Through the Storm

Acts 27: 13-19 “13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: 17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. 18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; 19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship” (KJV).

The crew did not want to spend the winter months at Fair Haven and going against Paul’s warning they decided to set sail for Phoenix, a few hours away. As soon as they felt the south winds blow they left the port of Fair Haven.

Shortly after departing they were caught by a strong typhoon or hurricane force winds. The storm was so strong that they had to let the ship drift in the winds and tides. They had to undergird the ship, which is simply using chains or ropes to strengthen the ship. By the second day they began to lighten the ship, throwing unnecessary items overboard and by the third day they began throwing the ships tackling. Anything that was not essential went overboard. They must have been in real trouble.

Wrong decisions based upon wrong advice may often land us in troubled waters and stormy seas. Paul warned them not to sail during the winter months and specifically told them that this trip was going to be dangerous. But Julius listened to the ship’s crew.

It is easy to say “I told you so”, when someone does the opposite of what we tell them. But the problem wasn’t Julius’ failure to listen to Paul. When you think about it, Julius took the best advice he could have, after all Paul was not a ship’s captain or part of any ship’s crew. The problem we run into is when we don’t seek the Lord’s will first. We tend to listen to others or make decisions based on feelings and emotions, instead of entering into a time of prayer and study in order to seek the Lord’s will. Luke 22:42 “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”.

Now please do not misunderstand my thoughts here: good advice is and what others think is one way that the Lord uses in order to guide us down the right path. It is important to remember that we still need to seek the Father’s will in everything we do. Just be cautious about making decisions that affect your walk with the Lord.

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Graphic Image: Retrieved from: https://kripashish.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/capt-ship_storm_wip_04.jpg

Faith during Calamity

Faith & CalamityActs 26:1-3 “1Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: 2I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: 3Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently” (KJV).

Paul had spent years sitting in prison, waiting for the Lord to open the door of opportunity. If anyone had the right to become hostile, angry, or aggressive it would be Paul. Having to sit in prison because of false accusations must have been challenging.

Notice that Paul’s initial response was to wait until he is given permission and the opportunity to speak. He reaches his hand out as a gesture of high respect towards Agrippa. Instead of moving directly into his opening defense, he takes the time to acknowledge Agrippa’s knowledge and intelligence.

Have you ever been treated poorly because of your faith in Christ? Have you ever had a difficult time witnessing to a friend or loved one, only to find them hostile towards your beliefs? It may be difficult to defend and share our faith when we are met by strong opposition. We may get frustrated and walk away from any future attempts to share or discuss our faith.

But maybe we need to consider the way we approach others. Maybe Paul gives us a great example of patience, love, and meekness. Sharing our faith and discussing our doctrinal beliefs might be well received if we take time and display the same loving, polite, and professional qualities that Paul showed Agrippa. Paul had to wait a couple of years in prison before he was able to plead his case.

Another reminder is that we operate according to the Lord’s timing, not ours… The Lord might be keeping one door closed and preparing to open another one…

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Graphic Image: Retrieved from: https://dcbarroco.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/141101a-cs-lewis.jpg?w=604

Being Confident Begins with a Personal Relationship

 Exodus 20:19 “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (KJV).

The people of Israel enjoyed hearing God’s message delivered from Moses but were afraid to hear from God directly. I can remember a time when I was so captured by listening to my weekly sermons that I failed to focus on my own personal time with the Lord. I have learned through the years that the most important portion of my Christian walk is to spend time with the Lord. My personal time of study and reflection has to come first. My walk must begin each day with time in His word, prayer, and study.

I believe it is important to discuss our spirituality with other Christians and share our faith as well. But if we focus too much on the external we might become like the people of Israel. There is a balance that I believe exists between our internal personal relationship and the external. Our walk of faith begins with our personal relationship with the Lord, it is the foundation that called us to salvation and it is the rock that is the solid footing of our faith. “But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6, KJV).

My point is simple, be careful and ensure that your daily walk with the Lord begins with him. Do not rely or place your faith entirely on the wisdom of man. While it is important to seek spiritual counsel and share our faith with others, it is crucial for us to grow in our faith by seeking Him on a personal level. If our faith is based on what others tell us, then we are bound to fall short. Of course this does not mean that we should not listen, heed, and cogitated on wise counsel. Again, my point is that we should always balance the worldly wisdom we are given with the only form of absolute truth, which is found in His word.

Here are a few verses that reminded me of what Moses witnessed with his people. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, KJV); As much as we would all like to trust people with great spiritual wisdom, we must always remember that we live in a fallen and sin filled world. Satan wants nothing more than for us to stop reading our Bibles, praying and speaking directly to the Lord. That way he can use others to implant his deceptive plans into our hearts. “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2Tim. 3:13, KJV).

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 “18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a food, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (KJV).

Most of the time we fall short of the mark because we just decided to aim low and miss the target, we aim without taking into account the truth, such as the wind or distance. Sometimes we miss the mark because we haven’t searched the Scriptures to see what the Lord has declared about such concerns, or we may simply be too busy and seek the counsel of others, while this may provide us the right answers to those specific areas we face at times. We still need to take the time to balance any worldly wisdom with what the Bible has to say.

I have had the privilege of sitting under some great pastors and they constantly remind us to perform a checks and balances of what they are preaching with the Word of God. They are humble enough to admit that they could have made an error or a statement did not come out right; meaning the sermon could have been taken out of context. 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV).

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17, KJV).

I know this is a long posting and my prayer is that someone can relate to what I am trying share. Not only did the Lord lay this in my heart today for my own personal reminder, but I have a feeling that someone out there needs this reminder as well. Maybe you are dealing with a difficult situation where the amount of influence and outside wisdom has you feeling overwhelmed. I pray that the truth the Lord has laid on my heart will help you find peace.

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Graphic Image: Retrieved from: https://writingsofsheila.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/help-me-to-understand.jpg?w=640

Be of Good Cheer

 Psalms 11:1-7 “1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? 2 For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? 4 The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. 6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright” (KJV).

David a man after God’s own heart reminds me how important it is to talk with the Lord. Here we see him begin by acknowledging his trust in the Lord. He then follows immediately with questions about his current situation. The ever important question we all face during difficult times “why”. When facing difficult times have you ever hesitated to ask the Lord why?

I have to admit that I have hesitated to ask this question. I have felt that being a professing Christian means that I am supposed to be strong in any circumstance. But are we not supposed to be strong like Paul? After all, Paul faced many trials and difficult times and he seemed to remain strong. Recently I have been reading and studying through the book of Acts and have learned that Paul had moments like the one David describes here. In Acts 23 Paul stood before the Sanhedrin counsel, testifying and attempting to share the Gospel, but he was faced with a crowd that turned angry and desired to kill him. Paul was taken by the chief Captain and placed into prison in order to keep the mob from killing him; then the Lord spoke these words to Paul “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness at Rome” (Act. 23:11, KJV).

The Lord spoke these words of encouragement to Paul for a reason, He did not tell Paul to be of good cheer because he was happy and joyful. The Lord gave him these words because he was in a very dark time, sitting in prison alone and there is no record of anyone coming to visit and encourage him.

David is obviously questioning a moment in life when he is being attacked by others, wondering why the Lord allows the wicked to have so much power over the righteous. My point and reminder here is that we all face moments of trials, darkness, opposition form others. David asks the famous “why Lord” question, one that I think we have all asked. But notice the most beautiful promise that David reminds us of. The Lord is in control, He is still on the Throne, and the Lord examines those who are good and always does what is good.

The Lord also loves to see His people do what is right. It may take years to learn and understand why the Lord allows us to face hard times and we may never know the “why” until we get to heaven. Once thing is clear, no matter what we face, He is right there next to us saying “Be of good cheer”.

Thank you Lord for the trials you have trusted me to face. Thank you for being by my side and reminding me to be cheerful despite the evil that surrounds me. It is through you that I can be of good cheer and continue serving you. May I always be a witness of your love, mercy, and grace!

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Reference

Graphic Image. Retrieved from: http://40.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m842hoPHtY1r1ibwko1_1280.jpg

Step Counter!!!

Joshua 1:7-8 “7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (KJV).

Joshua is given a powerful promise. Each new step that Joshua is about to take and lead the nation of Israel will be prosperous. No matter what challenges and difficulties encountered, they are promised success. What a wonderful promise and there is no doubt that hearing this promise would allow Joshua to take each step with strength and courage.

The only stipulation for cashing in on the Lord’s promise; Joshua must remember his previous steps and those of Moses. The stipulation was to continue to observe the law. This made me think of the phrase “remember where you came from”; a phrase often used when someone advances to a higher leadership position.

When we remember the law, we look back at our past in a humble manner. The law is also a reminder of the steps that lead to the Cross. We remember that our authority comes from the Lord. As a leader it is easy to become power-hungry and use that power to gain glory from those under our authority. This is an area where I have seen great men of God fall into Satan’s traps.

As a leader in any profession, we must always remember that the Lord has blessed us and entrusted us to be in such positions. We must be careful to conduct ourselves in a manner that brings honor and glory to the Lord.

Spending time in His word becomes a greater challenge when serving in a leadership position. Leadership usually requires more responsibility and consumes more of our time. It becomes difficult to find time to focus on our personal spiritual growth, but we must also seek spiritual guidance and wisdom for others.

As we look at Joshua, we begin to see how important it was for Joshua to spend years preparing. Before Joshua could take over, he spent years training and developing his spiritual maturity first. He had to be mature and well prepared spiritually before he could add the additional responsibilities in leading the nation of Israel.

I am reminded that “we” as believers are all filling a leadership position. We are all responsible for the most important job of all ministries; sharing the Gospel with others. Of all the ministries and leadership roles, being trained and ready to lead others to Christ is and should be our number one goal. I don’t think anyone would say that they witness perfectly to others and don’t need to grow spiritually in this area. I know from personal experience that everyone is different when they hear the Gospel message; the excuses for not believing may be the same, but that person has a unique and deeper reason for either rejecting the message or not understanding it. The more we study and grow in the Lord, the better prepared we are when the Lord opens the door of opportunity for us to share His message.

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Graphic Reference

Retrieved from: http://www.fitnessexact.com/wp-content/uploads/counting-steps.jpg

Step Out!!!

 Joshua 1:3-6 “3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” (KJV).

Joshua has willingly stepped up and officially takes on the leadership role of the nation of Israel. It is important to notice that Joshua took on his new role before he was given the official brevet command and commission over Israel. While training under Moses, Joshua was fulfilling the role of a spiritual advisor to Moses 1. But that is not the only position he was filling at that time, Joshua was being groomed as a high level military leader and warrior 2.

We see in these verses that God assigns Joshua three important tasks: lead Israel into the promise land, conquer and defeat the enemy, and control the distribution of the claimed inheritance.

Each of these three tasks was followed by three special promises, one for each of the tasks. The first promise was the ability to cross the river and reach the new territory. The second promise was the ability to conquer the enemy. And the third promise was to divide the newly gained inheritance to each tribe.

I want to focus on the final verse of today’s lesson. Verse 6 “Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” (KJV). I’m afraid that we often fail to step out in faith because we desire to know the details before we make any moves. Meaning, we want the complete detailed plans and instructions first, and to put it plainly, we want all the answers to any “what if…” questions. But that is not how faith works; His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not ours 3.

This is a lesson that may be difficult to learn. But the message for us today is clear; God has given us, all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus 4. In order to obtain those spiritual blessings we must step up in our faith, the process begins when we are moved internally by the Touch of our Master. And this is exactly what Joshua did, and as I explained in my previous post “Step Up”, Joshua was stepping up years prior to this new leadership role. He was prepared to answer the call at a moments notice.

Stepping up in our faith is the beginning phase, being ready and prepared for whatever the lord has planned for us. The next step is for us to step out in faith. Now we have to put on our shoes and start walking. We may not know where, how far, or how long our walk will be, but stepping out in faith is the only way we can claim them. The Lord has set before us a series of doors and there will be one door that He will open when the time is right.

I picture a long walking trail that winds through the mountains of life. I can see thousands of doors and each one is locked shut. Personally I have been walking the “Faith Path” since March, praying every day for the Lord to open a door for me. During my walk I have gone through many frustrating days; as much as I know that the Lord will open that door when he is ready, there will be days when I get tired from walking, days when my shoes become worn out, my feet become blistered, but I continued walking. The Lord opened that door last month and the blessings on the other side were more than I could have imagined. Wiersbe (2010) said it best “He has set before His church an open door that nobody can close 6” and we as Christians must walk the path until we reach that unlocked open door. Then we need to walk through the open door by faith in order to claim the blessings. Just like Joshua did when he took the church on a “Faith Path” journey through the river and defeated the enemy, so they could claim the new territory.

I pray we will all move forward in our walk with the Lord, maturing as believers and being faithful servants so we can move into new territory and claim what He has promised for us. The Lord’s will is for us to continue growing and stepping out in faith 7. If we are not growing and moving forward, then we are moving backwards…

Isaiah 43:18-19 “18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

References

1 Exodus 24:13 “And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God” (KJV).

2 Exodus 17:10) “So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill” (KJV)

3 Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (KJV).

4 Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (KJV).

5 Revelation 3:8 “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (KJV).

6 Wiersbe, W. (2010). Be strong putting God’s power to work in your life: OT commentary, Joshua (2nd ed.). Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

7 Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (KJV).

Graphic Retrieved from: http://naomidemmon.theworldrace.org/blogphotos/theworldrace/naomidemmon/trust
_him_step_out.jpg

Step Up!

 Joshua 1:1-2 “1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (KJV).

The death of Moses must have been difficult for the nation of Israel. Moses led the nation for years and through many trials. As the nation wandered in the wilderness, it was the great leadership of Moses that helped guide and provide for them, through the Lord’s direction.

As we begin the New Year, maybe we should be watchful of new opportunities and challenges. Much like the changing of leadership that Israel is about to witness under Joshua.

Joshua had spent years training and the Lord instructed Moses to prepare this young man for such a moment as this. Maybe you have been sitting under a great leader who has been training you for years. And maybe this will be the year that you begin to take on new challenges. This may be the year that the Lord has been grooming you for.

A great leader is someone who lifts you up in times of trouble; they encourage teamwork, excellence, growth, and unity. Like all great leaders, there will come a time when the torch needs to be passed down. If you have been filling a leadership role for years, ask yourself “have I been training someone to fill my shoes”? All too often, I have seen great ministries come to a halt because the leader moved on or was called to a new ministry.

I believe it is important for a leader to train younger generations, preparing and grooming them to take over. Just as important is the willingness to be “trained”, this responsibility does not rest on the leader alone. Those who serve should be ready to take over a ministry in a moment’s notice. Moses listened to the wisdom of the Lord; trained a younger generation. At the same time, Joshua was willing and ready to be trained. “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses” (Deut. 34:9, KJV).

Remember that all ministry work is to bring honor and glory to the Lord. Leadership is not about being selfish or power-hungry; it is about leading others, for the honor and glory of the Lord.

Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (KJV). It’s not about me; it is all about Christ…

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

When the Door is Closed…

Acts 16:5-12 “5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. 6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. 8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. 11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days” (KJV).

Paul is now on his second missionary journey and this time he takes Silas with him. It isn’t long before he meets up with Timothy and takes him under his wing. In verse 10 the use of the word “we” indicates that Luke has now joined the team.

As they continue building churches and teaching new believers, everything seemed to be wonderful then the Lord holds up the “stop” sign.

The Lord’s stop sign halted Paul’s original plan to spread and strengthen the gospel message in Asia. This caused Paul and his team to travel through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia. When they reached Mysia, the Holy Spirit put up another road block. This time the Lord sent him a vision to direct his path to Troas.

Once in Troas and receiving the Lord’s new plan, they immediately set sail for Macedonia and the city of Philippi. Along the way to Philippi, they stopped briefly at Samothracia and then Neapolis.

Application: When we are in a dark place, seeking direction from the Lord, we often sit still, waiting for a clear sign and direction before moving forward. Or maybe we are working in a ministry that seems to be slowly depleting itself. Members are falling by the wayside faster and faster, you have tried everything possible, but have no idea how to keep it afloat. So you sit and pray, waiting for the Lord to show you a new direction. Maybe you are waiting for the Lord to pat you on the back and tell you “well done my faithful servant; but I have shut the doors on this ministry”.

I would like to point out that these scenarios are perfectly fine for a Christian to experience. But maybe when the Lord holds up that stop sign, we need to look around behind us, because He is holding up the “Go” sign for us. It might mean that His new plan and direction might be for a new ministry or new location. I am reminded that Paul and his team could have become distraught, depressed, or angry when their plans were changed. But they didn’t, they simply said “Ok, Lord, but which way shall we go now”?

When we are faced with a closed-door from the Lord, maybe we should begin with prayer and keeping with the door analogy, try opening some of the other doors around us.

I can remember being on fire for the Lord, building and working in a growing ministry that was aflame for God. But it did not last long before He quickly shut that door. I was so confused and hurt, I felt like it was something that I had done. I spent a lot of time in prayer, seeking answers. A new door was opened when I stopped focusing on myself and turned it all over to the Lord. My prayer went something like this “Lord, thank you for all of the blessing that I have been given during my ministry and thank you for closing the door. Forgive me for trying to reason with your plans, I am at your service, use me as your will desires for my life and I will follow you anywhere”.

As I waited for the Lord, I dedicated my time in prayer and studies. It was not long before the Lord opened a new door for me and has been using me ever since. We should not be surprised when the Lord changes directions, as long as we understand that we are not the ones in control.

Isaiah 64:8 “But not, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (KJV).

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (KJV).

Kyle Idleman’s (2011) book “Not a Fan” is a wonderful reminder of these verses. A fan is someone who gives up hope when their team is not doing so great. But when the team is winning, then they are the best fans. Here is just one of his many great quotes ““The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them” (Idleman, 2011).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Reference

Idleman, K. (2011). Not a fan: Becoming a completely committed follower of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Aside

Conflict Resolution

 Acts 15:1-9 “1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (KJV).

After returning from their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas spent some time in Antioch. The church has accepted the new doctrine of witnessing to the Gentiles, which Peter played a major role in with the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10). As Paul and Barnabas fellowship and disciple the church members at Antioch, they run into some problems. They discovered that some of the religious believers from Jerusalem had made their way to Antioch.

The problem had to do with adding stipulations to the gospel message. The new believers were being told that they needed to follow the Old Testament law of circumcision. This was completely contrary to what Paul and Barnabas had preached to them. Salvation is through grace by faith, plus or minus nothing. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, KJV).

The conflict was so important that Paul and Barnabas could not convince these legalistic believers what they were preaching was wrong. They had to form a debate team and journey to the original head church in Jerusalem (v.2).

As the made their way to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas continued witnessing and preaching the gospel message. Once they arrived in Jerusalem and began discussing this issue of salvation, it was obvious that some of the leaders still believed that keeping the Mosaic Law was a requirement to salvation. This was not a one-time meeting. Most commentaries agree that the debate was discussed during 4 separate occasions. The final outcome was an agreement that salvation is through grace by faith, plus or minus nothing. They documented the agreement and sent witnesses back to Antioch in order sign, seal, and deliver the news.

There are a few important issues that I would like to discuss from these verses. Conflict in the church is nothing new and should not surprise us. The key to any type of conflict is the goal of resolution. Resolving conflict takes time; we must be willing to listen carefully and take the time necessary to handle it. When Paul and Barnabas could not find resolution at Antioch, they took the conflict to the next level. The focus was not placed on who was right or who was wrong; the focus was on 100% resolution. If there was no resolution to the doctrine of salvation; the church could not move forward. The division in doctrine would have caused the church to decay from the inside out.

Have you ever seen a church split over silly arguments? I have heard of a church dividing because they could not agree on the color of the new carpet they wanted to purchase. How does such a silly argument promote the gospel message to the un-saved? Why would anyone visit a church that can’t even agree on the color of a carpet?

The other issue to discuss is the legalistic view; which is considered the darker side of Christianity. When Christians add to the gospel, it creates a salvation message that is impossible to achieve. Let me explain: If I create a rule to the salvation message, I point sinners back to the Ten Commandments (Law). But that is not what God’s law is designed to do. The law is impossible to keep; therefore it is designed to point sinners to Christ. Not the other way around.

Galatians 3:21-25 “21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Her Only Christmas Present

Luke 2:36-38 “36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (KJV).

Luke writes and describes an amazing woman named Anna in 3 little verses. But Luke’s detailed method of writing allows us to learn so much about her. Yesterday I discussed the remarkable faith of the man Simeon and today we will look at Anna’s only Christmas present.

From the text we can deduce a few outstanding qualities of this woman. First, she is described as a prophetess. A prophetess is defined as a female who possesses the ability to see and describe future spiritual events, and this is done by an inspired woman (Strong, 1984). “As a prophetess, Anna receives insight into things that normally remain hidden to ordinary people; she recognizes who this child is and tells of his significance to selected people in Jerusalem” (Branch, 2013). Her actions affirm Amos 3:7: “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.”

She was a very spiritual woman who had a great family origin, “daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asser”. “But she had much more than age and ancestry; she had a deep faith and a resilient piety: she did not depart from the temple, worshipping, fasting and praying night and day” (Arias, 1984).

She would have been married at the age of 14 or 15; which lasted only 7 years before the passing of her husband. From the text we can place her at the age of at least 85; some commentaries place her age at 114-115 years old. The point to focus on is her long dedicated life and service to the temple.

She fasted and prayed regularly and this would indicate the she was probably thin. Her ability to move about the temple in order to minister to others shows us that she was able to move around and her vision was still acceptable (v.38). This is an amazing ability for a woman her age. After the death of her husband, Anna devoted her entire life to working night and day in the temple.

Notice in the latter part of verse 38 “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem”. She was still excited to be a witness of the truth and her long years of dedicated service at the temple was a testimony of her faith. After spending 80 plus years serving in the temple, Anna was still on fire for the Lord. God truly blessed her for her dedicated service by providing her with the one greatest Christmas gift she could have asked for…

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

References

Arias, M. B. (1984). Simeon and Anna sodalities : a challenge to churches in transition. Missiology, 12(1), 97-101.

Branch, R. G. (2013). Anna in the Bible: Luke reveals the prophetess as a Biblical model for aging. Bible History Daily, Bible Archaeology. Retrieved from http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/anna-in-the-bible

Strong, J., & Strong, J. (1984). The New Strong’s exhaustive concordance of the Bible: With main concordance, appendix to the main concordance, key verse comparison chart, dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, dictionary of the Greek Testament. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.