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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

Friday, 30 September 2016

Acts Day 214 - God Sends Reinforcements

18:24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

Image result for apollos of alexandriaFascinating. Apollos shows up in Ephesus (where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila) seemingly out of nowhere. He was from Alexandria, a Greek city in Egypt founded by Alexander the Great. His name ironically means 'the destroyer'. Why he had become a travelling preacher we don't know. How he ended up in Ephesus at the same time as Priscilla and Aquila seems to be a coincidence only God could arrange. He was a talented preacher but as yet didn't have the message. Far removed from Judah he had not yet heard or at least not yet understood that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. God took his talents, introduced him to "the rest of the Story" through Priscilla and Aquila and suddenly the cause of Christ had a new and very capable voice. Now Apollos was fitted and ready to destroy the myth that the Jews needed to keep looking and waiting for their Messiah. He had already come.

What are we to take from this whirlwind arrival of Apollos in Ephesus? How does it apply to our time? The most striking thing I notice is that Paul was not even there. You see when Acts began the main characters were the disciples leas by Peter. Then they sort of took a back seat and Saul the killer of Christians emerged as the new gospel champion. Now Paul is travelling elsewhere on his way to Jerusalem and a new preacher of the cross emerges. He is not even mentored by Paul. Rather he gets his training from Jewish tent makers from Corinth that at one time Paul almost wrote off simply because they were Jewish.

Do you see the point? We are not the central figures or the heroes in the Story. As Jesus said when riding into Jerusalem on a colt "If they stop the rocks will cry out."

God does not need me to preach. He doesn't "need" any of us. He has a thousand ways to get things done that we don't know anything about. Apollos came out of nowhere. Paul was the greatest enemy of Christ. The great reformer Martin Luther was a Catholic priest. God will never be stuck without people to share the truth. Being a part of His team is not a favour to Him. It's a privilege for us. We may be great orators like Apollos or humble tent makers like Priscilla and Aquila. We may have a dark shameful past like Paul. Whoever we are and wherever we are from God is willing to grant us the privilege of being on His team, not because He needs us but because He wants us.

Never think a man is the hero. God is the Hero.

Acts Day 213 - Reconnecting

18:18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.
22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

What I love about this seemingly boring and almost unnecessary travel itinerary is that it tells a story. Paul is on the way to Jerusalem. He could have just gone directly but he doesn't. He deliberately stops and visits each city where he has spent time planting churches. He goes back to encourage them. He cares too much to just preach and run and leave them with no followup.

What can we learn from this? Life is full of connections. Everywhere we go, school, work, and all other associations, we meet people. We connect with certain ones. We have an impact on them and they on us. Often as life continues moving we lose some of those connections. We change schools or finish school or change jobs or move from one place to another. What about those people we left behind? Do we check in once in a while to see how they are doing? It's not realistic to maintain active friendships with everyone we meet. Not even Jesus could do that. However we can check in from time to time, especially with those we know can use some encouragement.

I am no stellar example of keeping in touch but I have learned over the years that when God puts a person on my mind, He does so for a reason.

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We are blessed today to have so many ways to communicate regardless of distance. Take advantage. I just spoke with my brother who is 6000km away and as soon as I'm done here I'm going to contact a friend in Tanzania.

Do you remember that crazy guy in the cemetery in Decapolis that Jesus freed from demons and restored to his right frame of mind? Do you remember that the man wanted to come with Jesus buy Jesus told him to stay and tell his family and friends what God had done for him? Jesus left him and went back across the sea. However He did return for a visit.


Who will you reach out to today? Maybe it's time to retrace some steps... :)

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Acts Day 212 - Live With Integrity


18:18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.

Let me begin with a humbling story. It will all make sense in the end. If it doesn't you know where to find me. ;)

Our local Canadian Tire store is a frequent handy man stop. In the auto parts department one of the associates is female, about 20 years old, hair of several bright shades, multiple piercings etc... Of course my religious upbringing judged her and quite harshly. I assumed she would know little to nothing about cars/parts etc... she was likely on drugs, and I'd be better off with anyone else helping me. We'll did I ever get a surprise. God has to 'slap us around' sometimes. She turned out to be the most helpful and knowledgeable person in the whole department. I have come to be so impressed by her that when I go there I look for her if I need a hand. Last week I even called for a manager and told her that girl is the best employee in the whole store. Now back to Paul...

We could speculate for hours but I've yet to find an explanation for what vow Paul made and why he made it and why it involved cutting his hair. One thing we do know is that it was not a Nazarite vow because the details don't fit. You can read about that in Numbers 6.

However since we're on the topic of vows the Bible has two things to say about them. The first is that if you make a vow, you should keep it. The second is straight from the lips of Jesus and He infers we are far better off not making any vows at all. I mean think about it. How do we know we'll be able to keep a vow even if we intend to?

It's interesting that Paul's vow involved shaving his hair off. There is an obscure law (one of many) in Leviticus that forbids shaving the hair on the sides of the head yet Paul did. Also in that list of obscure laws is the command to not wear clothing that has mixed materials in it. Tattoos are also forbidden.

What are we to make of those laws that are stated once and never repeated? Clearly Paul didn't feel held by them. What's even more curious to me is that some will hold to one or more of those laws while completely ignoring other ones.

What it all says to me is that we struggle to look at the big picture. We make decisions about what "rules" we will follow that have no consistency or basis in logic. This is a problem. Wouldn't it be wiser to seek to understand those old laws in their context and then seek to hold onto the principle?

Image result for live with integrityFor example Samson lived under the Nazirite vow which forbid cutting the hair at all. Paul takes a vow that involves cutting all his hair. Leviticus says not to cut the hair on the sides of the head. That is three distinctly different hair styles. Clearly God has no set law for hair. Why would He? Nature is full of variety. Some animals have very long hair, some short hair, some no hair, while a male lion has short and long hair.

Bad religion fixates on these issues. Jesus did not. Jesus was concerned with something much more basic and important: live with integrity. That's why He advised not making vows. It's much easier to live with integrity if you don't make promises that circumstances might prevent you from keeping. Paul did make a vow and he kept it. That's the important part. Live with integrity before God.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Acts Day 211 - Emotional Blindness


18:18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.

About twenty years ago my dad put a V8 engine in his tractor. Then he fixed it all up and painted it. He even took it to a few shows and in some parades. He loved that tractor. When he moved east to live with us and then we all moved west the tractor stayed behind with a relative.

Last week my brother-in-law took a truck and trailer to Quebec and brought it west unknown to my dad. When he saw it I thought he was going to cry. However for him the "reunion" was bitter sweet. He remembered his tractor as shiny. Now he saw it in desperate need of some long overdue tlc. The funny thing is it doesn't look much different from the last time he saw it. The only real difference is that time and space have made him more objective. He used to see it every day and he was blinded by familiarity and his emotional connection to the tractor. I guess it's similar to how everyone else notices your children grow but you don't as much and then one day you have a more objective moment and you suddenly wonder what happened.
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What does all this have to do with Paul? Remember when he first came to Corinth he stayed with a Jewish couple and helped them make tents? Then he preached in the synagogue and got a fairly cold reception and told them he was giving up on the Jews and going to the Gentiles. Remember all that? He even moved out of their house and into the home of a Gentile.

Now after eighteen months Paul is leaving and the only people to go with him are this same Jewish couple that welcomed him from the beginning.

Emotions can be blinding. They cause us to not see things that are there or see things that aren't there. Then when the emotions cool or we have the benefit of time and space objectivity returns. It's too easy to lump people into categories when really we are only upset a one person for one thing at one point in time.

Whether it's riots in the USA or Islamic terrorism or the atheist or religious nut next door to you, check your emotions. You may be more blind than you think. You might even be shutting out the very people who have stood by you from the start simply because you lumped them into an emotionally charged box.
The good news is, if you stick with Jesus like Paul did, He'll bring you

Monday, 26 September 2016

Acts Day 210 - More Violence


18:12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”

14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. 17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.


Messed up. We are messed up.

Let's take a step back and understand the religious/political climate of the time. Rome is politically in charge. They have granted that the Jews can maintain their culture/religion within the empire but matters of law/justice are under the jurisdiction of the Empire. Gallio is Greek but ruling under Roman authority and according to Roman law. Just as Jesus was dragged to Pilate by the Jews, so Paul is being dragged to Gallio by the Jews.
Remember that God has already promised Paul that in Corinth he will be safe from the tactics and punishments he has experienced elsewhere. I wonder what he was thinking about that promise when he was dragged in front of Gallio? I'm sure he was quite shocked when the ruling came down in his favour. Notice what Gallio basically said: "If this man had actually done something wrong I would punish him but if it's just religious theories deal with it yourselves".

Image result for gallio paul corinthGallio was a wise man for a moment. He didn't allow religion to cross into the realm of secular justice. Why should it? His business was to maintain law and order. If some people wanted to believe a carpenter from Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah and they weren't hurting anyone by doing so, it was no concern of his.

Paul was free to go. God kept His promise. Imagine that... :)

Now I began by saying we are messed up. Did you notice that Gallio's decision lead to the Greeks beating Sosthenes? Who is that? He was the new synagogue ruler who replaced Crispus after he became a follower of Jesus.

So the Jews wanted Paul beaten only to have their synagogue ruler beaten instead and Gallio did nothing.

See the problem? You can't grant religious freedom to Paul and take it from Sosthenes. We are messed up because we always want to put someone down. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. Little do we realize that by permitting violence against one or some we are promoting violence against all.

Gallio held the power that day and could do or not do as he chose but it turns out he was not so wise after all.

Remember Jesus? The carpenter that could walk on water and raise the dead. He respected the rights and freedoms of everyone including His enemies. Follow Him.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Acts Day 209 - What A God We Serve

18:9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat.

Image result for God knows what we needOne "disadvantage" of going through the book of Acts in such detail is that there is always the danger of losing sight of the bigger picture. Some of us by nature/personality are detail oriented and some of us are big picture people. Naturally I'm a big picture person but I try and push myself to be both. You really need both to fully understand people, issues, and history. The general story of the book of Acts is a few people tasked with sharing the reality of who Jesus is with the whole world beginning with the Jews. This mission was a constant battle of rowing against the current. Tradition was against them. Popular opinion was against them. Long established (false) theology was against them. Manpower and finances were against them. Logistics, communication methods, and sheer enormity of the task were all against them. However of all those things it was the daily grinding reality of being hated, misunderstood, and resisted by people day after day that was the most difficult. We are wired for harmony. We default to "Go along to get along". Very few people like to be constantly at odds with the people and culture around them.
If you remember there was one constant prayer request at the beginning of Acts. The disciples were always praying for boldness. It requires persistent boldness to stand against everything and everyone day after day.
Here in Acts 18 Paul is getting tired. His fight and will to keep rowing against the stream is waning. God understood. He always understands where we are and what we're going through. He sent Paul a message. Perhaps He sent Gallio a message too. Either way for the first since Paul dedicated his life to making Jesus known the authorities didn't beat, imprison, or even resist him. God protected Paul in Corinth because he was too tired and downtrodden to face further open resistance.
What a God we serve.

Acts Day 208 - Paul Was Human After All


18:6 But when they opposed him (Paul) and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Visions and direct messages from God are not common. They never have been. His desire for us is to walk by faith, not by sight. When visions and messages come it is generally for one of four reasons. Usually it's because things are really bad and God gives a man a message to guide the people back to where they should be. The Bible is full of such examples. Another reason God gives direct messages is when specific guidance is needed like when Paul and his companions were given a message to "come to Macedonia". A third reason God sends direct messages is to reveal future events as in the case of Joseph telling his family they would bow to him some day or God revealing the future to Daniel. This is done so we can look back and see that God knew all along what was going to happen and we can trust Him.

The fourth reason God speaks directly to us is when it is desperately needed. When an individual who is trying to follow Him is so low and discouraged that God sends a message to pick them up and encourage them. In the Old Testament Elijah was such a case. For years he lived a fugitive from his own king. Finally there was a showdown between the king and his idol worship and Elijah and his faith in God on Mount Carmel. Of course God was vindicated and Elijah believed this would change everything. It didn't. The very next day he was sent a message that the queen was going to have him killed. He was so discouraged over the whole mess that he became suicidal and fled 250 miles into the desert. God met him there with a message just for him to encourage him to keep going.

Here Paul is for the time a tired and almost broken man. He has preached from city to city. He has been beaten and imprisoned and handled it all with grace and faith. Now in Corinth all it took was some resistance from the Jews and he became unusually angry and frustrated.

He was human. He was tired. He was emotionally spent. God knew. God understood. God met him in his discouragement. He basically said "Paul I know you're frustrated and tired but Corinth is going to be good for you. I will protect you here. Just keep preaching boldly and watch what happens. Many here are ready to listen and follow Me."

Paul was able to stay peacefully for 18 months. We believe the longest he stayed in one place for quite some time. He needed the stability and the peace and God brought him to a place where he could have it. Why? Because He is the Great Shepherd. He knows His sheep. We can trust Him.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Acts Day 207 - Never Saw That Coming

18:5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

So Paul arrives in Corinth and like he did in all the other cities he has been went to the Synagogue. He tells the Jews gathered there to worship that their Messiah has come. He preaches Jesus to them from their own prophets and sacred writings. He tells them how He was misunderstood and killed but rose from the dead. He likely told his own story of rejecting Jesus and hunting down His followers in an effort to exterminate them. He would have shared his experience in the road to Damascus when God met him and asked him what he was doing. How he realized he was fighting on the wrong side.

He told them all this and nothing happened. There was no reaction...

Image result for Never Saw That ComingPaul was so frustrated he basically had a melt down and told them he was done trying to convince Jews about their own Messiah and he was going to preach to the Gentiles instead. Ironically the Gentile he was staying with lived right next door to the Synagogue. The very next verse tells us the ruler of the synagogue (Crispus) and his family believed Paul's message and became followers of Jesus.

Notice the Bible doesn't tell is how much time passed between verse 7 and verse 8. Paul leaves the Jews and moves in with a Gentile and the very next verse says the ruler of the synagogue and his family become believers. Interesting.

What happened? Did they just need some time to process the message? Did they do some follow up study like the Bereans did and come to their senses like the prodigal son had? Or did they observe Paul's life and become convinced by not only the message but the man?

One of my all-time favourite books is a book about being a pastor called "Feed My Sheep". The author is HMS Richards. In it there is a chapter called "The Man is the Message". In essence the life we live is a far greater sermon than any sermon we preach.

Personally I believe Luke put verse 7 and 8 side by side to remind us of this truth. Paul used words in the Synagogue and they heard the words but didn't immediately respond. Then they observed his life in the community and his passion for Jesus and lost souls. They saw his love even for the Gentiles and in response to both his preaching and his life the ruler of the Synagogue became a Christ follower.


Words are important but they pale in comparison to the life lived. Never underestimate the influence of how you live. It may make your neighbour either want to follow Jesus or determine never to follow Him. The man is the message.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Acts Day 206 - Don't Burn Bridges

18:5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue.

Did you ever "run away" when you were a kid? I did. I got angry at my mom one day and announced I was leaving and took off. There was a small grove of trees not too far from our house and I went and hid there. I watched my mom drive by looking for me and then come back by. Eventually sitting in the trees got boring, my blood pressure had dropped, and I went back home.

Paul is human. Paul also forgot for a moment his own history.

Image result for don't burn bridgesYesterday I was reminded how easy it is to get angry at someone else for doing something we have done ourselves. Human nature is a bummer isn't it? Here we find Paul the former hunter/murderer of those who dared believe in the renegade carpenter from Nazareth and now he's throwing a tantrum because the Jews in Corinth aren't jumping at the news that the man Saul/Paul used to hate is actually their Messiah.

Thankfully God is both patient and has a sense of humour. When Paul storms out of the synagogue because they won't believe and tells them he's done with Jews and is only going to work with Gentiles the man who takes him in and gives him a place to stay lives right next door.

Paul was burning a bridge or trying to. God was keeping the bridge if not intact at least within sight.

The great Christian reformer Martin Luther tried his best to reach out to the Jews with the truth. He wanted them to see and understand that their Messiah had already come. They rejected him. The rejection turned him bitterly against the Jews. He wrote hateful things about them. Little did he know then that he was planting the seeds of the Holocaust.

Be aware of the walls you are tempted to build. Beware of the boxes you put others in. Guard against nursing your own wounds and acting from pride. Jesus was rejected by lots of people but that didn't make Him bitter. He continued building bridges, not walls.


There are some heated issues in our world today. It is tempting to put others in boxes based on their colour, religion, or country of origin. Don't do it. Build bridges, not walls. God is love and His love knows no bounds. Give the offenses and the frustrations and the hurt to Him. We're all broken. He's the healer. He's got the whole world in His hands. Love has already won.

Acts Day 205 - Rising Tensions

18:5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

Image result for rising tensionsTension. Seems everywhere we look there is tension. North Carolina, Tulsa, New York, the ongoing election. The root of all the tension is the same - fear. Fear for black men needlessly dying, fear of terrorists, fear for the future of America.

In Corinth the fear was that the foundations of the Jewish faith were being questioned or completely removed. Paul was introducing new ideas that were seen as a threat rather than hope.

Fear is toxic. It grips us and all reasoning stops. We become instinctual rather than intelligent. Mob mentality sets in.

The Bible says there is an antidote to fear. "Perfect love casts out all fear". There is only one source of perfect love. His name is Jesus. When we come to trust Him fully, fear loses all power. Fear flourishes when issues eclipse Him. Fear withers when He eclipses the issues. He is greater than any election result. He will right all injustice. He will bring an end to terror. He openly declared this life would be full of trouble. He promised that this life is not even close to the whole Story.


Jesus or fear. When you boil it down to the basics the choice is evident.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Acts Day 204 - He is our Pattern

18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. 3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tent makers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

It amazes how the Bible includes so many details with so few words. Paul goes from Athens to Corinth and stays with a Jewish couple from Rome who were expelled from there by Claudius along with all the Jews. A skeptic would ask "Did that really happen?" Turns out it did. We have record of two Roman historians who wrote about it: Suetonius and Cassius Dio. Many Jews were rioting at the instigation of Chrestus and Claudius sent them all packing. Just another reminder that the Bible isn't just a book about the Judeo/Christian God. It is about His interaction with real people in literal history. There is so much effort today to dismiss it as a book of fables yet historically archaeology is confirming it's authenticity more every day.

So Paul ends up in the Greek city of Corinth staying with tent makers Aquila and Priscilla. He is a tent maker himself and works with them while preaching weekly in the synagogues. Paul is not just educated intellectually. He is not just a preacher. He has a practical trade and works with his hands. God wanted us to know this about him. Jesus worked with His hands too and He chose disciples who also worked with their hands.


Image result for jesus carpenterIt is important though undervalued in our culture to work with our hands. Our minds and bodies are one. Each gets stronger with the use of the other. Too much of one at the neglect of the other is bad for both. Use your mind. Learn to express yourself. Work with your hands. As much as possible keep your life and your person in balance. If your job is mostly using your mind, use your off hours using your hands. If you work with your hands, don't stop reading and learning. Don't get caught in the mythical trap that one is superior to the other. Both are essential and both will make you the best person you can be. Jesus lived in balance. It's not just in theory or morality that we should follow Him. He is our pattern for living.

Acts Day 203 - God is a Bridge Builder

17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Three reactions to the revelation that Jesus rose from the dead: mockery, a willingness to consider the possibility, and full belief.

During Jesus' ministry men came from Greece looking for Him. How they heard about Him we don't know. What they were expecting we don't know either. All we know is they knew enough about Him that they were looking for Him. Perhaps it was that encounter between Jesus and those Greek seekers that made it possible for some of those who heard Paul to believe right away.

I make this point because God does not expect blind followers or blind faith. Anyone who follows quickly without reasoning it through and having a strong basis for their faith will just as quickly follow the next new thing that comes along.

Consider Peter. There is an account of the day he became a disciple or follower of Jesus. He had been fishing all night. He and his crew had caught nothing. In the morning they were coming to shore to call it a day and clean their nets. Jesus was there and he told Peter to go out and fish again. Peter hesitated. He explained to Jesus why it wouldn't be of any use. However he could see that Jesus was serious and he said "but because You say so, I will." Long story short they catch so many fish the boat can't handle them all and Peter agrees that morning to become His disciple.

To one who didn't know better it seems like a chance encounter. It seems like Jesus just picked out a random fisherman, showed him a "trick" and then invited him to follow Him. It only seems that if you don't know the rest of the story. Jesus has been to Peter's house for a meal prior to this. Jesus had healed his mother-in-law who was sick. The town found out and brought all kinds of sick people to Jesus and he healed them right at Peter's house. Peter and Jesus were not strangers. It was not a random encounter on the beach that day. It may not even have been the first time Jesus asked Peter to join Him in ministry.

When we are introduced to Abraham's offer from God in Genesis 12 to "Go to a land I will show you" it seems sudden and random. However it wasn't. When you read the verb tense carefully it says "The Lord had (past tense) said to Abram..." Time passes between the call and Abram's response. God gave him time to think it over. There was history between them.

How about the demoniac in the cemetery near Decapolis? A collection of ten cities on the far side of the Sea of Galilee that were hostile to anything Jewish. Jesus sneaks over, heals this guy and then leaves again. As He is leaving the healed man wants to come with Him. Jesus refuses. He says to him "I want you to return home and tell your family and friends what the Lord has done for you."

Some time later Jesus returns to the area and the people are ready to receive Him. Why? Because the demoniac prepared the way. He was link between the foreign Jew named Jesus and these formerly hostile people.

Image result for God is a bridge builderSee God never pushes Himself on anyone. He builds bridges and then invites us to cross over and join Him. Your first encounter might find you mocking. It might even find you hostile. Paul had been a Christian killer. God is not discouraged by our resistance. He just keeps building bridges. It's up to us if we cross or just keep torching them.


One of my best friends is a guy that at first I thought I hated. I could never even consider hating him now just as I could never consider walking away from Jesus.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Acts Day 202 - God Overlooked...

17:26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

God overlooks our times of ignorance. The shadowy times prior to Jesus coming were understandably murky. God was seemingly distant and incomprehensible. The theories surrounding Him were many. Replacements were prolific. The record of those who claimed to be His was, to put it politely, tainted and off the mark. Even the best among them had some major flaws, blind spots, and misconceptions.

Then came Jesus. A man who turned the Jewish and non-Jewish world upside down. They were expecting someone but not Him. They were expecting big changes, but of a very different variety.

Since His arrival here and the life He lived God no longer overlooks our ignorance. There is no more mystery surrounding what God is like. If we have seen Jesus, we have seen God. Religion was primarily about power, control, even domination. It was often about one people rising up over another. It was about classifying people into the important and the disposable. It was divisive and downright evil. God was used as a tool to justify discrimination and atrocity.

Image result for jesus friend of sinnersThen Jesus came. He had no creed. He raised no walls. Instead He smashed through them. He erected no borders. He crossed them all. No one was too insignificant. In fact the more insignificant they were in the eyes of humanity the more significant they were to Him. Not only did He go to Samaria. He went far beyond, to places a Samaritan wouldn't even go.

He "broke" the Sabbath. He forgave sinners caught in the act. He touched lepers. He respected women. He ate with undesirables. He took on the religious establishment and exposed it as a tool of demons yet reached out to those entrenched in and drowning in the traditions and trappings of it.

He brought alive the reality that "God so loves the world..." He became the Lamb slain for the sins of the whole world. He expressed compassion and forgiveness even as we were killing Him.

If we have seen Jesus, we have seen God.

If you haven't seen Jesus, God overlooks your ignorance. But if you have seen Him and you prefer a world of division where the strong rise up to exploit the weak then you have made your choice.

Some heard Paul and mocked. Some needed more time to process it. Others heard and believed.


All I want to do is give people an opportunity to see clearly so they can choose intelligently. Jesus. He's the man of history and destiny. Religion is about power. He is about character. We choose. Religion says a Christian is better than a Muslim or vice versa. Jesus demonstrated God loves us all and wants to bring us Home.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Acts Day 201 - Mix and Match?

17:26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

God. He can be a touchy subject. Some choose to believe He does not exist although a philosopher would say that to deny the existence of someone is to affirm their existence.

It is my firm belief that the reason some deny Him is because they misunderstand Him. For this I do not blame them. Among those who profess to believe are multiple descriptions and pictures of Him. Why? Because we create a God of our own choosing. That's what idolatry really is. We fashion God into what appeals to us.

Image result for gods of our makingWhy are there so many religions and so many fractures and factions within each one? Because we fashion God according to what we want. Some say He's angry and vengeful. Some say He is not. Some say He is all powerful and all knowing. Some say He is not. Some say He created us but is indifferent to our problems and ultimately our destiny. Others say He cares very much.

The Greeks had multiple gods. Some of them appealed to some people more than others.

Into all this confusion stepped Paul. He used the admission that there was an unknown God to speak to them about the One True God. He made one basic point. We are the creation of His hands. He is not the creation of our hands.

What we believe is up to us. However what we believe does not change what is. What we believe will deeply impact how we live but it won't change ultimate truth. Recently a woman ate a mushroom she believed was safe and edible. Turns out it wasn't and she died. Her belief caused her to eat but it did not change the poisonous properties of the mushroom.

Independent of what I say or believe, God is. He us unchanging and unchangeable. He has done everything possible to have each one of us stumble across His path even though He was never far from any one of us.

If you want to know what He is like, look at Jesus. If you see Him you see God. Watch Him stoop to help a stranger in need. Watch Him defend the defenseless and treat with dignity the downtrodden. Watch Him cross the tracks to help those on the other side. Watch Him break down the traditions and rules man made and uplift the truth about His Father. Watch Him die just so you can have the freedom to choose God or spit in His face.

Beliefs vary widely but He remains. He created the gold, silver, and stone. Before we were He always was.


You will search for Him and you will find Him when you search with all your heart.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Acts Day 200 – One Human Family

17:23 Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

There are realities we don't often think about. Part of the problem is too many of us live on concrete and are almost completely disconnected from nature in a hands on sense. Some may call it a coincidence that the growing acceptance of evolution and the shift from rural living to city living happened at the same time. I don't believe it is a coincidence at all. Those who live in and work with nature can see how complex and amazing it is. To think a random series of accidents produced everything we see in nature including our own bodies is preposterous. It defies logic, and science. However if you repeat something to people for long enough it becomes "true" even if it takes generations.

Paul is speaking to men who have inherited a worldview that includes a multiplicity of gods, each one responsible for something different. Today we find those beliefs archaic and even barbaric. The day will come when the theory we came from nothing and developed by a series of unguided accidents will be just as archaic.

Into this worldview comes Paul proclaiming one God responsible for all life and all things.

Earlier this week I was digging potatoes. My dad had planted them in rows by colour: three rows of red potatoes and five rows of white potatoes. I had dug all the red rows last week and two of the white ones. So this week I was digging a white row. I pulled up a plant and guess what was underneath? A cluster of white potatoes and two red ones. Red potatoes from a white plant? Yes. Because nature is not how we make it out to be. God created from one blood all the nations of the earth. The notion that there are separate races of human beings based on colour is a myth, a human fabrication.

Image result for biracial fraternal twinsConsider this family: 
http://nypost.com/2010/07/21/blond-bombshell/

Or these identical twins:
(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/12172157/Britains-first-black-and-white-twins-born-from-same-egg.html)


Race is a man-made phenomenon. We divided ourselves but our ancestry is the same. One God created one people.

Acts Day 199 - Higher, Greater, All

17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

There is so much in these few words. I try and picture the scene. I try to put myself in the shoes of the Greek audience. I try and see and listen from their perspective. How do they see their gods? What do their man made idols mean to them? Are they literal gods? Are they symbolic? When Paul speaks to them of their unknown God are they excited, curious, offended, insulted that a Jew was trying to teach them? It seems they were curious and open minded. It seems they lived to ponder ideas so this was just more material to chew on.

However I believe as Paul began to speak the mood quickly shifted from curiosity and philosophical musings to a sense that something deeper was happening. Paul unveils a god unlike any they worship. When you examine the various gods of Greek mythology you discover each one has an area of expertise. They couldn't conceive of any one god being powerful enough to handle everything so they needed a wide range of gods. Many of these gods were children of other gods. They had human characteristics of lust and anger etc... In short they were not much different from us and in some ways worse.

Paul spoke of a God above all gods. A God who was the source of all life. A God who gave breath to every living creature.

Part of Greek god worship was to bring to the temples the things the gods wanted so they wouldn't get angry. Paul said the Unknown God needs nothing from us for He is the source of all things.

Simply put Paul was shifting their gaze higher. Higher than their gods. Higher than any God they had ever conceived of. The amazing thing was that they had a sense of Him already because He is beyond our imagination. He is higher and greater than our capacity to envision. We are so limited compared to who and what He actually is that we had to invent multiple gods to even begin to equal His greatness. Somehow they knew that beyond all their attempts at religion there was Someone higher and greater. Paul was there to introduce Him.

We'll dig deeper tomorrow. He's greater and higher than we think too, no matter what we think about Him.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Acts Day 198 - Heresy?

17:19 And they (the philosophers) took him (Paul) and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

Paul uses an idol in Athens to share Jesus with Greek philosophers? Is that allowed? Doesn't it break a commandment or at the very least sanction something that is completely wrong? Why did he do it?

A few years ago I was grabbing a quick lunch at a burrito shop when I noticed a young man reading the Bible as he ate his meal. Intrigued I asked if he minded me joining him. The conversation with him was still pretty young when he began telling me he was right and I was wrong. I honestly don't remember what the issue was but I do remember thinking "seriously?!". He was prepared to draw a line in the sand between the two of us over a very minor issue and he didn't even know me.

Image result for to the unknown godPaul didn't draw a line even though he could have. Idol worship is a much bigger deal than the one the young man in the burrito shop was worried about. Instead Paul built a bridge. He began in their culture and on their turf and built a bridge back to the One true God. In doing so he didn't call them out or offend them.

The young man in the burrito shop was brazen but ineffective. Paul was brilliant. The young man was concerned about his point of view without even considering mine. Paul began from their point of view and brought them to his.

Perhaps it is time we started thinking of ideas as physical entities. If I want to attach or connect two physical objects I have to be familiar with both and find a point of attachment or create one. A truck has the ability to tow but it needs a hitch to attach a trailer to. A trailer needs a receiver to attach to the hitch.

People have ideas and beliefs and a world view. This we must respect. We may even learn something valuable from them. At the very least we have to consider their ideas if we want them to be able to connect to our ideas. We may even need to build a hitch.

Paul found a hitch, a link, a point of connection when he saw an idol to the unknown God. The idol showed the Greeks had a sense that there was something or Someone greater, Someone beyond their current scope of understanding.

When you try and communicate with others are you selfish? Is it all about you and your ideas? Have you considered theirs? You may think an idea they have is insane but rather than try and prove it is, why not try and understand why they have that idea...


It is heresy to believe in idols but it isn't heresy to respect and seek to understand an idol worshiper. Build bridges, not walls.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Acts Day 197 - Trading Theories

17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”
Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.
19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

You don't have be alive very long before you start to figure out not everyone shares your worldview. If you are thinking and growing chances are you don't have the same worldview now that you had earlier in your life.

Image result for greek philosophers

Greece was the powerful nation on earth prior to the rise of the Roman Empire. Still today we have inherited much from the Greeks. This little window into life in Athens is telling. They were thinkers, philosophers, some might even say dreamers. In many ways we would call them a culture ahead of their times. In other ways they were a culture adrift. Religiously they had a complex system of idol worship. Athens itself was named after Athena, the goddess of reason, culture, and literature. She was fierce in battle but only fought to preserve the state from outside enemies.

For the Greeks in Athens thinking and ideas were highly regarded. The heroes of their culture were those who devoted their lives to thought.

Into this culture stepped Paul. The Bible says he was provoked in his spirit by what he observed. It bothered him that got all their thinking and ideas they were left adrift in a sea of lifeless shrines. If Athena was such a fierce defender of the state why were the Romans in charge?

Unable to contain himself he not only spoke boldly in the synagogues but he took his message of Jesus to the streets.

Honestly I'm starting to wonder when we're going to become provoked enough in our spirits today to take our message outside church walls? We too live in a sea of ideas. We too are surrounded by beliefs and ideas that at the end of the day are lifeless and powerless. Do we care enough to do something about it? Will the boldness of the early church ever grip us? Will we step out in such a way that the thought leaders of our time sit up and take notice? Is our faith in Jesus such that what we have to say would not only catch their attention but have them asking for more?


We'll see tomorrow what happened next...

Monday, 12 September 2016

Acts Day 196 - Are You Happy?

17:13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.

Have you started counting cities yet? Have you lost track? Have you gotten the sense that these men are on the move a lot? No pay. Little appreciation. No guarantees of a place to sleep at night. Some hear and believe, the rest hear and resist, sometimes violently.

Some say religion is boring. I agree. However I see little evidence that following Jesus is boring. It certainly hasn't been my experience. It wasn't the experience of anyone in the early days and years of the Christian church. There is a reason why following Jesus is always busy and never boring. Jesus causes us to look beyond ourselves. Paul and Silas and Timothy are not traveling to see the scenery. They aren't on some expedition of self realization or self fulfillment. There is only one motive.  They want others to know the Truth. They want the world to have the opportunity to know Him.

Our culture and circumstances may be different but one common theme remains: To live for Jesus is to live for others.

Simple, quick, and easy to say but it's true. Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. His entire existence here was about and for others. His life was never boring because there was never an end to the mission. There was always another person who needed help, healing, forgiveness, and hope.

A self-serving life is boring. It becomes an endless pursuit of meaning and fulfillment from things that can never really satisfy. We weren't designed to serve ourselves. We were designed to serve others. My wife would rather make a meal for others than for herself. She isn't alone. I have heard countless people say they can't be bothered to cook only for themselves. I'd rather build for others. Projects are fun for me only when they are for someone else. When it's for me it just seems like work.

Sadly we live in a culture that is trying to convince us of the opposite. We have I phones and I pads and everything is catered to self. At the same time depression and mental illness are skyrocketing. Why? Because we are not designed for self-absorbed living. We were designed to serve each other. We are wired to find our own happiness in bringing happiness to others.

This summer I had the opportunity to have lunch with an old friend. He has left a high profile, high paying job to work in service to others. The pay is lousy. The perks are few. Recognition is not part of the package yet he did it on purpose and is the happiest professionally that he has ever been. Many would say he is crazy. He says he is happy.

Image result for are you happy?Everything works better when it's doing what it was designed to do. Are you happy?

Paul was a highly educated free man. He could have been doing all kinds of "successful" things. He chose to serve Jesus which meant serving others. He was happy.


Again I ask - Are you happy?

Acts Day 195 - Turf War

17:10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.

Life is not a smooth steady journey. It's more like a roller coaster. In Thessalonica it was a battle that ended with a mob and arrests. Moving on to Berea things got better. It was like a calm after the storm. It wasn't to last though. It seems the mob in Thessalonica wasn't satisfied to run them out of their city so they tracked them to Berea.

Every literal story in the Bible is also telling a bigger story. These things were written down for us to take lessons from. None of us are Paul or Silas and we never will be. None of us will experience the exact same circumstances they did. None of us should attempt to literally apply what happened to them to our lives. However we should (and will if are wise) take from their experiences principles we can apply or learn from.

The mob in Thessalonica represents bad religion and the forces behind it. Religion is most always a tool of control used to gain power and influence over others. Like drug lords they control territory or turf and anyone who threatens that turf will pay a price.

Image result for turf warOf course the puppet master behind all of this is Satan. He loves to have us buy into any system that ultimately heads nowhere and have us think it is of supreme importance. He was certainly having his way with the Jews. He had a created a self-obsessed warped view of the Messiah and they bought it so completely that when the real Messiah came they rejected Him and killed Him. However He rose again proving He was no ordinary man or prophet and the movement began to explode.

Well the only way for a movement to grow is by having more and more people believe and those people came from somewhere. As the Christian ranks increased and the whole religious world was being turned upside down, those fully invested in Judaism and Greco-Roman paganism began to feel the threat. The turf war was on.

Initially Saul (now Paul) was a leader in the war against Christianity. Now he has become a leader for Christianity which has made and is making him enemy number one.

When you and I decide to give our lives to Jesus we become a threat to Satan. Not only has he lost us which diminishes his ranks, but he risks losing more by our existence. He begins to incite others against us. Family and friends at first. The degree to which we are attacked depends directly on the level to which we become publicly a voice for Him. The more we threaten Satan's territory the more he invests in stopping us.

Satan had so much power and influence over the men in charge of the synagogue in Thessalonica that they bring their mob to Berea.

Let me assure you of this. Smooth water and peaceful pastures is not an indicator that you are doing God's will. Quite the opposite. This world is a place Satan thinks is his and anyone who leaves his man made religions and empty philosophies to pursue the God of heaven who sent His Son for our rescue becomes a target.

This is not cause for fear but it's important to understand where we live. Why should we not be afraid?


Because He who for us is greater than any who will come against us and all things will work together for our good and His glory because our good is to His glory. He loves us. We are His world and the apples of His eye.