I do not count my life of any value to myself

There are many, many moments when I question God’s direction in my life when it comes to the furtherance of my education.  For some strange reason He has found His glory in my lack of education.  On the other hand, Paul, fully and completely educated, tried hard every day to ensure his life did not matter at all – he only wanted to make sure every person would have the opportunity of hearing the good news of God’s grace.

In light of that vision, nothing moved Paul, even the countless times he almost lost his life.  Even at his last trip to Jerusalem where he knew he would end his missionary journeys, his hope was in the Gospel, and the ministry of the word.  His faith was strong, he had no fear and he did not alter his purpose and knew he was completing his design.

There may have been even a sense of happiness that he was finishing his course well. He did not need an extra day or week to do more – his satisfaction and joy was in what he had done.  I am sure he was tired of the warfare in his journey and was looking towards the comfort he knew would be found being with Jesus.

So this message of grace, this message Paul preached everyday, what can we say about it? I found a sermon from Spurgeon on this and thought it might add some great thoughts..

Spurgeon in his sermon on this passage declared…

I shall try to proclaim that word, “GRACE,” so that those who know its joyful sound shall be glad, and those who despise it shall be cut to the heart! Grace is the essence of the Gospel! Grace is the one hope for this fallen world! Grace is the sole comfort of saints looking forward to Heaven!…Let me try to explain in a brief manner how the Gospel is the good news of Grace. The Gospel is an announcement that God is prepared to deal with guilty man on the ground of free favor and pure mercy. There would be no good news in saying that God is just, for, in the first place, that is not even news—we know that God is just. The natural conscience teaches man that. That God will punish sin and reward righteousness is not news at all and, if it were news, yet it would not be good news, for we have all sinned—and upon the ground of justice we must perish. But it is news and news of the best kind, that the Judge of all is prepared to pardon transgression and to justify the ungodly! It is good news to the sinful that the Lord will blot out sin, cover the sinner with righteousness and receive him into His favor—and that not on account of anything he has done, or will do—but out of Sovereign Grace!

Though we are all guilty without exception and all most justly condemned for our sins, yet God is ready to take us from under the curse of His Law and give us all the blessedness of righteous men as an act of pure mercy! Remember how David saw this and spoke of it in the 32nd Psalm—“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” This is a message worth dying for, that through the Covenant of Grace, God can be just and yet the Justifier of him that believes in Jesus! That He can be the righteous Judge of men and yet believing men can be freely justified by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! That God is merciful and gracious—and is ready to bless the most unworthy—is a wonderful piece of news, worth a man’s spending a hundred lives to tell! My heart leaps within me as I repeat it in this Hall and tell the penitent, the desponding and the despairing that, though their sins deserve Hell, yet Grace can give them Heaven and make them fit for it—and that as a sovereign act of love—altogether independent of their character or what they deserve! Because the Lord has said, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,” there is hope for the most hopeless! Since “it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy,” (Rom. 9:16), there is an open door of hope for those who otherwise might despair!…

The Gospel message is of Grace because it is directed to those whose only claim is their need. (A Gospel Worth Dying For)

 But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. – Acts 20:24

Words from an angel

My mom wishes she could have an angel come and visit her.  I think that is mostly because she knows it can happen – not just because of the experiences in the Bible, but both her mother and her sister had experiences with angels.

There are certain emotions that come with angel visitations I am sure – surprise, hope, expectation – all causing me to give special attention.

When the angel announced to Samson’s parents that he was coming and that they should make sure to have him follow all the nazirite traditions, they knew God was ready to do something special and that their son was being prepared to be used by God one day.

Another story of hope that God is with us even when it does not look like He is.

And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son.  Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” – Judges 13:3-5

Jim Reeves – Whispering Hope

Resolved in the Spirit

As followers of Christ, we can make the decision to follow the leading of the Spirit and His call or we can still go our own way.  I am not sure if we decide to go our own way as to when we are no longer followers of Jesus.  

Paul expressed many times how the Spirit of God was leading him through the instinct and motion of the Spirit and how his whole life was framed according to God’s will and pleasure.  The outcomes of his journey did not depend on the journey itself but rather that he obeyed and was faithful – for we know some of the outcomes Paul faced, even death.  It was if Paul was addicted to following Jesus – to the profit of the Church – even neglecting his own safety.  At one point, he even deprived himself of his most faithful companion, Timothy, so that the Macedonian church would not have to wait for him.

We see a little bit of Paul at this very moment in his letter to the Romans.  He writes —

Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news,[a] not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him shall see,
    and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”

 

 This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you.  But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you  when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while.  At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints – Romans 15:20-25

Paul had an incredible desire to not want to build on the foundation of another – he wanted to work in bringing the gospel to a place that had never heard it before.  

Now after these things had been accomplished, Paul resolved in the Spirit to go through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go on to Jerusalem. He said, “After I have gone there, I must also see Rome.” – Acts 19:21

Where hope is ultimately placed

Paul’s experience in Ephesus must have been amazing.  To see the fruit of discipleship displayed so demonstratively with the burning of all their magic books would have been moving.

My first experience was with a drug user who had come to Christ.  He took me back to his place where he showed me all of his cocaine and then told me that for Christ he was going to flush them down the sink.  He did so.  Wow!

I also think of Judas – I know, a little weird – he probably would have wanted to sell all the magic books to redeem their value and give more to the poor.  But as usual, he would have missed the point of repentance that was taking place and the turning of ones back to the things that held them prisoner for so long.  But also, why put someone else into bondage?

 Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins.  Acts 19:18-19

Where Hope Is Still Alive.wmv

 

 

 

Do not be afraid

Hard to imagine the apostle Paul being afraid, but one night God took the time to come to him, through a vision, and encourage him not to be afraid.  He had just had an altercation with the Jewish people and had declared that he was leaving them and going to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.  There must have been something there that we are kept from because God had to take the time to build up Paul and ensure that he stayed right where he was and continue to do the mission he was called to do.  Fear is not a stranger to any of us.  Our encouragement has to be that we all fear, even Paul, and let’s continue to reach out to those who have never heard of God’s message of hope and redemption, confident that we walk with God as we do.

It does not mean we have to go on a conversion quest – but it does matter that we firm up our understanding of what our mission is and that we are doing it at the best of our ability, trusting God to move through us as we do.  It is scary to tell a co-worker about Jesus, we will face persecution of all kinds, people will not like us or accept us — but all that is OK when we are reminded that God knows what we are facing.  He also happens to know the heart of the person we are sharing the gospel with.  Regardless of their motives – God will come to us and encourage us through it all. We can hope in Him as we give knowing full well that we will be re-energized and refreshed.

 One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.”  – Acts 18:9-10

Tenth Avenue North – Afraid

Deeply distressed

Distress is not a bad thing when it happens because you are confronted by people without hope.  For those of us moving in the area of missions and Christian witness this is a common expression – distressed for those who do not know Jesus for reality is not without hope.

As followers of Christ we are fully aware that life is held by God – it is also a life where we find ourselves finding our life and our being in Him and by Him.  Life is about the fruit of the Spirit in full display as we live out our faith as devoted disciples of Jesus and not in things that do not matter.  Since Jesus is the source of our being that enables to be agents of peace and hope to a hurting world, and since we have experienced the love of God and the good news of eternal life, grace and forgiveness, we have much to offer our world of hurt.

 When Paul was so deeply distressed when he met a people group who had no idea who God was, maybe Paul was giving us an attitude that modelled somewhat how we need to approach our culture today.  Maybe hidden in this is a biblical perspective of culture that we can use to navigate ourselves through it and what our objective should be as we approach our world.  Confronting culture starts by engaging culture.  Their is neither a blending in because with that we cannot challenge it and we cannot run away and hide for with that we lose hope of changing culture.

Paul did not normally use this approach – sharing his hope in Jesus.  Normally he would use an apologetic approach.  I like this approach much better – it is definitely a more engaging approach and as a result there were invitations to speak more and to more people.

When we ask the world about their experience of looking for God’s presence and how others have looked for it, we know that we all are looking for that hope that will enable us to face the realities of this world.  Imagine what that conversation looks and sounds like at a funeral and then a wedding or a birth of a child.  What does God look like – His love, mercy, or truth in the lives of those who sit next to us, talk to us, join us in worship – by listening we find the language to speak of Jesus – crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. 

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols.  – Acts 17:16