Category Archives: Devotional

How Paul Listened and Trusted God

So, we left off when Paul stood in front of King Agrippa and shared his story. Now, Paul is setting sail for Rome to go in front of Nero. Since that is what he appealed for.

On his journey to Rome, they had come across a storm. Paul even predicted the storm in Acts 27:10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” However, nobody wanted to listen to Paul and they set sail directly into the storm.

However, what happens next is pretty awesome.

Paul tells them that they should have listened to him, but lives would be spared. “But now I urge you to keep your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I serve stood beside me and said Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” (Acts 27:22-25).

The ship does wreck, but everyone does reach land safely. Only because Paul trusted the Lord, and he listened.

He trusted. 

I want to take a moment to acknowledge that trusting in God is a lot easier said than done. As humans, we want proof that something exists. We want immediate answers, and some of us (myself included) wants direct communication with God like the angel coming to Paul.

Prayer is communication, but we don’t always get an immediate response. It’s like playing phone tag with someone for about a week before you actually get a hold of that person.

However, prayer is essential. Trusting in God is essential. Without faith, we are nothing. Trusting in the unseen is basically what defines faith. I’ve made this argument before, and I’ll make it again.

We can’t see the wind, but we can feel it. We can see the effects wind has on the trees, us, the leaves.

We can’t see our internal organs, but we know they’re there. We know that they are functioning to keep us alive and breathing.

Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there and that we shouldn’t trust in it.

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

 

Paul and his crew were in a crisis. But Paul knew what to do like it was second nature, because he trusted in God. Paul was walking by faith. I can honestly say that with prayer, and reading the word, knowing what to do when life gets you down will become second nature.

God doesn’t create our downfalls, he uses them for the better. He uses them so that we can know Him and trust Him. In the midst of tragedy, there is always something beautiful that can be taken from it. However, our eyes have to be open and we have to be awake if we want to take that beauty from the tragedy.

Are your eyes open? Do you trust in Him?

Photo by Nathan Pirkle on Unsplash

 

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What Paul Can Teach Us About Reflections

I finally bought a planner yesterday and have my week planned out until Sunday. How refreshing it is to have something that helps me to stay on task.

Today, we are going to be looking at Acts 26 where Paul is standing in front of King Agrippa over some charges in which Paul was innocent. The charge basically boils down to spreading the news of Jesus and the Gospel.

Acts 26:9-11 is probably one of my favorite verses.

“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.”

Reading this passage almost makes me think of a bounty hunter. Except with a bounty hunter, they are hunting for people that haven’t paid off their bail bonds. Not their faith.

However, one of the many reasons why I love Paul is that he’s not afraid to admit what kind of person he was before his conversation with Jesus. It’s almost like he’s not ashamed. He admits that this was the kind of person that he was. However, if you read on, Paul tells King Agrippa about his encounter with Jesus. What happened, and the person that he became after his encounter with Jesus.

I think it’s important that we reflect on who we were before coming to Christ every once in awhile. It’s a reminder of who we were before and what we don’t want to be like. I think it’s important that we compare who we were to who we are now as a way to see how much we’ve grown.

People say we should forget our old selves because that’s not who we are anymore, but if we do that, we won’t know what we don’t want to be.

I’m still early in recovery, and I get these thoughts daily. “You’re not an alcoholic. You’re just fine.” If I want to keep my sobriety, then I have to analyze how I drank in the past.

Not only that, but constantly remembering who we were and comparing it to who we are now helps make for a great testimony. We can record what we were like, and what we are like now.

It’s like we made a copy of ourselves. Same features. Same eyes. Same hair. We’re looking at the copy of ourselves, and they look back at us. We look at our old self and see the suffering on their face. It’s a reminder of what led us to the suffering and what brought us out. What led is to God.

“After they left the room, they began saying to one another: This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment. Agrippa said to Festus, This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Ceaser.” Acts 26:31-32

I’m not sure why Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Ceaser, but one thing I do know. Paul wasn’t imprisoned at that moment. Paul didn’t die. Paul was doing the same thing other people were doing when Paul was persecuting them.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 

Paul wanted to appeal to Ceaser. Paul used to work for Ceaser, persecuting people in Ceaser’s name. Do you see how this could have gone so wrong?

Instead, he was sentenced back to Rome, which I guess is more like a parole/house arrest type thing. I’m not 100% sure but we will get more into that next time.

Photo by Brandon Wong on Unsplash

In the Midst of Persecution, God Was Still There

There are many events that have occurred in history where people were persecuted for their faith, skin color, and even culture.

Jewish people were killed during the holocaust because of the fact they were jewish. People who tried to save them from Hitler’s concentration camps could get severely punished if they were caught.

Back when slavery was (unfortunately) a thing, the Underground Railroad had developed. The brave men and women who escaped their “owners” could get persecuted if they were caught, and those involved with the Underground Railroad and helping to free these men and women could get persecuted just by helping them.

Note: I am not trying to undermine these events, or the people who had to endure the tremendous suffering they had to go through. I am not trying to undermine their feelings when I talk about those horrific events. 

Even today in some countries, people can get persecuted just for reading this blog post. It’s a sad thing that happens.

Those are just a few examples. It’s sad that both events happened because NOBODY should be punished for their faith, skin color, culture, etc.

When Paul was preaching, Caeser was king. What Caeser said, went. There were no ways around it and if Caeser wasn’t pleased, you were punished. This is what happened when Paul went to Thessolonica.

Paul started preaching about Jesus and His resurrection. Some people believed him, others didn’t. Others got mad because Paul was defying Caeser.

Paul and his friends found refuge in a man named Jason. Jason opened his doors to Paul, Timothy, and Silas. Knowing that Jason could get in huge trouble for harboring Christians in the name of Caeser.

When authorities found out about this from those who were angry at Paul for preaching the Gospel, they were irritated. “But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have no come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caeser’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” Acts 17:6-7.

They were arrested. Bond was posted, and other believers helped Paul, Silas, and Timothy to flee to Berea to continue to share the Gospel.

They were persecuted for sharing the truth!

Jason risked persecution just by helping a fellow Christian.

However, God never left Paul and his friends. God provided a way out through Jason. They were released on bond, and they fled.

Even though you may be feeling alone right now, know that God doesn’t leave you, forsake you, or abandon you. In the times when I feel like I can’t feel him, I pray. He WILL make Himself known, if you open your eyes and your ears and LISTEN.

Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash

Breaking Free

Ever wonder how a bird is so free? Think about it. They can fly anywhere, they can practically do whatever they want, and they know exactly what to do. They know how to survive, they know what their needs are, and they just know what to do.

I feel like this is how Paul felt in Acts 16. He was so free, he knew what to do, and he was incarcerated. I know what’s probably running through you’re mind if you’ve never read the story. Paul? Incarcerated? I thought he was a man of faith?!

He is. Just listen.

I guess you could consider Paul a missionary. I mean he travelled, he spread the news of Jesus, and teaching about God. After not being able to enter different countries through the spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) he had a dream about Macedonia. He soon realized that his dream about Macedonia was a message from God saying that he had to go there to preach. So he obeyed.

Along the road, they met a woman. She was a slave but claimed that she could predict the future thanks to a spirit. Somewhat like your modern day psychic. She followed them, constantly announcing what Paul and his friends were up to. The way I read it, she was like a monkey that Paul couldn’t get off his back.

He knew what was going on. He knew it was a spirit, and he commanded the spirit out of her.

Remember she was a slave, and slaves had owners. The owners were using her to make a quick buck with her psychic predictions, and when Paul summoned the spirit out of her, they lost all chances of becoming rich and wealthy. The owners brought Paul to the officials, and to make a long story short the crowd went with it and Paul was arrested.

This is where the story gets interesting.

Paul and Silas were flogged then thrown into jail. In the midst of their problem, they still celebrated God. They used their experience to lean into him. They were no longer afraid. They sang, they rejoiced, and they prayed. The next thing they knew, their chains were literally broken free. The jailer fell to his knees acknowledging that God did exist, and the magistrates set them free.

Paul was a servant of God. He had no idea that him summoning a spirit out of a woman would get him arrested He had no idea what God’s plan was for him, yet he still followed.

What Paul has to say later on when he’s speaking to the Corinthians is really amazing. He says “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?” (1 Corinthians 9:11-12).

He goes on…

“Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14)

What Paul is saying is that if you serve the Lord faithfully and whole heartedly, the Lord will help you break free.

Paul became a man of faith and that’s what happened. Literally. Paul’s chains broke, and he was a free man.

The thing is, we can be free if we allow ourselves to be free. . We have to allow ourselves to acknowledge and recognize that. The Israelites broke free from Egypt, Jesus broke free from the chains of death, and Paul broke free from incarceration.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)

This doesn’t mean that you have to literally die to be freed from sin. Quite the opposite. Sins are the chains that hold us, that bind us. When Jesus died, he broke those chains. When Jesus died, our sins were set free. We were broken free.

Amen to that!

 

Photo by Aishath Naj on Unsplash

 

 

From Saul to Paul: The Beginning

These next couple of weeks we are going to be focusing on one ordinary man who God used for extraordinary things. This man is Paul, also known as Saul.

We are going to start by taking a look at Acts 9.

Saul was the antagonist in this section.  He was so dead set on persecuting people who believed in Jesus. He was the “modern day bounty hunter” as my study bible describes him. He wanted to turn believers into the high priest so they were persecuted for believing in Jesus.

This is where things take a turn.

Imagine just walking on a quiet road in the middle of nowhere and you hear a voice but you see nobody. Do you convince yourself your crazy? Go get evaluated? There weren’t any psych hospitals back in Saul’s day, so he was kind of stuck.

He was on his way to Damascus to find people to turn into the high priest, and this is exactly what Saul experiences.

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ “ (Acts 9:4).

Jesus had appeared to Saul, wondering why Saul was doing this. Saul knew he was in trouble, and only he could redeem himself at this point.

Saul was now blind. His encounter with Jesus literally knocked him off of his feet, and he opened his eyes but could see nothing (Acts 9:8).

This is where Jesus starts working his magic. He appeared to a man by Ananias in a dream. Jesus told Ananias about Saul and what Ananias was supposed to do.

“The Lord said to him, Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.” (Acts 9:11).

Saul had a dream where his blindness was healed. These weren’t just dreams though. They were messages from Jesus. Even Ananias had trouble with this because he knew Saul. He knew that Saul was condemning people for believing in Jesus’ name. I guess you could say that he tried arguing with Jesus. Jesus wasn’t having it though and Ananias had no choice but to be obedient.

Saul was healed. He could see. He saw the power of Jesus and he started preaching in Damascus and Jerusalem. However, some of the jews had wanted to kill him. Meanwhile, Saul was gaining some followers and was protected.

It still didn’t end there. Barnabus took him in, and Saul preached the word vigorously. People still wanted Saul dead. Eventually, he was sent back to Tarsus, his home land.

I guess the moral of the story is this: God uses ordinary people for extraordinary things.

Besides Saul (Paul), let me give a few examples.

-Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.

-Mary gave birth to Jesus. Given the time and the setting, most scholars can agree on the fact that Mary was probably a girl in her mid-late teens.

-David after he became king! David murdered and had committed adultery, yet still God used him.

I’m sure there are many more people throughout the Bible that God used for His glory, and I’m excited to read their stories.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

If Bible evidence isn’t enough for you, then let me say this.

I never expected to start this blog. I never expected to keep up with it. I never expected the outcome that it has been getting. I never expected to get in trouble with the law. But the thing is, I did. It was a mistake, and I had to learn from it (I’ll explain further when I give my testimony!). But I understand WHY it happened. That was the defining moment I had decided to completely surrender my life to Jesus. Not just halfway surrendering like I have done previously. But whole heartedly and completely. And watching myself transform into the person God wants me to become? Sharing His word through my blog as well as my story? To me, thats a powerful thing to think about.

Just like Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

God uses ordinary people for extraordinary things for His glory.

What are you going to do? Are you going to ignore it? Or are you going to listen? The choice is yours. But I promise you, if you listen, what you will witness is unfathomable. You’ll witness something only God could construct.

Photo by The Roaming Platypus on Unsplash

Are You Awake?

From what I’ve read, Luke 24 is basically the same story as we encountered in John 20. (To read about John 20, click here). It’s not surprising because Luke is part of the 4 Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All 4 Gospels are recollections of how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John saw events unfold and their way of telling the story. In this case, the story of the resurrection.

It wasn’t even just Thomas who had to see for himself, it was every disciple (according to what Luke says). In Luke 24:37, it says “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.”

Jesus replies back with “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I, myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Luke 24:39

Comparatively, in John 20:19-20 Jesus says, “…Peace be with you! After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”

They knew about the prophecy. They knew it needed to be fulfilled, but why didn’t they believe it was going to happen without seeing Jesus first?

You don’t need to physically see God or Jesus to know that he is there. I thought I did, but it turns out I was just walking around with my eyes closed, like the disciples.

I really don’t know what to say about this passage because it was so similar to John 20. This isn’t uncommon in the bible, it’s just the first time I’ve encountered it.

We may not be able to physically see God or Jesus, and we may not be able to hear them, but the miracles (even the tiniest ones) that occur in our lives on a day to day basis is Him.

We can see him, if we open our eyes. If we are aware. Are you aware? Are you awake?

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Seeing Isn’t Always Believing, and Believing isn’t Always Seeing

I think I said that right.

Anyway, before I start off with todays bible reading, I am so proud of myself because I’m not trying to do this at like 11 PM. I am awake, I am alert, so without further ado.

Todays focus is on John 20, which is following the Easter weekend. So far we’ve talked about the betrayal against Jesus, Jesus arrest, the crucifixion, and now we are going to be talking about the resurrection. However, I want to focus on a disciple named Thomas.

When Jesus was put into the tomb, there were a few guards. Mary Magdalene went to check on the tomb and realized that the stone had been rolled away, exposing the area where Jesus’ body was. She went to get 3 of the disciples to show them.

They were in shock. They were questioning how this could be possible? Ladies and gentlemen, it gets better.

Jesus then appeared to his disciples, Thomas wasn’t there for the first appearance. When the other disciples had told Thomas what happened, he didn’t believe at first. He basically said “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

A few nights later, all the disciples, including Thomas, gathered together. Doors were locked, but that didn’t stop our friend Jesus!

Jesus instructed him to feel his hands and his body to assure Thomas that it really was Jesus. John 20:29 is talking to Thomas and he says “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Here’s a few things to think about (and honestly, I could come up with them all day)

-You can’t see the wind, yet you know it blows

-You can’t see your heartbeat, yet you know it’s beating

-You can’t see your lungs, but you know you’re inhaling and exhaling (and unless it’s really cold out, you can’t see your breath either!).

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

In Romans 10:17, Paul says that “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

You CAN believe in something that you cannot see, and what you see doesn’t mean you HAVE to believe it. My dad told me something that I’ve taken to heart. He told me that there are 3 sides to every story: Party A’s side, Party B’s side, and the Truth, and only God knows the truth.

I may not be able to see God. I may not be able to see Jesus. However, I talk to them periodically. I surround myself with His word. I believe that each and every miracle that happens to me is a reward from him.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m not saying He doesn’t punish me, because trust me, he does. After I got my drinking and driving charge, my truck broke down a week later. That’s just one example.

Faith is believing in something you cannot see.

Taking a leap of faith is doing something risky, but believing you’ll be okay.

When was the last time you had FAITH?