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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Jesus Emmanuel - God With Us

You shall call His name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. His name shall be called Emmanuel - 'God with us'...

"Since the announcement to the serpent in Eden, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” (Genesis 3:15), Satan had known that he did not hold absolute sway over the world. There was seen in men the working of a power that withstood his dominion. With intense interest he watched the sacrifices offered by Adam and his sons. In these ceremonies he discerned a symbol of communion between earth and heaven. He set himself to intercept this communion. He misrepresented God, and misinterpreted the rites that pointed to the Saviour. Men were led to fear God as one who delighted in their destruction. The sacrifices that should have revealed His love were offered only to appease His wrath. Satan excited the evil passions of men, in order to fasten his rule upon them. When God's written word was given, Satan studied the prophecies of the Saviour's advent. From generation to generation he worked to blind the people to these prophecies, that they might reject Christ at His coming.

At the birth of Jesus, Satan knew that One had come with a divine commission to dispute his dominion. He trembled at the angel's message attesting the authority of the newborn King. Satan well knew the position that Christ had held in heaven as the Beloved of the Father. That the Son of God should come to this earth as a man filled him with amazement and with apprehension. He could not fathom the mystery of this great sacrifice. His selfish soul could not understand such love for the deceived race. The glory and peace of heaven, and the joy of communion with God, were but dimly comprehended by men; but they were well known to Lucifer, the covering cherub. Since he had lost heaven, he was determined to find revenge by causing others to share his fall. This he would do by causing them to undervalue heavenly things, and to set the heart upon things of earth." Desire of Ages 115

The unseen war between Christ and Satan has been raging for a long time. It stretches back to before the creation of earth. Is there a link between this war and Christmas? I believe there is. There is a consistent history of Satan as a copy cat. He takes what God does or gives and twists it into something else. For Sabbath he instituted Sunday. For Passover he invented Easter. For the Lamb as a symbol of Christ dying for us, he flipped it around and made religion something we do for God.

Image result for December 25
So what's up with Christmas? Many pagan religions have myths of their god being born, sometimes to a virgin on December 25th. Some argue this is proof that Christianity and the Bible are just a mythological evolution of older religions and myths. What these people fail to realize in their zeal to do away with God and His Word is that Jesus was not born on December 25th. Not even close. From a close study of Luke 2 it can be accurately concluded that Jesus was born somewhere between very late September and mid October. 

Why then did Satan create a myth designed to discredit the Truth on a date that was so far off?

He made a mistake... 

Satan does not know the future. He can only guess based on the same information God has given humans. Satan studies everything God says and then works to counteract it. From the message He gave Adam and Eve in Genesis he knew a special baby was coming. A Baby that would break his new hold on humans. A Baby that would "crush his head". He knew from the animal sacrifice that this baby would die on behalf of humans. These were the two great events he must work to twist, distort, and misrepresent at all costs.

So why did he choose December 25th for the pagan myths of the birth of several gods to discredit the birth of Christ before He ever came? He guessed and got it wrong. He knew Jesus was the Light of the world. From Genesis 1 this was plain. From eternity past Satan knew Jesus had always been the Light. He was a perfect reflection/representation of His Father. December 25th is the day that falls between sunsets getting later (Dec. 21) and sunrise getting earlier (Dec. 30).

In simple terms it is the rebirth of the light. The days start getting longer. Satan guessed this was the time Jesus would come as the Light of the world. It was a good guess. He was actually partly right. It was at this very time of year that Gabriel came to Mary to tell her she was about to become pregnant. Jesus did come at this time of year only not to a manger, but to a womb. 

Truth. It can be found if one is willing to search but God purposely never revealed the day of the birth of Jesus in advance. He kept that information hidden forcing Satan to guess and he guessed wrong, exposing the fact he is a liar, a copy cat, a counterfeiter.

Jesus was born in the fall just about the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. Why? Because the Word became flesh and pitched His tent with us. In the Old Testament He lived among His people in a tent called the sanctuary. It was a foreshadowing of Jesus literally pitching His tent with humanity. 

Some are disappointed when they find out Jesus was not born on December 25th. Not me. The truth is always better than myths and legends and the whole mess exposes Satan for the imposter that he is. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Acts Day 298 - Kill the Messenger

28:17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

There are a lot of things in life that don't make sense. Being hated and attacked by people who are supposed to love a rend support you is certainly high on the list of things that don't make sense. If the list were arranged in order of that he most painful that he his one would have to be at or near the top. The real question is why? Why would it ever happen to begin with? What could be so important, so bad, so passion inducing that it would lead brothers to become enemies and friends to become opponents? 

Paul states the reason to the Jews in Rome after he calls them together to explain who he is, and why he is there. He simply says "I am in chains for the Hope of Israel."

In other words "My loyalty to Jesus is the reason why I am in this situation."

That is an answer but does it really explain the phenomenon? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to live and let live? 

Think about this: Some people teach their children to believe in Santa Claus. Others do not. However you don't see neighbours fighting about it or families splitting up or people going to court because of their divergent views about Saint Nick. 

We have all manner of different beliefs on a wide variety of topics that we tolerate quite well so why is religion different? What causes the fury, the divisions, the animosity?




Image result for cain killing abelCain killed Abel. He murdered his own brother over religion. When you read the story the crazy part is that Abel had nothing to do with it. The controversy was between Cain and God. Abel only got killed because Cain was trying to silence his own conscience. Having a brother regularly reminding him that he was in rebellion against God simply by worshipping was more than he could handle.

Yesterday I was out and about town. I saw some frantic shoppers. I experienced some harried drivers. One of them reminded me of something I realized several years ago. It is almost always the angry aggressive finger pointing ones that are in the wrong. Paul was innocent but accused by the guilty. Jesus the same. Abel the same. The list is long.

The crazy part is that what the guilty are really trying to kill is their own inner turmoil. They know they are wrong but refuse to change and it leads to warring against anyone who is doing what they know they should be doing. 

Paul is an enemy simply because He loves Jesus and deep down the Jews know they should be loving Him too...

Acts Day 297 - Random Chaos

28:16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.


My favourite lame cheesy joke that drives my daughter crazy: "When is a door not a door?"

"When it's ajar." 

Groan...

When is a prisoner not a prisoner? When he is Paul in Rome.

What is really happening? This saga has dragged on for about three years now. From Jerusalem to Caesarea to several ports across the Mediterranean Sea and now Rome Paul is still not free. However he is the most well treated prisoner in the entire New Testament. Why?

Have you ever been in an unresolved situation that makes no sense? Typically a prisoner either gets convicted of a crime and sentenced or is released. Three years later neither has happened to Paul and while the other prisoners are all in cells he is in a house, able to behave in many ways as a free man yet not free.

Now follow me. Could we not call Paul's bizarre situation life? We are prisoners here on this sin infested planet hijacked by Satan. No sentence has been declared yet. Time keeps passing. We live as if free but the ruler of the prison is always not far away. We want to appeal to Caesar. We want to make our case for being set free and going Home. However the roller coaster of life keeps chugging along and nothing seems to change. Satan has his chains around our ankle yet he is prevented from completely having control over us. 

What is the purpose of this endless charade?

Paul's journey gives a clue. How many lives has he touched along the way? How many people has he been able to talk to about the Master he serves? How many miracles have stood as a witness to the supernatural connection he has with Him.

Life is a journey. A lot of it appears to make no sense. 

Last week before my sister and her family headed east for the holidays we got together for dinner. Out came some sweaters my mom made many years ago. She was a prolific knitter. I remember watching her fingers dance, hearing the clack of the needles, watching the ball of yarn slowly unwind. It seemed like random chaos. Sometimes multiple balls of colour were unwinding at once. How did the same endless clacking of needles and flicking of wrists and fingers produce such varied and beautiful things from booties to scarves to sweaters? 

What can appear as meaningless confusing chaos at any point in the process can only be seen when the process is ended and from the apparent randomness emerges something beautiful. 

What amazes me is Paul had no idea what his life was knitting. None of us do. It's going to be amazing to get Home and discover all the ways God used our lives and turned attacks into opportunities and the plans of the devil upside down. Random encounters with strangers will be revealed as the beginning of turning a person, a family, a community, even an entire nation around. 

God is the Potter. We are the clay. Just stay in His capable hands. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Acts Day 296 - Brothers


28:11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. 15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.



At Malta God used Paul to bless the "barbarians" and reveal Himself to them. Paul has been on quite the roller coaster since he left Ephesus to head for Jerusalem. Mostly it's been a lonely one. I can only imagine it was mentally tough and emotionally exhausting too. For those familiar with Paul’s letters you know it has been his dream for a long time to visit Rome. That dream is now coming true and God has an extra special treat on the way - brothers. No, they aren't men from the same mother. Rather they are men with the same Master. Men who have likely also suffered unjustly for the sake of Christ. Men who he can fully be himself with. Men who "get it".



I love that about God. Even in this war zone where Satan wins a lot of battles and we Andre called to endure events and circumstances that are not fun or fair God makes sure we get moments of reprieve, times when we get a taste of Home. After all it is not the streets of gold that will make heaven awesome. It will be the peace of healthy relationships where love reigns. Gone is all tension. Gone is all strife. Gone is everything that divides and opposes. 



To kick back with people who get you, who love you for you, who understand even without words, this is joy and rest. 

 

For Jesus that place was the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. 



God knows we need love and support and understanding of a human kind. He knows we need human touch. He knows we need rest from the seemingly relentless struggle. Paul found brothers far from home. It was no accident. God knows. God sees. God understands. He provides. God is love and love will win.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Acts Day 295 - Making Lemonade


28:7 In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.



It is amazing to me how many parallel stories there are in the Bible often separated by centuries or more. People often speak of fate when really life just shows God’s ability to use the lemons we give Him to make lemonade. 



Jonah was supposed to go north east to Nineveh across land. Instead he headed straight west across the sea by ship. The ship Paul was on was supposed to stay in port for the winter but instead they too headed west across the same sea. God used Jonah's detour to reveal Himself to a crew of polytheists and pagans. God used Paul to reveal Himself to an island of "barbarians" even though he never would have been there had he obeyed and stayed in port.



What are we to make of these stories? Do they justify disobedience? Glorify it even? Well if you consider shipwrecks and getting swallowed by fish fun then I guess maybe? 



What I see is a loving God making the most of our messes. I also see a loving God reaching out to those we would likely never reach out to on our own. It's like accidental or circumstantial evangelism. Clearly these island people were not barbarians in any crude sense of the term but they were ignorant of the God of Abraham and had no idea who Jesus was. Through a completely unscripted and unbelievable set of events God brought Paul to them and then used him to demonstrate God’s loving healing power. Some day I'd like to visit Malta and see if I can find any historical evidence of this God moment.



Obedience is always best but even in our messes all things work together for good when we love God, even when our love is far from perfect. He's just that amazing. :)

Monday, 19 December 2016

Acts Day 294 - Reactionary Living


28:3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.



I like meeting barbarians. I find in them a reflection of myself. They are decent folk but unstable. They don't act from truth, they react based on ever changing circumstances. What do I mean?


Image result for storms of life
Look at the brief few moments described above. They meet a stranger who floats onto their beach from a shipwreck. They find out he is a prisoner enroute to Rome. Like me they become suspicious and wary. Soon after a viper attacks him and quickly, even immediately they determine it is divine payment for his evil deeds. Fate has struck him down. However he doesn't die. Stunned by this unexpected and unexplainable turn of events they flip flop and decide he is a god.



What do they know for sure about Paul? Very little. What about are they willing to conclude about Paul? A whole lot. They know little but from that little draw much. Too much. First he is a murderer suffering the vengeance of fate and then he is a god, above the weakness of mere men. 



What a contrast we are compared to Jesus. We rise and fall and twist and turn with the ever changing circumstances of life. One minute we are swearing allegiance to Jesus and the next we are denying we ever knew Him. One moment we are willing to follow, obey Him, and crown Him king because He provided a free lunch, but the next we are screaming "Don't you care that I'm dying?!!" because it started to rain.



One day we promise "Whatever You say, that's what we will do." A few days later we're behaving liked depraved fools. Who are we? We are barbarians. Our beliefs are based on the here and now. If things are good, God is good. If things are bad we doubt there even is a God.



Contrast that with Jesus. He was human like us. He had not a single advantage over us. When He became one of us it was the complete package. The miracles that happened were just like the ones the disciples did later or Elijah did before Him. They were simply answers to His human prayers. The miracles were all done by God. That's why He declared: "I can by Myself do nothing."



As a human he was tossed about by human emotions just like we are. Circumstances affected Him just as they affect us. He knew frustration and impatience. He knew hurt feelings and betrayal. It hurt Him every bit as much as it hurts us.



However there was a difference. Deeper than the changing tide of circumstances Jesus lived and acted by truth. He did not react based on external events. He instead chose to act on what He knew to be true.



There are many examples but only one is necessary to put this in perspective.



When He was dying the ordeal turned determined Peter into a puddle of failure. The pressures of the moment and the tidal wave of circumstances flipped him upside down as quickly as the barbarians changed their tune about Paul. However Jesus was living the exact same circumstances only much more directly. What Peter was watching, Jesus was living. Peter was doing the betraying. Jesus was being betrayed.



It got so awful and so dark that day that Jesus encapsulated all the feelings and pressure with one question. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?"



Yet the day wasn't over. Jesus was not finished talking. His last words were "Father into Your hands do I commit My Spirit."



He felt betrayed but acted from truth. Rather than react based on the very real circumstances and the feelings they generated He acted based on what He knew was true even if at the moment that truth of His Father’s unfailing love could not be seen or felt.



I like meeting barbarians because I recognize in them that as a fool tossed about by the every shifting events of life I am not alone. However I long to become like Jesus. I long to still be real and still feel everything for what it is, yet have my soul anchored in truths so deep and so real that no circumstances can move me from them. 

Acts Day 293 - Roller Coasters and Bad Theology


28:3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.

4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet vengeance will not allow him to live."



Image result for roller coasterTwo things jump out from these verses. First is the stark realization of the roller coaster life is. They left that port where they should have stayed with a gentle south breeze and life was good. The storm came and life was bad. Then the promise came that none would die and life was a little better. They couldn't find any land and were running short of food. There hope was fading. Land! Life was better. In the process of trying to get there they hit a sand bar and the ship was pounder to pieces by the wave. Life was over it seemed... however miraculously they all made it to shore alive to be met by barbarians who were not only friendly but super hospitable. Life was suddenly looking up. Things were much better. Then poor Paul who has been under arrest for well over two years now for no reason has a viper latch onto his hand. 



Life is indeed a roller coaster...



The second thing that jumps out is the reaction of the locals to the snake bite. They don't know Paul from Elvis yet their reaction/judgment is immediate. He must be a very bad person worthy of death because fate is going to take him out even if he did survive the storm and the ship wreck.



It's simple right? Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to good people. 



If you believe that your theology is pagan. If you believe that Jesus must have been a horrible person and Paul too. Unfortunately this thinking is all to common in the world and in Christianity. This planet was hijacked. Our first parents were deceived into handing it over to Satan. We are at war. War is messy and awful and many innocent people die just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes good people suffer to bring hope and help to those who would never receive it otherwise. We'll talk about that tomorrow... :)

Acts Day 292 - Barbarians?


28:1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. (Malta)
2 And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.



This past week a friend shared with me an unpleasant incident she had with another person who is a Christian at least in name. At the end she said that it seemed to her that non Christians were more kind in many cases than Christians are. That can be true and for lots of reasons. One big reason is that religion minus a true understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for us is and real burden. It becomes a self - obsessed exercise in becoming 'good enough' that can leave the most sincere people exhausted and even bitter. 



Certainly it is undeniably true that the worst enemies of Jesus were the church people, especially the leaders. It was no different for Paul. He faced opposition in many places among the unbelieving cities where he had traveled and preached but nothing like the murderous reception he received in Jerusalem.



Image result for barbarians islandNow he has floated ashore on wreckage from the ship onto an unknown island. The island was inhabited by barbarians. The word does not mean they were cannibals or cave men or anything like that. It simply means they were cut off from the rest of the world. They had their own language and spoke neither Greek nor Latin. Here among these heathen they were welcomed with open arms and generous hospitality. Crazy isn't that the homes of strangers can be so different and so loving compared to those who should be our best supporters. Such is this backwards world. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Religion minus the heart of Christ and an understanding of the gospel is the worst kind of curse. It makes men self-absorbed and hateful, building high walls where there should be bridges. 



Find a man at peace with himself and the world around him, a man who treats all others with the same considerate compassion and you have found a man who understands the heart of God - a heart of self-sacrificing love. Love is the only language that works in every culture. Love is the reason Jesus came. Love is all that will survive this planet. Love Wins.  

Friday, 16 December 2016

Acts Day 291 - Imagine That...


27:42 And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.



Wild storm at sea where they could not find land.



14 days without food



Some attempted to escape in the skiff



Food and all supplies thrown overboard to reduce weight



Ship destroyed on a sand bar



Soldiers planned to kill all the prisoners



Crew forced to grab onto whatever they could find as they fled the wrecked sinking ship



All of that and every single person survived and made it safely to shore. Isn't that what God said would happen? Against all odds God's Word prevailed. 



Image result for god's word never fails"Stay with the ship and not a life will be lost."


The lesson is obvious. Safety is only guaranteed in one place. I have heard and nay even have taught myself that the "ship" is the church and if you stay you will be safe. In this story God told them to stay in the ship to be safe but the ship didn't even make it. It wasn't the ship that saved them. It was obedience.



In the Gospel of Mark he describes another journey in a boat. There was a storm. The disciples, nearly half of whom grew up on that sea fishing were convinced they were going to die. Frantically they were bailing water doing whatever they could to prevent their imminent demise. One writer says they were so busy trying to save the boat and themselves that they forgot Jesus was on board. A flash of lightning pierced the raging darkness and there He lay, sound asleep. 



They shook Him awake while screaming above the wind "Master don't you care that we are perishing!?"



Jesus stood and rebuked the wind and the waves. The storm came to a grinding halt. However Jesus was not happy. He rebuked them for their lack of faith. Why?


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Acts Day 290 - Rules and Policies


27:41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.



42 And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.



Image result for policy bookThe policy book says that in the event of a shipwreck all prisoners must be killed to prevent their escape.



The policy book says a person caught in adultery must be stoned to death.



The policy book says you forgive a person three times and then they are dead to you.



The policy book says if the person is from Samaria you don't touch them, you don't talk to them, you don't even make eye contact with them. 



The policy book says if you are black you sit at the back of the bus. If a white person needs the seat designated for you, you give it to them.



Policies and rules and cultural norms and "understandings" are all around us. They vary from place to place and culture to culture. I am thankful for men and women wise enough, discerning enough, compassionate enough to know when to ignore the rules for a greater purpose. 



The centurion put a halt to the policy and let every prisoner go free just to ensure Paul was not killed. It reminds me of a very opposite story. King Herod had every young boy killed in an attempt to make sure he got the one Boy killed. 



The centurion was moved by respect, admiration, compassion, even reverence. Herod was  moved by hatred, jealousy, insecurity, and rage.



Both broke the rules.



The truth is sometimes rules must be broken in order for the rule to be kept. A stop sign exists to save lives. Emergency vehicles ignore them to save lives. Circumstances change things.



Sometimes we don't understand what God is doing. We can't see why He permits certain things to happen or isn't fixing things as we think He should. This much I know for certain. Everything God does and does not do is motivated by love because He is love. Love is His highest rule. If we could see and understand as He does we would be thrilled by the choices He makes on our behalf and on the behalf of those we love. We wouldn't be thrilled because of the immediate circumstances but by what will ultimately happen when this war against sin and Satan is over.



God has one policy - Love.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Acts Day 289 - Rough Water


27:39 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. 40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. 41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.



If God plans the trip the sailing will be smooth right? 



There are a lot of ideas and assumptions we hold to that are false. Many of us think it will be easier to be a good Christian after baptism. The opposite is actually true. Just look at Jesus. He faced his greatest struggle against Satan other than the cross immediately following His baptism.



We assume if we are in a right relationship with God that He will hear and answer our prayers. This too is false. Jesus prayed to be spared from the cross but God did not answer that prayer even though Jesus repeated it three times. 



We assume good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. When the disciples saw a man blind from birth they asked Jesus "Who sinned, him or his parents that he was born blind?" Job's friends were certain he had done something wrong to deserve all his suffering. If our own sins are the cause of all our troubles Jesus must have been a horrible sinner.



Image result for ship wreck

Now consider these men on the ship with Paul. They are not innocent. They totally disregarded the warning to remain safely in port for the winter. The trouble they are in they brought on themselves because truthfully some trouble we experience is self-inflicted. To escape the trouble they had planned to abandon the ship. Paul warned them to stay. He said only those who remained on the ship would survive the ordeal. They stayed. The act of staying moved them from disobedience to obedience.



Now here's the kicker. Ingrained in us is the assumption that doing right and following God will be smooth. It will calm the waters. It will end the trouble. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people point to "smooth water" as an evidence that it must be God’s will. Remember how this whole mess started? A gentle south wind began to blow and they took it as a sign to set sail for a different port. We know how that went...



God's will is not to be decided based on circumstances. Certainly it is not to be assumed that "smooth waters" are His waters. Imagine if Jesus had lived His life here following the path of least resistance... 



So the men stay on board and they finally see land. They are close to being safe at last... until they run aground on an unseen sand bar and the ship begins to be pounded apart by the relentless sea... Wasn't this God’s idea? Weren't they being obedient now? How could He let this happen?! How could my mom die of cancer, my friend die so young and so needlessly, my nephew die in my back yard at 5 years old? 



It's time to develop a more mature faith. It's time to consider that God never promised a smooth passage. Jesus certainly didn't have one and He was perfect. He warned us and encouraged us with these words: "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world."



What was He saying?



Simply this. The journey to the Other Shore will be tempestuous at best but you will arrive. He arrived. The destination is assured no matter what happens on the way. Stay in the ship. Don't bail because of rough seas. You will make it... Love suffers long... but Love Wins!

Acts Day 288 - Filled 


27:35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.



Yesterday we discovered that Paul breaking bread before them all was symbolic of Jesus, the bread of life who gave Himself as a ransom for the whole world. Every man took part, all 276 of them. Each ate and was filled at end when they were full the rest was thrown into the sea. Odd right? 
Image result for bread of life



Here's what I see. For fourteen days they ate nothing. For fourteen days they were saving what little food was left for when they absolutely needed it. Then Paul announced it was time to eat. He took what little food was left and like Jesus with the little boy's lunch he broke the bread and passed it out. Every man ate until he was full and there was still so much left they felt the need to toss it overboard to lighten the ship so they could get as close to shore as possible.



Jesus. He is enough. He died once for all. Never will we run short. Never will Jesus say "Sorry I have no room for you." Best of all? When we are filled with Him we have no need of more. Everything else can be tossed overboard. Only He truly satisfies. 



All those men needed to do was take the Bread of life, hold onto His promise and the rest was in His hands. We'll find out tomorrow what happened next as the rest of their food floated away...

Monday, 12 December 2016

Acts Day 287 - Who Gets Forgiveness?


27:33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.



Fascinating. You don't have to dig deep to see some symbolism. The description of Paul taking bread and giving thanks and breaking it is very familiar is it not? The question is why? What are we to learn from it? What was God through Paul trying to convey to them and now to we who read the story?



There is a common misconception about God and forgiveness that unfortunately isn't just found in false religions. The belief is that forgiveness is given by God to us based on our asking for it and/or deserving it. This is not true. It could never be true. 

Image result for father forgive them for they know not
When John the Baptist first saw Jesus he declared "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world!" When Jesus was dying on the cross He prayed "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do..."



Never will the whole world seek forgiveness. Never will every person be deserving of God's forgiveness. It is not offered based on us. It is simply offered. 



Still not convinced? When the sanctuary was built in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land the people were instructed about how it all was to work. When they sinned they were to bring a spotless Lamb as a sacrifice, they were to confess their sins on it in front of the priest and then kill it. The priest then took the blood etc... The Lamb represented Jesus. Killing it symbolized us putting Him on the cross. The blood represented His life becoming ours. This part is fairly well known and understood. What is often not known and understood is that every morning and evening the priests offered a lamb for the forgiveness of sins on behalf of all the people whether they ever came to the sanctuary or acknowledged the offering at all. 



God is the initiator of forgiveness. He always has been. It was He that went after Adam and Eve when they were hiding in the garden.



The men on that ship had done nothing to deserve God's intervention to save them from the storm and from the consequences of their own decision. Yet God extended to them His mercy and made a way of escape. The breaking of the bread was symbolic of what God was literally doing on that ship. He was offering Himself to them. That's the kind of God He is.  

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Acts Day 286 - Driven By the Waves of Desire 

27:27 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. 28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.



Did you catch that? The sailors are praying. 



Now hear this. Let's review a little bit. The ship could have been safely in harbour and the men peacefully resting on shore for the winter. Had they listened to God's counsel that is exactly what would have happened. However they didn't listen. They didn't like that port. Maybe the nightlife was too tame. Maybe the hotels were not up to snuff. Maybe the local cooking was not to their preferences. We are not told why they didn't want to winter there. We just know they didn't. Their desires ran contrary to God's instruction and we know what usually happens in those instances, especially to men who barely know Him and have little reason to trust Him.



As soon as the weather gave them any kind of favourable sign they pulled anchor and took off, right into the storm God used Paul to warn them about. Suddenly hardened sailors are praying men. God was at work...

Image result for lowering the skiff on an old ship


Lesson: There is a lesson to be learned from today's reading that none of us can afford to miss. When we choose to blaze a trail contrary to God's instruction trouble will come. The trouble is rarely if ever caused by God. The trouble is a result of going the wrong way and God warned against that way precisely because it was lined with trouble. When the trouble comes God does not walk away. He goes after His wayward sheep. He sees them even when they are a long way off the trail. He calls. He gives a new set of instructions on how to survive the unnecessary storm.



Notice what the sailors wanted to do. They wanted to run away from the problems they created themselves. It was their feelings and desires that got them into the mess and now those same feelings and desires are telling them to run. However God had a very different message. He told them to stay with the ship. He told them the ship was the only place of safety. 



What does that ship represent? Trust in God. Don’t run away. It will be a powerful life lesson when God takes our mess and makes a masterpiece. All things work together for good for those who love(trust) God and are called (listen) according to His purpose. (plan) 



God has created us with complete freedom. We can stay when He says stay or we can pull anchor and sail any direction we choose when He says stay. He is not a controlling God. He wants us to follow Him based on love and trust, not force or reluctant duty.



We can read about what others chose but at the end of the day we must choose also. I am just thankful God stays with us even when we make the wrong choice. There truly is no Other.

Acts Day 285 - What is God Doing?


27:21 When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on a certain island.”



What is God doing?  He could rescue Paul but He hasn't. He could prevent the storm but He hasn't. He could just let the events unfold and not tell Paul anything but He has chosen to reveal how the storm and shipwreck will go. The question is why?



To answer this requires a degree of speculation which is always suspect but God told us the story as it is written so He must have as reason. 



On the ship are men. Men of wealth and poor men. Men with rank and position and ordinary men. Men with wives and children and single men. (Presumably) very likely men of different countries and colours. What do all these men have in common who appear to have little or nothing in common?  They are God's sons. Before they were born He knew them but sadly they don't know Him. Their views of God are mixed and jumbled by the religious confusion around them. Like our world today the Roman Empire was a melting pot of peoples and cultures and religions.



How could He reach them under these near hopeless circumstances? 




Image result for jonah whale

Remember Jonah? God used his selfish detour on board a ship to Tarshish to reveal Himself to the entire crew in a miraculous, undeniable way.


The parallel is too powerful to ignore. What is God doing? He is using Paul and prophecy to reveal Himself to a ship full of men who desperately need to know who He is. The same God who rescued Daniel from the den of lions is just as concerned about these men. He wants them to know Him and love Him as much as Joseph loved Him. 



What is God doing? He is trying His best to save us. The same thing He's been doing since that first visit to Adam and Eve when they were confused and afraid and hiding.



"You will call His name Jesus because He will save His people..."

Friday, 9 December 2016

Acts Day 284 - The Truth Can Hurt


27:13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. 15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.

Image result for the heart wants what it wants 

There is a truth statement in the Bible that goes like this: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" A more literal rendering goes like this: "The heart is more crooked than anything else and the condition is incurable. Who really understands this reality?"



But we're reading about ships and storms. What does the heart have to do with it?



Yesterday we ended with the centurion,  the owner of the ship, the helmsman,  and the majority of the crew voting/deciding to sail for another destination. The weather had been miserable and dangerous to that point. They were safe but didn't like the port town they were in. Paul warned them that pressing forward would end in disaster. They took his words seriously enough to take a full scale vote but in the end decided to ignore the warning.



Notice carefully what we read today. A soft southern wind began to blow. The wind agreed with their desire. They took it as a sign that it was safe to set out again into the open sea...



Make no mistake. When we are lead by our heart, (our desires, our tastes, our will, our lusts) we will grab onto anything as confirmation that our heart is string us right.



You know it's true. We have all been there. Maybe you are there right now? God says one thing and your heart says the opposite. You convince yourself the warning was not from God. You look for any all day every evidence that your heart is leading you straight...



The Bible also says "There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death."



Another verse says "Trust (know) God with your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. Know Him in all ways. He makes straight paths."



God has made us free. We can choose any path we want. He won't force us to go the right way. He will however send warnings. He will give counsel. He will set up obstacles to encourage us to rethink our choices. In the end though. .. the choice is ours. 



I can tell you this from Scripture and life experience. The beginning if the wrong path is sunshine and lollipops but gets worse with every step.  The good path appears narrow, rough, and unattractive but gets better with time. It's only the finish line that counts. Plan to finish well. :) Love Wins.