36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
I always thought that Paul has gotten a bit of a bad rap sometimes. A lot of people, particularly those who are not Christians think of him as a harsh, judgmental kind of guy. But there are some real heartwarming and affectionate glimpses of Paul in his life. This scene as he leaves Ephesus is a good picture of that. Wherever he went, the people he served grew to love him very much. And really that should be the case for all of us. While it is impossible to please everyone or be liked by everyone, it is still our goal to live peacefully with all. We should always be developing those relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ that will bridge the gap and hold us together, no matter where we go.
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
Have you ever talked to someone about God or spiritual things and felt like you were talking to a brick wall? Take heart from the example of Paul. He spent three months speaking in the synagogue and there were people there that just refused to get it. They started talking badly about him and the people who believed his message as well. But Paul continued to speak and to share for two years in the area until all had the message of the Gospel. We are not responsible to make people believe the truth, but we are responsible to share the truth with any who haven’t heard.
What is the most important thing in your life? Is it your family? Is it your health? Is it a prized possession? The Bible asks us all the question, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his soul?” So I ask you again, what is the most important thing in your life?
I have a shirt that says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” Which is a really confusing way of saying that we should keep our priorities straight. Last week I mentioned that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. In other words, it is the “main thing” in Christianity. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
Yesterday, lots of people celebrated Easter, or as my kids have come to call it “Resurrection Day”. When Christ rose from the dead, it confirmed His message, His ministry and His mission. Because of the truth of the resurrection, we don’t have the option of thinking of Christ as just a great teacher or a great man or a good example to follow. He has to be the main thing. Anything less is an insult to Him and to all that He said and did. He said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”(John 12:25-26)
Back to our original question of the most important thing. I hope you see that the most important thing in life isn’t our family or our health or our things at all; it is following Christ.
15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
I was reading these verses and it reminded me of my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Rogers. She managed to do something that amazed us even to this day. For that one year of my academic life, I made all “A’s” in school. She had a way of motivating and drawing out potential in me that I never really understood at the time and never managed to duplicate at that level in school again(much to my Mom’s dismay). Here Paul is encouraging us to live up to what we already have. This seems kind of strange until you realize the implications of it. Just like my teacher was able to get the most out of me by expecting and encouraging the best. Paul is looking to help us get the most we can by encouraging us to do the best we can. Look at his earlier admonition to press toward the goal. And in the next chapter he tells us we can do all things through Christ. Be encouraged. You can do it.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
I know this is a long one, but hang with me here. I was listening to a sermon by another pastor tonight and this thought struck me. Why is there such a disconnect in our culture between our professed love for God and our obedience of His ways? Or to put it another way, how can we say we love God when we don’t keep His commandments? I spent several days witnessing to people at the Sturgis Bike Rally one year. After I shared the gospel with them, many would say, “Oh, yeah I already know that” or “Yeah I have done that”(referring to praying to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord). But the observable lifestyle of the people I was talking to led me to ask one more question. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments”; do you keep His commandments? This usually started a great list of excuses on the part of most individuals and a list of unrealized intentions from others. But it gets to the heart of our relationship with God. I heard it said once that people will always find time to do exactly what they want to do, and I have found the same to be true in my life. What about you?
I tried to watch the Razorbacks play today against North Carolina but it was no use. CBS here wasn’t going to switch to the game and the internet feed was worthless. In fact, judging by what little I did see in the stops and starts, the feed was much like the Razorback’s play in the game. Spotty and frustrating and frequently frozen in place. The audio stream part of the feed held up a little better, but the only thing more frustrating than watching the Hogs lose is having to listen to Billy Packer chime in on the whole thing. For pete’s sake, can’t CBS find someone better for their “A-list” team? I would rather listen to Dick Vitale yell for 40 minutes of ACC kissing up than to hear Packer do it. Ah well, perhaps next year will be better. It certainly seems like it could be.
Last week I ranted about the Southern Baptist statement on climate change. Today I found more evidence why there is no need to talk about climate change as a human induced phenomena.
Duffy: “Can you tell us about NASA’s Aqua satellite, because I understand some of the data we’re now getting is quite important in our understanding of how climate works?”
Marohasy: “That’s right. The satellite was only launched in 2002 and it enabled the collection of data, not just on temperature but also on cloud formation and water vapour. What all the climate models suggest is that, when you’ve got warming from additional carbon dioxide, this will result in increased water vapour, so you’re going to get a positive feedback. That’s what the models have been indicating. What this great data from the NASA Aqua satellite … (is) actually showing is just the opposite, that with a little bit of warming, weather processes are compensating, so they’re actually limiting the greenhouse effect and you’re getting a negative rather than a positive feedback.”
There are more statements like this one in the article, but I find it fascinating that the base result of the article is this. People who fly off at the handle with minimal facts are usually found to be unintelligent. The global warming crowd hasn’t needed a lot of facts and when the facts do show up the reaction is predictable like this quote shows:
Duffy: “The climate is actually, in one way anyway, more robust than was assumed in the climate models?”
Marohasy: “That’s right … These findings actually aren’t being disputed by the meteorological community. They’re having trouble digesting the findings, they’re acknowledging the findings, they’re acknowledging that the data from NASA’s Aqua satellite is not how the models predict, and I think they’re about to recognise that the models really do need to be overhauled and that when they are overhauled they will probably show greatly reduced future warming projected as a consequence of carbon dioxide.”
Duffy: “From what you’re saying, it sounds like the implications of this could beconsiderable …”
Marohasy: “That’s right, very much so. The policy implications are enormous. The meteorological community at the moment is really just coming to terms with the output from this NASA Aqua satellite and (climate scientist) Roy Spencer’s interpretation of them. His work is published, his work is accepted, but I think people are still in shock at this point.”
Score one for common sense and level-headed thinking.
I heard a joke a couple of weeks ago that the surest way to convert an atheist to Christianity was to challenge him/her to write a book disproving the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of my favorite writers have actually come to know Christ as Savior and Lord this very way. It is amazing, but not surprising when you think about it, that the evidence in support of Christ’s resurrection is so overwhelming. After all, the very truth and credibility of Christianity itself hinges on this event in human history. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:14-15, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.”
So in a real sense, if one could disprove the resurrection of Christ, the whole of Christianity would be proved to be a lie. But be careful. As I said before, many have attempted just such a thing and have found themselves instead changed by the truth. I recently took a college course where the instructor had previously been a skeptic of the resurrection. He mentioned that there are certain facts about the death and resurrection of Christ that most anyone, even skeptics can agree upon. For example, most would agree that Jesus indeed was put to death by the Romans by crucifixion. They would further agree that his disciples claimed to have Christ alive afterwards and spread this message in Jerusalem, which is where the death took place. Most critics will also allow that Paul(Saul) and James, the brother of Jesus who had doubted Him, both started out as antagonists of the teaching of Jesus’ resurrection, but were later found to be among the most vocal advocates. Paul, in fact, wrote much of the New Testament that bears witness to Christ’s identity and teaching and resurrection. It is Paul who gives us much of the best evidence for Christ’s resurrection in his earlier writings, like 1 Corinthians. The other thing that is important to note is those who have attempted to explain away the truth of the resurrection of Christ have been unable to do so(remember what I said at the start of this article?). As I said before, many who have tried instead become convinced that the only reasonable conclusion is that the resurrection did in fact happen. You don’t have to take my word for it however. Look into it yourself. God didn’t intend for us to believe in Him blindly. You don’t need to make a “leap of faith” to know Him. God is big enough to withstand a little scrutiny, if you are willing to consider the fact that He is in fact who He says He is.
As we get ready to celebrate the resurrection this Easter, I encourage you to look into it for yourself if you never have before. If you want to read more, I encourage you to check out some excellent resources online from authors such as Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel or Gary Habermas. These men have done all the hard work of research as skeptics who became believers. If you want to know more or have questions, I am always willing to talk further.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Hundreds of years before Jesus made His long walk to the cross and suffered and died there for us, the prophet Isaiah recorded this message. This entire section of Isaiah tells the story of God’s Suffering Servant, whom we have the benefit of knowing as our Lord Jesus Christ. As this weekend brings us a chance to focus on the death and resurrection of Christ, it is good to remember all that He did for us. Through Him we can have peace with God and healing of the relationship that we tear apart with our own choices and actions. We have a message to tell the world. Turn from your own way and follow Jesus.
Well, we are beginning to thaw out here. For the last week or so the temperature has mostly hovered just over the freezing line so things are melting. Of course, we also have snow in the forecast in some small amounts for the next few days. There are actually quite a few winter weather warnings and advisories for the areas well south of here. We won’t get much snow from the look of it. But it is possible that we will have a “white Easter”. : ) I am excited about my first Resurrection Sunday as a pastor. I have a couple of special things planned for Sunday, so please pray that God would speak and that people will be receptive to His voice. We have now been here for almost six months. I have learned so much in that time and I have also realized that there are a lot of things I didn’t know and still am learning. God is good and faithful and true. And the truth of the matter is that I am excited to belong to Him and to trust Him with all that we are doing. I look at my life and ministry as being a work in progress and like the old song says, “He’s still working on me!” I pray that this early Easter season finds you blessed and well. Thank you to all who read this and pray for us. We love you more than we can say.