to Herod the Great (Remember him? He tried killing Jesus as a baby). His father (Herod Agrippa I), if you forgot, was the one struck down by God in Acts 12:23 for not giving praise to God. So, Paul, in chains and prison garb, gets an impressive audience to speak before. What kind of message will he bring? What type of miraculous things will God work out? We’ll find out next week as we explore Acts 26.


Paul before Agrippa II
(Acts 26)


Digging into Acts 26 we find Paul ready to speak before King Agrippa II and his high-class audience (see Acts 25:23 for a rundown of who all was present). Paul opens his speech by buttering up King Agrippa II. Luke writes,

Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: "In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

We see the Holy Spirit working here in Paul’s life by the way he respects those in authority. He’s living out what he asked other Christians to do in Romans 13:1,

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

Paul had every right to be angry and seditious towards those above him, but he wasn’t. This was an honest man being accused of something he didn’t do. What an example for us today in how we should respond when the world rises up against us. Continuing, we hear Paul again tell his testimony. He starts from his childhood and retells his journey to becoming a Pharisee. He gives details regarding his obsession with persecuting Christians (v.9-11). Then, he transitions into his encounter with the Living Christ on the road to Damascus. From this point on Paul was adamant in preaching repentance, turning to God, and proving repentance by what you do; to both Jews and Gentiles.

During Paul’s discourse on Christ Festus interrupts and basically calls him crazy (v.24). Paul defends himself and even adds, “What I am saying is true and reasonable.” Paul says Christianity is reasonable? He then asks Agrippa II his thoughts and if he believes the prophets and what they have to say in regards to Jesus. Agrippa II responds, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replies, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
The tenacity of this man is amazing and inspiring! My prayer is for the Holy Spirit to give me that type of boldness before the world.

Questions:
- How would you have responded to Agrippa II/Festus?
- Would you have been able to respond in respect and love like Paul?
- What does this teach us about Paul’s conversion?
- What does this teach us about the power of God?


Julius
(Acts 27)


Acts 27 records the incredible story of Paul’s journey to Rome through the Mediterranean Sea. They are traveling on a very large ship (Luke reports that there were 276 people on board, 27:37). A Roman centurion by the name of Julius is in charge of transporting prisoners to Rome aboard this ship. One of those prisoners (Paul) will have a huge impact on his life. At first, Julius pays little attention to Paul’s advice concerning sailing (v.11). However, it can’t be deduced that Julius is unfair in his treatment of Paul because verse 3 records quite the opposite,

“Julius, in his kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his
friends so they might provide for his needs.”

Apparently Julius had a certain amount of respect for Paul. We’re not sure why; maybe it developed from the way Paul treated him, maybe Paul’s Roman citizenship helped him connect to Julius, or maybe good words from other Roman soldiers were spoken about Paul. Whatever the case, Paul and Julius know and communicate to each other.

As they continuing sailing Paul informs Julius and the men aboard the ship that the voyage is going to be dangerous. His advice is ignored and they continue sailing. It’s not long after this that the crew finds themselves in a violent “northeaster” storm. The storm is so bad that even Luke seems to indicate he’s lost hope. He writes in verse 20,

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

An interesting change takes place in the heart of Julius during this trying time. He moves from treating Paul’s words as weightless and empty to believing everything Paul has to say (read verse 29-32 & 42-43). The previous night an angel of the Lord visited Paul and promised him that God would see everyone through and to safety (v.23-24). Paul holds tight to God’s promise and it gives him new inspiration during a difficult time. As we continue reading through Acts 27 we see Paul, in a way, take command of the ship. He’s their voice of reason during uncertainty and doubt. He relays God’s message to them, a message of hope and encouragement. A message that says, “Everyone will be saved!” And it’s amidst this backdrop, a horrible storm and no hope, that Julius finds trust in Paul’s words.



Questions:
- Does God use outside circumstances (e.g. a natural disaster, suffering, death, troubling time, etc.,) to bring us into a relationship with Him?
- If yes, how?
- Does God use outside circumstances (e.g. a natural disaster, suffering, death, troubling time, etc.,) to nurture our relationship with Him?
- Why?
- Do you think He cause events (e.g. a natural disaster, suffering, death, troubling time, etc.,) like that to happen?
- If you believe He causes events like that to happen, what does that say or teach about God?
- How does your view line up with what Scripture teaches?
- How would Julius answer these questions?


A poem for Paul

Our Wednesday night Bible study in Acts has come to an end. We’ve learned so much about Paul and how he lived his life. If only more Christians would strive to live life with no regrets and totally sold-out to God. Would it make a difference? Oh yeah! I don’t know why, but I felt compelled to try and put Paul’s life into a simple short poem. Tell me what you think?

Paul’s Life

Trained by Pharisees and in his mind smart
A man of great knowledge, but lacking true heart

An advocate for learning, praised for his stature
He demanded Christ’s followers all be captured

Proud to protect that which was dear
He boldly persecuted out of a self-righteous fear

One day as he traveled to Damascus
A Light shown forth and he met his real Master

Broken, blind, and discipled by Ananias
Paul was now a disciple of the humble Messiah

Transformed from within and determined to preach
Paul set out to tells others of the life within reach

Befriended by Barnabas and an encouragement to the Church
Paul’s message of Christ crucified must be heard

He ministered in Antioch and taught others about Christ
Confess and believe in your heart in that God raised Him from the dead and you will have life

After preaching and teaching God moved Paul on
He was now God’s ambassador to a world living in wrong

He walked, rode, and sailed thousands of miles
Always keeping in mind he must preach Christ to the Gentiles

He never forsook his Jewish roots
He loved his people, even when they falsely accused

Now on trial Paul appeals to Caesar
No worry, Jesus has promised him a new place to minister

Headed for Rome and shackled in chains
A northeaster wind showed that Paul’s faith would remain

Taking charge and holding onto God’s Word
Amidst and sinking ship Paul made sure God was heard

Settled in Rome and preaching without restraint
He will always be remember as one of the great saints

The End

Thoughts on Suffering

“Why does God allow bad things to happen?”

It’s a legitimate question, one I too have asked. However, the early Christians didn’t cower or run from this question, they continued to embrace God and speak justly of Him during suffering. I want to begin talking about why God allows bad things to happen or why God allows evil and suffering in this world? It’s a question many ask and still seek an answer to. Some claim it as their number one reason for not believing in God. My hopes as we endeavor through this, are that we learn something new about God and how good and loving He really is towards us. He is perfect in His love towards us and He never wills us to suffer. It was never a part of His original plan for us. But nonetheless, evil and suffering exist in our world today.

Why does God allow evil and suffering in this world?
Thinking deeply about evil and suffering allows us to see that it ultimately points back to one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity, free will. Because of God’s love for Adam and Eve He created them to be completely free. In the Garden of Eden God allowed man and woman to make choices. They could choose to be obedient to Him and His one rule (not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil) or they could choose to be disobedient.

In Genesis 3 we see Adam and Eve exercising their free will. They were tempted by the Serpent and chose to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God didn’t step in and stop them because He gave them the choice. How could He have granted them total freedom if He didn’t allow them to be disobedient? And so we see it was from one of God’s greatest gift to humanity (free will) that evil emerged. Human freedom gave birth to the evils from which suffering transpired. So we discover God permits evil, suffering, pain, and death in this life because He granted us free will.

Think about it this way, a god who feared evil would not have let it exist. But our God who is all powerful (Omnipotent), all knowing (Omniscient), and everywhere (Omnipresent) is unshakable in His sovereignty (Rule over entire Universe) even amongst evil. So firm in fact, He came to earth, lived among us, and remained the unblemished Lamb who never sinned. If God didn’t permit evil and suffering, His coming to earth, living a perfectly holy life, resisting sin, and dying for us would be meaningless. He brings hope to humanity by redeeming us to God through His blood.

So, why does God allow evil and suffering in this world? Because He gave us total and complete free will. And it couldn’t be called free will without the ability to choose freely right or wrong. And it was our wrong choices that let evil, death, suffering, and pain into our world. Now it becomes much clearer as to why humanity needs a Redeemer (Jesus). Thank you God for free will and redemption!

Amazing as this might sound, God can cause good to come out of bad. He can take a hopeless situation and turn it completely around. Not fully convinced? Look at what resulted from humanity bringing evil, suffering, pain, and death into the world, God gave His One Son, Jesus Christ. And through His Son He restored a broken relationship between Himself and humanity (available to all who confess Jesus as Lord and believe God raised Him from the dead.). I want to talk about the ways God can pull good from bad or how He can use suffering in our life to help us become more like Him.

How does God use suffering in our lives to help us become more like Him?
One of the many things I admire about the early Christians in the book of Acts is their reaction during suffering. Luke writes in Acts 12:5 after Peter was thrown into prison that “the Church was earnestly praying for him.” They turned to God. Earlier they had faced a similar situation and knew calling out to God in prayer was their only hope (Acts 4:23-24). That is probably one of the greatest goods to come out of suffering; people turning to God. What an example we set for others when suffering only strengthens our relationship with Jesus Christ. Something to think about the next time you find yourself facing hard times.

Another way God uses suffering in our lives is, to strengthen us spiritually. If we never suffered, like an athlete who neglected training and exercise, our spiritual lives would become weak, lazy, and never taste victory. Spiritual growth occurs when suffering pushes us beyond our human limits and we realize our finite human condition and powerlessness. Then we learn what it means to totally trust in God’s perfect sacrifice (Jesus Christ) and His empowering Holy Spirit. Again, this trails back to turning to God amidst suffering.

Scary as this is to say, I see suffering as essential to the life of every believer. In our spiritual lives suffering functions like a proof to an algebraic equation, telling the truth about our relationship with God. If we have a solid or shaky relationship with Jesus Christ, suffering will show it. Think of friendship. How do you know you have true friends? Is it because they stick with you when times are good and nothing bad happens? No way! You call them true friends because they stick with you through thick and thin. And when something bad does happen, you don’t blame them. You rely on them and turn to them for help. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that with God during our times of suffering?

So I say all of this to say, suffering, if we allow it can bring us closer to God. I have no doubts that suffering can do quite the opposite too. I’m not na├»ve; I know things happen sometimes (i.e. death of a loved one, murder, suicide) and there is no explanation as to why and God seems further away than ever. But, I believe we make the choice on which way we want it to lead us. Goes back to God giving us free will (right to choose). The best example given on how to respond to evil, suffering, pain, and death is found in Jesus Christ. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John and you’ll discover He let suffering push Him closer to His Father.

Notes on Suffering:
- God promises to be w/ us in our struggle. (Phil. 3:10)
- Promises victory over temporal suffering in eternity. (Rom 8:18)
- We discover this in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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Thoughts on Roman Centurions

Coming soon!

Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer

Coming soon!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More on Felix (Acts 24)

A big thanks to all who went on and helped out with the Dirty Feet Retreat! It was an awesome youth retreat! I see God working in ways I would have never guessed!

Last week we began looking closely at the Roman governor Felix. We put together a character sketch of Felix using the Scriptures. The surface level observations we made help lead us to sub-surface observations. Sub-surface observations are simply; observations that go deeper into the text. They may not specifically be mentioned or addressed. You have to really familiarize yourself with the passage (by reading and re-reading it) and the book to find them. As always, the rewards are worth it!

Here is what others observed about Felix’s character from mining the Scriptures:

- John10 said, “Felix = A Roman governor dude who probably made good money and lived above everyone else. To some he might seem like a jerk I guess. He wanted Paul to give him money so that proves my point.”

- Yourblogreader said, “My impression of Felix is, he's a big chicken, only doing what others expect of him.”


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Here are some of my own sub-surface observations I make regarding Felix’s character:

Sub-surface Observations:

Verse 24-25 reads,

He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, "That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you."

- Felix wanted to hear what he wanted to hear. He didn’t want to hear the truth as Paul proclaimed it. Why? Probably because he wasn’t living a righteous and self-controlled life. Then, when Paul moved on to talk about the judgment to come it made Felix queasy and he couldn’t stomach the truth anymore.

He also had ulterior motives for questioning and listening to Paul. The man was hoping Paul would offer him money. He wanted Paul to buy him off. The Gospel wasn’t front and center for Felix, he was. What’s amazing is that God allowed Felix the opportunity to hear the Good News. God gave him a chance for repentance. Did he ever take it? It’s hard to know for sure. From our encounter with him in Acts 24 it sounds like he didn’t care too much about it. I hope I’m wrong.

*I'll be back next week with a short review on Gutsy Faith by Jeff Edmondson.

Thoughts on Discipleship (Revised and updated)

Disciple (in the secular sense) = Pupil, student, learner

Disciple (according to Luke/Acts) = One who has put their faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

Studying Luke and Acts has challenged the way I see discipleship. Luke is clear (there are some exceptions) in that when he uses the word disciple/disciples he is talking about believers, Christians, saints (used by Paul), brothers/sisters (used by Paul and other New Testament writers) who have put their faith in Christ as Lord (Acts 3:16-19). Becoming a disciple is not taking Christianity to a new level. It’s not like in Karate where you move from a white belt to a yellow belt. Discipleship is Christianity. Discipleship is a process all Christians undertake when they believe in Jesus.

What does a disciple of Christ look like? If you look through pages of the Bible you get a good picture of what a disciple looks like. They are normal people who have put their faith in Jesus. Some of Jesus’ disciples were roughneck fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, demon possessed, adulterers, lepers, sick, lame, blind, and many others. There seems to be nothing special about these people. God doesn’t show favoritism. They each had their own problems: some were doubters, some denied knowing Jesus, and others deserted Jesus. But, they continued to follow Him. They had plenty of reasons to give up, but they didn’t.

As a result of their perseverance, they received the promised Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. What difference did it make in their lives? Well, Peter stood up to opposition and proclaimed boldly the Good News about Jesus Christ. Tradition says Peter was crucified and killed because of his beliefs. Do you want to be like that?

Where are we today with discipleship? Are Wesleyan/Armenian Christians (who reject the idea of eternal security) becoming lax in the process of discipleship? I won’t make it if we do because I need the help of others and the church to fully mature in this discipleship process. I can’t walk alone. No one can walk alone. We weren’t made to walk alone. We need our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to uphold (sometimes carry) us. We need our fellow Christians to be in our face about our walk with God. We need them to be asking us the tough questions:

- What known sins have you committed this week?
- What temptations have you faced?
- Were you delivered?
- What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
*Thank you John Wesley for these questions

We need help. Why? It goes back to the Fall in Genesis 3. Since then, we humans have all been born into sin. Sin separates us from God and each other. We’re born with sinful natures that make it easy for us to choose evil and do wrong to God and others. It comes natural to want to run away from God. That’s not what God wants from us. He wants a relationship with us. He wants discipleship. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19,

“Go and make disciples of all nations.”


The main verb here is “make disciples”. Luke paints a pretty clear picture of what a disciple is, one who has counted the cost in regards to following Jesus (Luke 14), denied themselves, taken up their cross, and following Jesus on a day to day basis (Luke 9:23). Such obedience causes one not only to learn from Christ, but also to become so attached to Him (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) he/she actually becomes like Him to others. That’s powerful! That my friend is what it means to be a disciple, Christian, believer, saint, brother/sister of Christ.

Thoughts on Exodus

Exodus
(Chapter 1)


We’ve begun studying the book of Exodus in our Sunday school class. While I haven’t been able to devote as much study and research as I would like to this book, I still want to write and point out some observations pertaining to each chapter. Maybe this will help solidify in my mind the story about God, Israel, and Moses that’s found in Exodus.

Intro to Exodus
Exodus falls into the group of books known as the Pentateuch (the first five books of our Bible). The book picks up where Genesis leaves off (though many years later). Towards the end of the book of Genesis the Israelites have moved south to live in Egypt (Genesis 46:1-7). One of Jacob’s own sons, Joseph, had asked them to join him there. Joseph has found favor in the Pharaoh’s eyes and the Pharaoh allowed him to be a ruler over the land (Genesis 41:38-45). After moving to Egypt the Israelites settle in Egypt. Many years later we pick up with their story in the book of Exodus.

I’m fascinated with this book of our Bible. There’s so much going on. We see God beginning to work out His plan of redemption for humanity. We also see God beginning to work through a group of people (the Israelites) instead of individuals/families. God also refers to this group as, “My Firstborn” (4:22). But, at the same time God is still working in the lives of individuals. We see that in chapter 1.

Exodus 1
Chapter 1 starts off with the Israelites fulfilling God’s promise to them that He would bless them and make them into a great nation. Exodus 1:7 reads,

The sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.

This promise and blessing were given to Abraham back in Genesis 12:2. We see that God keeps His word. Getting back to Exodus we see that the Israelites’ fruitfulness has caused quite a stir amongst the Egyptians. There’s a new Pharaoh and he’s annoyed and worried about the situation. He foresees the Israelites allying with their enemies to destroy them. So, as a precautionary measure (it’s scary what fear will lead one to do) he does two things:

1. Makes the Israelites work harder (v.11). This harsh treatment actually backfires according to verse 12. It tells us that the Israelites grow more numerous because of their affliction.

2. Asks the Hebrew midwives to kill all Israelite babies who were male (v.15-17). It’s amidst this turn of events that we see God working in the lives of individuals. The Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, deny the Pharaoh the privilege of aborting the baby boys. Why did they throw out the Pharaoh’s orders and later lie to him? According to verse 17 it’s because they feared God. We see that God actually rewards their holy fear for Him in that He established households for them (v.21). What an incredible act of faith by these Hebrew women! What were the men doing during this time? Why didn’t they stand up? Did they fear God as much as theses women? Those are just a few questions that pop up in my head while reading through this first chapter.

The Israelites are in some serious trouble in Egypt. Exodus 1 does a good job of setting the stage for a redeemer of the people of God.



Exodus
(Chapter 2, pt.1)


This chapter of Exodus covers a lot of ground. We go from baby Moses to adult Moses in just a few verses. Therefore, I’m going to break it into three sections to help clarify what’s going on.

The first section, verses 2:1-11 gives us another glimpse into the life of an extraordinary person of our faith. Would you be surprised if I told you it was a woman? Moses’ mom takes one good look at her baby boy and decides she’s keeping him. Exodus 2:2-3 reads,

The woman conceived and gave birth to a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a papyrus reeds basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.

What happens as a result of her faith? The Pharaoh’s daughter finds baby Moses and has pity on him. She feels for the helpless child. Exodus then tells us that the Pharaoh’s daughter has him nursed (listen to this) by his own mother and (it gets better) she pays her for doing it. Isn’t that every parents dream to figure out how to get paid for raising their kids? This blessing didn’t last forever because later on when Moses was a little older he was brought to the Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son (v.10).

So we see in Exodus 2:1-11 the birth of Israel’s redeemer, Moses. It was definitely a special birth that no one would forget. Moses’ birth also sets the stage for how Moses will be brought up and raised (Egyptian). This directly plays into parts of his story and some of the things he does.



Exodus
(Chapter 2, pt.2)


In this next chunk of scripture we find Moses and he’s grown up. He’s an adult now and he enters into an adult situation. Verse 11 records it this way,

Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brothers and looked on their labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brothers.

Instead of talking it out, Moses decides it best to kill the Egyptian who was mistreating the Hebrew. He does it and then tries hiding the dead corpse in the sand. It’s not long after this that Moses walks in on another adult situation. Only this time it’s two of his own people arguing (v.13). He tries intervening and they reject it and remind him that they know he killed an Egyptian. One of them comments in verse 14, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Afraid of more than just the Israelites finding out about his murder, Moses flees.



Exodus
(Chapter 2, pt.3)


The last section of Exodus tells us about where Moses ends up after his escape. We find Moses settling in the barren country side of Midian. Then something interesting happens. The priest of Midian’s seven daughters show up to draw water from the well; a well that Moses happens to be sitting by (v.15). Apparently some of the other shepherds don’t like their presence and harass and try driving them away. It’s interesting because here Moses gets a small chance to deliver some people (v.17). We see God subtly rebuilding and restoring Moses. Through this bold task, Moses wins the favor of the daughters’ father, a man named Reuel, which leads him to win the favor of his future father-in-law Jethro.

Then Jethro invited Moses to live with him, to live with him and learn how to shepherd. What a change for Moses. From the palaces of Egypt to the grimy sands of Midian. Nevertheless, Moses adapts and even starts a family. Verses 21-22 reads,

Moses was wiling to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”

It’s after this that we are taken back to Egypt. We’re told three things of significance here:
1. The Pharaoh had died (v.23).

2. The Israelites were still in bondage and were crying out for God to deliver them (v.23).

3. God was listening to His children cry out and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v.24).

Exodus 2 teaches us that God is always listening. We learn that even though he may seem quiet, it doesn’t mean He isn’t moving or working. During Israel’s groaning, God was preparing Moses in the wilderness. He was preparing Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The last couple verses teach us that God’s ear is always turned to the brokenhearted. Let me let you read His words found in Exodus 2:24-25,

So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.



Exodus
(Chapter 3)


In Exodus 3 God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. It’s an amazing story, but maybe more amazing is what we learn about God and His plan of redemption. Here He is going to reveal that plan (working with an entire nation) to Moses.

We start off with Moses noticing a burning bush. Some Bible dictionaries point out that it wasn’t uncommon to see a bush burning up. The intense heat and dry conditions made it easy for a bush to spark and catch fire. But, the difference here is that this bush was not consumed by the fire (v.2). It didn’t burn up. Moses takes notice of this strange occurrence and investigates it (v.3-4). See, it always pays to investigate things. The discovery here is God Himself.

It’s neat to note that toward the end of verse 4 God calls Moses by his name. There’s no doubting the fact that God is personal and knows us. I wonder what ran through Moses’ mind as he stood before a burning bush calling his name. I’m sure it would capture your attention as it did his.

God calls and asks Moses to take his sandals off because he’s on holy ground now. Wanting Moses to know who He was, He describes Himself to Him,

“I am the God of your father, the God Abraham, the God Isaac,
and the God of Jacob.”


We see Moses’ reaction in verse 6,

Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Verses 7-9 show us God plan for Israel. Moses had to be floored because he was part of that redemptive plan. He was the one who would go and deliver the Israelites. We see the humbleness in Moses in that he doubts his abilities to perform such a task (v.11). It seems a little weird that Moses would doubt amidst the presence of God. The ensuing verses show us God fleshing out His plan in more detail to Moses (v.12-22). The chapter ends, but the encounter with God continues into the Exodus 4.

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