God’s Unconditional Love

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November 2, 2021

God’s Unconditional Love

This week’s reading was Genesis 27-34. We will be reviewing a few of the chapters prior to this as well.

Back in Genesis 25:23 the Lord said to Rebekah while she was pregnant with Isaac’s children, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

In Biblical times, the older son normally would receive the birthright and a blessing. Receiving the birthright meant the older son would have a leadership position in the family and would get double the inheritance. The oldest son would also receive the blessing from his father.

In the prophesy from God to Rebekah, God wanted the younger son to be the leader of the family and receive the blessing instead of the oldest.

In the story of Jacob and Esau, Esau was born first. Had Rebekah and Isaac had good communication and acted differently, Jacob could have had the blessing and birthright without problem. This did not happen. All of the characters in the story were selfish, and lies and scheming occurred.

Esau was the first born of the twins and was a hunter and favored by his father Isaac. Jacob hung around the tent and was favored by his mom Rebekah.

The first time Jacob took advantage of Esau was after Esau had been out hunting one day and came home famished. Esau asked for some stew and Jacob said he would give him the stew but, “sell me your birthright first” (Genesis 25:31). Esau sold Jacob the birthright.

The second time Jacob took advantage of Esau was in Genesis 27. Isaac was old and blind at this time and he wanted to give his blessing to Esau. He asked Esau to hunt and make him stew so he could give his blessing. Rebekah overheard this, and went to Jacob, and told him about this and they came up with a plan to deceive Isaac into thinking Jacob was Esau.

Rebekah had Jacob get 2 young goats from their animals, and she cooked up the stew. Jacob wore some sort of hair on his arms and chest along with Esau’s clothing. Jacob went to Isaac and Isaac gave Jacob the blessing that was suppose to go to Esau. Soon after, Esau came in and asked for the blessing and Isaac realized he gave the blessing to the wrong child. In Biblical time, once the blessing was given to a child it could not be taken back.

When Esau found out his brother stole the blessing, he was angered and wanted to kill Jacob. Rebekah knew this and had Jacob go to her brother Laban who lived over 500 miles away. There she wanted him to find a wife.

On his way to Laban’s home in Harran, Jacob stopped at a place to rest over-night.

Genesis 28:10-22 says: “10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[c] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[d] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[e] though the city used to be called Luz.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[f] will be my God 22 and[g] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

This was the first time Jacob met God, and he realized how awesome that was and put a stone there to honor God.

But even though he met God, Jacob was still selfish. He said, “If God does this, then I will do that.” He put conditions on God.

What can we learn from this story?

  1. God has a perfect plan. We cannot get in His way. God told Rebekah that He wanted Jacob to be the leader. Had she and Isaac gone about this differently, their sons may have had a better relationship, and she and Jacob would not have had to lie. But even though the whole family tried to get their own way, God’s plan prevailed.
  2. God seeks us out. While on the run, God came to Jacob in a dream. He may not come to you and I in a dream, but he comes to us through others, His Word, and through his Holy Spirit.
  3. God uses messy people. Even though Jacob was selfish and deceitful, God still used him to fulfill his purposes. Jacob did not have to become a good person before God used him. We do not either. The Bible says in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God loves us just the way we are. We don’t have to change to receive His love.
  4. God is with us. God told Jacob that He would be with Jacob where ever he went. He is with us always as well. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
  5. God’s love is unconditional. Even though Jacob’s love is conditional, God’s love is not. Jacob did not have to be perfect for God to love him or be with him. This is the same for us as well. In Romans 8:38-39 we see that Christ’s love will never end, “38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.”
  6. Jesus is the connection between heaven and earth. Jacob had a dream about a ladder with angels going up and down the ladder and God at the top speaking. John 1:51 has Jesus speaking to Nathanial a disciple and says, “Very truly I tell you,[a] you[b] will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[c] the Son of Man.” Jesus is saying here that He is the ladder connecting heaven and earth. Because we are all sinful, our relationship with God has been severed. But Jesus is the ladder that connects us back into relationship with God.

Question:

  1. Do you feel too messed up to be in a relationship with God? You are not! He loves you just the way you are.
  2. Do you feel God is distant? Sometimes we all feel this way, but remember, He will never leave or forsake you.
  3. Do you love like God loves, unconditional? If so, that is awesome. If you struggle in this, ask God to help you see others like He sees them, and love others like he loves them, which is unconditional.

Next week’s reading is Genesis 35-43.

Week of catch up

October 26, 2021

Hi All,

I did not post this week because I had surgery. I thought I was up to posting, but was wrong. Just catch up on reading in Genesis, and we we will pick up next week where we left off.

I would appreciate prayers for a quick recovery and for pain relief. Let me know how I can pray for you. God Bless and talk to you next week.

The Lamb

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October 18, 2021

This week we read Genesis 19-26. We will focus most of the discussion on Genesis 22. Before that, let’s review. Abraham was from the linage of Shem, one of Noah’s sons. God promised Abraham that he would have as many offspring as the stars (Genesis 15:5) and make nations and kings from him (Genesis 17:9). When Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah 90 years old they had a miracle and she bore a son whom they named Isaac. On the 8th day Isaac was circumcised, as the covenant between God and Abraham required. Abraham had faith. God was going to bless Abraham with as many offspring as the stars through Isaac.

When Isaac was a teenager, God tested Abraham in Genesis chapter 22.

Verse 1: “Sometime later God tested Abraham.” The word tested means to prove faithfulness. God was going to see if Abraham was really faithful.  

He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Notice the word “only son” in verse 2. This is similar to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Verse 3-5 say: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

When you look at verse 3 you can see that Abraham did not wait to follow God’s command. He immediately took his servants and Isaac to the place God called him. Then he told the servants to “Stay here…we will come back to you.” This shows that Abraham had faith that even though God asked Abraham to sacrifice his child, God would somehow provide the sacrifice, or bring Isaac back from the dead. After all, God promised Abraham that he would make a great nation through Isaac.

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.”

When Abraham told Isaac God would provide the lamb, this was a prophecy that Jesus would be “the Lamb of God.” More about this later.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.”

In Romans 11:17, Paul says17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned,

Because of Abraham’s faithfulness, God blessed him and his descendants. God also said that all nations on earth would be blessed because of his faithfulness. This is a reference to the blessing we have through Abraham’s descendant Jesus Christ.

Abraham had faith in God and the Lord provided the sacrificial lamb in place of Isaac. The Lord also provides the sacrificial Lamb for you and me and all of mankind if we have faith.

John 1:29 says, The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John is talking about Jesus, who died on the cross and rose three days later to take away our sins, for all who have faith in him, and live eternally with the perfect God who created us.

1 John 4:9 says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

Do you have faith in God and Christ? Have you accepted Christ as your sacrificial Lamb that has taken your sin away? The Bible says in Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you would like prayer or want to discuss this, please email me through the blog.

Next week we will read Genesis 27-33. Blessings while you read.

Circumcision of the Heart

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October 12, 2021

We were to read Genesis 9-18 this week. However, there is so much to talk about in the first 8 chapters of Genesis that I am going to summarize these, then discuss at length Genesis 17.  

After creation, Adam and Eve made the choice to disobey God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of this, sin entered the world, and Adam and Eve had to leave the garden and no longer take from the tree of life and live forever. There would be death and pain because of sin.

Over time, man became more wicked and God was grieved. The LORD said that he would wipe out mankind, animals, creatures, and birds because of so much evil. There was one man righteous at that time and it was Noah. God told Noah to build an ark (which took over 100 years), and put his family and every kind of animal and bird, male and female, into the ark. Then God made it rain and flood the entire earth for 150 days. Once the rain stopped, Noah and his 3 sons and their wives, along with the animals were put on the earth. God told them to be fruitful, and increase in number, and so they did. God made a covenant with Noah that he would not flood the whole earth that would destroy life, instead He would make a rainbow appear. This would be to remember the covenant between God and all of life.

One of the sons of Noah was named Shem. Through his linage came Abram.

God had made a promise to Abram when he was 75 years old that he would become a great nation. Abraham had faith and it was counted as righteousness to him.

The problem was that Sarai his wife was barren, and they had no children. After time, his wife Sarai did not become pregnant, so Sarai had Abram sleep with the maidservant Hagar (a common practice in those days). Hagar had a son and name him Ishmael.

Sarai and Abram thought that God’s promise of being a great nation was going to be through Ishmael. Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, God came to Abraham again.

Genesis 17:1-14 says, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.”

We are going to dive into this part of the text.

It took 25 years for Abram to understand the entire covenant God made with him. Initially, Abram (means exalted father) was told he would be a great nation. He was never told who the mother was going to be of this great nation so when Sarai did not conceive, she had Abram sleep with Hagar, her maidservant. Hagar became pregnant and had a son called Ishmael.  

Thirteen years later God came to Abram and spoke again. God told Abram to walk before God and be blameless, then God would make a covenant and increase Abram’s family size. Abram had to do something first in the covenant before God would increase his family size.

God clarified the covenant even more. This is what God would do for Abram:

  1. Abram would be the father of many nations
  2. Abram would have the name Abraham (means father of many nations)
  3. Abraham would be fruitful
  4. There would be kings that would come from Abraham (Jesus is one of them)
  5. The covenant would be with Abraham and his descendants and would be everlasting
  6. God was Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants
  7. The whole land of Canaan would be everlasting for Abraham and his descendants (Isreal)

This is what Abraham had to do for God:

  1. The covenant had to be kept by Abraham and all the males and any worker or servant in the household
  2. Each male was to be circumcised when he was 8 days old along with the males currently
  3. This covenant in Abraham’s “flesh” was to be everlasting
  4. Any uncircumcised male would be “cut off” from his people because the covenant was broken

Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah. Ishmael was blessed. But the covenant was going to be in the line of Sarah and Abraham’s son, who would be called Isaac.

Immediately, Abraham and his entire household of males, were circumcised. Sarah became pregnant and a year later had her son Isaac.

This ends chapter 17 of Genesis. It is important to understand the significance of circumcision and how it still relates to us today.

Circumcision is the cutting off of the foreskin of a male. The cutting off of flesh. We know through history that it was already practiced in some neighboring communities, so was not new, although it was often done at puberty as a right of passage. With the Isrealites, circumcision was done at the age of 8 days and was a theological rite of passage into the covenant community. It was an outward way to show union with God.

Sarah was 90 years old and barren, and Abraham was 99 years old. Some scholars believe that circumcision was a constant reminder of the miracle birth of Isaac and the creation of the Jewish race.

In Genesis 15:6 we learn that Abraham had faith and it was credited as righteousness. According to Romans 4:11, “11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.” Abraham had faith first, then had the physical mark of the covenant through circumcision.

How does circumcision relate to us today? According to Paul in Galations 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Males, for religious reasons, do not need to be physically circumcised today. However, there is a different circumcision. Colossians 2:10-12 says, “10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[a] was put off when you were circumcised by[b] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

This is saying that Christians are not circumcised by human hands like Abraham’s family, but are circumcised by Christ. This circumcision is Christ’s death on the cross. Prior to having faith in Christ, our whole self was ruled by our own desires, but once we have faith in Christ, our fleshly ways are cut off and we are brought to fullness in Christ through our faith and baptism. We are then given the Holy Spirit as a sign of our conversion (Ephesians 4:30). Philippians 3:3 says, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—”

We no longer live by the rules and laws of the Old Testament. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Have you been circumcised by Christ?

Have your fleshly ways been cut off?

How can you thank God today for His grace?

Image of God

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October 4, 2021

This week we read Genesis 1-9. In Genesis 1 God creates the earth and everything in it. In Genesis 1:26-, he creates man. “ 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

Today let’s discuss what it means to be created in God’s image. We are unique from anything else God made.

The word “image” and “likeness” in the Hebrew means resemblance. The exact same two words of image and likeness are used in Genesis 5:3, when Adam has a son named Seth. Thus, Adam’s son bears resemblance to his dad like we bear resemblance to our Father, God. God created humans in a unique manner, unlike any other creature that God created and we have spiritual attributes similar to God (God is Spirit; John 4:24). God created mankind to represent Him and to declare His glory

What does “created in the image of God” mean for you. It means that you are a reflection of God’s image. Every person in the world has attributes of God, and reflects His image. It does not matter what a person looks or acts like. It does not matter how low a person feels. Everyone has value. Everyone is beautiful. God did not make any mistakes when you were created. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God has made everything beautiful and that includes you!

What does, “created in the image of God” mean for how we treat other people? Because all people are created in God’s image, we need to treat them respectfully, with kindness and goodness. This means both all types of people; nice and mean. James 3:9 says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

What are some of the attributes of God that in the initial sinless world are reflected in Him? He was righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:24 says, “and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” God was relational. He wanted people in relation with one another and with Him. Every time God created something He said, “It is good.” After God made Adam, “18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18).  God made Eve to be in relationship with Adam.  God also made man to be in relationship with Him. He walked in the Garden of Eden and had fellowship with Adam and Eve after creation.

Then what happened? Sin entered the world. In Genesis 3, we see that Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This was the only tree they were not to eat from, yet, after being tempted, they disobeyed God and ate the fruit. As a consequence, God no longer let them eat from the tree of life and live forever. They were banished from the garden, and now sin was in the world.

What does that do for us? We are still God’s glory from creation, but now we are all sinners and mortal.

Does that mean we can’t have a relationship with God? Thankfully, no! God has created a way for us to be reconciled to Him, and that is through His Son Jesus Christ. We can see who God is through His Son. Colossians 1:15 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” God has allowed us to see Him through Jesus. It is not through his looks, but from His spiritual features; love, grace, compassion, mercy, and holiness.

We can know God’s will through Jesus as well. John 3:16 says, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Thus, God’s will for us is that we would not perish but have eternal life. God’s will is also that we be made in His image. We are to be transformed into His likeness. Romans 12:2 says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Galations 3:27 says, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

Question: Would you like a relationship with God so you can see Him through Jesus? Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Next week we will read Genesis 10-18

References: Sermons by Tim Keller, Mike Leake, Alan McCann ,Jerico Layugan

Weathering the Storm

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September 27, 2021

This week’s reading was Acts 22 through 28. During this time Paul continued to share Christ with the Jews and Gentiles. The Jewish leaders did not like him sharing with the Gentiles so they falsely accused Paul and put him in prison. Paul appealed his case to Caesar, so he had to be taken to Rome.

We talked last week that there would always be trials. Acts 27 showed a huge storm that Paul and 275 others were in. This storm was not a rain drizzle or even a down pour. This was a hurricane. According to 27:14, “Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called a Northeaster, swept down from the island.

Are you having storms in your life? Are they a drizzle, down pour, or hurricane? Sometimes we wonder how we will get through the storm no matter the size. We can learn from Paul in Acts 27 about what to do when we are in the midst of storm, and we can learn from the others about what not to do.

Before we talk about what Paul did right during the storm, we should look at what the captain and crew did wrong.

  1. They did not heed good advice. Paul was an experienced sailor. When the boat was docked at a place called Fair Havens, Paul could tell the weather was not going to be safe for sailing. He knew this time of year was dangerous to be on the ocean. In verse 10 Paul said, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” In verse 12 we learn that his advice was not taken, and they set sail.  Had they listened to Paul, they would have missed the storm completely.  It is easy to listen to the wrong people. We need to ensure we listen to good advice.
  2. They were driven along. Once the storm had arrived, the ship was caught by the storm and verse 15 says, “so we gave way to it and were driven along.” During this era, there were no compasses to help with navigation. The captain and crew were dependent on the moon and stars for directions. During the storm the clouds covered the moon and stars, so the captain had no idea where they were going. This is why they gave way to the storm and were driven along. This can happen in life as well. Sometimes when we face a storm, we cannot see anything else. We feel in the dark and cannot see any direction out. We are driven by the storm, and can lose focus on anything else.
  3. They gave up hope. Verse 20 states, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being save.” I can understand how these men felt. When the storms of life keep beating us down, it is easy to be discouraged. Make sure you surround yourself with people like Paul who will be truthful yet encouraging.
  4. They waited to start praying. We learn that on the 14th night the boat was being driven across the Adriatic Sea. They were getting closer to shore and verse 29 says, “Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.” This is the first mention of prayer since the storm started. Remember to pray first, and not after all hope is gone.

What did Paul do right?

  1. He encouraged the men. In verse 21 and 22 Paul says, “keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” Paul was giving the men hope after an angel appeared to him.
  2. He committed his life to Christ. Verse 23 says, “Last night an angel of God to whom I belong…” Paul is a Christian and lets the men know that he belongs to God. Because of his belief, he has hope. Do you belong to God? Have you given your life to God? This is an important step in being able to have hope during life’s storms. Please let me know if you want any more information about this.
  3. He serves God. Verse 23 continues, “to whom I belong and serve…” Paul not only belongs to God but serves God.
  4. He has faith and trust in God. Paul lets the men know what the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” Paul had faith in God. God already told him he would be going to Rome in Acts 23:11, “he following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” He continued with his faith in God. Have you heard from God? Do you believe what He says in his Word? Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
  5. God was with Paul. In verse 23 Paul stated that an angel of God stood beside him. The angel said to Paul that he should not be afraid. That tells me that even Paul of the Bible was afraid in the storm. He was calmed by the angel and the promise of God. Whether you have an angel of God sent from heaven, or you have the Holy Spirit, you are never alone. John 14:26 says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.
  6. He cared about other people. Verse 33-34 says, “Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. For the last fourteen days, he said, you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head. After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.”  Even though Paul was a prisoner, he cared for the others, and ensured they all ate. He did not just think about himself.

Question” Are you in the midst of a storm? No matter if it is a small mist or a hurricane, take heart. Learn from this story. Pray when the storm hits, not when you have lost hope. Make sure that if you take advice from someone, it is Godly wisdom. Surround yourself with people who will encourage and not discourage. Do not be self-focused, but care for others. Believe in the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul. Belong, serve, have faith and trust in God. He is with you in good times and in the storms.

Next week we will read Genesis 1-9

Trust Him

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September 20, 2021

            This week’s reading was Acts 15 to 21 and was about Paul’s missionary journeys. If you remember in Acts 9, Paul was a pharisee who was “breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” While walking on the Damascus Road, he met Jesus. He was blinded for three days and was met by Ananias, who was sent by Jesus. Ananias placed hands on Paul and then scales fell off of his eyes and he could see again. Paul got up and was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. At once Paul began to preach. Jesus said that Paul was his “chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15).

            After time, Paul set out on three major missionary journeys so that he could share the Good News about Christ to the Jews and the Gentiles just as Jesus said.

I want to talk about something that happened in Acts 16 during one of Paul’s journeys. It is an important message and one that I hope will encourage you, especially if you’re having a trial in your life.

Have you ever wondered if God was hearing your prayer or if He was there? Have you wondered why you were going through a difficult time?

I have asked the question during difficult times in my life, “God, why is this happening? If you are God, why not help me? Are you listening to my prayer?”

Paul, Timothy, and Silas tried to go to the province of Asia, but were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word (vs. 6). They tried to go to another place called Mysia but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to (vs. 7). Then Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  Paul concluded that God had called him and his companions to preach to people in Macedonia.

On his way to Macedonia Paul met a woman named Lydia in the town of Philippi and the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. She and the members of her household were baptized.

While they were still in Philippi Paul was met by a female slave that had a spirit that predicted the future and she earned a lot of money for her owners. She kept following Paul around and Paul was annoyed so he commanded the spirit to come out. At that moment the spirit left her.

The owners realized she could not make any more money so had Paul and Silas arrested by the authorities. The crowd joined in the attack and Paul and Silas were beaten, flogged, and thrown into prison in the inner most cell and had their feet fastened with stocks.

Think about it. Flogging caused the skin to peel off and there was a lot of blood. They were in the worst part of the prison cell where there were no windows, and it was dark and damp and the floor was made of dirt. Paul and Silas’ feet were in stocks which were wooden beams with holes in them that held the legs far apart so the prisoner couldn’t run. They were on the dirt floor with their open wounds filling with dirt in an awkward position not being able to move.  

If this were me, I would ask God, “Why is this happening? I thought you wanted me to go to Macedonia? Where are you?”

Paul and Silas had much more faith than me. They did not question or doubt God or think this was not His will for their life. In fact, they did just the opposite and praised God. Verse 25 says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them.”

This is amazing to me and something I need to do more when I am struggling in life.

Verse 26 says, “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”

The jailer then wanted to kill himself because he thought the prisoners escaped, but Paul told him they were still there.

Verse 29 says, “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

This is the most important question anyone can ask and we find the answer in the next verse.

Verse 31-34 says, “They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-he and his whole household.”

Why did Paul and Silas have to go through so much? Because other people learned about Christ and were saved. The jailer and his family were saved. All of the people in the jail witnessed what had happened. Plus, many people have been encouraged through the writing of Paul and this story. “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

Why do you think Paul was willing to continue his travels and share about Christ after so many difficulties? It was because of what Jesus did for him on the cross. Paul said that he was the worst of the worst sinners yet Jesus still forgave him, died on a cross, rose for him, and gave him eternal life. Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy are more than we could imagine and this is why Paul continued sharing about Christ.    

Paul went through hard times. He never let those difficulties diminish his faith in Christ. We should remember this during our own trials. God may have you going through a trial for His purpose. It may be so others can know Christ, or for another Godly reason. Remember, God loves you more than you can fathom. He will give you strength during your trial. As Paul said in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Trust Him.

Question:

  1. Are you going through a trial? Please ask God to give you the strength to get through it. Let me or others pray for you during this time.

Next week we will finish the book of Acts by reading Chapters 22-28.   

References: Sermons by Skip Heitzig and Don Schultz

A God to All Nations

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September 13, 2021

Acts 9-14.

Last week we discussed Acts 1:8 “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We said that Jerusalem and Judea had mostly Jewish people, Samaria had ½ Jews (Samaritans) and the Jewish people despised them, and the ends of the earth were non-Jews. To a Jew, any person that was not Jewish was called a Gentile.

At that time in history, Jewish people were only allowed to eat certain foods because some of the food was considered “unclean” or bad. They were only supposed to have friends and relatives that were other Jews. Gentiles were considered unclean or bad and Jews did not associate with them. This was taught to Jewish people from birth and engrained into their lives and thinking.

Because of this thinking, following through with being a witness beyond Jerusalem and Judea was going to be difficult for the disciples. How were these Jewish men going to witness to someone they were not supposed to be associated (Gentile)?

Acts 10 describes how Peter overcame his prejudice.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”

Let’s dive into this a bit deeper. During prayer Cornelius had a vision of an angel who wanted him to send men to Joppa and bring back Simon Peter. While Cornelius’ men were on there way to Peters’ home, Peter also had a vision. He saw a sheet coming out of heaven with animals on the sheet that Jews were not supposed to eat. The Lord wanted Peter to eat the food.

Peter answered the Lord, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” A voice answered him saying not to call anything impure that was made by God. This happened three times. Apparently, it took Peter a while to understand.

While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit said that three men were looking for him and not to hesitate to go with them. Peter invited the men in and they spent the night. The next day they went to Cornelius’ home where he had called relatives and close friends to join.

Peter went in the house and said in verse 28, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” Then in verse 34 Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accept from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

 After this conversation, Peter began to share the Good News of Jesus with these Gentiles. Verse 44 says, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.” Then the Gentiles were baptized.

 Other Jewish people heard that Peter had gone into the home of a Gentile and criticized him. Peter told them the story and said in 11:15-18 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

 You can see the transformation in Peter and the others. They went from believing they could not associate with Gentiles, to going into their home, sharing the gospel, and praising God that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

 This change in thinking was a big deal for the church. Through a vision to different people in different people groups, God was able to show that he sees all people equally. The apostles and disciples needed to see this so they could “love their neighbor as themselves” and share the gospel to the ends of the earth.

 The above verses are not just for the Jews 2000 years ago. They are for all of us today. Like God, we need to see all people equally. Acts 10:34-35 says that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Galatians 3:28 says, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Questions?

  1. Have you ever been the recipient of prejudice? What happened and how did it make you feel?
  2. Are there any types of people that you feel prejudice against? It does not need to be racial prejudice. It could be a type of person; poor, rich, young, old etc. If so, pray that God will take those feelings away and show you how to love that person as Christ loves them.

Next week’s reading: Acts 15-21.