Archive for July, 2011

July 15, 2011

A promise fulfilled.

But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Matthew 10:19-20

Lately Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa (Acts 26) has been blowing my mind.  The boldness and courage Paul has in the face of those who had imprisoned him and could very well kill him is incredible.  Paul says he considers himself fortunate to stand trial.  Fortunate!  Can you imagine?  That boldness comes through the Holy Spirit.  It is not Paul speaking, but the LORD speaking through him.  And it’s both powerful and beautiful.

“In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today…”

Acts 26:2

What makes it even more beautiful to me is that Jesus promised the disciples testimonies such as this.  He promised them that when they were persecuted and imprisoned that He would give them the words to speak (Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12, 21:12-15).  He specifically told them not to prepare beforehand but to trust that He would speak through them.  So when we come to Acts 26, we see Jesus fulfilling this promise in Paul’s life, and we can be sure He can and will do the same in our lives.

“So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.  And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve Godnight and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?

So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.  And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from theJewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom 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.’

“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem andthen throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer,and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 26:4-33

How often I rehearse what I can say in situations X and Y.  “Oh yeah, if they ask this, I’ll say this.  But if they ask this I’ll say this.”  That mental preparation is time wasted.  Not to say that you or I should not know our God and His word inside and out– we should!– but it is the Holy Spirit who speaks through us in those moments of questioning.  We might come up with some pretty clever responses ourselves, but it is God’s words that have power.  Just look at King Agrippa’s response:

Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”

Acts 26:28

May we consume His word daily, seek Him diligently in prayer, and then trust that in every moment the Holy Spirit will equip us with all that we need in order to make Him known and bring Him glory.  Jesus’ promises are true and trustworthy.  Just ask Paul!

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July 12, 2011

Genet’s Gift

This morning I’m thinking about my friend Genet.  Truth be told, I don’t know much about her.  I don’t know how old she is, though my guess is she’s a few years younger than me.  I don’t know her story, though I know it led her to Women At Risk, and I know the pain and tears I saw in her eyes as I heard other women tell heartbreaking stories of abuse and violence and abandonment.  I don’t know where she is today, though I know the God who is pursuing her, the Savior that died and rose again to give her new life.

On our last day at Women At Risk in Nazret, Genet pulled me inside, sat me down, took my hand, and put on my wrist a small silver bracelet.  Then she looked at me, and in her broken English, said, “I love you.”

Genet’s gift to me was not extravagant, but it was heartfelt.  She can’t afford much, and yet she gave me that gift.  That is humbling to me.  Incredibly humbling.

It reminds me of the widow who gave next to nothing in the offering, but Jesus commended her above the rich men who gave an abundance.  Why?  Because it cost her everything.  The rich man’s offering didn’t require much sacrifice; he still left with wealth.  But the widow gave everything she had as an act of love and devotion. (Luke 21:1-4)

Genet’s gift is a beautiful reminder that the best things we receive are not those that are the most extravagant or that required the most money, but those which came at greatest cost to the giver.

And then I think about Jesus.  I think about salvation.  And I’m reminded that it came at an unspeakable cost to the ultimate Giver.  The Father gave His only Son.  Jesus gave up everything, including His life.

Will the love of Christ compel us to give until it hurts?  It is not something we must force, but rather something that flows from our understanding of how much Jesus sacrificed to give us life.  As we look to Him, as we get to know Him deeply and intimately, we are transformed.

I am thankful this morning for Genet’s gift because it points me to Jesus.  I am thankful for Genet because she is a living example of the power of Jesus to transform lives.

Will you join me in praying for Genet this morning?  Pray that as Jesus continues to transform her life, that she would continue to point others toward Him.  Pray that He would sustain her and provide for her.  Pray that she would know Him more deeply with each passing day and that her eyes would remain fixed upon Him.

I’m praying for you this morning, whoever may be reading this.  I’m praying that you would know Jesus and receive the gift He places before you– Himself.    All we could ever need is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.  He is the Giver and the Gift.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15