Acts #20: Shipwrecked

shipwreckedPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Acts#20: Shipwrecked  To hear this message and others download our free App in the App Store. Search the gathering connect.

On To Rome Acts 27:1-21

As we have learned in our studies, following his last great missionary journey, the Apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem. There he was arrested and sent to the Roman provincial   capital of Caesarea, where he was tried by both the governor and King Agrippa who found no fault in him (Acts 26:31-32), but because Paul (as a Roman citizen) had appealed his case to Caesar  he would be transported as a prisoner to Rome to appear before the   emperor’s court.

The account in the Acts of the Apostles of Paul’s voyage to Rome, and his shipwreck en route, is supported by a wealth of historical detail.  No other passage in the New Testament has as much striking evidential confirmation of its historical accuracy.  Not only are the political, social, and legal details of the voyage and shipwreck striking in their   accuracy, but also the meteorological and nautical details.

It was decided that Paul and some other prisoners would sail to Italy under a centurion named Julius.  According to the writer of Acts (Luke) a friend named Aristarchus        accompanied he and Paul on the journey.  Historically speaking it was not unheard of  for a prisoner who was a Roman citizen to travel with slaves or friends to care for his needs.  It is also historically accurate that a centurion would have been assigned to transport  prisoners.  The voyage would have been anywhere from 23 to 30 days depending on the ship.  The Vessel Paul was on was carrying both grain and passengers (Acts 27:37-38). So it was likely to have taken longer to sail. 

The winds were not favorable for sailing and in verse 27:9 we read that much time was lost and sailing was dangerous because it was “after the Day of Atonement” (mid-October).  No ships sailed the Mediterranean Sea in the winter and it was on its way.  Paul warned the crew and the centurion of the impending storm but they decided to chance getting to the harbor in Phoenix anyway.  The centurion, not the ships Capitan, made the final decision.  The ship was likely under strict government regulations since there were prisoners on board.  There were also great financial benefits to the Capitan if he could get his grain to Rome since food was in short supply during the winter.  “The majority decided”  not to listen to Paul’s sound advice, but to sail on instead… they didn’t make it! 

Unnecessary Storms 1 Corinthians 10:11-13, Proverbs 1:20-33, Isaiah 55:6-7

Have you ever rejected the good advice of God’s word and later found yourself shipwrecked as a result?  We must remember that even Captain E.J. Smith of the Titanic had seven warnings from his crew and other ships to slow down his speed in the icy waters of the Atlantic.  Had he listened to reason rather than trying to beat a speed record to New York he and 1, 516 people might have survived.  In the same way, if we would listen to God’s word rather than sailing full speed ahead  on our own terms we could save ourselves and a whole lot of others some tragic results.  God spoke to Paul and through Paul to warn the captain, crew and centurion, but they would not listen even though Paul’s advice made good nautical sense. Paul speaks to us with warning and admonitions today through the Epistles he wrote in the Bible.  We would be wise to do more than hear them on Sunday mornings and maybe Wednesday nights.  

In Paul’s writings to the Corinthian church he said:  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” He explained that they had warnings from Israel’s mistakes so that they would not repeat them.  All of us are tempted to float our own boat, but it is God who knows the seas. He will provide a way out of the storms of life but we must listen to Him.  In Proverbs 1 king Solomon personified wisdom in a poem that shows the consequences to those who refuse God’s word for charting their life.  Although many may curse God for such consequences they have no one but themselves to blame.  God has made His wisdom clear:  We must call on the Lord while He is near…(Isaiah 55:6-7). 

Courage Acts 27:21-42, Zephaniah 3:16-17, Mark 4:35-41, 1 John 1:8-2:2  

Paul reminded the captain, centurion and crew of their folly to go their own way against his advice, but urged them to take courage and follow his instruction now.  The storm was raging, the cargo and tackle was lost but there was still hope to trust God’s direction.

Perhaps you are in such a place now.  Have you “given up all hope of being saved?”  Then God also says to you today: “Take courage”  You will not be lost; only the ship will be    destroyed!”  What I mean to say is that God is mighty to save (Zeph. 3:16-17).  In this   passage in Zephaniah God’s promise for Israel is our promise too. Don’t let your hands fall limp in the raging storm.  Turn to Jesus even now.  He is the calm in the raging sea (Mark 4:35-41).  Only the vehicle (ship) of your disobedience will be destroyed.  Turn from sin and come to Him even in the midst of the mess you have made. 

Some will take courage and turn to God in the storm while others will try to “cut and run”.  In an attempt to escape from the ship some sailors behaved as cowards and tried to save themselves from the consequences of their mistakes and leave others to suffer for them.  Later the soldiers planned to kill their prisoners to keep them from escaping even though it was their fault that they were in the water in the first place.

We must “take courage” and own the consequences of our mistakes.  Make amends, stay for clean up, and rebuild!  When we are shipwrecked and others are injured or lost in the process we can’t cut and run.  That is cowardice not courage.  God will not bless such selfishness. Confess your sin and follow Jesus your advocate (1 John 1:8-2:2).  

Appreciation Acts 27:43-44, Psalm 119:101-107

The sailors did not jump ship and the soldiers did not kill the prisoners because the      Centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life.  He marveled at the truth, instruction and courage of Paul.  The centurion saw God work through Paul and appreciated him. In so doing    everyone reached land safely.  We too must appreciate God’s word, delivered to us through Paul and others.  The Bible is our map through stormy seas.  Take courage and follow its light always… appreciate the God who provides it for you.

 

 

Acts #19: Waiting

WaitingFarmerPaintPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Acts #19: Waiting  To hear this message and others download our free app @ the App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

Truth on Trial Acts 24:1-27, 1 John 3:20-21, Galatians 6:8-10, Romans 8:28

Famous literary icon, Mark Twain once said: “If you tell the truth you don’t have to  remember anything”, and it was Jesus who said “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). We can clearly see these truths in action as we look at Paul’s trials before Governor Felix, Governor Festus and King Agrippa.

Ananias, the high priest of the Jews secured a lawyer named Tertullus to bring false charges against Paul.  After some of the usual “rose throwing” politics, Tertullus brought his carefully planned lies before the governor.  Paul was labeled a “troublemaker”, a “ringleader of a sect” and one who stirred up riots and attempted to desecrate the temple.  The Lawyer urged Felix to examine Paul to discover the truth himself which sounded quite noble, but the lawyer was a liar as some certainly are, and had carefully mixed the truth with lies in order to accomplish his clients end result.  To get rid of Paul!

If this sounds like a page ripped out of today’s newspaper it is because man hasn’t changed much over the ages.  We can’t change man but we can always work on ourselves.  That is to practice the truth (1 John 3:20-21).  Paul said “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16).  We must also.  

Paul told the truth  about why he came to Jerusalem: “to bring my people gifts for the poor” (he came to bring both the monetary gifts he had collected from the churches and the gospel) and to present offerings of thanks to God.  Felix adjourned the proceedings without passing judgment with the promise that he would do so later.  He kept Paul in custody but gave him some freedom as he waited.  Several days later Felix brought his wife and they both listened to Paul talk about Jesus.  The conviction prompted Felix to postpone the talk until later.  Felix secretly hoped that Paul would give him a bribe to  release him from custody but that never happened because Paul practiced truth. Although Paul could have offered a bribe and even lied about being a follower of “the Way” to get himself free, he chose to honor God and live truthfully.  When we live in the truth God uses us for His workWhen we lie we cannot accomplish God’s will. Although Paul was kept in custody for two years (for the Jews political appeasement)  he was given the freedom to permit his friends to care for his needs.  God used this time for Paul to have frequent conversations with Felix and whoever would accompany him. This was the way in which God took the gospel even into the courts of world leaders.  Do not grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:8-10) .  Keep practicing the truth and look for ministry in the midst of waiting.  God had a plan for Paul and He has one for you too: Romans 8:28 

Crazy Acts 25:1-26, 1 Peter 3:15-16, Psalm 14:1-5, Romans 1:20-22

Felix was succeeded by Festus and therefore was handed Paul’s case.  The Jews tried to trick the new leader into transferring Paul to Jerusalem to stand  trial.  They had planned to ambush and kill him on his way there, but God had other plans.  Once again Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen.  He rejected to go up to Jerusalem and stand trail and appealed to Caesar (the highest court).  In doing this Paul escaped the Jewish mob and legally bound Festus to send Paul to Rome to be tried.  Wanting to make himself look good before sending Paul to the high court, Festus talked King Agrippa (who reigned over the territories outside of Judea) into hearing Paul’s defense. It would look better for a King to send Paul on his way than a governor.

With permission from King Agrippa Paul made his defense.  He told the King his testimony of how he persecuted Christians, forcing them to blaspheme and even hunting them down in foreign cities (Acts 26:10-11).  He also told the king about his encounter with Jesus (Acts 26:12-19) and how his life was now about being true to his vision.  He informed the king that he told people to repent and turn to God and that is why the Jews sought to kill him.  At last he told the king that the Jewish prophets foretold that the Messiah (Jesus) would rise from the dead and bring the message to His own people and then to the Gentiles. 

At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense before the king by calling him “crazy” (Acts 26:24) but Paul corrected Festus and said: “What I am saying is true and reasonable”.  Biblical Apologetics is the science and art of answering people like Festus by using reasons and evidence. Every Christian should be able to make a defense for what he/she believes (1 Peter 3:15-16).  Paul countered Festus with the fulfillment of prophecy which King Agrippa was aware of.  In fact Paul said it well: “None of this” has escaped the notice of any thoughtful person because “it was not done in a corner”.  God has made Himself heard so that man is without excuse (Romans 1:20-22).  Biblical Prophecy is still one of the greatest proofs that we Christians are not crazy (followed by creation, recorded history, archaeology, and ages of testimonials from every nation and peoples)!  It is the fool that says in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1-5). “God is present in the company of the righteous.”  

Waiting Acts 26:27-32, Psalm 27:14

King Agrippa ask Paul if he thought that he could persuade him to become a Christian.  That is in fact why God had placed Paul where he was.  Paul was not just “waiting” to go to Rome— where God told him that he would go to testify (Acts 23:11).  Paul was doing ministry as an apologist.  Yes, he was in custody, he was in chains and he was falsely accused. Paul had many reasons to be downcast and depressed while he was waiting, but he kept busy in ministry. He wrote letters to the churches he began (which are forever bound in our new testament today), He encouraged church leaders and Christians who visited him, he presented the gospel to governing rulers and their entourage and he fulfilled the call of Christ to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b).  As Paul moved ever so slowly to Rome, in his “waiting” the gospel was brought from the Jewish capital of Jerusalem in the east to the Gentile capital of the world in Rome in the west.

Be encouraged as you wait for that something that your heart is aching for.  Continue in faith “be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).”  Don’t grow weary in well doing” but continue to practice the truth, there is ministry to do in your waiting…   Perhaps, like Paul, through your waiting will come the greatest ministry of your lifetime!

 

 

Acts #18: For The Good Of Others

PaulinJerusalem1Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: Acts #18: For The Good Of Others  To hear this message and others download our free Ap. Search The Gathering Connect at The Ap Store.

Suffering for Doing Good Acts 21:35-36, 1 Peter 3:13-18a

We concluded our last lesson with Paul being carried away by soldiers to escape a      murderous mob of Jews.  The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar because of Paul’s reputation of boldly preaching the truth about Christ.

Have you ever suffered for doing good?  If you have, perhaps at that time you thought, “God doesn’t care for me at all!” It is easy to think such things in the midst of suffering for good; however, God’s word is what we must cling to for answers and not our feelingsGod’s word says He loves us immensely (Psalm 86:5, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 3:1,4:7-8) but we must remember that He loves others immensely too and sometimes the only way he can get through to these people is with our suffering.  After all, it was Christ that suffered first to bring you to God.  And don’t forget, before you became a child of God you caused a lot of grief to others yourself.

“Surely, They’ll Understand!”  Acts 21:37-22:22,  John 15:18-21

When we suffer for doing good it is hard to believe it’s true.  one thinks, there must be some mistake,  ”surely they’ll understand if I just explain myself clearly”, but a person (or people) hell-bent on hating you is not easily reckoned with. As the Roman soldiers were taking Paul into the barracks they were mistaken about his identity (they thought he was an Egyptian terrorist), but the inciters of the riot knew exactly who he was (even if many in the crowd did not). Paul attempted to reason with the crowd and God gave him the wisdom to speak in Aramaic (the commonly used language of the Jews at that time) which astounded most of the Jews into silence (Paul likely spoke Aramaic (Hebrew), Greek and Latin fluently). The crowd listened to his testimony until he got to the part where God sent him to speak to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21-22). The instigators that hated Paul used the prejudice of the Jewish people to get them to riot against him once again, for there was a great hatred of Gentiles by most Jews. It was never the Gentile people that God hated, but their sin of worshiping pagan gods.  God “so loved the world that He sent His only Son” (John 3:16), and God so loved the Gentiles that He sent Paul to tell them about Jesus, but there was no reasoning with such a crowd filled with hate.

We must remember that whenever we testify about Jesus or stand for the principals and values He teaches we are going to stir up the Devil in people.  “Surely, they will not understand”, because worldly people do not know Christ or the one who sent Him (John 15:18-21). Religious people may say that they know God, but if they reject Jesus and His teachings they do not know God.  As Jesus said Himself:  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6 

Why Me?”  Acts 22:23-23:35,  1 Peter 4:12-19

Paul’s  testimony and good intentions did not win the mob of Jews, as soon as he        disagreed with their cultural theology (verses 21-22) they rioted and he was taken from the angry crowd to be stretched out and beaten (flogged) by the Romans for causing a public disturbance.  His impending punishment ended immediately when Paul informed the soldiers that he was a Roman citizen (It was illegal to sentence a Roman citizen to any form of punishment without a trial).  The next day the Roman commander cautiously  brought Paul before the Jewish court (Sanhedrin) in order to hear what their problem was with Paul first hand.

Paul began his defense before the Sanhedrin (once his own stomping ground) by addressing the members there as “My brothers” for which he was swiftly slapped in the mouth!  This came as a sober reminder that he was indeed no longer a “brother” with these people and once served with them in league with the devil himself 

When did you first realize such a thing?  That you were no longer in the world but in Christ? When did you come to the realization that you would never go back to serving the Devil and that you were now and forever branded by Christ and rejected by those you once called your own?  There should come such a time for every Christian.  If it has not yet come then perhaps you are not living as you should for Christ.  The Apostle Peter told us to rejoice in such a time, because it is proof of our allegiance to Christ.  Of course what usually happens is that we cry out “Why me?” 

If anyone had a right to whine “why me?” in the midst of persecution for the gospel it was Paul, but he never did!  Paul was pushed from one abuse to another but God did not leave him clueless. He spoke to Paul while he was in prison in Jerusalem: “Take courage!  As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Acts 23:11b  

Because Paul was a Roman citizen he was protected by Roman law from the Jews who wanted him dead.  No one else had the dual citizenship that Paul had coupled with the understanding of the Jewish law.  Who could have shared the message of Christ in such a hostile place and yet live to tell about it?  Who else could have avoided the plot to kill him (Acts 23:12-35) and been spared from the Jewish mob to be transported into the royal courts of King Herod and be kept under guard by the Roman legion?  God had a plan to share His truth with others (even those who didn’t want to hear) through the preaching of Paul.  God used Paul, not for the good of himself, but for the good of others. 

Hear Am I, Send MeIsaiah 6:3b-9a, 1 John 2:2, Luke 10:2

Isaiah 6 describes how the prophet Isaiah, through a vision from the Lord, began his     life-long ministry for God. In the vision, the Lord asked, ““Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a). Isaiah’s response was “Here am I; send me”. His exclamation took him from priest to prophet and God’s message for Judah became the book of Isaiah.

Before Isaiah could serve he was made aware of his sin that was atoned for by God (Isaiah 6:7). In Christ our sin is also atoned for (1 John 2:2) and in this present day He seeks out willing servants to reach the lost in His name (Luke 10:2)— not those who cry “why me” when trials come, but servants like Isaiah and Paul who say “why not me”.  “Who else but me?”… and “Here am I, send me”- for the good of others– for the glory of the King!

 

 

 

 

 

Acts #17: A Walk With God

RoadToAsossPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Acts #17: A Walk With God  To hear this message and others download our free app.  Search the Gathering Connect at the App Store.

Picture:  A section of the Roman road from Troas to Assos

A Walk With God Acts 20:13-15, Psalm 46:10, Proverbs 3:5-6

After the “longest sermon in early church History” Paul moved on towards his call once again.  Paul chose to walk from Troas to Assos (21 miles/ 2 days) while his companions sailed ahead of him to the next port.  Although scripture doesn’t say why Paul chose to walk we can surmise that he wanted to be alone with God to contemplate and pray about his arrival and ministry in Jerusalem.  We might compare the reflective agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41-42) to Paul’s solitary walk.  Somewhere on the road between the harbor at Troas and the city gate at Assos Paul apparently accepted his personal cup of suffering that was to come in Jerusalem.

We too should take such walks with God periodically.  Shorter regular times alone with God (daily if you will/ weekly at least) are vital, but we should also carve out a bigger blocks of time where we can get away and reflect on His goodness,  seek His direction, and get guidance on His call for our life and future endeavors.  We should all make a   purposeful time to do this especially when facing major decisions.  We don’t need to walk 21 miles but you could try a trail at the park, the nature center or the beach to name a few.  Get alone…Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10, Proverbs 3:5-6). He will direct your paths as you seek Him and lean “not on your own understanding”. Look for God daily and you will find Him. Purposely seek God and you will know Him.             

Counting The Cost Acts 20:16-35, Philippians 3:7-14

Paul’s intention was to pass through the areas that he began churches on his way to  Jerusalem.  On his visits he encouraged the leadership of the churches and collected money for the relief of impoverished believers at Jerusalem … Paul saw the collection as a symbol of unity that would help his Gentile converts realize their debt to the mother church in Jerusalem.  Paul decided to sail past Ephesus, not to avoid the church there, but to keep on schedule to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost (Acts 20:16). Paul and his companions stopped in near by Miletus and sent a message to Ephesus for the Elders of the church there to come to him an say goodbye.  When they arrived he reminded them of his work of ministry among them and how the Spirit compelled (drove) him to go onto Jerusalem even though he knew that he would face prison and hardships there (Acts 20:22-24). None the less, Paul had counted the cost of his calling and considered his life worth nothing in comparison to doing God’s will.  He made that more clear in his words to the church in Philippi (Philippians 3:7-14). To know Christ and to do His will was the most important thing to Paul.  His only aim was to “finish the race” and complete the task that Christ had given him.  What are you willing to “consider lost” to know more of Jesus? 

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open” Corrie ten Boom (Nazi Holocaust survivor, hero and author)

 “Be On Your Guard” Acts 20:25-36, 1 Timothy 4:15-16, Galatians 6:9-10, 1 Peter 5:8-10

 Paul also encouraged and admonished the elders in their work to  “be on your guard.” We must too as we continue our walk with Christ:  “Be on guard”…

  1. Over ourselves: We need to watch life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:15-16).    Diligence( persistent work & effort )  in our faith preserves ourselves and others.
  2. Over the Flock: The “flock” is the Church (fellow believers) Yes, “you are your brothers keeper” (Galatians 6:9-10). “Shepherds of the Church” was a reference by Paul to those elders gathered to spiritually guide the believers in the truth; however, all of us believers should know the Word and correct those who begin to stray from it.
  3. Over the Weak: We are to walk in “grace” which builds ourselves and others up.      Condemnation tears down.  We are to be mindful always of the fact that when we do unto others we have done it unto Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).  It is by grace we are saved so let us show it as we hold out the gospel of truth to others who are weak in body, mind, or spirit, and also those who are weak in sin.  We should be careful not to look to ways to profit ourselves but to help others in need “for as Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’. (Note: Although Paul quotes Jesus here this phrase can not be found anywhere in scripture (Luke 6:38 & Mark 10:44-45 come closest). This quote was ether a   supernatural revelation from Jesus (Acts 9:1-24,16:7,18:9-10, 22:6-21, Galatians 1:11-12)  or something commonly known at the time but never written down” (John 20:30; 21:25). The quote however is consistent with the recorded teachings of Jesus.
  4. “Be on your guard” also reminds the believer of a teaching by Peter to guard ourselves against the devil’s hungry hate for God’s children (1 Peter 5:8-10). “Be alert!”

 Public Opinion Acts 21:1-36, Matthew 5:3-12

Do you do what God says or follow public opinion?  Paul sought God on going to Jerusalem and said he was “compelled by the Spirit to go there” (Acts 20:22).  Through the same “Spirit” others warned him not to go (Acts 21:4, 11-12).  Later, in Acts 23:11, Jesus commends Paul for his testimony in Jerusalem and encourages him to do likewise in Rome. We can therefore conclude that the prophesies and warnings were divine but the urging “not to go” was human.  Oftentimes, Christians assume that God’s greatest interest is in their own personal happiness.  It is not!  God’s interest is always in a cause greater than ourselves. (just look at the Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-12).  Strangely enough, however; those who obey God’s will over their own safety and comfort will find faith, peace and joy that surpasses any self indulgent living- even if it does result in a “beating”. 

 Paul’s happy arrival in Jerusalem went bad quickly because of misinformation about his teachings (on Moses, circumcision and Jewish customs). Even shaving his head in a Jewish purification rite did not satisfy those who refused to hear him.  Paul’s beating (prophesied) only ended because soldiers carried him away in  chains from the mob (God did step in).   “To count all things lost to know more of Jesus”  To “finish the race” set before us.  May this be our attitude as we follow in the footsteps of Him who loves us.