Stop. Do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing band. This is what genuine worship looks and sounds like. Unscripted, passionate, real.
As many of us know Paul spent significant, if not the majority, of his time preaching the Gospel in various prisons across the Mediterranean. In chapter 25 of Acts, we see that Paul is being held in the estate of the Roman Procurator of Judea, Antonius Felix. For two years Paul has been defending himself from the false accusations of the Jews seeking his life before Felix and in this time Paul has also been able to minister to the governor’s court. But when Felix was elected out of office, in order to gain favor with the people, he left Paul under house arrest.
Enter in now the new Roman Procurator - Porcius Festus. Seeing their chance with a fresh face, the Jews cornered Festus in Jerusalem and demanded Paul be brought back for them to kill him. Festus, being a Roman official unfamiliar with Jewish law, told them that all Roman citizens must stand trial and have a chance to defend themselves. So he invited them back to his estate where they brought out Paul and began to make charges they had no means of proving.
But this is where the story gets interesting, especially for us believers now. Very, very often Christians are portrayed as quiet, small, and passive people. That we cower and turn the other cheek and allow abuse to happen to us. But that is not what Paul is representing here, no, Paul is showing us that as a Christian it is ok to be bold and to counteract lies with truth. Paul doesn’t back down when they start hurling impossible charge after charge at him. Take a look at how he responds.
"Paul denied the charges. ‘I am not guilty of any crime against the Jewish laws or the Temple or the Roman government,’ he said.
Then Festus, wanting to please the Jews, asked him, ‘Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there?’
But Paul replied, ‘No! This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty of harming the Jews. If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But if I am innocent, no one has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me.
I appeal to Caesar!’”
// Acts 25:8-11
We see immediately that Paul is incredibly knowledgeable and ready to debate. He doesn’t take a stance of meekness and allow these accusers the chance to end his ministry here; he stands tall, empowered by God, and fights against the lies and the darkness. For in the moments where we need wisdom most, God will give us the words to say. Don’t merely take the hits in this life, make sure they count. Your ministry and your service and your example doesn’t end when you hit the first bump in the road or with the first rejection.
As Jesus said, brush the dust from your feet as a testament against those who stand before you. Your mission is much more valuable and important for us to stop when the going gets tough.
It’s time to fight.
Things have been quiet around these parts.
Let’s change that.
"While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking." Acts 14:8-10
Healing is ever present in the New Testament: it is Jesus’ mantra. But I have never stopped to think about what actually went into healing these men and women. In this instance, Paul & Barnabas came upon a man who had faith in what they were preaching and Paul felt the Spirit lead him to heal this man. But this man was crippled from birth, this account is very detailed. Can you imagine, a man, somewhere in his late twenties to early fourties by my guess, has never walked in his life. His legs’ muscles never had a chance to develop properly, if at all. But what was the first thing that this cripple did after being healed by the Holy Spirit through Paul?
God didn’t just heal this man’s misaligned feet, he healed the source and everything else that had been injured because of it. God provided complete healing, complete restoration. This man could not have jumped, let alone walked, without the aid of legs that could support his entire weight.
So the next time you feel like God has left you alone, always remember that His healing is perfect and complete. We may not notice or even care during the trials, but if you have faith and take God at His word; He will always completely restore you.
In the book of Revelation, chapter two, we see John recount his vision of Jesus sending out final warnings to the seven churches. Jesus first addresses the church of Ephesus. The Ephesians had found favor in God’s eyes; They loved others, served with joyful hearts, withstood trials and storms, and were firm in their belief of the true Gospel and decisive in putting down any additional human teaching. Sounds like the perfect church, right?
"But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first." (Revelations 2:4)
Jesus gave us our three New Testament commandments; ”’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.’” (Mark:12-30-33)
Jesus tells us that to love God with everything you’ve got is more important than any service you could ever do in this life. It’s incredibly challenging for us and it is intended to be so. We want to earn favor in God’s eyes, we want to be better people. That’s wonderful, but it shouldn’t be our focus. Our focus should always be to love God. Don’t lose the love you once had. Reignite the romance in your heart and let God cherish you and pursue you. All He asks for in return is that you’ll rely on him completely.
Imagine, if you will, a scene in ancient Jerusalem. You see a bustling marketplace where people barter for goods, children playing in the street while women wash their clothes in the shade. Men drawing water from a well, others preparing themselves for the journey home. Picture yourself in the scene of the most impressive city in ancient Israel. You are walking through the dusty streets following an impossible man. He is a legend for his notoriety. This is a man who has, in the span of a few short years, changed absolutely everything and has challenged the faith and foundations of the authorities. This man is called Jesus. As you walk along behind him, eager for another lesson or word of wisdom, you walk by the temple complex. the temple is the crown jewel of Jerusalem, its pride and glory. It was a beautiful building, covered with delicate, intricate carvings and carefully painted murals. Admiring the attention and work that went into this building, you call forward to Jesus, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!” (Mark 13:1) I imagine then Jesus paused, gave these monuments of human achievement a glance and turned back to his disciples. Then, "Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!’"(Mark 13:2)
Jesus knew that Israel’s heart was far from God and much nearer religious practice and devotion to the law. The law labeled out how the temple should be built. Jesus knew that the people of Jerusalem found their self-earned righteousness from this building and not the God who ordained it. So Jesus says one of the most applicable lines I’ve ever read in the Bible. Not a single stone of human achievement will be left standing before the end. He is calling us out. He knows how hard we try to build up a perfect life in order to please God. These people put their faith and hope in something they created instead of believing God’s promise. Not a stone will remain. Those words hold true, if not more so, today. How often do we fall into the snare of trying to earn or achieve our salvation? Salvation is not something we can ever earn or come close to deserving. We are all blemished by sin. Only Christ can cover us and present us as pure sacrifices to God the Father. So I exhort you, if you have been living your life hoping to earn God’s grace: STOP IT. You can not, you will never be able to. We must come to the honest conclusion that it is God that grants righteousness. We fall short daily. God is perfect always. When our time comes and we stand before Jesus in heaven, he will cast down our works until not a stone remains. And in the dust thereafter He will show us how our mustard seed of faith is what saved us.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9, 10:13, 5:1, 8:1, 8:38-39)
God bless guys.
“For I desire loyalty, not sacrifice; The knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. ”
God (Hosea 6:6)
This is actually incredibly close to what I hope my wedding will look like! Sweet!