Thursday, June 29, 2006

Setting the Stage (Acts 22)

For me, studying the scriptures inductively is priceless. So, I thought I would share a little on how I go about approaching a particular passage for study. This is a little trip through my mind of how I start studying scripture. My purpose for sharing this is to maybe encourage you in your examination of God’s Word. It can sometimes be a very time consuming task, but very much worth it! I’m very unskilled and by no means have I mastered God’s Word, but I am learning so much about it by just reading it, re-reading it, and taking notes of what I read.

Take Acts 22 for instance, it starts off with Paul rearing up to defend himself. My first question if I were to only have read wActs 22 ould be, “Why is he defending himself?” To get a full grasp on his setting, audience, and reason for defending himself you must read Acts 21. This chapter sets the stage for Paul’s speech in Acts 22. In Acts 21 Paul is working his way back to Jerusalem, but if you look further back in the book of Acts (chap. 19) you will see it is here where Paul decides to go to Jerusalem.

Acts 19:21 reads,
“Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.”

So, from Acts 19 we learn: Paul has purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. Now, swinging back to Acts 21, where Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem, we learn about why he (Paul) is getting ready to defend himself.

In Acts 21 Paul visits the temple and is thought to have taken a Gentile (Trophimus) into it (21:26-29). Now, Luke makes it pretty clear Paul didn’t take a Gentile into the temple (v.29), but the crowd of Jews, who already have their minds made up about Paul (v.21, 28) and what they plan on doing to him seize him with hopes of killing him (v.31). After Paul is seized, the Romans break onto the scene and break up the beating (v.32). Then Paul appeals to the commander (v.37) telling him whom he is, where he is from, and he then asks if he can address the people (v.39). Now we finally have everything in place and we’re ready to look at Acts 22.

Hope this sheds some light on how I approach God’s Word. I also hope you are encouraged to really dig into God’s Word and learn for yourself what it means to discover His Truth!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Some Summer Goals

June has been a crazy month! Jr. High camp went well and I had a blast! This past week we’ve had district camp meeting going on. So, thought I would take some time to share some personal summer goals. Some of them are pretty ambitious and maybe slightly out of reach, but I like to aim high.

1. Start learning Hebrew. I’m exploring options for how to go about doing this on my own. Any suggestions would be welcomed.
2. Spend a lot more time camping. I love being outdoors, but if I don’t schedule time to do it, I won’t.
3. Do some landscaping around our house.
4. Catch at least twenty “trophy sized” fish. I love fishing and so far I’ve had a lot of luck with bass and bluegills. Biggest one so far has been a 13’ crappie.
5. Hike at least 50 miles of trails around Indiana State Parks.
6. Bike ride with my wife at least twice a week.
7. Play tennis at least twice a week.
8. Become better at basketball.
9. Memorize Psalm 63.
10. Visit some small Indiana towns.
11. Read 15 books.
12. Become a better communicator.
13. Finish some creative writing projects I’ve started.

I’ll let you know I did this fall. I’ll be back next week with another article on Acts.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Disturbing Christian (Acts 21)

I’m going to be at Jr. high camp all next week. I’m going to be teaching a lesson on/about prayer (so I could use your prayers, also pray the junior high will learn something). So, this post will have to suffice for the next 2 weeks. That’s also why it’s a little long. Hope you enjoy and feel compelled to leave a comment.

Things are shaken up in Acts 21. Luke’s primary focus from here on will be on Paul and his troubling times (not that he hasn’t had any already), which begin in Jerusalem. Like Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8, the disciples will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (a process started in Acts and still continuing today). In retrospect, Paul stirred up a lot of division, especially in the Jewish community. His message about Jesus Christ brought both joy and anger.

Maybe I’m wrong to label Paul as a “disturbing Christian”, but looking over his life one cannot help but notice all the turmoil surrounding him. The man caused five riots in five different cities (Acts 14:19, 16:22, 17:5, 19:29, 21:30). Which brings up a lot of questions for us today. Jesus promoted a peaceful message, so why all the uproar and rage when we preach Him?

In the later part of Acts 21 a scuffle breaks out. Luke writes in verses 27-28,

“When the seven day were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘“Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.”’

This was such a big deal that it caught the attention of the commander of the Roman troops (v.31). The commander and his soldiers were there to keep peace and order in Jerusalem. They would be in big trouble with the Roman Empire if peace and quiet weren’t kept. So, they have their hands full when Paul arrives and causes a ruckus. The enraged crowd in Jerusalem became so rowdy that they were about to kill Paul if it weren’t for the Roman soldiers breaking in (v. 31-32). So, Paul incites the Jews and the Romans (I’m sure they were frustrated too). Seems kind of disturbing for a man of God to be causing so much upheaval. Don’t you think so?

When you look back over Paul’s life from this point you see a man intent on preaching the Good News of God. He was commissioned by God to preach to the Gentiles, their kings, and the people of Israel (Acts 9:15-16). He was following God’s orders and passionate about it. He was also burdened for his own people (Jews), you can tell this by how he continually preaches/teaches in the synagogues of each city he visits. Which brings me back to this question: Why was he such a disturbance to so many in the world around him? He was preaching a message of forgiveness, hope, and charity. He wasn’t out to kill or start riots.

Maybe Jesus can help us see why Paul was such a “disturbing Christian”. Jesus spoke very clearly about a Christian’s relationship to the world and His kingdom’s relationship to the world. In John 17:6-19 He prays for His disciples and in John 18:36 He describes where His kingdom is from.

In verse 16 He says,
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

In verse 36 He says,
My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.

A good reminder of why Christians are sometimes a disturbance. We’re from another world (we’re born from “above”). We don’t belong here and the people who become angry with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are the ones who have made this world their kingdom. In doing so, they don’t recognize our King (Jesus), but theirs (Satan). Is that fair to say? In a way, we who are believers are like aliens from a strange planet visiting earth (bad example, I know). This helps shed some light on why Paul was such a disturbance to those around him. He was not of this world, but another. He preached a kingdom not of this world, but another. He called for a kingdom change amongst people (from Satan’s to God’s); change (big or small) is hard and unsettling when we meet it. It can be especially hard to those who have settled in and are living in this world. However, the Truth must be proclaimed.

Even though we are from another world, Jesus reminds us that we do temporarily belong here. He has us here to spread the message of forgiveness, hope, and charity in Christ. He says in John 17:15,

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

- How does being from another world influence the decisions you make?
- Does it all? Should it?
- How does thinking about being from another world make you feel?
- How should this truth (being from another world) affect the way we witness?
- Do you think this was the reason Paul caused such disturbances everywhere he went?
- If we’re not causing a disturbance (spiritually speaking) among the world around us, are we really proclaiming Him? Or have we become a part of this world too?
- Should proclaiming Jesus cause a disturbance every time?
- What are your thoughts?

My wife has put up another post if you're interested: Click here --> Trina's blog

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Encouragement (Acts 20)

Acts 20 is a quick paced tour of Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul is all over the place preaching and teaching Jesus Christ. Two verses pop out in this chapter and move me to action. I’d like to share them with you.

Acts 20:1-2,
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through the area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people.

Digging deeper in verse 2, we discover a gem of relevant Truth. Luke uses the Greek word parakaleo. Depending on what translation of the Bible you read, the word will be rendered as encouraged, exhorted, or to bring hope. I think if I could sum Paul’s ministry up in one word it would be, parakaleo. Here are some other verses in Acts where Paul or his companions encourage others (Acts 13:15-16, 14:22, 15:32, 16:40, 20:1). This is what the message of Jesus Christ was intended to bring to everyone! The relevancy here is all of God’s people have the ministry of encouragement to others. We’re constantly reminded throughout God’s Word to encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13).

I imagine the early believers needed encouragement daily in their salvation journey. The persecutions, riots, stoning, imprisonments, and deaths of Christians were just getting started. For them, meeting together as the Church was necessity. What an honor we (the Church) have today! We get to continue the ministry of encouragement to others. Another opportunity we have as the Church to minister to the world around us. Think of those within your own churches who need a warm word of encouragement. Also, think of those outside your church who need a word of encouragement. If we, who are born from above, can't offer them encouragement out of Agape love, who will?

Here are some simple ideas you could try out to help aid you in the ministry of encouragement.

1. Write a thank you letter to your pastor for preaching Truth and encouraging you.
2. Write a thank you letter to your spiritual mentor thanking him for encouraging you.
3. Write a thank you letter to anyone who is indirectly involved in the service (i.e., janitor(s) who make sure everything is clean, a deacon who shows up early to unlock doors and brew coffee, nursery workers, the grounds person who mows and cleans up the outside of the church, and anyone else who puts their time and effort into the church.)
4. Tell an elder in the church you want to start praying for him each week and ask him for prayer requests.
5. Tell your pastor(s) you want to pray for them each week and ask for prayer requests.
6. Leave an anonymous letter for someone in your church encouraging him or her in their faith walk.
7. Leave an anonymous letter for your pastor (s) encouraging him or her in their faith walk.
8. Leave an anonymous letter for your Sunday school teacher encouraging him or her in their faith walk.
9. Tell your Sunday school teacher how much you appreciate their effort, time, and hard work they put into teaching.
10. Write a letter to a teenager in your church encouraging them in their faith walk.
11. Form a prayer group who prays specifically for the encouragement of others in your church.
12. Form a prayer group who prays specifically for the encouragement of its pastor(s) in your church.
13. Take notice of the interests of others in your church and show you’re interested in what they’re interested in.
14. Invite a family over for a meal and fellowship. Use this time to encourage them.
15. Call a person from your church and offer to pray for them.
16. Ask some of the elderly people in your congregation if there are any ways you can be of help to them throughout the week.
17. Share a favorite verse of Scripture with someone you see at church.
18. Share what God has been teaching you with someone at church.
19. Share some of these verses in Acts and tell whomever you are sharing with how God has encouraged you.
20. Make a list of all the people who have encouraged you throughout your life and send each one a thank you letter.

I’m sure there are many ways (not listed) you can encourage others. Be creative and do it! The thought only counts if you put it in action. Oh, please don’t think I’m advocating sending anonymous letters of discouragement. To me, there isn’t a more cowardly thing a person could do. Remember, we are to be building one another up in love (Ephesians 4:29).

*Also, my wife finally put up a new post! Check it out at