Acts chapter 28

“And he stayed there two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.” – Vs 30-31

As we reach the final chapter of this amazing book, you would think we had come to an end of something. Not only of the book of Acts, but of Paul’s life. But that would come some five or six years later. Even while in confinement in Rome, Paul managed to write his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon. He would later be released and continue to his missionary journeys, write 1 Timothy and Titus, then be imprisoned a second time in Rome, where he wrote his second letter to Timothy. Some time around the year 67, Paul was executed in Rome. But rather than the end, it was just the beginning.

God had started something truly significant in Jerusulem that day of Pentecost – His church – and it continues to this day. In fact, as I write this blog entry, I am in Recife, Brazil with a mission team from our church, ministering to children in a remote fishing village. We have participated in worship with local believers who don’t speak our language, but who love our God and believe in Jesus Christ. It is an amazing experience and a vivid reminder that “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ” isn’t just what Paul did, it is what we are all supposed to be doing. The “salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles and they will also listen” (Vs 28), and Paul was right – they are listening.

The God of the book of Acts is the God of our day. He is just as active and powerful as He was in Paul’s day. His message of hope through His Son Jesus Christ is just as relevant and necessary as it was almost 2,000 years ago. Do you see Him? Are you experiencing His life-changing power? Have you witnessed His kingdom spreading around the world as His ambassadors take the good news of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the globe? It’s happening and it is an amazing sight to see.

Father, thank You that the church didn’t stop with the end of the books of Acts. And that it didn’t stop with the death of Paul or any of the other apostles. Thank You that it is alive and well and growing all over the world. What a blessing to worship alongside Brazilians who love You and who love us as their brothers and sisters in Christ. Someone brought the Gospel here long before we arrived. The good news has taken root and is growing. What a privilege it is to play even a small part of spreading the message of Your Son’s love to the children in a non-descript village in the middle of nowhere along the coast of Brazil. May they come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and become part of the family of God. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 27

“…we finally abandoned all hope of being saved” – Vs 20

This entire first section of this chapter sounds like a perfect description of the individual who finds himself attempting to live life without God. Luke a powerful picture of the difficulty of the journey he and Paul found themselves on as they traveled to Rome. But as I read them, they because almost a metaphor for the lost condition.

…the voyage was now dangerous – Vs 9

…the voyage is going to end in disaster and great loss – Vs 9

…the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in – Vs 12

…we gave way to it and were driven along – Vs 15

…we were able with difficulty to get the ship’s boat under control – Vs 16

…fearing they would run aground – Vs 17

…we were violently battered by the storm – Vs 18

…they began throwing the cargo overboard – Vs 18

…a violent storm continued to batter us – Vs 19

…we finally abandoned all hope of being saved – Vs 19

Do you hear the desperation, the sense of defeat and resignation? These guys were being hammered by the storm just like many today are hammered by the cares and worries of life. Many reach the point as these men did, of total abandonment. They just give up. Even Christians can find themselves in the same spot. They get rocked by life’s storms and reach the point where they just give up all hope of being saved. But I love what Paul said to them:

“And now I advise you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only the ship will be lost.” – Vs 22

Paul was telling them that the very thing they put their hope for salvation in as sailors, their ship, was going to let them down. In fact, it was going down! That had to be hard news to accept for these guys. They had spent their lives depending on ships to get them where they wanted to go. They depended on ships to keep them safe in storms. They depended on ships for their livelihood. The depended on ships. And now Paul was telling them their ship was going to let them down, but they were going to live.

I think that is where God wants all of us to be. So He sometimes allows those things we have come to depend on most to let us down. The very things we have come to trust more than Him suddenly fail, disappoint us, or crash on the rocks of life, leaving us seemingly alone. It could be our finances, intellect, business acumen, personality, a relationship, education, or any of a number of other things that we have learned to lean on. But what Paul said to them applies to us when we find ourselves in those kinds of situations. “And now I advise you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only the ship will be lost.”

Only the ship will be lost

God was there. He was not going to let them down. He was going to spare their lives. He was going to intervene. And He did. Which is what He has done so many times in my life over the years. When things have looked their bleakest and my “ship” of life has gone in the wind and waves, He has been there. When I thought all was lost and was ready to abandon all hope, God stepped in and reminded me to keep up my courage. One of my favorite verses is found in 1 Corinthians 16:13.

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

Don’t lose heart. Stand firm in your faith. Act like a man. Be strong. Trust God. Quit trusting whatever ship it is that you have been relying on instead of God. Don’t panic. He is there and He cares.

Father, thanks You for being there so many times in my life when I thought all hope was lost. You did it for me when you saved me, but you continue to do it daily. Forgive me for so easily placing my hope in things that can’t deliver what I am expecting. They always let me down. Especially in the hard times. But You are always there, and I am eternally grateful. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 26

A man on a mission

Here is Paul, near the end of his earthly journey. He is on his way to Rome, where his journey will end. And as he stands before King Agrippa and shares the story of his life, conversion, and ministry, he shares the mission statement by which he lived. It was the commission he had been given by Jesus Christ Himself that fateful day as he traveled along the road to Damascus. Jesus said:

“I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” – Vs 17-18

There it is. Paul’s mission statement. It was his life’s calling and he followed it and fulfilled it faithfully. In fact, he was sharing this same message of hope and life transformation as he “defended” himself before King Agrippa and Festus. In fact, Paul seemed less interested in convincing his listeners of his own innocense than in convincing them to receive Christ. You can hear the conviction in his voice when he states to Agrippa:

“I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not onlyr you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.” – Vs 29

From darkness to light

Paul had a message to share. It was about light – the same brilliant light that had blinded him that day as he traveled to Jerusalem to continue his persecution of the church. It was about the light of the world, that shines into the darkness of men’s lives, illuminating the reality of their lives, exposing and purifying their sinfulness, and transforming them into children of light. It was the very thing Jesus said He had come to do.

He [John the Baptist] came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” – John 1:7-13

The Light still shines in the darkness. Now he does it through us. We can still shine His sin-exposing, darkness-defeating light into the lives of men, just by telling His story. By telling our story. Paul simply shared how the Light had illumined his life. He didn’t share a theory or a theology, but a reality. The Light that is Jesus Christ had shined into his dark life one day and changed it forever. It had taken Paul from darkness to light, from sinfulness to forgiveness, from Satan’s control to God’s, from a man in debt and condemned to die to an heir of God with a priceless inheritance in heaven. Is that your story? If it is, then why not tell someone?

Father, never let me forget just how great the story of my life transformation is. You sent Your Son and He shined the light of His life into my dark life one day and radically changed me forever. I am covered by His light and it continues to reveal sin and redeem my life daily. He is giving me new life each and every day. He is transforming me daily. His light gives me hope. His light gives me direction. His light gives me life. Thank You. Amen

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” – John 1:4

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 25

“but they [the Jews] simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive.” – Vs 19

Isn’t that what it’s always about? Disputes about religion and debates over the resurrection. From an outsider’s perspective that’s what it all boiled down to for Festus. This was nothing more than a disagreement over religion and a ridiculous debate about whether a dead man was still dead or had come to life. To him it all appeared ridiculous and probably not worth his time. Whatever charges the Jews had brought against Paul were spurious at best. So much so, that Festus couldn’t even figure out what charges to include in his letter to the Emperor Nero when he tried to explain why he was sending this matter and the prisoner to his attention.

But the real issue is summed up quite nicely in verse 19. This really was about religion and the resurrection. And it still is today. On the one hand, the world has tried for centuries to make Christianity all about religion. They want to simplify this all down to just another attempt by men to explain the universe and give meaning to life. Check out just one of the many definitions of religion:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Religion is something man creates. It is a list of rules and rituals. It is a set of beliefs and practices. It is man trying to explain the unexplainable and put it in terms he can control. Basically, religion is an attempt to box in God and make Him manageable, knowable, and please-able. But Christianity was never intended to be just another religion. It was a radical new way of life. It wasn’t about rules, but relationship. It wasn’t about rituals, but about a way to have a right relationship with God. But men couldn’t understand that. Especially men who had spent their lives pursuing religion. For them, Jesus and His followers were simply burrs under their proverbial saddle. They were boat rockers, trouble makers, bent on upsetting the status quo. And they had to be done away with. Which is exactly what the Jews were attempting to do with Paul. And what they thought they had done with Jesus.

But the other issue is the resurrection. It is the real sticking point for most people. Few people still argue about the validity of Jesus as a real human being. Most acknowledge His existence. They just reject His resurrection. They’ll admit that He came, lived, taught, and died. But when it comes to the resurrection, that’s where they part ways. That’s too much for them. It was too much for the Jews of Paul’s day. It was too much for Festus. It was too much for Agrippa. Most men have no problem accepting the teachings of Jesus, accepting them as just one more set of philosophical and moralistic perspectives on life. But mention Jesus rising from the dead and the offer of eternal life through faith in Him, and that’s when you get push back. That’s when the eyes roll, the heads shake, and the real debate begins.

Guilty of believing the truth

All throughout this chapter, Paul’s innocents is declared. Festus declared, “I found he had committed nothing worthy of death” (Vs 25). The Jews could prove none of their charges against Paul. So why was he on trial? Because he believed the truth. He asserted Jesus to be alive. He was guilty of believing the truth about Jesus. A fact the Jews just could not accept. They wanted this to be nothing more than a debate about religion. They wanted Jesus to be a non-factor. They wanted His resurrection to be a non-issue. And that’s what men want today. Men don’t fear religion, but they are petrified of the resurrection. They despise it because the enemy does. Satan hates the idea of a resurrected Christ, because it reminds him that he lost the battle at Calvary. Now men don’t have to remain slaves to sin. They can be set free from sin and death by the sacrifice of the cross and the miracle of the empty tomb. Jesus is alive. That is what we still declare today. We assert it, believe it, declare it, live it, put our hope in it and depend upon it. But amazingly, men still reject it. But may we continue to tell what we know to be the truth? Not about religion, but about how to have a right relationship with the living God through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank you for the reality of the resurrection. It is the answer. It is our hope. It is what sets Christianity apart and keeps it from being just another religion. The resurrected Lord is what gives us hope and a future. Let me never forget that. Don’t let me argue religion, but declare the reality of the life, death, burial and resurrection of My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Because He changed my life forever. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 24

Making the most out of a bad situation

Paul finds himself in another sticky situation. He has been brought before the governor, Felix, by the high priest, Ananias. The Jews have hired a professional attorney to prosecute the case, but have little more than trumped up charges to bring against Paul. He is being accused of being “a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Vs 5). And they accused him of trying to desecrate the temple.

But Paul doesn’t seem to be phased by the circumstances. Because he knew something they didn’t know. The Lord Himself had told Paul that he was going to Rome. So Paul was at peace with what was going on around him. In fact, he took advantage of the situation and used it to not only defend himself, but to share “about faith in Christ Jesus” with the governor and his wife. Paul was using a perceived negative situation and turning it into a positive one. Sure, Paul was being held prisoner, but rather than moan about his conditions, he made the most of them, sharing his faith.

Righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come

What I find interesting was what Paul talked about with the governor and his wife. Paul had to know their situation. He must have known that Felix had stolen his young bride from her first husband. She was probably no more than 20 at the time. Felix was on his second marriage. Neither of them was known for having sterling moral character. So what does Paul talk to them about? Righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. Not exactly a seeker-friendly sermon!

But I think what Paul was doing was meeting them right where they were. Drusilla was a Jew. She was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, and had been raised a Hebrew. She knew her relationship with Felix was wrong and immoral. So Paul talked to them about three things. Three things that still apply to every living human being today:

righteousness – literally, the state of him who is as he ought to be; acceptable to God

self-control – the virtue of one who masters his passions and desires

the coming judgment – that time to come when all mankind will be judged by God

Wow! Talk about a tough topic. Paul hit this royal couple right where it hurt. He discussed with them the requirement of perfect righteousness, which neither of them could achieve. He brought up their apparent inability to master their passions, allowing themselves to be controlled by sinful desires. And then he told them about the ramifications of a lifestyle of sin and unrighteousness: Judgment at the hands of a holy God. Paul shared with them the bad news that makes the good news so good. God demands righteousness. Man is only capable of unrighteousness. And their is a day of judgment coming when those who put their trust in their own ability to achieve righteousness will be judged on that ability and found lacking. No wonder Felix became frightened. Who wouldn’t?

But Paul was also sharing the good news. Verse 24 tells us that he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. Paul shared with Felix and Drusilla the answer to their problem. He let them know that they had one of two choices:

Please God – as a good Jew, Drusilla knew that righteousness was non-optional. She had been taught to keep the commandments of God. She had had it hammered into her head that God required a life of sinlessness in order to benefit from His blessings. But she had failed. She was divorced, technically living in adultery, and living a life of immorality with a pagan Roman. Felix was not even a God-fearer. He was an idol-worshiper who spent his life trying to appease the gods through sacrifice and self-effort.

Trust God – Paul was telling them of another way. It wasn’t about works or self-effort. It was about faith and trust in the sin-substitute that He had provided: His own Son, Jesus Christ. Paul was sharing the good news of a new way to have a right relationship with God – not based on keeping the law or somehow achieving sinless perfection. He was letting them know that the old formula of more good behavior plus less bad behavior did not equal godliness. God was using new math. It was now faith in Jesus Christ plus nothing.

Paul’s message to this couple was appealing and they invited him back repeatedly to hear more. We don’t know if they ever accepted the offer of faith in Christ, but Paul was faithful to share it. And we should be just as faithful today, because it is still the message that people are dying to hear. We live in a society mired in unrighteousness and uncontrolled passions, and every one of them is facing a judgment to come. All men know that something is wrong, but they don’t know what to do. So they turn to religion. And  every religion in the world is based on some perverted form of self-effort. We have to do it. We have to earn a right standing with God. We have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Even those who don’t turn to God, try to fix society through self-improvement. Their god has become mankind itself. We can fix ourselves. We can somehow hold off judgment by simply improving society.

Faith in Jesus Christ

But we know the truth. It is simply faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other answer. Righteousness and a right relationship with God is only available through Him. And what makes it good news is that it takes all the effort off of us. Jesus said “come unto Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus offers rest to those who are wearied and worn out by trying to keep the rules, trying to live righteous lives on their own, attempting to “be good” and only finding it impossible to pull off. Rest for the weary. That is what people are wanting to hear today. Just like Felix and Drusilla. But first they need to know that God demands righteousness, that man is addicted to unrighteousness, and there is a coming judgment. Hopelessness paves the way for hope in Jesus Christ. Coming to grips with our own inability opens the door to accepting Christ’s all-sufficiency. And that’s what makes it good news.

Father, thank you so much for providing a way for me to have a right relationship with You. Thank you that it is not based on me, because if it was, I would have failed. But You have provided Your Son. You have given me a gift I don’t deserve and a salvation I never could have earned. Now give me the boldness to share that gift with others. To tell them the good news that is the answer to their bad news. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 23

“Take courage!” – Vs 11

Circumstances can have a powerful impact on us. When things are going well, we can be cheerful, upbeat, and confident. Then in a matter of minutes, our mood can change dramatically. We can become downcast, dark, and depressed – all as a result of one simple change to our circumstance. In many ways, we are controlled by our circumstances – by what is happening around us and to us. The same thing was true for Paul. He had good days and bad days. Acts 23 records one of his bad days. He has been dragged out of the Temple by a mob of irate Jews who mistakenly think he had taken a Gentile into the Temple. They are so angry, they intend to kill him. He is rescued by the Romans, but things continue to heat up as Paul attempts to defend himself before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. Once again, the Roman commander has to step in and rescue Paul to keep him from being “torn to pieces.” Now that’s what I call a bad day!

A Gentle Reminder

That night, under guard and the protection of the Romans, Paul gets a visitor. It was Jesus Himself. Verse 11 tells us “the Lord stood at his side.” In the midst of his difficult circumstances, Paul finds he is not alone. At the time when Paul could have been at his lowest emotionally, the Lord shows up. Sitting alone in that barracks in the darkness of night, knowing that the Jews are out to kill him and his ministry could come to a violent end at any time, Paul was in need of a reminder. He needed to be told once again that Jesus was at his side. But he also need to hear the words the Lord had to say to him:

“Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” – Vs 11

Be bold!

Not only was Jesus with Paul, He had words of encouragement for him. He told Paul exactly what he needed to hear at that moment. He tells him to “take courage!” Other versions translate that word, “be of good cheer.” “be of good heart,” and “be encouraged.” The word literally means to be courageous or bold. Jesus would not have shared these words if Paul had not needed to hear them. Paul was probably suffering from a lack of courage. He wasn’t feeling particularly bold. He was probably not experiencing a lot of “good cheer” as he thought about what the next day might hold.

But Jesus said, “take courage!” Why? Because He had other plans for Paul. He wasn’t going to let a few bent-out-of-shape Jewish religious leaders derail His plans for Paul’s life. Paul had a job to do in Rome and the Lord reminds Him of that.

A valuable lesson

Paul’s visit from the Savior didn’t change his circumstances. In fact, the next morning was going to bring more bad news. Not only were the Jews out to kill him, a group of forty of them had made a pact not to eat or drink until they murdered Paul. So things actually got worse, not better. But that didn’t really matter for Paul, because he had the guarantee of the Lord Himself that nothing was going to prevent him from going to Rome. So Paul wasn’t going to let his circumstances dictate his outlook.

Paul learned a valuable lesson that day – one he later shared with other brothers and sisters in Christ who were also going through difficult circumstances. You find Paul using this theme of courage throughout his letters. What Jesus shared with him that night in a Roman barracks became the message he shared with persecuted believers throughout the world. And it a message we still need to hear today. Paul uses the same words (tharseo) that Jesus used in his own letters.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 5:6

We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 5:8

I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you. – 2 Corinthians 7:16

So that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME ?” – Hebrews 13:6

So we can be hopeful and confident in the midst of our circumstances. Why? Because Christ is with us and because He is not done with us. He has a plan and He is working it out to perfection. We do not fear what men will do to us. We don’t have to fear circumstances. We can trust the Lord. We can be bold, confident, and hopeful of the future, because the Lord is at our side.

Father, help me believe that. Let me find my confidence and hope in You and not my circumstances. Because circumstances change, but You do not. Circumstances can disappoint, but You never do. Circumstances are a lousy test of truth, but You are truth. Help me see Your Son Jesus Christ at my side each and every day, regardless of what is going on around me. Keep reminding me that You have a plan for me and You are working it out in Your time. I can trust You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 22

“I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.” – Vs 8

As Paul was sharing his testimony to the Jews who had dragged him out of the temple, he tells them all about his past. He tells them that he used to persecute the Way. He used to arrest and throw into prison the very people he now calls brothers and sisters. He was an agent for the high priest. In those days, Paul thought he was doing God’s work. He was helping eradicate just another start-up sect that was threatening the monopoly Judaism held on the people of Israel. Paul was methodical and merciless in his efforts to destroy Christianity from the face of the earth.

But what Paul didn’t know was that the very thing he was trying to destroy was Jesus Christ Himself. That’s what Jesus tells him on that miraculour encounter on the road to Damascus. Look at what Jesus says to him:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.” (Vs 7-8)

Once Paul (Saul) had woken up to the reality that he was talking with the resurrected Jesus, I can just imagine him thinking in his mind, “Whoa, wait a minute! I’m not persecuting YOU! What have I done to you? I never met you. I’ve just been doing my job, trying to rid the world of this start-up sect of ragtag followers of yet another Messiah wannabe.”

“Why are you persecuting ME?”

What Paul learned that day on the road to Damascus was a fundamental truth of the New Testament: The relationship between Jesus and His church. We ARE His body. What Paul was doing to the followers of the Way was a direct attack on Jesus Christ Himself. Because we are His body. This is a lesson that Paul learned well. Just take a look at what he had to say to the Corinthian believers about the topic later on in his ministry:

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12

He also told the believers at Ephesus:

“And He [God] put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:22-23

He also reminded the Colossians of this fact:

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do share on behalf of His body, which is the church…” – Colossians 1:24

The body of Christ

What Jesus told Paul that day on the road struck a chord with him. That’s why it became a focal point of his teaching. And that message still resonates for us today. We, the church, are the body of Christ. We are the fullness of Him on this earth. We are His hands and feet, with the responsibility to do His work in the world. That’s why He left us here. That’s why He gave us the Holy Spirit. That’s why He gave us spiritual gifts. We are not to be isolated islands, but members of one body, intent on one purpose. As members of Christs body, we each have a part to play, a function to perform. No one member is any less or more important than the other. Paul makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 12.

We are to work together, suffer together, rejoice together, and minister together as one body. We are to make a difference together. Just like those early members of the body of Christ were doing in the days of Paul. We are His body. So we need to appreciate one another more. We need to care for one another more. We each need to be using our giftedness more. We need to be working together more. So that the body of Christ on this earth might be healthy, strong, alive, and active in its ministry of carrying out the work of Jesus Christ. We are Christ! Paul never forgot that point. My prayer is that we won’t either.

Father, help me remember that, as a believer, I am not just a member of an organization, but I am a member of Your Son’s body. I am part of an organism that You have chosen to place on this earth as Your representative. Together we are Christ on this earth. We are to show the world what Christ looks like. When they see us, they should see Him. Show me how to play my part well. Selflessly, sacrificially, joyfully, willingly, and completely. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 21

“The will of the Lord be done!” – Vs 14

Those are hard words for me to say sometimes. And I think they were just as difficult for  Luke and the other friends of Paul to say. They had been “begging him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Vs 12). They were so emotional about it that Paul said, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?” (Vs 13). This was not the first time Paul had been warned by those who loved him not to go up to Jerusalem. In Tyre, the disciples had been informed by the Holy Spirit that Paul was going to suffer. So they tried to talk Paul out of going. But Paul was going to Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit had told Him to go (Acts 20:23), and he knew that “bonds and afflictions” were waiting for him there.

Paul was willing to suffer. He was even ready to die if necessary. He states that clearly in verse 13.

“For I am ready not onlyi to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Paul had been warned. He had prophets give him detailed accounts of what was going to happen when he arrived in Jerusalem. But nothing would persuade him to change his mind. Why? Did Paul have a death wish. I don’t think so. Sure, Paul had the perspective that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 2:21), but that doesn’t mean he was in any mad rush to, as Hamlet once said, “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

Paul was perfectly willing to be in the will of God. Even if that meant …

… being completely misunderstood (Vs 21)

… having his actions misinterpreted (Vs 27-29)

… being mistreated (Vs 30-32)

… or even being mistaken for someone else (Vs 38)

For Paul, God’s will didn’t mean life was going to be a piece of cake, but it did provide peace of mind in the midst of difficulty. God’s will wasn’t about avoiding trials at all costs, but accepting trials as part of the cost of serving Christ. That’s why Paul was able to say, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I might gain Christ, and may be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9).

When God’s Will Isn’t Our Way

I love what Luke records in verse 14. He says, “And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent.” Luke includes himself in the group of those who were weeping and begging Paul not to go to Jerusalem. He did not want to see his good friend and brother in Christ suffer. So he begged Paul not to go. But when Luke realized that Paul was determined to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, he finally said, “The will of the Lord be done!”

Many times in my life I have found God’s will in direct contradiction to my way of thinking. His plan did not fall in line with my desires. Sometimes I have found tough times have remained when I have asked them to be removed. I have seen my prayers go unanswered (seemingly) and my worst fears come to fruition. But at no time in my life can I look back and say that my way would have been better than God’s will. Because He always knows best. He always does what is best. And while Luke and the other brothers and sisters of Paul could see no value in Paul going to Jerusalem, they were willing to commit their way to the supremacy of God’s will. They let Paul go, and with him, they let go of their need to have things go their way.

Father, continue to teach me to trust Your will. Help me to let go of my need to always have things go my way. Keep me focused on the bigger picture of Your divine plan and not my short-sighted view of my circumstances. I won’t always understand, but that’s OK. I just need to learn to trust You more! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 20

Strong to the finish

I have preached this passage before, so it was hard for me to find something that was new and unexpected this morning as I read. Years ago, when I served as an elder at our church, verses 28-35 came to mean a lot to me. So I have spent a lot of time thinking about them and trying to apply them to my life. But this morning, after a few additional read-throughs, I ended up going back to verses 18-27. There was something about what Paul had to say to the elders at Ephesus that impacted me like it never had before. At first blush, it could come across like Paul was bragging. After all, by my count he uses the personal pronouns “I,” “me” and “myself” at least 20 times in the span of 10 verses.

“No brag, just fact”

In the 1960s Walter Brennan starred in an obscure TV Western called The Guns of Will Sonnet. He played a crotchety old army scout searching for his son, a gunfighter on the run. Any time Brennan’s character would meet someone, he would tell them that he was a faster draw than his son and then add reply, “no brag, just fact.”

So was Paul bragging or just stating the facts? Based on the events of his life, I think I would say it was the latter. What Paul shared with the Ephesian elders was simply a glimpse into his life that he intended to be an encouragement to these men as they served their flock back in Ephesus. What Paul shares is a seemingly comprehensive list of qualities that characterize the life of any shepherd of God. For that matter, these qualities should probably be found in each and every child of God, whether they are a pastor, elder, deacon, or layman. Check out Paul’s list:

He served with humility – Vs 19

He shed tears regularly – Vs 19

He endured trials repeatedly – Vs 19

He shared boldly and profitably – Vs 20

He taught publicly – Vs 20

He testified tirelessly – Vs 21

He ministered faithfully – Vs 24

He sacrificed personally – Vs 22-24

He suffered willingly – Vs 24

He died to self daily – Vs 24

He testified earnestly – Vs 24

He declared wholeheartedly – Vs 27

Paul put it all on the line. Whatever he did, he did with conviction, passion, and determination. He didn’t give up, let up, check out, or sell out. He didn’t shrink back or cave in. He didn’t have a pity party or an early retirement party. He was faithful to the end. He ran the race to win. Paul gave it his all and he gave all he had to give.

The life of a giver

Paul sums his life all up in one sentence: “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35).

Paul was a giver. But am I? Do I give my life away like he did? Am I willing to make the kinds of sacrifices that he did? Suffer for the sake of the gospel like he did? Share boldly and publicly like he did? Testify tirelessly like he did? Serve humbly like he did? What about you?

Father, give me the perspective of Paul. Give me the heart and the commitment of Paul. Let me serve as he did, love as he did, testify as he did, share as he did, teach as he did, even suffer if necessary as he did. May my life be a testimony to the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Use me Father and, if necessary, use me up! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Acts chapter 19

The Radical Ways of “The Way”

There’s a lot packed into the 41 verses of chapter 19. But one thing that stands out to me is the amazing impact Christianity was having on the culture of the day. It was spreading rapidly. It was changing lives. It was getting the attention of the religious elite and the political power base. Ordinary people were coming to Christ and doing extraordinary things. The Holy Spirit was coming into the lives of people and radically reforming their behavior. The message of Jesus Christ was spreading rapidly. The name of Jesus Christ was becoming associated with the miraculous. So much so, that the seven sons of Sceva (sounds like an alternative rock band) tried to use the name of Jesus to cast out a demon. The only problem was that they knew the name, but not Savior behind the name.

The Way

During the early days of the church, Christianity was simply known as The Way. It was probably a term coined by the followers of Christ themselves and was used to reflect the fact that following Christ was not only the way of salvation, but it was to be a radically new way of life. Jesus Himself had claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

The way of Jesus was anything but ordinary. It was a radical path that produced remarkable changes. And you see them all throughout this chapter. In verses 18-19 you see believers bringing their occult books containing magic spells and incantations to be burned. They destroyed thousands of dollars worth of books representing their former way of life. Life in Christ was bringing a new way of living.

In verses 23- 41, we see that The Way was causing “no small disturbance” to the community. So many lives were being changed that the sale of household idols had plummeted, leaving the craftsmen who made them in an uproar. Because of the teaching of Paul, people had not only changed their way of life by accepting Christ, they had changed their way of thinking. They were now saying, “…that gods made with hands are no gods at all.” The way of Jesus Christ had led to a radically new way of living.

Way Out of Whack

Something is missing today. We still preach and teach that Jesus is the way, but we don’t seem to be seeing the same radical change in behavior in the lives of His followers. We don’t seem to see the church having the same radical impact on the culture that it did in Luke’s day. The Way doesn’t seem to be making “no small disturbance.” It has become less a way of life, than a way of believing. It has become just another belief system. Our way seems no different than any other way. There appears to be no power, passion, commitment, or radical life transformation associated with our way. Like the seven sons of Sceva, could we be quilty of speaking the name of Christ, but lacking a real relationship with Him? Do we talk about the way, but lack intimacy with the One who is the way?

Jesus is still the way. He still has the power to transform lives in a radical way. He still has the power to impact culture in a revolutionary way. He still expects His people to live in such a way that we create “no small disturbance.” Our way of life should get peoples’ attention. Our way of thinking should stand out. Our way of salvation should be attractive to all those around us, because it really works!

Father, make me radical in the way I live my life. Make the way I speak reflect Your ways. Make my thoughts align with the way You think. Let my ways Your ways. So that the Way of Christ might make a radical difference in the world today. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men