When Adversity Becomes Opportunity (Acts 23-25)

When reading today we see a lot of shady politicians doing a little political maneuvering that ends up keeping Paul to be in prison for over two years. We might tend to think of this as a huge inconvenience for Paul. Certainly this broken system chewed through a huge part of Paul’s life. Imagine what he could have been doing had he not been detained in prison? How many churches could he have encouraged with his presence? How many more churches could he have planted?

Yet, Paul gets a personal word from the LORD that he will stand before Cesar in Rome. Paul knows where he is ultimately headed. Along the way the adversity he faces ends up being opportunities to preach and share the gospel. Some of the very men who were at the heart of Jesus’ crucifixion, heard Paul share the story of the resurrection. The regional Roman governors hear the gospel message along with their Roman guards and others who would have been present.

It seems fitting that the gospel should and would be pressed forward even more in the midst of adversity. It’s not as though Jesus never met with adversity or the early church hadn’t seen adversity before. It seems as though through the book of Act the LORD uses adversity to grow his church.

We’ve all been living through a pandemic and it has changed the way we do a lot of thing. We’ve faced a type of adversity through this virus that isn’t necessarily the fault of an individual or a corrupt system. Regardless of how the virus got here, it’s here, its real (I’ve had it), and it can and does kill some people. We wear masks, wash hands, keep our distance and do all the things they say help stop the spread. It can be easy to lose focus on the gospel and concentrate on keeping one another safe from the virus. Yet, as I shared with a few men the other day, “Keeping people safe from the virus is important and it shouldn’t be dismissed but our mission has never been safety. Our mission is to share the gospel in our community and around the world. Certainly the virus has created a challenging climate, but it hasn’t changed our calling. It may have also unlocked some doors to ministry.”

We see that with Paul in these chapters. The adversity of dealing with a corrupt political system actually put Paul in a place to share the gospel with Roman guards, governors, an ultimately Cesar himself. When I had the virus and was in the hospital it gave me opportunity to talk to several nurses about the gospel that I would have never met otherwise. It’s also given us opportunity to minister to our neighbors and through technology to share hope with those who tune in to our services online both locally and from around the state and nation.

Father, thank you that even when we face adversity we know that you are with us. Thank you that you are a God who often turns the adversity we face into opportunity to minister to others and share our faith. We ask that you give us wisdom for the days that we live in to reach our neighbors and friends with the power of the gospel. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


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The Power of a Personal Testimony (Acts 20-22)

When folks look back through history it is difficult to dismiss the ministry of Paul. He did so much to spread the gospel and plant churches that he is often remembered for that alone. It’s easy to forget his testimony. Yet, Paul’s testimony wasn’t easy to dismiss for the his own Jewish class. They knew and respected him as a Jew among Jews. He persecuted the early church with zeal. Yet his conversion sent shock waves through the community of elite Jews. It’s also one of the compelling evidences for skeptics today. What would make a man who ardently persecuted the church do a complete 180 and willing take on suffering, hardship, persecution, and even work to pray his own way to promote the gospel?

I’ve been blessed to be a pastor for several years and it’s natural when I talk with fellow Christians for me to ask about how they came to faith in the Lord. It’s amazing to note how alive most people become when they start telling the story of how they came to faith in the Lord. It’s great that I get to see that passion and I count it a privilege that people trust me enough to share about their conversion experience. I wonder though how many neighbors and friends have heard our own personal story of how Jesus changed our lives?

I once lead a mission trip where I trained all of our students how to share their testimony in 100 words or less. I challenged our kids to share their abbreviated story whenever they had a chance during the trip. I gave them the example that if someone asked why they were there they should just launch into their story and then end with the phrase, “and I want other people to experience what I have in Jesus.” Late in the week one of the individuals working the front desk at the hotel came to me and asked us to pray for them. I asked what was up? They said that they had asked several of our teenagers and adults why they were here and they had heard testimony after testimony and they came under conviction about things in their life that needed to change (they were already a believer). I wonder sometimes too about how we might encourage one another by simply sharing our faith stories.

Paul shared his story in an adverse climate, but through his personal story of conversion and faith the gospel was going out in a compelling way. I challenge you to write out your testimony. Read through it and simplify it. Then share it with someone this week. You never know how God might use your story to encourage a fellow believer or even help spread the gospel to those you have yet to believe.

In the Resources I’ve shared several links to my personal testimony.

Father, thank you for how you have moved in my life to bring me to faith in you. I pray that you would use me to share the gospel and encourage other believers. Thank you that you give us all opportunities to share the reason for the hope we have in Christ. I pray that we will take the challenge to write our testimony and even share it with others this week. Give us clarity and opportunity. Grant us boldness that we might press your gospel forward. In Jesus Name, Amen.


Last Year’s Post was really good and deserves a look. There was some good application in on a few things that really stood out to me again this go round but I opted not to comment because I’d already shared those insights last year!

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The Mystery of the Sovereignty of God in Healing and Raising the Dead (Acts 7-9)

A few things really jumped out at me in the reading today. First, Stephen knew the scriptures (the Old Testament at this point) and used them to point his hearers to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. Stephen outlines how the LORD delivered Israel in the past foreshadowing the coming of a Messiah and that Jesus was exactly that Messiah. His message “cut the the heart” and folks were enraged to have their sins put on display by the scriptures. God’s Word does cut to the heart. Fortunately some people come to Him in repentance, but others reject God’s grace and harden their hearts. I really want to memorize more scripture.

The second thing that jumped out at me in this portion of scripture is that we have the first martyr who is buried by devout men who mourned him (Acts 8:2) and we also have a devout woman raised from the dead (Acts 9:41). The question that comes to my mind is, “Why wasn’t Stephen raised from the dead?” Certainly he was a devout man. Certainly the circumstances of his death were worthy of praise and admiration. Certainly there were apostles close by. He was examined and chosen as a deacon. So why does this woman named Dorcus get to be raised to life and Stephen has to be buried by mourners?

We want everything cut and dry. We want it simple. We want things uniform. We read about miracles of healing and we assume that everyone present got healed. We forget that Jesus only healed one man at a pool filled with sick and dying folks (John 5). We forget that Peter and John healed a man who was lame from birth and sitting at the gate of the temple every day (Acts 3:1-10), that surely they had passed with Jesus before on many occasions (Luke 22:53). We forget that Paul had a thorn in the flesh that was never really removed (2 Corinthians 2:12) and that he had trouble with his eyes (Galatians 4:13-15, 6:11). We forget Paul tells Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach and frequent infirmities ( I Timothy 5:23), why not send him a handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12)?

The LORD is mysterious. There isn’t a simple pattern of behavior that we can accomplish to make God act on our behalf. We can’t blame a lack of faith for a lack of miracle as some do. Stephen had plenty of faith and boldness. Stephen was mourned by godly friends who missed him deeply, but he also saw Jesus that day.

What we do know is that there were times when God healed or raised the dead and there were times that he doesn’t. Today we read about both types of occasions. The conclusion we can draw from the matter-of-fact way that the scripture presents both cases is that God can and does heal, but sometimes he chooses not to. We should recognize that we don’t know the mind of God, but that certainly he has his reasons. Given the way Stephen was martyred and the fact that he was looking into heaven when he died, I suspect Stephen wouldn’t have wanted to come back.

Some things, like healing are worth praying for, but trusting the Lord to decide. Should you be blessed to be miraculously healed, glory to God. Should you not be healed in this life, know that God loves you and his plan may be different than you anticipate and even hope. We all run the race set before us and we shall see His plan unfold before us in due time.

Father, we trust you this day. We pray for those who are sick and infirm. We long for the day when there is no more sickness or disease. We are grateful for when you heal us. We look forward with faith when we struggle through infirmity. We anticipate a day when there is no more striving against a sinful world and we live in your eternal kingdom. Our hope is in you. Our faith is in you. Our love is because you have so loved us. Let us run the race that is set before us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


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Acts 8: TIME TO GO


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Day 39: Acts 23-25 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 23-25 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul was invincible until his time was up. He had suffered beatings, death threats and imprisonment and yet lived. He would get the chance to make his case and ultimately share the gospel in Rome.  Paul saw his inconvenience as his opportunity. He preached to high ranking government officials because he was in chains.

I’m learning that often God moves in our inconveniences as well as our routines. Paul was greatly inconvenienced for the sake of the gospel. Perhaps we won’t face the same challenges that He faced, but we will deal with inconvenience. It will be something like having to take the car to the shop or the trial of dealing with  a health issues that you didn’t know that you had. In each scenarios we find ourselves with interrupted plans and a lot of inconvenience, but there is opportunity there as well if you are looking for it. The car puts you in contact with the mechanic. The illness forces you to see the doctors and nurses that you might no otherwise see. The inconvenience of it might actually be the purpose of God.

FATHER, Thank you that the Apostle Paul recognized his inconveniences as opportunities. I pray that we would look out and see our challenges the same way.  I pray that we never look over someone or dismiss them as in the way, but that we see individuals the way that you see them and that we take every opportunity to share your gospel. Thank you for the people you have placed in our path. Thank you for the calling you have placed on my life to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 38: Acts 20-22 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 20-22 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul’s life had purpose and direction. He was reminded in every city he went to that chains were ahead of him (20:23). He knew that he would suffer even from the moment of his conversion (Acts 9:16) and yet he pressed on. There were even those along the way who tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem because of the chains that awaited him there (21:11-14). (Side Note: This reminds me of Psalm 11 that we just studied a few weeks ago on a Wednesday at Little Escambia and Matthew 16:21-23, when Peter thought that he was offering Jesus sound advice, but Jesus told him, “Get behind me Satan.“) Yet Paul pressed on. 

Two things stick out to me here:

One is that Paul knew what he was called to do and he would not be deterred. Even when his friends pleaded with him not to go, he was more concerned with following God’s will than saving his own neck. We should strive to follow God that closely that we understand our purpose in life may culminate in losing our life.

[Theogical Note: The prophecy offered by Agabus  (21:11) must have been restricted to the fact that Paul would be bound if he went to Jerusalem. The pleading of his friends (21:12) seems to be the misinterpretation by way of poor application of the prophecy that was offered. Otherwise they would be counseling him to go against God’s will! This is where New Testament Prophecy is different that O.T. Prophecy.  There is some ambiguity, and just like a bible teacher may miss the meaning of a particular passage, individuals may miss the application of a particular N.T. prophecy. When someone says, “The Lord told me” and offer application rather than simple, specific revelation it may be an error.  It is always important to exercise discernment. Sometimes people lie (I Kings 13:18) and sometimes people mean well, but get it wrong (21:12)]

The second thing is that those we love and respect the most don’t always offer the best advice. Sometimes they are more interested in our safety that God’s purpose being fulfilled in our lives. It is always better to follow the Lord’s will than those who are clouded by there care and concern for us.

For example: It would be easy as parents to want our kids to live close to us as they marry and move out. We would want to be close to our grand kids and help them. We might offer great advice about getting connected with jobs in our area, etc… but what if God call’s our children to minister in a different part of the country? Or what if he calls them to go to the other side of the world to be a missionary? We wouldn’t want to hold them back from God’s will. This is where discernment and prayer are necessary.

FATHER, We trust you. We trust you to lead us and guide us. We ask for your protection and provision for our brothers and sisters around the world who are facing persecution for their faith in you. We ask for grace to follow you no matter what lies ahead on the path before us. We ask for discernment to understand and do your will. Thank you for the grace to lead your people today. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 37: Acts 16-19 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 16-19 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Acts 16:6-7 it seems like the Holy Spirit didn’t want Paul to go to Asia. We can look back now and see that God was guiding Paul and His companions in a different direction. This isn’t because God didn’t want the gospel to go to Asia. Indeed some of the people from these areas had already heard the gospel (go back and read the regions people were from in Acts 2). It was because God was guiding Paul to Macedonia (16:9-10).  It seems like Paul and his companions also picked up Luke in the process (Notice “they” in Acts 16:7 quickly turns to “we” in Acts 16:10).

I am encouraged to see this model of being faithfully lead by the Holy Spirit of God. Paul didn’t pick up his phone and get a very clear and direct answer on the other end. He sought the Lord and the Lord guided him by Closing doors and opening opportunities. He still speaks and does the same for us today!

Sometimes God tells us “no” on certain ministries or directions in order to send us in the right direction. We see this on another level when Paul goes to the Synagogues first to preach the gospel to the Jews (Acts 17:2, 18:4) but when he meets a firm resistance he goes to the gentiles (Acts 18:6).

I just preached on the second commandment a couple of weeks ago and it really hit me today that Paul preached hard against idolatry in Athens (Acts 17:6) and his understanding of people being the image barer of God (Acts 17:29).  I can’t believe I didn’t make that connection sooner.

FATHER, Thank you for leading us and guiding us in the direction that you would have us go. I thank you for your sovereign hand that prevents us from going in directions that are not bad, but are not your direction for us. I thank you that you unite us with fellow believers along the way. I pray that we would all be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance today and follow where He leads. Thank you for your grace and your discernment. Thank you for the honor of encouraging your people to follow you more closely. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here


Day 36: Acts 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Acts 15:20 – To what extent does the gospel shape a culture? Some of the Jews were insisting on circumcising the gentile converts. This forced the question, “is Christianity a sect of Judaism or is it something different?” In other words, do converts to Christianity need to become fully Jewish to be fully converted or do the demands of the gospel stop short of converting to Judaism?

The answer was that the gentiles were to be counted as “sojourners” among the Jews in that they were only asked to fulfill the moral aspect of the law (all of this is found in Leviticus 17-18) and not the ceremonial aspect of the law (circumcision). This is part of the reason it’s okay for believers now to eat bacon, shellfish, etc. because these things were part of the ceremonial or national law and weren’t part of the Moral law.

Christianity is not fulfilled by Judaism, it is the fulfillment of Judaism. Circumcision was the rite of passage into the Jewish faith, but that had been replaced by baptism. The result was that Christianity pressed forward and forged an identity apart from Judaism.

The application is this. When encountering a new culture or embracing new believers from our own culture, what are the demands of the gospel and what are our preferences? If we are not careful we will force our preferences on others rather than just pressing the gospel. Some implications to think through would be how we dress to go to church. The style of music we prefer to sing to. Where there offering belongs in the service. etc. 

FATHER, Thank you that the New Testament church worked through the struggles it faced. We are grateful for the clarity they provided in helping us understand what it looks like to be a fully committed follower of Jesus. We ask for wisdom in navigating the culture and sharing the gospel in our own generation. We look for humbleness to receive your word and apply it. We ask for boldness to proclaim the gospel to others. Thank you for the grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here



Today’s reading comes from Acts 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

first thing that jumped out at me today was to, “Wait!” That is such a hard word for today’s culture. When the Lord says it though, there is nothing else to do, it is exactly what we need. The disciples were told to for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8). So they spent ten days actively waiting. I say “actively” waiting because they were intentional about it and intentionally seeking the LORD in prayer (1:14, 2:1).  God’s timing is always right and we can never do on our own, without the Holy Spirit, something that only the Holy Spirit can do. 

This was intentionally a missions moment. The disciples were from Galilee not Jerusalem and the gospel writer Luke goes out of his way to highlight that little fact (see Acts 1:11, 2:7).  Acts 1:8 which lays out the progress for how the book of Acts unfolds isn’t a mission mandate to reach our neighbors with the gospel first and then go to the uttermost parts of the earth… the gospel was going to the uttermost parts of the earth by being proclaimed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost where so many international Jewish people and proselytes would be (2:5, 9-11).  The disciples understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (also Acts 3:25).  We should be open and intent on taking the gospel to the nations. (On a side note: Where I live right now, was not on anyone’s map when Acts 1:8 was given. It qualifies as one of the “uttermost parts of the earth.”)

It is apparent that the disciples understood Jesus to be God. Peter quotes Joel 2:32 and says, “Who ever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved” (See Acts 2:21).  He then concludes his sermon by calling on those who are present to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38).

Also, did you notice the lame man at the gate called beautiful at the temple? He was lame from birth and at the temple every day (Acts 3:2). Two months before this Jesus was in Jerusalem and coming and going to the temple every day (Luke 22:53) and while he was at the temple he healed the “blind and the lame” (Matthew 21:14). It doesn’t take much to figure that this man was in proximity to Jesus, but was never healed. His healing, like the sending of the Holy Spirit would came at a different time than expected. I don’t know why this man wasn’t healed when Jesus was in the temple before. We could guess. What I do know is that God’s timing is always perfect.

FATHER, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and how He moves in our lives. I ask that we would press in wait for you to move.  Help our hearts to be satisfied to know that there is nothing we can do apart from you. I pray that we would be faithful witnesses where ever you place us and where you send us. We ask to see you do great things in our community. We give ourselves to be used by you to glorify you and  transform our families by the power of the gospel. I am thankful for  the grace given to me to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here


The Apostle Paul and the Earliest Churches (A Review)

The Apostle PaulI’ve never been to the places that the Apostle Paul traveled on his missionary journeys so I’m always interested in watching documentaries about his life. I’m especially interested in those that offer pictures, videos, and other key insight into the cities and regions that he visited. This weekend I had the opportunity to watch the Apostle Paul DVD. While it does have some pictures, video, and commentary about the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul it’s not really that entertaining. I did enjoy the the archeological insights.

Given the nature of the work the video would have functioned better with a host operating as a guide. The narration was slow, repetitive, and continued to drag on making a 45 minute film seem like it was even longer. The bright spots were the modern views of the historical cities. There wasn’t as much re-enactment as one might expect for this type of documentary.  I’m a huge fan of the scriptures and anything that makes them more clear, but this film will only help a select few deepen their knowledge or affection for the scriptures.

Though I don’t have much complementary to say about the Apostle Paul DVD, I was pleased to find out about fishflix.com which is a great place to get Christian DVDs. They are actually running a special right now where you can get a $5 coupon to fishflix.com just for joining their email list. Join by going to fishflix.com/5gift or by texting 5-GIFT to 44222.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free from the distributer as part of their reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Acts 5: Your Sin isn’t Small

God kills Ananias and Sapphira. Before you start to get upset about that consider that He had every right. He’s God! We all owe him our breath. We all live at his pleasure. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that God doesn’t posses the same right over you… He’s your maker.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted recognition for selling property and giving their money to the church. No worries there, but they held back and lied about the gift. I don’t know what they were holding back for, maybe a 401K, a better car, or maybe to just pay off some debts. Either way, they held back. Not that they owed all the money to the church like a debt or obligation, but that they claimed that it was everything. They were faking generosity.

Faking generosity to the church is a mockery of the gospel. Consider that this offering was going to meet the needs of the poor (4:34-35). Consider that those who sold their property were giving all of it away and this enabled the apostles to boast even more about the resurrection of Jesus (4:32-35). This unity that the church experiences is a direct witness to the power of the gospel. It puts both the present condition of those who are destitute and suffering and the eternal condition of those who profess faith in Christ in the same light… If God would not withhold his son from me, so that I might be saved… Who am I to withhold earthly goods from those who have immediate need.

The problem came when Ananias and Sapphira held back. That’s not the gospel… it’s a feigned generosity. It’s a lie. It’s a false gospel. They are not mimicking the generosity of God.  They held back. They care only about having the appearance of piety and so they lie.

The lie costs them. It costs them their lives… by the way, that is what sin costs. It’s not small. It’s not trivial. It’s not as though the cross were a small thing. The love of God compelled Christ to die for our sin and this single act is the most generous thing that has ever happened in all of history. The early church was a testimony to that in the way that the hearts of the wealthy were moved to outrageous generosity… but when one couple held back they were reminded to never take the generosity of God for granted. Sin always costs.