You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. (Galatians 5:7-10 NLT)
All in the Family
by Charles R. Swindoll
Read Acts 23:11-22
Not one assassin but forty of them! Forty determined terrorists, operating under cover of secrecy. All of them vowing, “We will not eat or drink until we’ve killed him.” The plan was treacherous and set in motion by those who wanted him dead. What they hadn’t counted on was an unlikely ally for Paul. His nephew had overheard everything and made tracks to warn his uncle.
Remarkably, Paul’s nephew plays a major role in his survival. He is not mentioned by name, and we never hear of him again. Then how did he know about the ambush? Only God knows.
Meanwhile, the Roman commander was feeling relieved, proud of his wise handling of the situation. His musings were interrupted by a reluctant knock at the door. The news couldn’t be good. One of his centurions reports that the young man with him has some important information about a conspiracy to kill Paul. The Roman commander wasn’t about to let some scrappy band of fanatics spoil his plan to bring Paul safely to Rome. So he pulled out all the stops.
Uniformed, armed, and trained soldiers. Four hundred and seventy-two to forty rag-tag conspirators. Nice odds. Talk about overkill. The guy would not be outdone. He made sure no one could get to Paul. Remember God’s promise? “You must witness at Rome.” This is just part of that divine plan. It was as if God said, “I know what I am doing. I will escort you down to Caesarea by the Sea with full protection. You are in My hand.” A massive official escort—that would work just fine.
What a comforting story. Despite the odds stacked against him, Paul was never removed from God’s protective hand. And neither are you.
Are you feeling alone, mistreated, misunderstood, forsaken? Remember this true account. God is at work. He’s there, working behind the scenes. He’ll work it out. He has a plan. Just when you’re convinced the bottom is about to drop out from under you, He steps in and lifts you to safety. For Paul, he used an unlikely and virtually anonymous ally, a nameless nephew who comes out of the shadows at precisely the right time. God’s timing is always perfectly synchronized with His will. Remember that. And be comforted.
(Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
This past week my grandfather would have turned 80 years old. He, however, is no longer with us but has gone on to be with the Lord and the saints that departed before him, including my grandmother. I don’t know about you, but at certain times, anniversaries, birthdays, and other holidays for example, I think more about just where these loved ones are, what they are doing and how blessedly happy they mist be. Today in my reading I found a piece written by Charles Spurgeon that gives a pretty nice idea of just how much better off they are than we. Let me share that writing with you:
“The saints in Jesus, when their bodies sleep in peace, have perpetual fellowship with him – ay, better fellowship than we can enjoy. We have but the transitory glimpse of his face; they gaze upon it every moment. We see him “in a glass, darkly;” they behold him “face to face.” We sip of the brook by the way; they plunge into the very ocean of unbounded love. We look up sometimes, and see our Father smile; look whenever they may, his face is always full of smiles for them. We get some drops of comfort; but they get the honeycomb itself. They are full of peace, full of joy forever. They “sleep in Jesus.””.
In my mind’s eye that is such a wonderful depiction of where those saints are now. And as wondrous as this image is, to me anyway, I know where they are and what they are experiencing is far better than that (Isa. 64:4; 1 Cor. 2:9).
2 Cor. 5:6-8
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
I read about this event that was held last year in New York City. I don’t recall all the specifics but in general it went something like this:
Folks were encouraged to bring in slips of paper with their “bad memories” from 2008 written on them. They would then take turns running them through a giant, industrial shredder, eating up those bad memories. It seems like bank and retirement statements were some of the top items to be “fed to shred”. But I also recall things like “cancer” and other diseases being included, as well as a few relationship items.
I suppose it is true that we all long to rid ourselves of these “bad memories” and painful events in our lives. And to a degree I don’t think it is bad to want that or even if we can, when possible, do so. But maybe there are also some good things to come from these sorts of things from time to time? Paul had something he wished to “shred”; God to him that His grace was sufficient and in Paul’s weakness God’s greatness was manifested (2 Cor. 12:7-10). He didn’t remove Paul’s thorn but gave him the grace to live with it.
Our own problems effect us more and more as we continue to dwell upon them. They can cause difficulties in our lives in a multitude of ways: with our families, our friends, at work, at social events. But worse of all, if we continue to dwell on them they will inevitably cause problems in our most important relationship: the one with our Lord and Savior. How thankful we ought to be that we have a way to “shred” these things: by casting them upon Jesus and trusting in His provision and grace.
1 Peter 5:7 “[Cast] all your care upon [the Lord], for He cares for you.”
I received this from the Pocket Testament League Daily Devotion and thought it was a great one to share.
Your Own Road Experience
[Paul speaking before the crowd:] “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.”
Thoughts for Today:
Sometime ago my older son Ryan and I were discussing Paul’s conversion experience and how the Lord appeared personally and directly before Paul. My son commented it would be difficult for anyone not to be converted if the Lord showed Himself in such a dramatic way. He then asked me if I had ever had a “Damascus Road” type of experience. My answer: almost every day, because that’s how often I read God’s Word.
The Bible tells us in Psalms 18:2, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” And in Psalms 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” These are incredibly strong words that speak not only about the source of our strength and protection, but also the nature of our relationship with God, which is intended to be personal. So how do we develop this relationship? The answer is hidden in a little phrase that can be easily overlooked: “and the horn of my salvation.”
In Old Testament times a horn (a trumpet call) was used to signal important events. It was a means of getting everyone’s attention, a call to worship for example. The Bible and the embodiment of the Word in Jesus is the Lord’s “horn” (“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David”, speaking of Jesus in Luke 1:69). The question is: Are we paying attention? When someone complains they haven’t had a personal “Road” experience, I always wonder: how much time is spent listening to God through His Word? Isn’t it interesting how people can read God’s Word yet not hear his voice, not develop a relationship, and never have their own Damascus Road experience?
Questions to Ponder:
When was the last time God spoke to you directly and unmistakably? Do you long for that type of relationship with the Father? If so, how much time have you actually spent reading the Bible over the last five days? I’ll bet that you like all of us probably spent more time watching television, talking on the phone, or participating in some other activity more than reading God’s Word. It’s funny how we then wonder why God isn’t speaking to us. Every time I begin to have that thought — I reach for my Bible — I guarantee that you too will have your own personal encounter with the Lord if you will only seek Him through His Word. Will you begin today? As you read listen for God’s voice.
2Co 12:14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
Paul, speaking to the church at Corinth, says he is preparing to visit them a third time. And he assures them that he will be of no burden to them on his trip, rather he comes to help not be helped. As the planter of the Corinthian church, Paul spoke to the believers there as a father toward his children in his pledge that he was coming to assist them.
What an example Paul is in this passage, and many others, to Christians today. In our hustle-bustle lives, too often we don’t make a sacrifice of our time or resources to assist our brothers and sisters. There’s an old saying that one should stop and smell the roses. Roses wilt and fade with the passage of time; so do each of us. The next time you have the opportunity, “take the time to smell the roses” in the form of giving some needed support to a brother or sister in your life. The ‘scent’ you’ll receive will be well worth the sacrifice.
1Co 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.