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Free Bible Commentary

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First Peter 4:12-16

Thursday, September 14, 2017

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Peter tells us in chapter 1 verse 7 that the “genuineness” of our faith will be “tested by fire” so that it may “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In verse 12 of today’s reading he reminds us that it should come as no surprise when we are confronted by a “fiery ordeal”. Since Satan could not harm Jesus he will turn up the heat on the Lord’s “beloved” every chance that he gets. The crucible of testing can either torch or temper our faith. It can kill us or make us stronger, the choice is ours to make. 

But we can take great comfort in knowing that our Father will never leave us to suffer alone in our times of affliction and need. If we make the effort to remain faithful to God during times of persecution He will make His grace and favor to shine down upon us. “The Spirit of glory and of God” rests upon us during the darkest hours of our struggles (verse 14). Beyond taking comfort, we can actually “rejoice” in the knowledge that when we suffer for righteousness we are walking in the steps of our Savior, God will imbue us with the strength to endure, and we will share in the glory of Christ at His final “revelation” (verse 13).

When we are “reviled for the name of Christ” we “are blessed”. Suffering for its own sake is not necessarily an occasion for honor or rejoicing. In fact we should be “ashamed” if we suffer as a “murder, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (verse 15). When we take a stance against Christ and everything that is holy and good, we deserve the pain and disgrace that we earn on earth and in eternity. “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, his is not to be ashamed” (verse 16). 

The name “Christian” is only mentioned three times in the New Testament, and most scholars believe it was originally used as a term of derision by the enemies of Christ and His cause. “This name” may either have been a divine designation or a term of derision, or maybe both. Whichever is the case, we should always wear the name “Christian” with confidence and dignity, and rejoice when we suffer for the name of the Holy One. 

Please read 1 Peter 4:17-19 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 4:7-11

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

---End of Scripture verses---

We should all live our lives as if “the end of all things is near” (verse 7). We are living in “the last days” (Hebrews 1:2) before the Lord returns to judge the living and the dead, and He will come “like a thief” in the night when people expect it least (2 Peter 3:10). Jesus could come back today or delay His return for another 2000 years, but either way it goes, His return is always imminent. Peter instructs us to urgently be about the Lord’s business by serving each other, loving one another and glorifying God while we actively anticipate the Lord’s Appearing.

Since “the end of all things is near” we should approach life with a “sober spirit” using “sound judgment”. Life on earth is short and eternity is forever so we cannot afford to be thoughtless, foolish and frivolous. We need a serious and focused mind so that we can properly approach God “for the purpose of prayer.” All worship, whether it be prayer, praise or perusing God’s word, is a serious matter that requires reflection, reverence and righteousness on our part.

Like the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:13), Peter tells us that love, “above all” else (verse 8), is the greatest blessing we can share with other people. We all struggle with many issues and we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2), but “love covers a multitude of sins.” There is a great need for Christians to have a loving and forgiving heart when interacting with each other. We all do and say things that we should not and, at any given time, we will be the one who needs to forgive or the one who needs to be forgiven. That is not to say that we should make excuses for our sins or the sins of other people. We all need to repent when we do wrong. But love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

We all have been afforded strengths and resources to contribute to the building up of the body of Christ. God expects us to be “good stewards” or “managers” of all the good things that He has bestowed upon us (verse 10). Some have the “special gift” of being competent “speakers”. Anyone who serves in a speaking role in the Lord’s church should understand the great importance and responsibility of speaking the truth in accordance with “the utterances of God” (verse 11). Other people excel in “serving” in different ways such as financial giving, encouraging the downhearted, visiting the sick, cooking meals, etc. When we use God’s manifold “gifts” to serve “one another” with “the strength which God supplies,” we actually glorify Him in the process.

Please notice one final, crucial matter before we close. No matter how good you are at serving or speaking, not matter how merciful, kind or forgiving a heart you may possess, your acts of charity can only glorify God “through Jesus Christ” (verse 11). No one access the Father accept through Christ (John 14:6) and no one can glorify the Father except through Christ (Ephesians 3:20-21). If you are not an active member of the church that Jesus purchased with His own blood, your good deeds will not exalt the God of glory or bear an eternal weight of glory.

Please read 1 Peter 4:12-16 for tomorrow.

Have a wonderful day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 4:4-6

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

“In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”

---End of Scripture verses---

When a precious soul is pulled out of the darkness of the world and translated into the marvelous light of the kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:9), their life changes dramatically. Maybe you noticed when you gave your life to Christ that your old friends were “surprised that you” did “not run with them into the same excesses” of sinfulness that you used to (verse 4). If you made no change or they noticed no difference you really need to examine yourself to determine that you are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). 

Often when a new Christian renounces the “flood” of “dissipation” (riotous living, prodigality, wastefulness) he used to be engulfed in, his former running mates will actually “malign” him. The word translated “malign” is the Greek word for “blaspheme” and denotes “injurious speech” that is usually directed toward God. We should not be “surprised” when our behavior surprises the worldly wicked to the extent that they slander our righteous stand and the precious name of the Lord who purchased us. If the world hated Jesus it will also hate us, and feel personally offended when we indict their ungodly lifestyles by refusing to participate. 

Jesus is standing “ready” for the day of reckoning when He will return and “judge the living and the dead” (verse 5). The question is will we be ready for that day? “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). For “those who do not know God…and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus,” it will be a day of fiery “retribution” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). The gospel is preached for the purpose that people “may live in the spirit according to the will of God” (verse 6). God loves all people and desires that everyone obey the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). But, for those who stubbornly resist God’s invitation, the same word that is designed to save them will ultimately judge and convict them.

As stark as that passage is, Peter actually wrote it to encourage His brethren to keep a positive attitude in the midst of negative situations. People may treat you poorly for following Christ, but you stay faithful to Him and God will take care of everything in due time. And do not be concerned for your brethren who have died in Christ. They “live in the spirit” even though they have died in the flesh. We can take comfort in knowing that all of God’s faithful children will meet in the air with the Lord when He returns and remain with Him forever in heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Please read 1 Peter 4:7-11 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 4:1-3

Monday, September 11, 2017

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.”

---End of Scripture verses---

When we see through the eyes of faith the suffering that Christ endured for our sins, that should motivate us to arm ourselves “with the same purpose” or “attitude” (verse 1). Jesus was completely committed to the cause of righteousness and no amount of antagonism and suffering could provoke Him to sin. We must “consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that” we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). When we faithfully endure suffering as Christ did, that should help us to not take sin lightly and put up a much greater fight against it. In that sense we have “ceased from sin,” but it we must “arm” ourselves for battle because the fight will not be an easy one.

Other than repent, there’s not much we can do about the previous sins we have committed. Since the past cannot be changed, the best thing we can do when we come to love and trust Christ Jesus is “to live the rest of the time in the flesh…for the will of God” (verse 2). We all come to Christ with “baggage” from a life that was formerly devoted to “the lusts of men”. The guilt and shame of our past spiritual infractions should not cripple us emotionally but inspire us to make much better use of the remaining time that God blesses us with. “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” (Romans 6:20-21)

All of us have wasted enough of our time carrying out the desires of the flesh (verse 3). When you claim the name of Jesus it is time to get serious about your battle for righteousness and against sin. “Sensuality” is the unbridled pursuit of pleasures of the physical senses. “Lusts” are sinful desires predominantly of a sexual nature. When we were “born again” (John 3:3-5) we put to death that old, out of control, lust driven person of sin, and left him buried in the grave of baptism.

Please notice that 3 of the 6 sins listed in verse 3 have to do with drinking alcohol. “Drunkenness” is drinking to excess, “carousing” is “revelry” associated with idolatrous feasts, and “drinking parties” are celebrations of a secular nature. A faithful child of God should not dabble in the drink but make a clean break from alcohol consumption. It’s time to sober up to the seriousness of our battle against sin. It is absurd try to array yourself in God’s full battle armor and wield the sword of the Spirit with a drink in your hand!

Please read 1 Peter 4:4-6 for tomorrow.

Remember 11 September! Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 3:19-22

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"In which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Jesus went “in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18) and “made proclamation” to the wicked people living in the years leading up to The Great Flood. When Noah, “a preacher or righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), warned his contemporaries in the days of “the patience of God” (verse 20), it was the truth of Jesus that he spoke to them, just as it was the Lord that spoke through Peter to his audience. And even though the times were wicked in which the recipients of this letter lived, in the days of Noah, “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). And it did not go unnoticed or unpunished by the Lord.

Friends, there is no way to escape God’s righteous judgment. It eventually comes upon all flesh in one form or another, and no one can escape Final Judgement. Only “eight persons,” including Noah, heeded God’s life-saving message then. The rest were destroyed physically by the flood and are “now in” the “prison” of Torments awaiting a certain, eternal damnation in Hell. God announced and executed His judgment against that wicked generation in a deluge of water. His next, great act of Final Judgment will come in the form of an all-consuming fire (2 Peter 3:7). But, our merciful and loving Father always provides a place of safety and security for His faithful children. The only safe place to be in the days of the flood was in Noah’s ark. The only safe place to be today is in the Lord’s church. And the only way to enter into the Lord’s church is through the waters of baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13).

While it must be admitted that this is a difficult passage to get a handle on, the one, clear takeaway from Peter’s illustration is that “baptism now saves you” (verse 21). It is interesting to note that the waters of the flood represented the “antitype” that “corresponds” to the waters of baptism that now save God’s people. It is certainly true that the ark saved Noah’s family from the waters of the flood, but it was the flood that saved them from the corrupting influence of the wicked world in which they lived. God, through His word, has set that genuine, historic, catastrophic event up as a “foreshadowing” to “prefigure” the spiritual deliverance that He secures in Christ through the waters of baptism.

We are saved from our sins when we are baptized in the right way, for the right reasons, because the Lord has designated the act of water baptism as the point that we make “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” It is through baptism that we “call on the name of the Lord” and have our sins “washed away” (Acts 22:16). It is through baptism that we contact the life-saving blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3), and it is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (verse 21) that we arise to walk in newness of spiritual life (Romans 6:4). If you are going to truly be saved God insists that you must do so “through the water” (verse 20).

Please read 1 Peter 4:1-3 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 3:13-18

Saturday, September 09, 2017

"Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit”

---End of Scripture verses---

It is unlikely that people will “harm” us if we are “zealous for what is good” (verse 13). More often than not we will be praised and admired for a passionate commitment to doing what is right. While it is true that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12), it is improbable that we will suffer serious, bodily harm for our righteous faith. But Peter assures us that “even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed” (verse 14). When we suffer harm for following Jesus we are privileged to share in the likeness of the sufferings that provided our eternal salvation. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Instead of cowering with “fear” in the face of “intimidation” we should “sanctify Christ as Lord in” our “hearts” (verse 15). Times of suffering can have one of two opposing effects on our faith. They can cause us to falter, doubt and stumble or they can reaffirm our dependence upon Christ and draw us closer to Him. To sanctify Christ in our hearts is to give Him the place of preeminence in the core of our being, knowing and affirming that He is the Lord, God, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and our lives. At least two blessings can arise when people observe us courageously responding to trials and tribulations with composure and righteousness. First of all, it may pique the interest of some and provide us an opportunity to “make a defense” of our faith, and “give an account for the hope that is in” us (verse 15). Secondly, others may be “put to shame” and silenced (verse 16).

Some people will “revile” (slander) us for our “good behavior in Christ,” but if we “keep a good conscience” by keeping God’s word, they will have no legitimate accusations to level against us in the sight of our righteous Judge. If we are going to suffer, let’s make certain that it is “for doing what is right” rather “than for doing what is wrong” (verse 17). That is the way that Christ lived and the way that He died. Jesus lived a perfectly righteous and “just” life so that He could die a sacrificial death, “the just for the unjust” (verse 18). Friends, the list of “unjust” people that Jesus died for includes you and me, not just those who oppose Christ and revile His followers. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Christ died for the “unjust” that He might bring “us” to God. So, when we are dealing with ungrateful and ungodly people, let’s do so with mercy and kindness remembering that we once walked in their shoes.

Please read 1 Peter 3:19-22 for tomorrow.

May the Lord fill you with His goodness!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 3:7-12

Friday, September 08, 2017

"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

---End of Scripture verses---

With leadership comes a great deal of responsibility. As head of the household, the husband in Christ is to live with his wife “in an understanding way” (verse 7). He is to use his intellect and not his brawn when interacting with the spouse of his covenant. He must understand that God’s will for him is to not treat her treacherously (Malachi 2:15) and to love and cherish her just as Jesus loves His church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25-33). To say that a woman is “someone weaker” is not to suggest that she is inferior in a spiritual or intellectual or any other way. Common sense should tell us that men are physically stronger than women more often than not. Husbands must not overpower their wives with brute strength but overwhelm them with kindness and love.

Peter lists two reasons why a husband should show his wife “honor” and treat her with respect. 1) Because she is “a fellow heir of the grace of life.” 2) So that the man’s “prayers will not be hindered.” God has promised all of His faithful children, both male and female, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). A married couple shares the honor of being husband and wife, brother and sister in Christ and fellow inheritors of eternal glories. Those are ample reasons to love and cherish and respect one another. But if a man chooses to mistreat his wife he severs the life-line that He has to heaven, and God will shut His ears to his prayers and petitions.

Starting in verse 8 Peter begins to “sum up” all that he had written about proper attitudes toward respect and submission and applied them to all Christians in their dealings with one another. Every brother and sister in Christ should do their individual part in keeping harmony in the family of Christ. We should sympathize with each other’s challenges and burdens, and be “humble in spirit” realizing that we all are fraught with human weakness and frailty. We need to prepare ourselves in advance to resist the urge to return “evil for evil” if someone should “insult” us (verse 9). Look to the example of our persecuted Savior who “did not revile in return” and “uttered no threats” but “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). If we desire to receive blessings it helps if we learn to give blessings, even in exchange for rudeness.

The apostle quotes Psalm 34 again, as he did in chapter 2 verse 3. In verses 10-12 he cites verses 12-16 of Psalm 34 that promises God’s deliverance for His troubled and afflicted people. As we can see, God’s assistance depends greatly upon our attitudes and efforts. In order to receive the best of God’s blessings on earth and in eternity, His people must strive to control their tongues and avoid all forms of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). As we “turn away from evil” we must actively “seek” and then ardently “pursue” peace. Peace is not merely the absence of conflict and chaos, but also the calm confidence, even in the midst of strife, that comes from having a right relationship with God. The Lord “sets His face against” those who think, speak and do evil, but He sees, hears and lifts up those who pursue righteousness through His Son Jesus.

Please read 1 Peter 3:13-18 for tomorrow.

Have a wonderful day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 3:1-6

Thursday, September 07, 2017

"In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”

---End of Scripture verses---

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). All people of all nationalities, classes and genders are equally important to God. That does not mean, however, that men and women are exactly the same, no matter how ardently our culture insists on thrusting “gender neutrality” upon us. Women have strengths and weaknesses and gifts from God that differ from those of men, and the Lord’s women should act in accordance with their created nature and His will for them.

In focusing on the importance of Christian compliance to God-given authority, Peter reminds us that we all must respect legitimate governmental authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17), that servants should obey their masters (1 Peter 2:18-20), and in today’s verses that wives are to acquiesce to the leadership of their husbands (verse 1). Governments, societies and families need stratified structure in order to function properly, and in the home God has given the husband the position of “headship” by His word. Notice that Peter does not tell the husband to seize control of his wife but for the wife to willing submit to the leadership of her husband. If there is going to be peace, order and harmony in the home, the wife must give encouragement and support to her spouse as he endeavors to lead his family in the ways of the Lord.

When the husband is not a Christian and the wife is, God expects her to submit to his leadership just the same. She should try her best to show him the grace and virtue that characterizes a true woman of God by her “chaste and respectful behavior” (verse 2). A child of God teaches by conduct as well as words, and sometimes the best hope of grabbing a non-believer’s attention and leading him to the word is by donning an attractive lifestyle. There is nothing for a Christian woman to be “frightened” of (verse 6) when her virtuous behavior shows her unbelieving husband that she respects him and fears the Lord.

Christian women should give much more attention to who they are on the inside than what they look like on the outside (verses 3-4), and godly men should be attracted by the beauty of “the hidden person of the heart.” When we give consideration to what we are going to wear and how we will adorn ourselves, we should first make it a priority to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14). For a woman, “a gentle and quiet spirit” are “imperishable qualities” that are “precious in the sight of God.” Beauty is fading and fads are fleeting but meekness and humility are always in fashion with the Lord and eternally rewarded by Him.

Please read 1 Peter 3:7-12 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 2:21-25

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

"For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Peter has Isaiah 53 at the forefront of his mind as he quotes from and references it in writing of the vicarious sufferings of Jesus the Messiah. But he also writes from firsthand experience as one who personally witnessed some of the abuse that Jesus suffered in fulfillment of that prophetic Old Testament treasure. Peter followed “at a distance” as Jesus was abused and “reviled” and refused to return the evil He unjustly received from His abusers (Matthew 26:57-75; Luke 23:48-49).

In today’s verses the apostle sets Jesus up as the perfect example for us to follow when we suffer for following Him. A servant is not above His Master and since the world hated Jesus it will hate His disciples also (John 15:18-20). Peter hones in on the verbal aspect of the abuse and how our Shepherd was as silent as a sheep led to slaughter to encourage us to be harmless in the words that we speak as well.

God has “called” us “for this purpose”— to follow in Christ’s “example” of enduring difficulties with dignity, composure and righteousness (verse 21). If anyone had the right to defend Himself and retaliate verbally it was our perfect Redeemer. But instead of retribution Jesus chose trust. He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (verse 23) knowing full well that justice is always upheld by the Supreme Magistrate of the Universe. If we trust that the Lord will always defend the case of the righteous, we will suppress the desire to spew verbal abuse (revile) and utter threats against our adversaries.

Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (verse 24). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). Because Jesus took the shame of the cross and paid the purchase price of His own life to redeem us from the slavery of sin, we should ever live to serve and please Him. When we died with Christ in the waters of baptism, buried the old person of sin and then arose to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-6), Jesus became “the Shepherd and Guardian” of our souls (verse 25). He promises His protection and guidance over us if we are willing to follow His lead.

Please read 1 Peter 3:1-6 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 2:18-20

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Neither God, the Bible nor the Apostle Peter say that slavery is a good thing. But in the first century Roman world it was just a prominent fact of life. It has been estimated that 60 million people served as slaves in the Roman Empire, and a good number of them converted to Christ. The Holy Spirit is telling us here that if a Christian is a slave, he should be the best one he can possibly be. In Colossians 3:23-24 within the context of the slave/master relationship, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Christians are held to a higher standard of excellence. We serve the Highest Power and we are always “on the clock” in our service to the Lord.

“Suffering unjustly finds favor” in the sight of the Lord (verse 19). We live in a society where people cannot tolerate the slightest bit of disrespect without feeling the immediate need to retaliate. This ego-driven "beast mode" is viewed as a sign of strength to the worldly wise, but it requires true, inner strength and spiritual maturity to control the urge to strike back and “turn the other cheek” when we have been offended. When we “do what is right and suffer for it,” the favorable, godly response is to continue doing what is right (verse 20). It is never the right thing to do the wrong thing. The best, but not the easiest, response to mistreatment is love and prayer.

Hear the familiar words of our loving, merciful Master: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Be patient, kind and respectful. Serve the Lord in all sincerity and He will work out all matters of injustice in His time.

Please read 1 Peter 2:21-25 for tomorrow.

May God’s grace and peace be yours in abundance!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 2:13-17

Monday, September 04, 2017

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

---End of Scripture verses---

It is imperative for the Lord’s people to learn respect for God-given authority. The inspired apostle urges us to willingly offer our submission “to every human institution” in verse 13. This would include forms of national and local governments, as well as smaller organizations that require rules and regulations to be followed. It works greatly to the advantage of pilgrims and strangers upon this earth for organized structure to exist within human societies, and minds enlightened by Holy Scripture know that “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1).

Of course, when the government requires Christians to disobey God’s commands, that may require “holy disobedience” on our part, to borrow a term used by the late, great Paul Ayres. When the Jewish Council gave the Apostles “strict orders not to continue teaching” in the name of Christ Jesus (Acts 5:28), “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29). They were not rebels inciting a social uprising, but respectful members of society expressing obedience to the commands of God. Under normal circumstances, however, when governments function properly and follow God’s sanction by punishing “evildoers” and “praising those who do right” (verse 14), we should submit to their authority “for the Lord’s sake.”

When we show proper respect for legitimate authority, we not only please the Lord but also make it possible to “silence the ignorance of foolish men” (verse 15). It is only “by doing right” that we can show the ways of the Lord to the people who despise our walk in Christ. Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) to all people, even the ones who hated and persecuted Him. We will never win an opponent over to Christ and save a soul from destruction by fighting fire with fire. God calls us to “honor all people” (verse 17). “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

In God’s governance submission and freedom go hand-in-hand. The only people who are truly “free men” are those who become “bondslaves of God” by fully submitting their will to His (verse 16). Those of us who have been baptized into Christ’s death have died to sin and must no longer live therein (Romans 6:2-3). Faith in Christ does not offer us the liberty to do just as we please, but provides freedom from the slavery and oppression of sin. “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:34-36)

Please read 1 Peter 2:18-20 for tomorrow.

Have a great holiday!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 2:9-12

Sunday, September 03, 2017

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

---End of Scripture verses---

The church of Jesus Christ is God’s “chosen race” and “holy nation” (verse 9). The nation of Israel held that position of honor and privilege in times past, but now Christ’s kingdom is comprised of people of all nations who call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:12), and are “baptized into Christ” and clothe themselves “with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:27-29).

God calls His people “out of” the “darkness” of sin and religious error and fear and doubt, and into the “marvelous light” of His glorious Son. Jesus is “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9). “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Jesus showed us the perfect light of the Father when He lived a life of sinless perfection among us (John 1:18), and He shines the light of salvation and truth to us through His perfect example and revelation. “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’” (John 8:12).

Even as we walk in the Light of the Lord, there is a continual internal struggle between our willing spirits and our weak flesh. Peter says that our “fleshly lusts” are waging “war” against our immortal souls (verse 11). Friends, this is not a war that we can choose to go AWOL from. The battle is an ever present one and we must choose the side of light over darkness if we aspire to escape being a prisoner and casualty of war. If we willingly choose the Lord He promises to help us in our struggle (Psalm 46:1; Hebrews 4:15-16; 13:5-6), and we are guaranteed the ultimate, eternal victory through our faith in Him (Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4).

Please read 1 Peter 2:13-17 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 2:4-8

Saturday, September 02, 2017

“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Peter (the rock) describes Jesus as a “living stone,” “a choice stone,” “a precious corner stone,” and a “stone of stumbling”. Christ is “the Rock” (1 Corinthians 10:4) of providence and strength who shelters and protects God’s people and has established a dwelling place for them greater than any earthly temple. Jesus said of the holy temple in Jerusalem that “not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matthew 24:2). All earthly structures will ultimately meet the same doom as Herod’s temple when it was destroyed in 70 AD, but Christ has been set as the “precious corner stone” for a spiritual structure (His church) that the Gates of Hades could not prevail against and that neither time nor hostility can overthrow.

Even though Jesus was rejected by men, He is “choice” and “precious” in the sight of His Father in Heaven. It is also precious in the sight of the Lord when we come to Him (verse 4) and remain rock-steady and steadfast even as we “endure various trials” (1 Peter 1:6) and temptations. God has also imbedded His children as “living stones” in His “spiritual house” and established them as a “holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to” Him (verse 5). Earthly stones are lifeless and mindless building materials, but the stones in Yahweh’s temple are living and vibrant and flourishing together as a holy sanctuary. We are simultaneously the dwelling place of God and the priests that offer up worship and praise to His holy name and ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2).

Friend, to disbelieve (verse 7) or choose to be “disobedient to the word” (verse 8) is to reject the Living Stone who died for you. If you are not “coming to Him” (verse 4) you are kicking against Him and stumbling over Him. “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction” and God knew in advance that most would choose to “enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). He has “appointed” certain “doom” for those who select the highway to Hell over the narrow way to salvation. As surely as heaven is the inheritance of the faithful (1:4), eternal misery awaits those who spurn the Lord’s overtures of grace and love.

Please read 1 Peter 2:9-12 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 2:1-3

Friday, September 01, 2017

“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Since Christians are born again when they obey the Gospel, God expects us to arise from the grave of baptism to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). Peter urges us to leave the old, dead person of sin behind—to strip the old, sinful way of life off like a dirty shirt and fling it far away from us (verse 1). This can be a very difficult challenge for people who have lived their whole adult lives steeped in the ways of the world, and especially if their futile way of life was inherited from their predecessors (1 Peter 1:18). But if we are going to “fervently love one another from the heart” that is pure (1 Peter 1:22), we must cast aside those things that only incite disharmony within the body of Christ. 

Our disposition must be free from the presence of “malice”. Malice is a “vicious character” of heart that, for no good reason, only wishes misfortune upon other people. Like our Savior, there should be no “deceit” or “deceptive treachery” found in our mouths (1 Peter 2:22). We must not be hypocrites who serve others with ulterior motives or who only make a pretense of holiness. We should not “envy” other people for what they have, but love them for who they are. And we must be careful to not verbally abuse others with a slanderous tongue and a hateful heart, but rather build them up and encourage them.

So how do we cast off the old, malicious, sinful self and “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10)? In a word: EFFORT! By spending much time in prayer. By spending much time in worship and fellowship with brethren. And by spending much time in “the word” (verse 2). People who have experienced a rebirth in Christ must develop a strong craving for “the pure milk of the word, so that by it” they “may grow.” This is especially true for babes in Christ and also important for Christians of every level of spiritual development. But if we “have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (verse 3), it should be easy to heighten our spiritual appetites for an even closer and stronger life in Him. 

Please read 1 Peter 2:4-8 for tomorrow.

Happy first day of September!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 1:22-25

Thursday, August 31, 2017

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word which was preached to you.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Peter carried his brethren back in time to the memory of when they “purified” their “souls” by obeying the Gospel and were spiritually “born again,” to encourage them to “love one another from the heart” (verses 22-23). Their “obedience to the truth” entailed believing the Gospel, turning from the sins that separated them from God, and being baptized in order to have those sins forgiven. It was the Apostle Peter himself that commanded the penitent believers in Jerusalem on that Pentecost day so many centuries ago to “repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The same obedience that was required of the first converts to Christ is necessary for all who desire the new spiritual beginning.

Peter reminds all of us that the spiritual rebirth we experienced at our conversion to Christ was into something much larger than our own, individual salvation. Our purification by obedience to “the word of the Lord” that “endures forever” (verse 25) should prompt us to love our brethren “fervently from the heart” in all sincerity. It was Christ’s love for all people that prompted Him to die for the sins of the world and establish His church. Because of Christ’s love for us we should have abiding love for all people, and especially our brethren who have been born again into the same spiritual family. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When we were born into this world we were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), but it was from a seed that “withers” and perishes. The inspired word of God is “living and enduring” and “imperishable” (verse 23). It is spiritual seed that “endures forever” (verses 25). When we are born again by obedient faith in Christ through the word, we will endure forever as well.

Please read 1 Peter 2:1-3 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 1:17-21

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

While it is very comforting for suffering Christians to know that God is a loving Father, we must also understand that God is the all-powerful Judge. It is not healthy or wise for us to develop a lopsided picture of the Creator of the Universe. Our “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but He is also “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). God loves all the people in the world so very much that He formulated a plan of salvation, He sent Jesus to shed His “precious blood” (verse 18) to provide the forgiving power behind that plan, and revealed His plan to everyone through the pages of the New Testament. But His perfect justice and holiness demands that sinfulness cannot go unpunished. If we refuse to follow the plan by living faithfully to Christ who “redeemed” us by taking the punishment we deserve, we will face eternal punishment come Judgment Day.

God “impartially judges according to each one’s work” (verse 17). Another lopsided view in the religious world is that we are saved by God’s grace alone and that no amount of human effort will have any effect at all upon salvation. But the inspired apostles tell us clearly that people will be judged by their righteous and sinful deeds. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” We are saved by God’s amazing grace through our obedient faith (Ephesians 2:8) and there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. That being said, there are still works of obedience that we must perform in order to be right in God’s sight (Hebrews 5:8-9).

And that is really the main thrust of Peter’s message for us today. In light of the fact that God is an impartial Judge, we should be motivated to live righteous lives in all holy “conduct”. “Conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your” brief “stay on earth” (verse 17). Jesus says some interesting things about fearing God in Matthew chapter 10. He tells us to “fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell” (verse 28). But then He tells us in verse 31, “Do not fear.” If we have a healthy fear (reverence) that prompts us to faithfully serve our Father and Judge, then we have nothing at all to fear (be afraid of) in anticipation of Judgment. 

Please read 1 Peter 1:22-25 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 1:13-16

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

Of all people, God’s children are the most privileged and blessed. We have “been born again to a living hope” (verse 3); we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven that will not perish or fade away (verse 4); and God promises us His providence and protection while living here on earth (verse 5). But with tremendous blessings comes great responsibility. The life of a faithful child of God is not one of leisure and luxury but one of preparation and “action”. We have been called by God to live lives of effort, obedience and holiness. 

The imagery of verse 13 is lost in the NASB phrase, “prepare your minds for action.” The KJV more accurately says “gird up the loins of your mind.” Ancient peoples in arid climates of the East wore loose, flowing garments for comfort and protection from the wind and heat. But when it was time for work or rapid movement, those garments needed to be “girded up,” or wrapped tightly around the body. Christianity is a call to action. We must be ever prepared to flee from sin and fly to the aid of a needy or ailing brother. We must prepare our minds in advance for the spiritual battles that are waged against us and for every holy exploit that the Lord calls us to undertake. 

One of the reasons that we stumble so often and become discouraged so easily is that we do not “fix” our “hope completely on the grace” that Christ will bring us at His revelation. When Christ returns He will transform our weak and feeble frames into the likeness of His perfect, glorified body (Philippians 3:21), and we will share in His glory for all eternity (verse 7). If we can learn to keep single-minded focus on our eternal inheritance, we will be less likely to revert to “to the former lusts which were” ours in our “ignorance” (verse 14). When people sin out of ignorance, it is not excusable but it is at least understandable. But when those of us who know better continue to fall into the same old traps of the flesh, it’s just indefensible. 

More preparation! More focus! More discipline! More maturity!

Please read 1 Peter 1:17-21 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 1:10-12

Monday, August 28, 2017

“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”

---End of Scripture verses---

What a tremendous blessing it is to be living in “the last days” when God speaks to His people “through His Son” Jesus in the pages of the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2). A critical component of proof that the Gospel is completely trustworthy is that salvation through Jesus and His church is the fulfilment of numerous prophecies made by the prophets of old. But, we who live on this side of the cross can understand the meaning of those prophecies in much greater detail than any of the Old Testament prophets who actually “predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (verse 11). In fact, if we so desire we can have a greater grasp on God’s plan of salvation than even the angels of heaven who “long to look” into it (verse 12).

We do our spiritual health a great disservice and we deprive ourselves of a wealth of spiritual blessings when we neglect to delve frequently into the treasure trove that is the Bible. Through the pages of the Holy Writ, God “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” and “has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4). The word of God is “able to save” our “souls” (James 1:21), illuminate our paths (Psalm 119:105), and revive our spirits when we falter and fall (Psalm 119:25). “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

“These things which now have been announced to you through those who preach the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” are just too crucial and wonderful and beneficial to live without. And there is no good reason to “neglect so great a salvation” as this (Hebrews 2:3). God sent and sacrificed His Son and revealed His inspired message of truth, hope and salvation. The rest is up to us!

Please read 1 Peter 1:13-16 for tomorrow. And a whole lot more than that!

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 1:6-9

Sunday, August 27, 2017

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

---End of Scripture verses---

We have every reason to “greatly rejoice” (verse 6) because we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” and He promises us “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (verses 3-4). And even though we are “protected by the power of God” (verse 5), He still allows us to be “distressed by various trial” in order to prove our faith. Earthly trials and ordeals are the crucible through which our Creator burns off the slag of sin, shapes us into useful instruments for His purposes and tempers our faith to withstand future challenges. This is especially true with we are persecuted because of our faith in Christ. 

Our faith is “more precious than gold which is perishable” (verse 7). We should cling to our trust in Christ no matter what may befall us because of the treasure in heaven that He has waiting for us at the end of our earthly pilgrimage. You just can’t put a price tag on the kind of unwavering, undaunted conviction that loves Jesus and sees Him clearly with the eyes of faith through all of life’s pain, obstacles, distractions and temptations. The resurrected Jesus told Thomas after he touched His hand and side and believed, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29). This is the kind of faith that provides the greatest of all rewards. “The outcome of” obedient faith in Christ is “the salvation of your souls” (verse 9).

Please read 1 Peter 1:10-13 for tomorrow. Have a blessed Lord's day!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 1:3-5

Saturday, August 26, 2017

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

---End of Scripture verses---

I cannot think of a more encouraging passage in all the Bible or imagine a greater motivation to become a Christian and remain faithful to the Lord unto death. Through the exceedingly “great mercy” of our “God and Father” He has “caused us to be born again” (verse 3). When each of us was born into this world, our families were filled with wonder, excitement and hope at the prospects of the joy we would bring to them and the potential prosperity we would enjoy in our lives. But, alas, time goes swiftly by and that hope begins to “fade away” as gravity and age damage and “defile” our bodies and we draw closer to our expiration date when we perish.

But friend, the hope that we have in “our Lord Jesus Christ” cannot be tarnished by the passing of time, it cannot be diminished by the unpredictable and uncontrollable circumstances of life, and it only grows greater as we approach the hour of our departure from this world of pain and suffering. God has promised an “inheritance” “in heaven” to His children that is “imperishable and undefiled and” that “will not fade away (verse 4). 

In this world, people receive inheritances when their parents or guardians die and leave their worldly estate behind for them to enjoy for a few, fleeting years. But the children of God receive their abundant, magnificent, eternal inheritance when THEY die and are carried home to heaven to dwell forever with their loving Father. In fact, as the Psalmist puts it in Psalm 16:5-6, the Lord himself is their glorious inheritance. “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

I know that none of us wants to miss out on all the wonders and splendors of heaven, and that all the money in this world would not be a fair tradeoff. But there are things that we must do to become inheritors of God’s immeasurable and inexhaustible fortune. We must be “born again” in order to obtain the “living hope” that carries on past the earthly grave. Jesus told a Pharisee named Nicodemus that people must be “born of water and the Spirit” or they “cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The Apostle Paul talks about the “newness of life” that is given to converts when they are “baptized into Christ” and “into His death” and arise to walk as newly born persons with a new mentality and new objectives (Romans 6:1-6). 

After our sins have been “washed away” in the waters of baptism (Acts 22:16), we must remain faithful unto the Lord to the end of our lives (Revelation 2:10). Christians are “protected by the power of God THROUGH FAITH for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (verse 5). Our Father in heaven promises to protect us, provide for us and propel us to heaven by His unlimited “power”. But faith is our part of the covenant. We must love and trust and obey Him, even when He allows our faith to be tested and proven. But, as you can see in this remarkable passage (and will see in tomorrow’s as well), anything that we are forced to endure for our faith will be more than worth it in the end! 

Please read 1 Peter 1:6-9 for tomorrow.

Stay faithful!!!

-Louie Taylor

First Peter 1:1-2

Friday, August 25, 2017

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

---End of Scripture verses---

It is true of all people, but in a special sense of Christians, that we are “aliens” in this world (verse 1). None of us has been here for very long and we won’t reside upon this earth for an extended period of time. Most people realize that life on earth is just a short visit, but either do not recognize or do not care that the way they choose to live their lives has an impact on their eternity. God’s children must combine that awareness with the appropriate manner of living. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:11-12)

The Lord’s people are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God” (Verses 1-2). This does not mean that God predetermined beforehand those who would be saved and those who would be lost. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16), and God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). The idea of “chosen” has its roots in Old Testament Judaism with reference to Israel as God’s “chosen people” (Deuteronomy 7:6). The church is God’s chosen people but He does not individually preselect who will be a part of it. 

Notice that we are not passive in God’s choosing of us. He has chosen us to “obey Jesus Christ” who is the author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9), and to allow the Holy Spirit to perform His “sanctifying work” on us through faith in His inspired word. “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

By the Father’s foreknowledge and choosing, by the Spirit’s sanctifying work and by the “sprinkled” blood of Jesus, we can have God’s grace and know His peace “in the fullest measure”. Peter calls attention to the coequal triad of divinity in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and how they work in perfect unison and harmony to secure salvation for the faithfully obedient. We can fully trust the words of an apostle who walked daily with the Savior, heard the Father’s utterance from the holy mountain (2 Peter 1:18), and was inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21) when He reveals to us the nature of the One God of heaven eternally existing in three Persons. 

Please read 1 Peter 1:3-5 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

Introduction To First Peter

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Macintosh HD:Users:breesern:Downloads:20994025_1559757597409391_8225321794960233313_n.jpgThe Apostle Peter wrote this epistle to Christians who were “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). These were large Roman provinces that represent most of the modern day nation of Turkey. There had obviously been churches established in these regions and it is possible that Peter played a significant role in the formation of at least some of them. 

Peter wrote this letter to encourage Christians who were being ridiculed and persecuted because of their faith in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 1:6-9; 3:13-17; 4:12-19; 5:9-10). He reminded them that their trials should come as no surprise since Jesus himself suffered for righteousness’ sake and they were following in His footsteps. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)

Peter really hones in on the certainty of the Lord’s Second Coming and the eternal glorification of His faithful servants as the major motivation for them to remain faithful under intense persecution (1 Peter 1:5, 7, 13: 2:12; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 10). He wrote in chapter 4 verse 7 that “the end of all things is near.” The author was not predicting that Jesus would come back during the lifetime of the people he wrote to, but it was a genuine possibility that He could have. All Christians of all eras of time should be prepared for the coming of Christ as if it could occur at any moment. Since we know not the hour or the day which our Lord shall return, the best thing we can do is be ready (Matthew 25:13).

The apostle stresses the importance of Christians living lives of holiness and righteousness while waiting and preparing for the Lord to come and take them home. Peter warned his first century brethren and us to not return evil for evil when non-believers mistreat, even though it is a temptation to do so. “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). We must strive to be holy as the Lord is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) if we hope to attain the sanctification that produces salvation and influence others to do the same.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)

Please read 1 Peter 1:1-2 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 28:11-31

Friday, February 26, 2016

“After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: ‘Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.’ Then they said to him, ‘We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.’ So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, “Go to this people and say: ‘Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’” ‘Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!’ And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”

---End of Scripture verses---

“At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead” (verse 11). Alexandria was the second largest city in Egypt. The twin brothers were Castor and Pollux, the sons of the Roman god Jupiter (Greek god Zeus). According to mythology, the two brothers were translated to heaven where they reside as guardians over sailors in the form of the constellation Gemini. It was customary to have images of the brothers both on the stem and stern of a ship.

The ship landed successively at Syracuse, Rhegium and Puteoli (verse 12). Syracuse was the capital of Sicily, one of most famous cities of antiquity and the birthplace of Archimedes, the famous Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Rhegium was a seaport on the coast of southern Italy. The town enjoyed great prosperity until it was captured and destroyed by Dionysius of Syracuse in 387 BC. Puteoli (sulfur springs) was an important port city in the Bay of Naples and it was the closest harbor to the city of Rome.

In Puteoli Paul and his companions found some brethren in Christ who took them into their homes for a week. God’s spiritual family should always look out for one another and take care of each other, no matter how far apart they live from each other and regardless if they have actually physically met before. We can learn a valuable lesson from these unnamed faithful Christians. Names and faces should be of no consequence in the kingdom of Christ. Only the name of Christ etched on the heart and Spirit’s seal stamped upon the soul.

When the local brethren heard that Paul and his group had arrived in the city of Rome, they came to visit from as far away as the Market of Appius and the Three Inns. The Market of Appius was a town 40 miles southeast of Rome located on the Appian Way, a commerce road that stretched from the Bay of Naples to the capital city. Three Inns was a village about 10 miles closer to Rome situated on the same road. Both towns were stopping places on the Appian Way with inns that offered lodging to traders and travelers.

When Paul was in Rome, “He stayed 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” (verses 30-31). Isn’t it very encouraging to know that our awesome God is always in control? It may have seemed that the harassment from the hard-hearted Jews led to Paul’s arrest and containment and that he had been brought to Rome to stand trial as a criminal. But God used all of the difficult circumstances of Paul’s life to bring him to Rome so he could preach Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God with ease and openness to the people in that city. This was another preaching trip and God was with Paul every inch of the way as He promised He would be. The truth was taught. Souls were saved. Our God is good.

This was the end of the road for the book of Acts, but it wasn’t the finale for the Apostle Paul. Luke records no more of his exploits in his service to the Lord, but we learn from Paul’s later epistles some things that transpired in his life. In Paul’s further traveling and teaching, at some point he had left Trophimus in the city of Miletus because he had become ill (2 Timothy 4:20). There are other statements that indicate that Paul traveled to other places as well, but he ultimately ended up back in Roman prison near the end of his life (2 Timothy 1:8, 16-17; 2:9; 4:6-8).

Paul wrote his second and final letter to Timothy from a prison cell in Rome. His latter accommodations were obviously much less hospitable then his first two-year stay there in the city. Paul wrote in 2 Tim 4:6-8 – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Paul knew his physical life was about to end, but he was equally convinced that better things awaited him in eternity because he faithfully served the God of heaven until he drew his last breath on earth. Secular history suggests that Paul was beheaded under the persecution of Emperor Nero in 67 or 68 AD. I can’t wait to meet him on the other side!

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Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 28:1-10

Thursday, February 25, 2016

“When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, ‘Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. They also honored us with many [marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed.”

---End of Scripture verses---

All the ship's passengers landed safely, as God had promised they would (Acts 27:22-23), on the island of Malta after their ship was destroyed. Malta, also known as Melita, is located 175 miles south of the mainland of Italy and 425 miles from the city of Rome. It was probably an early Phoenician colony and it served as an important naval station having excellent harbors. It produced cotton, fine fruits and fine honey (melitos), from whence it acquired its name.

The King James Version called the natives of the island “barbarous” (verse 2). This was not an indication that they were uncivilized but that their language was unintelligible to the Romans and the Greeks. These people were very hospitable to Paul; it was his own countrymen that behaved as barbarians toward him. Luke wrote of the kindness of the local natives in verse 2: “Because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all.” Paul, being his usual industrious self, grabbed some sticks and joined in the fire-building (verse 3).

When a poisonous snake slithered out of the firewood and latched on to Paul’s hand, the Maltese people saw this as an indication that justice was being served (verse 4). They just knew that this was karma and that, although Paul had escaped the perils of the stormy seas, the Fates would not allow him to elude death. Of course, when Paul shook the critter off showing no signs of ill effects, they then deduced that he must be a god (verse 6).

Isn’t it something how people continuously misjudge things and jump from one conclusion to another? This is a part of “human nature” that hasn’t changed much over the millennia. Please be careful about trying to read “signs” into all the mishaps and misfortunes that we experience in our lives or witness occurring in the world around us. Sometimes stuff just happens (Ecclesiastes 9:1; Luke 13:1-5). Just because a viper bit Paul on the hand, that didn’t mean he was a bad person. And when he walked away unscathed, that didn’t mean he was a god either. It did indicate that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ though, and this miracle was designed to confirm the Gospel which he was preaching (Mark 16:18).

Mark 16:15-18 – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Tomorrow it's on to Rome! Please read the rest of Acts 28 (verses 11-31).

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Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 27:21-44

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

“When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, ‘Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.” Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.’ But when the fourteenth night came, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. They took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, ‘Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it fall away. Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.’ Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea. When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape; but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.”

---End of Scripture verses---

When the crew realized for certain that they had made a huge mistake and that their lives were hanging by a thread, Paul told them, “You ought to have followed my advice…” (verse 21). I think all of us parents can sympathize with this situation. How many times have we told our kids, “You should have listened”? How many times could pain and heartache have been avoided if only our children would have obeyed our commands or taken our advice? 

Well, the situation is exactly the same between us and our heavenly Father. If we would only choose to listen to His word and obey His commandments we would incur much less hardship in our lives. That’s the case with the captain and these men on the ship with Paul. When they ignored Paul’s advice they were actually disobeying the commandment of God. When we do that we always invite unnecessary storms into our lives and shipwreck is always a possibility. Just count on it.

But there was still hope to cling to. All was not lost. Paul told the men twice soon afterward to “keep your courage” (verses 22 and 25). Everything was going to end well as long as they chose to listen to the words of the apostle (God’s words) from that point forward. Just as is the case with us, they wouldn’t be able to avoid and reverse all the consequences that came from their bad decisions. But, they could avoid future damage if they presently chose to start making good choices. Paul told them that they would escape with their lives if they would only obey (verse 22).

Friend, as long as you are still drawing breath, it is never too late to make the good decision to follow God and obey His commandments. No matter how sinfully you have lived your life, God still wants you with Him. You may not be able to undo all the damage that you’ve done to your life or erase all the scars from the self-inflicted wounds, but the moment you turn from your sins and to the Lord, the healing begins. Most importantly, when you obey the Gospel; when you put the Lord on in baptism (Galatians 3:27); when you bury the old sinful person and arise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-9), your immortal soul will be made spotless and whole. You will escape with your life—your eternal life. Heaven will be your home. Later is so much better than never.

Verses 31-32 – “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “‘Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it fall away.” I love this statement because I see it as a metaphor for life. Friend, there is a tempest swirling outside of Christ, and the only safe place to be is in His church where all spiritual blessing reside (Ephesians 1:3; 3:20-21).

Christ’s church is the ship. Get in the ship. Stay in the ship. Cut away the ropes of any vessel that could lead you away from the safety of the ship. Sever yourself from evil companions and wicked influences (1 Corinthians 15:33). Pull the plug on the TV or radio or computer if any of these things tend to drag you back into the roiling seas of sin. Climb into the ship and make the determination stay there for the rest of your earthly life. There is nothing out there in the sea of sin that is any good for you.

Verse 44 – “And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.” Because they listened to and obeyed the commandments of the God. Follow His word. Obey His commands. Trust Him with all your heart. Get into the ship and stay there and one day you will arrive safely on dry land. You will make it home to heaven. When all is said and done and life on earth is over, that is all that really matters.

Please read Acts 28:1-10 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 27:1-20

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care. From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary. When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea. When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, ‘Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’ But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there. When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore. But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along. Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along. The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.”

---End of Scripture verses---

After Agrippa had heard Paul’s case, it was decided that Paul should go to Italy and appear before Caesar to whom he had appealed. As Paul made his way to stand before Caesar Augustus, fittingly enough, his escort was a Roman centurion named Julius who was of the “Augustan Band” or “Cohort” (verse 1). They boarded a ship from Adramyttium, a town in Mysia of Asia Minor (verse 2). Paul was accompanied on his journey by his friend Aristarchus along with other companions (verse 3). It was Aristarchus who was dragged into the theater in Ephesus, along with Gaius, by an angry mob of Diana worshippers (Acts 19:29).

The ship embarked from Caesarea and landed about 70 miles north in Sidon (verse 3). What a blessing it must have been for Paul to be afforded the companionship and help of his friends while he was on this voyage, just as Felix had done for him in Caesarea (Acts 24:23). We must remember that Paul was a prisoner among many other prisoners that were being escorted to Rome by armed soldiers (verse 42). And yet the Lord smiled down upon Paul and granted him favor in the eyes of his captors. I am reminded of the way that the Lord always granted grace and prosperity to Joseph and opened doors for him during all of the abuse that he suffered at the hands of wicked people.

When the crew changed ships at Myra, they ran into considerable trouble from contrary winds and inclement weather (verses 5-7). They sailed along slowly for several days and at Cnidus the winds were so rough they had to change courses (verse 7). They were forced to sail to the south of Crete, very close to the shoreline, to ease the onslaught of the wind. They sailed past Salmone, a haven of Crete, with great difficulty and came to Fair Havens (the most southerly port of the island), which was a safe harbor that naturally sheltered ships from strong winds.

Paul tried to convince them to stay put at Fair Havens where they were protected because considerable time had already been spent there and it was late in the safe travelling season. The fast that Paul spoke of (verse 9) was likely the great Day of Atonement celebrated on 10th day of the 7th month (the end of our September). This coincided with the autumnal equinox, when the Mediterranean Sea turned tempestuous. To sail after this feast was considered a proverbially dangerous thing to do among the ancient Jews.

Paul warned all the captain and crew that if they refused to heed his advice, they would suffer loss of cargo, ship and human life (verse 10). But—“Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there” (verse 12). They promptly ignored the warning of an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ and set out on a fool’s mission. Paul would soon be able to say “I told you so” (verse 21).

When they ran into “Euraquilo” or “Euroclydon,” they essentially sailed into the heart of a Northeaster! This was a very violent storm that was much too forceful to try and navigate through, so they had to give way to it and let it take them wherever it would (verse 15). They were forced to jettison their cargo and all the ships tackle and after a few days they had pretty much abandoned all hope of survival (verse 18-20). Friends, sometimes when you’re running against God, when you’re “running against the wind,” you just get overwhelmed and carried away by it and place your life in the midst of peril.

I guess the main lesson from today’s reading is that what the “majority” says is not always the best thing to do (verse 12). We might often be tempted to go along with the crowd because “everyone else is doing it.” It is never a good idea to do something just because the “majority” says it’s okay to. As a matter of fact, that’s usually a good indication to do just the opposite. Don’t stop and take a poll among your peers when you want to know what God’s will is. Turn to His word. Read what an inspired apostle has to say about a subject. Let the Bible be your guide and the moral compass for you spiritual journey. God has already decided what is right and wrong and we need to turn to Him to determine the best course of action.

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Please read Acts 27:21-44 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 26:19-32

Monday, February 22, 2016

“‘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 and then 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.’ While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.’ But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.’ Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’ And Paul said, ‘I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.’ The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, and when they had gone aside, they began talking to one another, saying, ‘This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment.’ And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

After Paul had been blinded by the light of the truth of Jesus Christ, he turned the course of his life completely in the opposite direction. He chose to obey the commands of Jesus (verse 19) and he went about teaching everyone he met to, “repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (verse 20).

Repentance is an often misunderstood biblical concept and command from God. I believe that most people are convinced that if they truly believe in Jesus and accept Him as their Savior that they will be eternally saved from their sins. Some people who even admit that baptism is necessary for salvation (which it most definitely is), still come short of understanding that more is involved in true conversion than even belief and immersion. Paul shows us in verse 20 that God commands authentic, profound change to take place in the heart of a believer. That’s where repentance comes into play in God’s plan of salvation.

Repentance is a mental process and any genuine conversion requires a person’s mind to be affected by the Gospel’s power to convict of wrongdoing (Acts 2:37; Hebrews 4:12). The Greek word for repent is “metanoeo” and Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words defines the word “repent” in the following way: “To perceive afterwards (meta, ‘after,’ implying ‘change,’ noeo, ‘to perceive;’ nous, ‘the mind, the seat of moral reflection’), in contrast to pronoeo, ‘to perceive beforehand,’ hence signifies ‘to change one's mind or purpose,’ always, in the NT, involving a change for the better, an amendment, and always, except in Luke 17:3-Luke 17:4, of ‘repentance from sin.’”

A person can believe in Jesus with all their heart, but unless the word of God has “pierced their heart” (Acts 2:37), or convicted their minds of the problem of sin, they will never do what is necessary to be and stay saved. Once that “seed of change” has been internally planted, it must produce external fruit (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8). Once the mind is changed about sin, that’s when the “deeds appropriate to repentance” must take place. Belief and mental conviction get our minds going in the right direction, but our actions must follow suit.

I believe the reason that King Agrippa was only “almost persuaded” to become a Christian (verse 28) was that he wasn’t ready to make the changes necessary to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. I will give him credit for his honesty. He believed in Jesus and he knew that belief was not enough for him to become a Christian. He was even convicted mentally that things were not right in his life, but he knew that internal conviction wasn’t enough to make him right in the sight of God either. He knew, because Paul had told him clearly, that he had to change his mind about sin and perform deeds appropriate to repentance, and he was just not ready to do that. He was a person of great power, prestige and prosperity, and I’m certain that he liked his life very much just the way that it was.

Change can be very hard. Most people don’t like it very much. But if you truly want to be a Christian and please God and have a home in heaven, you simply must think and act differently than you did before you found about Jesus. Making godly changes in your life is not always easy, but it is always worth it when you consider just how much is at stake and for how long. Repentance and the righteous deeds that follow are critical and ongoing components necessary for salvation of the soul.

Read the words of the haunting old church hymn, “Almost
Persuaded”:
1 “Almost persuaded,” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded,” Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
“Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day
On Thee I’ll call.”

2 “Almost persuaded,” come, come today;
“Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
Jesus invites you here,
Angels are ling’ring near,
Prayers rise from hearts so dear,
O wand’rer, come.

3 “Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail;
“Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail,
“Almost,” but lost.

Please read Acts 27:1-20 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 26:1-18

Sunday, February 21, 2016

“Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You are permitted to speak for yourself.’ Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: ‘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; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. 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 God night 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 the Jewish 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.”’”

---End of Scripture verses---

To stand before King Agrippa and make his case was kind of a blessing for Paul. Agrippa was a Jew and he had passed much of his time in the kingdom over which he presided. Unlike Governor Festus, he was someone who understood the things about which Paul had been accused of. Festus also wanted Agrippa to hear this case from Paul’s own mouth because of his ignorance about the animosity that existed between Paul and his accusers. This left him frustrated, not knowing what to write to Caesar in regards to the prisoner he was about to send him (Acts 25:25-26).

Paul told Agrippa that he was standing trial for “the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers” (verse 6). This is the great irony of this whole twisted situation. Everything that Paul had been preaching about and had dedicated his life to, and that the Jews were resisting with such violent ferocity, was the fulfillment of the promises that God had made to His people through the Law and the Prophets. Paul was only telling them about how God had sent His Son Jesus, the promised Messiah, into the world to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). God’s rebellious children were intensely determined to “kick against the goads” (verse 14). They were like stubborn oxen kicking in defiance against their Master’s commands, and only bringing injury upon themselves.

“Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?” (verse 8) The fact that God had raised from the dead the Christ that they had crucified would have come as no great shock to them had they truly understood the power of the God they thought they were serving and the Scriptures they thought they were defending. King David had prophesied about the resurrection of the Anointed in Psalm 16 when he wrote, “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:10-11). There are ample other Old Testament verses that tell of the promise of the hope of resurrected life after death for God’s people as well (Psalm 23:6; 49:15; 2 Samuel 12:23; Daniel 12:13).

As we have been reading over the past several weeks, the Lord had rescued Paul time and time again from the hands of wicked people as he went about preaching salvation through Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles (verse 17). Jesus had sent Paul out even to people who wanted to kill him, with the desire “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” (verse 18). Please notice the dichotomy here friends. Either you are walking in the light or in the darkness. You are either dwelling in the dominion of God or of Satan. There is no riding the fence. There is no “in-between point.” You are either saved or lost, with God or against Him, heaven-bound or on the highway to hell.

Please make the mental determination today to “go all in” with the Lord.

Give your life to Jesus. Humbly submit to his will and obey His every command.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Please read Acts 26:19-32 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 25:13-27

Saturday, February 20, 2016

“Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. While they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, ‘There is a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix; and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges. So after they had assembled here, I did not delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought before me. When the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate such matters, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these matters. But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.’ Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I also would like to hear the man myself.’ ‘Tomorrow,’ he said, ‘you shall hear him.’ So, on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice amid great pomp, and entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. Festus said, ‘King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you see this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write. For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

“Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus” (verse 13). Adam Clarke wrote the following about King Agrippa in his commentary on the book of Acts: “This was the son of Herod Agrippa who is mentioned Acts 12:1… This king was strongly attached to the Romans, and did everything in his power to prevent the Jews from rebelling against them; and, when he could not prevail, he united his troops to those of Titus, and assisted in the siege of Jerusalem…Bernice was sister of this Agrippa, and of the Drusilla mentioned Acts 24:24. She was at first married to her uncle Herod (Herod Agrippa’s youngest brother and the former king) and, on his death, went to live with her brother Agrippa, with whom she was violently suspected to lead an incestuous life.”

When Festus told Agrippa about Paul and the peculiar details of his case, he said that the apostle’s accusers, “simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive” (verse 19). You know, I can understand why Festus would view with absurdity the idea that someone would follow a dead guy that they claimed to be alive. Paul wrote about the idea of a crucified Savior as being foolishness to most of the people of the world (1 Corinthians 1:23). Unfortunately, a lot of people who even claim to believe in and follow Jesus treat Him like He died nearly 2,000 years ago and just stayed dead. I think that if more people truly believed that the Lord is alive today and is watching and judging all the things that they think, do and say, they would be living their lives a whole lot differently than they do.

“Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness’” (2 Timothy 2:19).

Christian remember who you are today!

Please read Acts 26:1-18 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 25:1-12

Friday, February 19, 2016

“Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.’ After he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, while Paul said in his own defense, ‘I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’ But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?’ But Paul said, ‘I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.’ Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

The passing of time had not eroded the hatred that “the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews” harbored for Paul. Even after two long years of being in custody and out of their hair, they were as determined as ever to “ambush” and kill the apostle (verse 3). These “guardians” of the oracles of God obviously had little regard for what is written in Leviticus 19:18—“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” Only a dark and hardened heart bears a grudge for years at a time and seeks its vengeance at any opportunity. With the changing of the guard, from Felix to Festus, the Jewish leaders saw their next opportune time to exact their revenge.

Governor Festus appears to have been a more noble-minded person than his predecessor, but he was still a consummate politician. He wanted “to do the Jews a favor”, no doubt to obligate them for future favors, by asking Paul if he would willingly stand trial before him in Jerusalem (verse 9). That’s about like asking a little lamb if he would like to take a stroll through a den of wolves. Since Paul knew he would not only have no chance for a fair trial, but also that his life would be in great jeopardy, he promptly appealed to Caesar (verse 11).

Adam Clarke wrote the following on this subject: “A freeman of Rome, who had been tried for a crime, and sentence passed on him, had a right to appeal to the emperor, if he conceived the sentence to be unjust; but, even before the sentence was pronounced, he had the privilege of an appeal, in criminal cases, if he conceived that the judge was doing anything contrary to the laws.” (from Adam Clarke's Commentary)

Question: Did Paul not trust in Christ’s promise of protection when he took these matters into his own hands? I don’t think that is the case at all. God has given us a brain to reason with just as surely as he has given us a heart to believe with. Paul took advantage of his legal privileges and rights as a Roman citizen in good standing, which is a perfectly logical and legitimate thing to do, even for a Christian who is held accountable to a much higher authority. Our faith in God and His power to protect us does not override our obligation to be reasonable, careful, responsible people.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).

Please read Acts 25:13-27 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 24:10-27

Thursday, February 18, 2016

“When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense, since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men. Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings; in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar. But there were some Jews from Asia—who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council, other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, “For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.”’ But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.’ Then he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him. But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.’ At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.”

---End of Scripture verses---

I love the depiction of the Lord’s church as being “The Way” (verses 14 & 22). As Paul made his defense before Governor Felix, he readily admitted that he served God “according to the Way which they call a sect.” The church of Christ is not just another one of the many religious sects in the world. Through it alone is The one and only Way to worship and serve and please God (Ephesians 3:20-21). Just as Jesus called himself The Way (and the Truth and the Life), and that no one can come to God the Father but through Him (John 14:6); it only stands to reason that people can only access the Father in heaven through the church that Jesus died for and purchased with His own precious blood. There is only one church that Jesus died for and claimed to be His very own (Matthew 16:18).

After Tertullus, the lawyer hired by the Jewish council, made his groveling, exaggerated appeal; the Apostle Paul presented his own defense to Felix in a polite, factual and straight-forward manner. When Paul finished speaking, the governor “put them off” and deferred the trial until the commander who had “rescued” Paul and delivered him to Caesarea should arrive (verse 22). It is apparent that Claudius Lysias never made an appearance because Felix kept Paul in custody for two full years. The text says he did so as a “favor to the Jews” (verse 27), but Felix obviously had selfish motives for doing so as well, often visiting Paul and hoping to receive a bribe from him (verse 26). Even though Paul had been wrongly accused and imprisoned, he had pleasant accommodations and access to the company and assistance of his friends (verse 23). The Lord was still taking care of him and opening doors for him to preach the Gospel to the lost.

After “some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife” and Paul had a private audience with them (verse 24). As the apostle was “discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened” (verse 25). When you learn about the character of Antonius Felix, you quickly understand why he would “shudder” when hearing about God’s Eternal Judgment upon unrighteous sinners who refuse to control their fleshly urges and impulses. Smith’s Bible Dictionary says of the man that, “He ruled the province in a mean, cruel and profligate manner. His period of office was full of troubles and seditions.” The ATS Bible Dictionary adds, “He is described by the historian Tacitus as cruel, licentious, and base. In Judea he married Drusilla, sister of the younger Agrippa, having enticed her from her second husband Azizus.”

Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa, the ruler who executed the Apostle James and was soon after struck down by God for his pomp and vanity (Acts 12:1-2; 20-23). Josephus wrote the following about her in Jewish Antiquities: “While Felix was procurator of Judea, he saw this Drusilla, and fell in love with her; for she did indeed exceed all other women in beauty; and he sent to her a person whose name was Simon, a Jewish friend of his, by birth a Cypriot, who pretended to be a magician. Simon endeavored to persuade her to forsake her present husband, and marry Felix; and promised, that if she would not refuse Felix, he would make her a happy woman. Accordingly she acted unwisely and, because she longed to avoid her sister Berenice's envy…was prevailed upon to transgress the laws of her forefathers, and to marry Felix.”

Felix and Drusilla were a very privileged couple who denied themselves no indulgence of the flesh that caught their fancy, and their lives are condemnable. But if we are not careful, we might be led to believe that God is only targeting the extremely sinful and perverse people of the world with his appeal to the pursuance of righteousness and self-control in light of Eternal Judgment. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us clearly that, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

No one will escape Final Judgment, and there is no hope of heaven for any of us unless we have Jesus as our Advocate. If we want to be acquitted of all wrong-doing on that day, we must be certain that our sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ and that we live a life of obedient faith in Him. Let’s make sure that we have given our lives to Christ, and then let’s focus on being the kind of righteous people that God wants us to be. “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). 

Please read Acts 25:1-12 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 24:1-9

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

“After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul. After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor, ‘Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing. For we have found this man 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. And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. We wanted to judge him according to our own Law. But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him.’ The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.”

---End of Scripture verses---

After Paul had been handed over to the governing authorities, the Jewish leaders were finally forced to play be a system of legal rules. They had no recourse at this point to incite “mob justice” or assist in a conspiracy to have Paul murdered, so they hired a Roman “advocate” or “attorney”. Since they were compelled to bring charges against Paul in a Roman court of law, they wanted someone who had intimate familiarity with the system and a lawyer who knew all the tricks of his trade. We can see that the smooth talking flatterer, Tertullus, was an excellent choice for the job, even though their attempt to influence Felix through this slick-tongued “orator” backfired on them, as we will see in tomorrow’s reading.

After Tertullus slathered the governor with smarmy praise for all the wonderful things that he had done for the “nation” (verse 20), he then turned his attention to bringing formal (false) charges against the defendant. He started by making the general (true) accusation that Paul was “a real pest” (verse 5). This is kind of a comical thing to say in my mind, but I think it is safe to say that Paul was a very troublesome bee in the bonnet of the Jewish religious leaders. I can almost hear the exasperation in the high priest’s voice when he briefed his counsel on all the trouble that Paul had caused to his nation over the years.

More than anything else though, I believe this really speaks largely to Paul’s tenacity and his gritty determination to keep teaching people the truth no matter what the consequences might be. Sometimes you just have to pester people in order to break down the walls that hinder the penetration of the Gospel Truth. Being a pest is not always a bad thing, as long as we are doing our best to try to help other people and please the Lord. I’m afraid that most times, when our efforts to teach people the truth are met with just the slightest resistance, we give up and try our best not to upset or offend them. May God help us to understand that souls are much too important and eternity is way too long for us to give up on trying to help save people without putting up a serious fight. Let’s love people enough to let them get irritated and upset with us.

Tertullus then accused Paul of some specific (serious) offenses. He said that Paul was a “ringleader” who “stirred up dissensions among all the Jews throughout the world” (verse 5). Paul’s life would have been in serious jeopardy had he been convicted of this crime. The Roman authorities had no sympathy or tolerance for organizers of insurrections, and they usually put a very abrupt end to such an offender’s influence. Paul was also accused of desecrating the temple (verse 6) which was no minor offense either. But Jesus continued to stand by Paul and make good on His promise to deliver him (Acts 23:11), and give him the words to say when forced to stand before governors and kings for doing nothing more than obeying God’s will (Matthew 10:18-20).

Please read Acts 24:10-27 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 23:23-35

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

“And he called to him two of the centurions and said, ‘Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.’ They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor. And he wrote a letter having this form: ‘Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, greetings. ‘When this man was arrested by the Jews and was about to be slain by them, I came up to them with the troops and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. ‘And wanting to ascertain the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their Council; and I found him to be accused over questions about their Law, but under no accusation deserving death or imprisonment. ‘When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, also instructing his accusers to bring charges against him before you.’ So the soldiers, in accordance with their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. But the next day, leaving the horsemen to go on with him, they returned to the barracks. When these had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. When he had read it, he asked from what province he was, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, ‘I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrive also,’ giving orders for him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.”
---End of Scripture verses---

After receiving the report from Paul’s nephew that certain men were plotting to kill him, the commander put a serious plan of protection into action. He assembled an escort of 200 infantrymen, 200 cavalrymen and 70 spearmen. That’s nearly 500 armed soldiers to protect one Gospel preacher from 40 or so religious extremists! The president of the United States isn’t provided that kind of coverage when traveling to the most unstable global military hotspots. Do you think that maybe Claudius Lysias went a bit overboard when he finally discovered that he had been mishandling a natural born Roman citizen of good standing (Acts 22:25-30)? The commander made certain that he was doing everything within his power to deliver Paul to Governor Felix without further harm or risk of violence. I can’t help but believe that we are really seeing the powerful hand of God on display here though. Jesus had promised Paul that He would see him safely to the city of Rome (verse 11), and then provided the means to make good on His promise. Of course Paul was safe with God with or without an human army surrounding him.

The commander sent a letter along with Paul to the Judean governor who was located in the city of Caesarea (verse 33). In this letter Mister Lysias wrote that he had “rescued him having learned that he was a Roman” (verse 27), and that he had sent Paul to Governor Felix “at once” when he learned of the plot against his life (verse 30). Did you notice how he very conveniently left out the details about how he had him bound with chains and had ordered him to be flogged to beat some information out of him (Acts 22:24-30)? We do things like that sometimes too don’t we? We will tell a “half-truth” and then pass it off as if we are being completely honest. Sometimes we stretch the truth to make ourselves look good to our earthly peers and superiors, but our main concern should be to please the One who can look right into our heart of hearts. God values absolute sincerity in His people. Let’s try to be people of the utmost integrity.

Proverbs 28:18 – “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” (ESV)

Please read Acts 24:1-9 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 23:12-22

Monday, February 15, 2016

“When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who formed this plot. They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, ‘We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. Now therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place.’ But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, ‘Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.’ So he took him and led him to the commander and said, ‘Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you.’ The commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, ‘What is it that you have to report to me?’ And he said, ‘The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him. So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are lying in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the promise from you.’ So the commander let the young man go, instructing him, ‘Tell no one that you have notified me of these things.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

We ended yesterday’s reading with these comforting that Jesus spoke to Paul: “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also” (verse 11). We don’t have to wonder, then, how it was that Paul’s nephew just happened to be at the right place at the right time to overhear the conspirators plotting to kill his uncle (verse 16). Jesus had promised to keep Paul safe, at least until he had the opportunity to preach the Gospel in the city of Rome, and He made good on that promise. As a matter of fact, God used the various plots and schemes of the Jews to kill Paul as a means to actually get him to Rome. “The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you” (Deuteronomy 23:5).

So, more than 40 people “bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul” (verses 12-13). I have to believe that these men found a way to release themselves from this “solemn oath” (verse 14) before they died of thirst and starvation, because the Lord obviously extricated Paul safely from their grasp. No matter how determined people are to upset the plans of God, when the Lord makes a vow, His promise will be kept. When Jesus told Paul that He would keep him safe, the whole nation of Israel could have risen up against him in a coordinated effort to kill him and it still would have been to no avail. Friends, you can always believe the word of God and you can always count on Him to follow through on His promises. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19).

Hebrews 6:13-20 – “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.’  And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

It is impossible for God to lie and it is impossible for God to be mistaken. When God made promises to Abraham, they were as good as done, even though Abraham had to patiently wait for God to make good on them. One of those immutable promises was that God would bless all the families of the earth through Abraham’s seed (Genesis 12:3). God worked that promise and that plan out through the course of hundreds of years when He sent Jesus into this world to live and die for the sins of all humankind (Galatians 3:16). Because of what Jesus accomplished for us with His life, death and resurrection, we have the full assurance of an eternity in heaven if we obey the Gospel and remain faithful to Him until the end of our lives (Hebrews 10:19-25; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 2:10).

“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:5).

Please read Acts 23:23-35 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 23:1-11

Sunday, February 14, 2016

“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.’ The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?’ But the bystanders said, ‘Do you revile God’s high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”’ But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!’ As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks. But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, ‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.’”
---End of Scripture verses---

In today’s passage the Apostle Paul appeared before the council, also known as the Sanhedrin, which essentially amounted to the Jewish supreme court. It was comprised of the high priest, the elders of the people and the scribes, both Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul began his “trial” by saying, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day” (verse 1). Because of this statement, the high priest ordered Paul to be struck on the face (verse 2). This wasn’t as much a trial as it was a “kangaroo court”. It is obvious that the council had already found Paul guilty before the hearing even began.

This is reminiscent of the way that Jesus was handled after He was arrested before His crucifixion. When He was brought before the Anna of the high priestly family, we read the following. John 18:19-23 – “The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. ‘Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.’ When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, ‘Is that the way You answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?’” Jesus was taken to stand before Governor Pilate shortly afterward, just as Paul would soon be delivered to Governor Felix.

How could Paul say that he had lived his life in all good conscience considering everything he had said and done against Jesus and His church? In Paul’s writings he referred to himself as a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:13). He went on to say of himself that he was the “foremost of all” sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and yet he had lived his life in all good conscience the entire time. What does this say about the wisdom of letting “your conscience be your guide” when it comes to making important spiritual and emotional decisions in your life. Our consciences can obviously lead us astray, just as Paul’s did him. He honestly thought he was doing God’s will when he was bent on trying to destroy the church of Jesus Christ, but he was honestly wrong. God has given us our consciences as a beneficial tool to help us do right in His sight, but it must be used in a secondary way to the word of truth. The Bible is always right and what it says to us always trumps what our conscience might be trying to tell us to do.

The key factor in Paul keeping his conscience clean the entirety of his life is that when he DID learn the truth, he did not ignore it or make an excuse to disobey it. When Paul recounted the story of his conversion to King Agrippa, he stated the following: “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 and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:19-20). Paul fought against Christ and His church “ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). But when he learned the truth about Jesus and what He expected of him, Paul obeyed the Gospel. He repented of his sins, was baptized (Acts 22:16) and lived a life of faithful service unto his King. Because of that, he knew he had a “crown of righteousness” laid up for him in heaven (2 Timothy 4:10). Paul went on to write in that verse that the same heavenly crown awaits all those who love His appearing.

Have a happy Hearts Day and blessed Lord’s Day!

Please read Acts 23:12-22 for tomorrow!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 22:17-31

Saturday, February 13, 2016

“’It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, and I saw Him saying to me, “Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.” And I said, “Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.” And He said to me, “Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”’ They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!’ And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?’ When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, ‘What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.’ The commander came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ The commander answered, ‘I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.’ And Paul said, ‘But I was actually born a citizen.’ Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains. But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.”
---End of Scripture verses---

I can’t help but laugh when I read the words of verse 23. I’m sorry but the mental image of grown men being so angry that they would tear up their own clothing and throw dust in the air is just comical to me. I can see them stomping around like big babies and holding their breath too, just because someone said something that they didn’t agree with. I know that times have changed considerably but these gestures just seem universally ridiculous to me.

What is even more ridiculous, but not remotely humorous, is just how prejudiced human beings can be toward one another. The statement that sent these men into a blind fury was that Jesus sent Paul “far away to the Gentiles” (verse 21). Because Paul suggested that the Messiah had appointed him to teach people with a different physical lineage that they could be God’s people, these men ranted, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” (verse 22) God help us to never harbor hatred and animosity toward a fellow human being created in His own image, just because of trivial fleshly differences.

Let’s read some familiar Bible verses to remind us that God wants His children to view all people as valuable and important to Him, no matter what they look like, sound like, how old or young they are, whether they are rich or poor, male or female, what country they were born in, or any other trifling thing that might distinguish us from one another.

Acts 17:24-28 – “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.’”

Colossians 3:5-11 – “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

1 Timothy 2:1-6 – “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”

Let’s try to see as God sees. Man looks at the outside but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Please read Acts 23:1-11 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 22:1-16

Friday, February 12, 2016

“‘Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.’ And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he said, ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And I answered, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.” And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. And I said, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord said to me, “Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.” But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus. A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!” And at that very time I looked up at him. And he said, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’”
---End of Scripture verses---

As Paul made his defense, he addressed his (hostile) audience as “brethren and fathers” (verse 1). This is exactly the same way that Stephen (who Paul mentioned ironically enough in verse 20) undoubtedly addressed some of the very same components of this crowd before they turned on him and murdered him (Acts 7:2). Paul spoke to them in reasonable, respectful and affectionate tones. Once again, he was concerned for them. Paul wrote of his Jewish kinsmen in Romans 10:1-2, “Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” He even went so far as to write that, “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2-3). Paul loved the people who desperately wanted to throttle him, just like Stephen did, just like Jesus did.

Paul really got there attention when he spoke to them in “the Hebrew dialect” (verse 2). It was the Asian Jews who had initially stirred up this commotion (Acts 21:27), and they were probably amazed, not likely having realized his credentials until this point. He further certified his national heritage by stating that he had been taught at the feet of the highly respected Pharisee and teacher of the Law, Gamaliel. It was Gamaliel who had talked some sense into the council when they were so enraged at the Apostles that they wanted to kill them all (Acts 5:33). Gamaliel very prudently warned his fellow council members to, “Stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).

What Paul is doing here is telling people about who he was before he came to Christ, and then he’s going to tell them about his conversion and about how coming to Jesus had completely changed his life forever for the better. Paul is essentially saying to Christ’s enemies here, “Hey look, I used to hate these Christians and their Leader even more than you did! Just ask your leaders (verse 5) and they will vouch for me about how much I hated and persecuted Jesus and His followers and wanted to kill them (verse 4). I was actually on my way to arrest Christians in Damascus and extradite them back to Jerusalem, but then the most amazing thing happened to me! Jesus himself appeared to me and stopped me in my tracks (verses 6-9). He blinded my with the most dazzling light, but now I see things more clearly than I ever have before in my life.” Paul thought he was the one doing the pursuing, but he didn’t realize that he was actually being pursued the whole time (Philippians 2:12).

Paul liked to tell people the story of his personal conversion, and about how Jesus had lifted him up from the crooked path of ruin and destruction and placed his feet squarely upon the only road that leads to happiness and heaven. One good way to help people to see that Jesus can help make their lives better is to paint for them the “before and after” Christ picture of your own personal life. Paul often utilized this effective evangelistic tool in his dealings with the people he met. He loved to give people the personal “testimony” of all the positive changes that had been brought about by Jesus in his life. But no conversion story is complete unless you tell someone the one thing that everyone needs to “do” (verse 10) in order to have their sins forgiven and be saved. In his conversion story, Paul recounted to his audience that Ananias had told him, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (verse 16). Paul was held completely accountable before God for all of his sins until the point in which he was baptized in order to have them washed away by the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5).

Every “conversion story” is a unique and interesting account. But without baptism “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), there is no true conversion and salvation (Mark 16:16).

Please read Acts 22:17-30 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 21:27-40

Thursday, February 11, 2016

“When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, ‘Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’ For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he began asking who he was and what he had done. But among the crowd some were shouting one thing and some another, and when he could not find out the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When he got to the stairs, he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob; for the multitude of the people kept following them, shouting, ‘Away with him!’ As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commander, ‘May I say something to you?’ And he said, ‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?’ But Paul said, ‘I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.’ When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying...”
---End of Scripture verses---

After Paul had visited the temple for a few day assisting the four men that had recently taken a vow (verses 24-26), some Jews who were visiting from Asia recognized him and started an uproar. They had previously seen Paul and Trophimus (a Gentile convert) in the city together and “supposed” that Paul had brought him into the temple with him (verses 28-29). These Asian instigators likely lived in the city of Ephesus, where Trophimus was from, and where Paul had recently been at the center of significant controversy (Acts chapter 19). It is obvious that these troublemakers had an ulterior motive for attacking Paul, but we should learn the lesson from them that we shouldn’t “suppose” or “assume” things without knowing the facts of a matter.

I see this a lot in the facility I work in. People will see a male and female coworker walking or talking together and they will just automatically assume that they are romantically involved with one another. Worse still, they will tell other people what they think is going on and before you know it the “news” is all over the plant and significant damage can be done to two people and also the lives of their families. In our text today, because some people assumed some things, and because they talked about it and others believed their assumptions, an apostle of Jesus Christ was beaten and falsely arrested. Let’s try not to assume things just on outward appearances. And if we do happen to make an assumption, let’s try to keep it to ourselves so we do not cause unnecessary and undeserved harm to others. And finally, let’s try to give people the benefit of the doubt and not automatically believe an accusation made against them without a full discovery of the facts.

During the uproar incited in the temple by the Jews from Asia, Paul was “rescued” by a Roman army commander (verses 31-33). The “Roman Cohort” was a group of soldiers stationed in the castle Antonia located on the north side of the temple complex. This structure was originally built by a high priest named John Hyrcanus, and later refurbished by Herod the Great, who named it Antonia in honor of his friend Mark Antony. Josephus describes this castle as consisting of four towers, one of which ascended over 100 feet into the air and overlooked the temple. Roman soldiers were regularly stationed there to secure the temple and to keep the peace.

The Roman commander had himself obviously made some assumptions about Paul. He had either assumed, or it had been falsely reported to him that Paul was, “the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness” (verse 38). This was an event that has been recorded for us in the annals of history. Josephus also reports the following about this Egyptian and the assassins that he led:

“At this time there came out of Egypt to Jerusalem a man who said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the mountain called the Mount of Olives, which lay a distance of five furlongs from the city. He said that he would show them that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down, through which he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city. Now when Felix was informed of this he ordered his soldiers to take up their weapons, and with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem he attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He slew four hundred of them and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped from the fight and did not appear any more.” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities)

So Paul was falsely accused by some out-of-towners, beaten by a mob that believed their untrue allegations and “bound with chains” (verse 33) by an officer who thought he was an Egyptian assassin. Friends, Paul was having a bad day! And all this for doing nothing more than the good things that the Lord wanted him to do! So how would you have reacted if you had been in Paul’s shoes? Let’s learn from Paul’s good example how to treat people who have their hearts set on mistreating us. Paul kindly and calmly reasoned with his captor (verse 39), and he addressed his abusers with care and courteousness (Acts 22:1). In spite of all the ways that Paul had been mistreated, he still cared about the souls of the people who had wronged him and he tried his very best to help them. He knew that they were destined for an eternity of damnation if they remained in their hardened, sinful condition. And he also knew, as long as he loved and served the Lord, that nothing people could do to him could really harm him.

Oh to have a heart and a faith like that! I’ve got lots of work to do!

Please read Acts 22:1-16 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 21:15-26

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

“After these days we got ready and started on our way up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came with us, taking us to Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple of long standing with whom we were to lodge. After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.’ Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.”
---End of Scripture verses---

When Paul and his companions left Caesarea, some of the brethren from that city escorted them to Jerusalem and brought them to a brother named Mnason who provided lodging during their stay (verse 15-16). We are not given much information about this good brother but these few verses tell us a lot about the man. He was given to hospitality, willingly accepting a rather large group of travel-weary Christians into his home, which is very commendable. And also, verse 16 tells us that he was “a disciple of long standing.” He was a consistently faithful and righteous fellow and he had proven himself to be a man of high character through the testing of time. Like Timothy, Mnason had demonstrated himself to be a person of “proven worth” (Philippians 2:22). Proverbs 22:1 tells us, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” The Holy Spirit chose to grant honor to Mnason in the annals of inspiration because he possessed a good name, even though I’m not certain how to pronounce it.

When Paul met with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, they were all delighted by the news that numerous Gentiles had converted to Christ, but their excitement was mingled with concern (verses 19-20). There were also thousands of Jewish converts and many of them had heard that Paul possessed a hostile attitude toward the Law of Moses. The specific accusation against Paul was that he had been “teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs” (verse 21). The brethren devised a plan that Paul would “purify himself” according to the Law of Moses, and pay the expenses for four men who had been keeping a vow, so as to prove that Paul was not at odds with his Jewish and proselyte brethren or the customs of the Law (verses 22-26).

As we’ve pointed out before, Paul never encouraged people to abandon the long established and heavily engrained customs of his people that found their roots in the Law of Moses. He had actually made and kept a vow associated with the Law on his second preaching trip (Acts 18:18), and he even took Timothy and had him circumcised in order to not impede his influence among his Jewish brethren (Acts 16:3). But he did heavily oppose anyone who tried to make keeping any part of the Law of Moses a matter of salvation (Acts 15:1-2), and also anyone who used the Law as a pretense for hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-21). Unfortunately there was just a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation circulating about Paul’s teaching and actions.

Let’s remind ourselves of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

Unfortunately there is still much misinformation and misunderstanding in circulation about the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Some people insist, because of what is written in Bible passages such as the one that we read today, that God has two different sets of standards for Jewish and Gentile Christians. They maintain that the Gospel that Paul taught the Gentiles Christians is quite a bit different than the Gospel that the Apostle Peter taught the Jewish Christians. If this were true, which of course it is not, then Paul’s entire letter to the Ephesians would be meaningless. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, taught in that epistle that God tore down the dividing barrier that once existed between the Jews and Gentiles (the Law of Moses), and has made both groups into one new, united body. No Jew (or Gentile for that matter) is bound by law to keep any of the Law of Moses, but he has the right to keep any part of it that does not conflict with the Law of Christ.

Ephesians 2:11-22 – “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

Paul’s teaching is a message of unity, of “the summing up of all things in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). This truth taught by all the inspired teachers and writers of the New Testament era. Please ignore, and even oppose, any teaching that promotes doctrinal division. Division and confusion are not the works of the Lord but of the enemy.

Please read Acts 21:27-40 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 21:1-14

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

“When we had parted from them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara; and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again. When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’ When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, ‘The will of the Lord be done!’”

---End of Scripture verses---

We are tracing Paul’s final leg of his third preaching journey back to Jerusalem from Miletus. Luke takes us quickly from Miletus to Kos to Rhodes to Patara. Switching ships, Paul and his companions traveled under the Island of Cyprus, and then landed at the Syrian port city of Tyre. Luke covers this stretch in three short verses (verses 1-3), with his attention obviously focused on the events that would take place in Jerusalem, but he does give us some detail of their brief stays in Tyre and Caesarea.

Paul and company spent a week with the brethren in the city of Tyre. They urged him “through the Spirit” not to go to Jerusalem (verse 4). The Holy Spirit had revealed to some of these Christians that Paul was not going to be treated kindly in the “Holy City”. When it became obvious that they would not be able to persuade Paul to change his mind and take a safer course, they did the best thing that they could do for him. All the brethren, including their families, escorted Paul to his ship at the end of the week, and there on the beach they “knelt to pray” (verse 5).

This verse arouses a beautiful image in my mind as I see a family of God’s beloved kneeling on the sand, united together in communion with their Lord, as the waves lightly slap the beach under a crystal blue sky. I guess that’s just my idealized way of imagining this scene, but I think that it helps me to see more clearly the beauty of prayer. Whether kneeling on a seashore, sitting on a sofa or standing in a church building, prayer is always a delightful and powerful activity to engage in, and especially so when united in mind and spirit with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayer should be our first and last line of defense because it is always our best line of defense. Actually it is going on the offensive when we give our minds to God in prayer. Quite often it is doing something positive and proactive when there is little else that can be done. Paul had his heart set on going through with what he had determined to do, so his brethren were helpless to change his mind. But there is always one potent thing that Christians can do to help a person in need or in danger—and that is to pray for them. Do you have someone in your life who has made up their mind to travel a course that you know will be dangerous and even destructive to them? Have you reasoned and argued and begged and pleaded with them in futility to change their minds? Just remember this: Even if you have been made to feel powerless to help them, they are helpless against the power of you prayers.

When Paul and his traveling companions arrived in Caesarea, they stayed at the home of Philip the evangelist (verse 8). While they were there a prophet named Agabus came to visit from Judea (verse 10), and he prophesied through the Spirit that Paul would be arrested by the Jews and handed over to the Roman authorities if he ventured on to Jerusalem (verse 11). It’s kind of ironic that this same Agabus had earlier prophesied about a worldwide famine that actually prompted Paul to go with Barnabas to Jerusalem to help out the needy saints who lived there (Acts 11:28-30). But this time he told Paul that Jerusalem would be his downfall, and all his brethren begged him not to go (verse 12). 

“Then Paul answered, ‘what are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus’” (verse 13). This journey was the Lord’s work and the Lord’s will, and nothing would stop Paul from doing the right thing. He was, once again, carrying a collection to help the needy saints living in Jerusalem, and he would fulfill his mission even if he had to die doing so. He also had much good news to report to the church at Jerusalem about all the Gentiles that had been saved as a direct result his preaching endeavors (verse 17-20). He was going to Jerusalem “bound by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22), and he knew that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him there (Acts 20:23). Even so, he would press on…

Image may contain: text that says 'MACEDONIA Philippi BITHYNIA Troas Berea Thessatonica Assos Mitylene Kloso ACHAIA GALATIA ASIA Corinth Athens- Samos CILICIA Miletus PAMPHYLIA LYCIA OPatara Kos Rhodes CYPRUS Antioch Mediterranean Sea Tyre Ptolemais Caesarea PAUL'S THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY THE RETURN TRIP Jerusalem'

Please read Acts 21:15-26 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 20:17-38

Monday, February 08, 2016

“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them, ‘You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 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.”’ When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.”

---End of Scripture verses---

In verse 16 we learn that Paul had intentionally sailed past Ephesus because he was in a hurry and he didn’t want to spend much time there. But he still earnestly desired to speak to the elders of the church in Ephesus; the men he had worked side-by-side with for the space of three years, preaching and teaching the Gospel (verse 31). They met together in Miletus and conversed with heavy hearts as Paul told them that they wouldn’t see him again on this side of eternity (verse 25), and that a very difficult road lay ahead for them to travel (verse 29). Just a few observations from Paul’s remarkable discourse with the Ephesian elders…

“I do not consider my life on any account as dear to myself…” (verse 24). Paul had a keen awareness of the insignificance of his own personal, fleeting, physical life when compared with all the lost souls in the world and the endlessness of the afterlife. He would not turn his back on God’s will for him and on the multitudes who desperately needed the message of salvation that Christ had entrusted to him, even if it meant certain death for him. Paul had willingly suffered the loss of his worldly positions and possessions in order to gain the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus and an eternal relationship with Him (Philippians 3:7-8); and he was not about to try to protect his own skin by keeping that Good News all to himself. Paul placed the wellbeing of other people’s souls above the safety of his own flesh.

“I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” (verse 27). Paul did not scratch people’s itching ears by telling them only the things that they wanted to hear. Paul’s mission in life was not to make people feel good about themselves, but to show them who they really were in the eyes of their Creator, and the changes they needed to make by telling them the truth of God’s will for them. He lifted his listeners up with the life-saving message of Calvary’s cross, but he also reproved and rebuked people when necessary, and exhorted them to live their lives right in the sight of God (2 Timothy 4:2). Effective, faithful Gospel preaching is comprised of a good balance of the positive and the negative—of uplifting encouragement and productive reprimand.

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (verse 32). Paul knew he would not be there to personally help the brethren in the city of Ephesus again, and that saddened him. But he also knew that the word of God was more than sufficient to equip them and build them up spiritually and provide them with an inheritance in heaven that is imperishable, undefiled and that will not fade away (1 Peter 1:3). The Bible is all we need to make us right with God and keep us strong in the faith and provide us with an eternal home in heaven.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (verse 35). This phrase spoken by the mouth of our Lord Jesus is the motto by which Paul lived his life. He poured himself out in the service of his fellow human beings (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6). He completely spent and exhausted his existence in the pursuit of helping as many people as he could with their most pressing physical and spiritual needs. The greatest rewards that we receive in life come from giving to others, not from the things that they can do for or give to us.

I know these comments don’t even scratch the surface of the grace and knowledge and wisdom that are packed within this powerful passage of inspired Scripture. Let’s learn what we can and make application in our lives.

Image may contain: text that says 'MACEDONIA Philippi BITHYNIA Berea Thessalonica Troas Assos Mitylene Kios) ACHAIA GALATIA Corinth Athens Samos ASIA Ephesus Miletus PAMPHYLIA LYCIA CILICIA Antioch Mediterranean Sea PAUL'S THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY THE RETURN TRIP Jerusalem'

Please read Acts 21:1-14 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

 

Acts 20:1-16

Sunday, February 07, 2016

“After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. When he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas. We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, ‘Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.’ When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted. But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for so he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.”

---End of Scripture verses---

“On the first day of the week” Paul and his traveling companions “gathered together” with the Christians in the city of Troas to “break bread” (verse 7). I am so glad that these verses are in today’s Bible reading. This is a good reminder for us of just how important it is for Christians to assemble on the Lord’s Day and worship our God together in spirit and in truth, and an important part of that worship is to “break bread” together.

What does the term “break bread” mean? Well, that’s all according to the context in which it is mentioned in the New Testament. Sometimes it just means to eat an ordinary meal, and other times it means to take the Lord’s Supper. In Acts 2:42 we read that, after the church was established in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the Christians there “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The bread-breaking here is obviously a reference to the Lord’s Supper because it is mentioned in connection with other spiritual things (acts of worship), such as teaching, praying, and giving (fellowship). And just a few verses later, we read in Acts 2:46, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” So we see they also ate ordinary meals together at each other’s homes.

What type of bread-breaking was taking place in the city of Troas when the Christians gathered together to worship the Lord that day as recorded in Acts 20:7? Once again, the context reveals the nature of that meal to us. This is obviously a reference to the Lord’s Supper. The Christians had all assembled together on the first day of the week, which is the day that the Bible teaches Christians to meet together in order it do spiritual things—to worship God in the congregational setting (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Notice also that Paul and his companions had been in Troas for seven days before they gathered together in the assembly to break bread (verse 6). In other words, they arrived there on our Monday, and waited there until the first day of the week (our Sunday) to gather together to do this. Surely they didn’t wait a whole week just to eat an ordinary meal together. This was obviously a special occasion—one that was specifically reserved for the first day of the week gathering. And when they gathered together, it was to do spiritual things. It was to worship God. They took the Lord’s Supper together and Paul preached a (rather lengthy) sermon to them.

Please friends take note of just how important the first day of the week (Sunday) worship assembly was to the inspired Apostle Paul and his traveling companions. These were very busy people. They were traveling all over the known world and tending to the most important business in the world—Saving souls. Quite often, when they left one region to head for another, they were doing so fleeing for their personal safety (verse 3). They were busy, they were stressed, they were sleep-deprived (verses 9-11), they were exhausted. But they weren’t about to miss church services because worshiping God together with their brothers and sisters in Christ was just too vitally important to their spiritual wellbeing. And they knew it.

Please read Acts 20:17-38 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 19:21-41

Saturday, February 06, 2016

“Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome.’ And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, ‘Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.’ When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater. So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together. Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ After quieting the crowd, the town clerk said, ‘Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven? So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess. So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today’s events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering.’ After saying this he dismissed the assembly.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Verses 21-22 – Paul planned to revisit the congregations in Macedonia and Achaia to collect contributions for the needy Christians who lived in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians chapters 8-9; Rom 15:25). He intended to return to Jerusalem with this collection and then visit Rome. Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him into Macedonia in preparation for his arrival. These were two excellent choices because Timothy had been there with Paul the first time he visited the area, and Erastus was the Corinthian city treasurer (Romans 16:23), the perfect person to help with the sizable collection that would be made for the saints. Paul stayed in Ephesus for a while longer, and obviously, there was never a dull moment for him in that city.

Next we are introduced to a man named Demetrius (verse 24). He was a silversmith who made silver “shrines,” which were likely small replicas of Diana or her temple, that were items of worship all around the region. The temple of Diana at Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of ancient world. It took over 120 years to build, and it was 425 feet long, 220 feet deep, and had 127 columns. Demetrius was the guild leader of the craftsmen who made these trinkets and he brought a lot of business to the men of his trade. Just like with the “magic” industry (verse 19), the shrine making business stood to take a serious financial hit with Paul’s life-altering teaching about Jesus.

Demetrius convinced his fellow craftsmen that they stood to suffer financial loss (verse 25), and that Diana and her temple would lose their reputation and influence, because Paul had been successfully teaching that “gods made with hands are no gods at all” (verse 26). Demetrius worked them up into an emotional frenzy (verse 28), and they eventually filled the whole city with confusion (verse 29). They dragged some of Paul’s travelling companions into the city theater which became a scene of utter chaos. Most of the people didn’t even know why they had come there (verse 32), and yet they all yelled “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” in unison for two hours straight (verse 34).

I am reminded of the second Psalm when I read of the heathen hysteria that took place in the city of Ephesus on that day. “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1-4).

The lesson for us today is this: Nothing can stop the plans of God. Not a frenzied mob of angry heathens. Not all the synagogues in the world filled with angry, hard-hearted blasphemers (verse 9). No state mandated idolatry or government endorsed atheism. None of Satan’s attempts to derail God’s plan of salvation for mankind can upset the progress of the power of the Gospel or the expansion and prosperity of the Kingdom. The Gospel marches on. The truth shakes up the world. God’s word turns people’s worlds upside down. And more importantly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ saves people’s souls. The word of the Lord will not return to Him empty. It will accomplish that which He sent it to achieve (Isaiah 55:11).

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Please read Acts 20:1-16 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 19:11-20

Friday, February 05, 2016

“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, ‘I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.”

---End of Scripture verses---

This, indeed, was a time of “extraordinary miracles” (verse 11). I find this term to be an extremely interesting one. A miracle, by definition, is an act that defies the laws of physical nature, thereby making a miracle an extraordinary thing in and of itself. So the miracles that God was performing by the “hands” of Paul were doubly extraordinary. Just touching a handkerchief that had been on his body could heal a disease or cast out a demon (verse 12). I am reminded of the woman who touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak and was healed of an “incurable” disease (Luke 8:43-44); and the many others who were healed by doing the same thing (Mark 6:56).

So why all these extraordinary miracles? It is obvious from today’s reading that Ephesus was a center for sorcery and the “black arts”. This was a culture steeped in the occult, in so-called magic and superstition; and it seems that God took extreme measures to counteract these dark and false practices and the excessiveness of their spiritual wickedness. When certain traveling “Jewish exorcists” attempted to emulate Paul by invoking the name of Jesus to cast out a demon, their attempts backfired and the fury of the demon was turned against them (verses 13-16). The demon “recognized” Jesus and Paul because they taught and worked by God’s authority, but not the sons of Sceva because they were phonies and had no real power (verse 15).

What was the result of these extraordinary miracles? The people of Ephesus had witnessed and experienced real supernatural power for the very first time in their lives when the Apostle Paul arrived in their city. They recognized that all of their magicians and exorcists and the like were all imposters, and the genuine power of God actually prompted them to repent and make changes. “Fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified” (verse 17). Many people were believing in Jesus and confessing their sins (verse 18). And many of the actual “practitioners” of magic piled their magic books together and made a huge expensive bonfire out of them (verse 19).

“So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (verse 20). There is great power in God’s inspired word. Yes these people actually witnessed astounding miracles, but it was all to magnify the word of the Lord and to help it proliferate. The miracles were performed to direct them toward the word and open their ears to the Gospel message of truth and salvation. Miracles were used to grab people’s attention, but only the word of God has the power to truly transform people’s lives and place them on the pathway that leads to heaven. When we open up our Bibles and read about these amazing acts, it causes the word to grow mightily within our hearts and minds and prevail within our lives.

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Please read Acts 19:21-41 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 19:1-10

Thursday, February 04, 2016

“It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men. And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

---End of Scripture verses---

The Apostle Paul has now embarked on his third preaching tour. Acts 18:23 tells us that after he had departed from Antioch again, he passed through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples in the congregations that he had previously helped to establish. This time he was allowed by the Holy Spirit to expand his teaching into the province of Asia (Acts 16:6), and Paul spent considerable time in the city of Ephesus teaching the word (verse 10) and working extraordinary miracles (verse 11).

When Paul entered Ephesus, his first recorded encounter was with twelve men who were “disciples” but had not yet properly obeyed the Gospel (verse 1). Just like Apollos, who had also been staying in that region (Acts 18:24-25), they had an incomplete knowledge about baptism into the name of Jesus, being only familiar with John’s baptism. We can learn a lot about the differences between the two baptisms by Paul’s enlightening conversation with these twelve men.

First, Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they had believed in Jesus (verse 2). When they replied that they had not, Paul then asked them, “Into what then were you baptized” (verse 3). The implication from these two questions is that when People are baptized for the right reasons and into the right “name”, that they receive the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what Peter told the people gathered around him in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). John’s baptism provided no “gift” with it. Paul told the twelve men that John only baptized people for repentance in anticipation and preparation for belief “in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus” (verse 4). They were then, “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (verse 5). So then, here are three things that were lacking in the baptism of John: (1) John’s baptism was only an “introductory” baptism, preparing people’s hearts for belief in Jesus; (2) it imparted no “gift” of the Holy Spirit; (3) and it was not administered in “the name of Jesus”.

John’s baptism was not wrong or improper, it just had a limited scope and duration. There is a profound difference between any baptisms that were performed before and after Christ’s death. It was only after Jesus shed His blood on the cross and died for the sins of mankind that people could actually be “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 6:4-6: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” The baptism that crucifies and buries the old person of sin and provides newness of life, can only be found on this side of the cross, for people who have lived on this side of the cross.

The simple message for us is this—The way and the reasons why we are baptized really matter. A proper and obedient baptism is one that is done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). It is accompanied (or preceded) by repentance and done “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 22:16). It is done to “be saved” (Mark 16:16), and to be added to the body of Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). It is to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:28). Please friend, learn this vital lesson from these twelve men who were eagerly willing to make their lives right with God. If you haven’t been baptized for all of these reasons and into the proper “name” (authority), be baptized again in humble, saving, obedient faith.

Now, what about this “gift of the Holy Spirit”? What exactly is this gift that we receive when we are baptized in the right way and for the right reasons? I believe that there are two viable explanations for what this gift is. Many people view the gift the Holy Spirit to be the free gift of salvation. Romans 6:23 tells us that, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This would make perfect sense because baptism is done for salvation, or eternal life (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). The other explanation is that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the Holy Spirit himself. When we believe the message that He has revealed to us and we obey His commandments, we receive Him. Romans 8:9 tells us that, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” I actually like the second one better but they are both scripturally sound and either one could be correct.

But please notice what receiving the gift of the Holy does not and cannot mean. It does not mean receiving the miraculous “gifts” of the Holy Spirit. When these twelve men in Ephesus believed and were baptized in water, they received the “gift” of the Holy Spirit (verse 5). But it wasn’t until the Apostle Paul laid his hands on them and imparted special powers to them that they received the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit (verse 6). Only by the laying on of the Apostles’ hands were these miraculous gifts imparted to other believers (Acts 8:18; 19:6), and the Apostles of Jesus Christ haven’t been living on the earth for nearly 2000 years.

So, if you believe like I do, that the gift of the Holy Spirit is actually the Holy Spirit himself, you must be careful to note that this gift isn’t miraculous in nature. This “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:19) is a reception of Him and His inspired teaching, and an obedient fellowship with Him. We do not receive His revelation miraculously by His dwelling in us. We must study the Bible that He revealed in order to know and obey God’s will for us (Ephesians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3, 19-21).

Please read Acts 19:11-20 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

No photo description available.

-Louie Taylor

Acts 18:23-28

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

“And having spent some time there, he left and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”

---End of Scripture verses---

When Paul left Corinth, he took a married couple named Aquila and Priscilla along with him, and he left them in the city of Ephesus (verse 18) as he passed through, making his way back to his “home base” of Antioch (verse 22). It is possible that Paul left them there to lay some groundwork for the Gospel in anticipation of his future visit there (chapter 19). We see here why the apostle would have such confidence in this godly husband and wife team as we read about some of the good work that they did for the Lord there.

When Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos speak in the synagogue, they must have been very impressed (verse 26). He was a man who had diligently studied the Old Testament Scriptures in city of Alexandria, that world-renowned center of learning (verse 24). Verse 24 also tells us that Apollos was “an eloquent man” and “mighty in the Scriptures.” Verse 25 says that he “had been instructed in the way of the Lord” and “he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus,” but he was “acquainted only with the baptism of John.” In other words, he spoke correctly about the truth that he was familiar with, but his knowledge was incomplete. Aquila and Priscilla took it upon themselves to pull this man aside and help him to learn the truth more thoroughly (verse 26). When we consider what a successful and influential teacher that Apollos went on to be in the Lord’s church, we can more fully appreciate Aquila and Priscilla for the way they helped him develop, and how they opened doors for preaching opportunities for him (verse 27).

Before Aquila and Priscilla had talked to him, Apollos had been “acquainted only with the baptism of John” (verse 25). I think it is very commendable of Apollos that he readily accepted the truth he had learned on this subject without arguing. He didn’t insist that baptism is just not essential anyway, or that baptism for one reason is just as good as for another. There is obviously a significant difference between the baptism administered by John and the baptism taught by the Apostles. Both Aquila and Priscilla knew this to be true, and Apollos gladly believed and accepted the explanation that they gave him. Most “believers” today really try to downplay the significance of baptism. But we learn here, and in tomorrow’s reading from Acts 19 as well, that baptism for the right reasons is important to the Lord, and a vital part of truly understanding “the way of God” (verse 26).

Lord willing, tomorrow we will look into the differences between the baptism of John and the baptism that we read about from Acts chapter two onward.

Please read Acts 19:1-10 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 18:12-22

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

“But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, ‘This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.’ But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.’ And he drove them away from the judgment seat. And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things. Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, but taking leave of them and saying, ‘I will return to you again if God wills,’ he set sail from Ephesus. When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch.”

---End of Scripture verses---

While teaching the Gospel in Corinth and the surrounding regions, at some point some of the local Jewish population formed a mob and brought Paul before the judgment seat of the provincial governor (proconsul) Gallio (verse 12). Gallio was the oldest brother of the Greek Stoic philosopher Seneca. Seneca wrote that Gallio was of “the sweetest disposition” and “beloved by every man.” I think his brother may have been a bit biased and generous with his lavish praise. Gallio dismissed the charges leveled against Paul by his accusers because they were of a religious nature and he was a secular ruler. He didn’t allow an angry mob to persuade him to wrongfully convict Paul, which was good (verse 14-15); but he was also unmoved by a sense of justice or compassion to stop certain men from illegally and mercilessly beating the leader of the synagogue (verse 17). Maybe not such a sweet guy.

The accusation leveled against Paul was that he, “persuades men to worship God contrary to the law” (verse 13). Was this a true allegation? Since worship under God’s covenant with the Jews is significantly different than the worship He demands under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, I would say their complaint was legitimate. The problem was that they failed to recognize that God’s covenant and law had changed (Hebrews 7:12; 8:13;10:8-10), and that THEY were actually the ones who were currently worshiping God contrary to His law (Romans 10:1-4).

So, yes, Paul did teach that people should worship God differently (contrary to the law), even though he himself kept many aspects of the Law of Moses. He had even made a vow and was completely dedicated to carrying it out to the end (verse 18). Why this apparent inconsistency in Paul’s behavior? Well, when it came to matters of custom, judgment and personal conviction, Paul was completely free in Christ to practice those parts of the Law of Moses that were NOT contrary to God’s current law. But worship never has been and never will be a matter of custom, judgment or personal conviction. It matters to God how we worship Him. He gives very specific instructions about how He wants His people to worship Him, and these things are not optional (John 4:24: Matthew 15:8-9). Paul was not inconsistent in the slightest. He just knew how to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

So what was this vow that Paul was keeping and why had he made it? A vow is a solemn promise made to God and could be offered in respect to anything, including thanksgiving for deliverance from a troubling situation. Maybe Paul was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude because the Lord personally had encouraged him and promised to protect him, and He had since delivered on that promise (verses 9-10). This was probably not a Nazrite vow, even though Paul shaved his head at the completion of it. The person fulfilling the vow of the Nazirite was required to burn his shaved hair at the tabernacle (or temple) along with the sacrifices that he offered (Numbers 6:13-18). The shaving of the hair was likely just a sign of release from the vow after it had been accomplished.

Please read Acts 18:23-28 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 18:1-11

Monday, February 01, 2016

“After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’ Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.’ And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

---End of Scripture verses---

We are still following the Apostle Paul through his second preaching trip. When he went to the city of Athens he was all alone and he stayed there a short but undisclosed period of time (Acts 17:16-34). From Athens Paul travelled on to Corinth. Corinth had long since replaced Athens as the city of greater importance. While Athens was still the cultural center of the Greek world, Corinth had become the commercial and political capital of Greece under Roman rule.

Because of its geographical location, Corinth was destined to be an important commercial center for the Roman Empire. Located on the narrow isthmus that separated mainland Greece from the Peloponnese peninsula, Corinth controlled land traffic going north and south, and sea commerce crossing east and west between Italy and Asia. But along with the financial prosperity came the inevitable vice and corruption. The city was so overrun by sin and depravity that the name Corinth became synonymous with sexual immorality and drunkenness.

This was the environment that Paul preached and taught in for a year and six months (verse 11). Corinth was a harsh, cruel, dangerous place to live. Along with the normal hostilities visited upon Paul and his companions by the unbelieving Jews (verse 6), Paul was subjected to the challenges of living in sin city. It was in this setting that the Lord appeared to Paul and told him, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent” (verse 9). Yes, the Apostle Paul got scared sometimes. We might be tempted to think that because Paul was a highly confident person and because he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to preach the word, that he never became frightened by the dangers that confronted him. But that’s just not true. Paul was human just like you and me and sometimes he was beset by fear.

What are the things that frighten you? Of course you know that worrying about these things will not help you and will actually make things worse, but I want to remind you anyway. It is perfectly normal for a human being to be afraid. That’s why people are encouraged time and time again in the Bible to “fear not”. The great news is that if you are a Christian, you actually have a Father in heaven who is eagerly willing and able to carry all of your fears for you. But you have to be willing to turn loose of them and give them up to Him. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

It must have been an incredibly amazing and encouraging thing for Paul to have the Lord himself appear to him and lift his spirits. Afterwards Paul was emboldened to preach the word with courage and conviction. But, if you think about it, we are really more privileged than Paul in some ways because we always have the word of God before us, at our disposal, to strengthen and encourage and bless us. It uplifts the human heart to read the words of our Lord Jesus when He tells His brethren to, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

If God is our Father and Jesus is our Savior and the kingdom is our dwelling place, then we have no reason to fear what people our evil or illness or age or death may do to us. As long as we stay faithful to God and entrust Him with our souls, He will carry us home to heaven to live with Him forever. “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This should also encourage and embolden us to teach the Gospel to others as well (as Paul did) because we will want the same blessed assurance for them too.

God tells us in Philippians 4:6-9 to not worry about anything but pray about everything. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Please read Acts 18:12-22 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 17:22-34

Sunday, January 31, 2016

“So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘”TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, “For we also are His children.” Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.’ Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’ So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Just a few observations about Paul’s famous sermon on Mars Hill, also known as the Aeropagus.

Paul started his sermon with “the altar of the unknown God” (verse 23). The Athenians were so religious (or superstitious) that they wouldn’t risk not worshiping a god that might exist without their awareness. In the rest of that verse Paul said, “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” He used wordplay to tell them about the unknown God that they worshipped unknowingly. Many people today endeavor to worship God without really knowing who He is and what He expects from them? There is really only one way to come to a proper knowledge of God’s nature, His character, His ways and His demands. He reveals himself to us thoroughly through the pages of the Bible, and through the life of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, whom we read about in the New Testament. Without spending considerable time in the word we will never truly come to know the great God of heaven. How important to your salvation do you think it is to truly know God? 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 answers that question for us. “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Have you ever asked the age-old question—“What is the meaning of life?” Paul gives us the answer to that “mystery” in verses 26-27. “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” God put us here on earth to find Him and to serve Him. That’s the true meaning of life. That is why we are here. Millions of people live their lives completely ignoring their Creator and treating Him as if He doesn’t exist by dismissing His desires for them. And still millions more, for various reasons, feel the void left in them by the absence of God in their lives, and even grope after Him, but never really find Him or come to truly know Him. Once again, God can be found right in the pages of the Bible that He left preserved for us. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14—“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Life is all about God. Without Him life has very little meaning, and it will end very poorly. We need to learn His commandments and keep them if we want to please Him and fulfill our life’s purpose. This is Jehovah’s world. He made it. He owns it. And He made and owns our lives as well. We will all stand before Him in Judgment to give an answer for what we did with the lives that He gave us.

Verses 30-31 – “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness…” Please give your life an honest examination. What are you doing or neglecting to do that you need to repent of? What sin do you need to turn away from, and what aspect of righteousness do you need to turn toward? Friend, please make the necessary changes before your life on earth has ended and it is too late to turn. We all have been given one life to live. Please choose wisely. Please choose to learn about and know and love and obey the One who gave you life and who you will give an account to. He has many great and precious promises for you if you will only seek after Him. He is not far from you. You can learn all about Him in your Bible and you can talk to Him in prayer.

Please read Acts 18:1-11 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 17:16-21

Saturday, January 30, 2016

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.’ (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)”

---End of Scripture verses---

When Paul arrived in Athens, his spirit was “stirred” or “provoked” within him. This is the Greek word “paroxuno”—the verb form of the noun “paroxusmos” where we get our English word paroxysm. Paul’s spirit was “agitated” or “provoked to anger” because of the rampant idolatry which he saw all around him. His spiritual alarm bells were blaring inside his head because of all the sin that he saw, and he was moved deeply within himself by concern for these deceived, misguided, lost people. Question: Shouldn’t sin do that to a godly, faithful follow of Jesus Christ? Does sin still agitate our spirits or have we become desensitized to it from overexposure?

We are in very serious danger if sin just becomes so commonplace and ordinary to us that it fails to register on our spiritual radar screens. First of all, God hates sin, and as His children we are to hate what He hates (Psalm 97:10; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16). Secondly, if we are unable to sense the vileness of sin, we will also fail to see the seriousness of it and we will be more likely to be overtaken by it. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to “Abstain from every form of evil.” If we fail to recognize sin for what it is, we will be unable to keep from succumbing to its influence. And finally, if sin can’t rouse us from within, we will never find the initiative to talk to someone about their soul and what sin is doing to it.

Paul’s inner provocation and his love for mankind impelled him to teach these Athenian idolaters about the one, true God of heaven, and what He demanded of them. Paul didn’t go sightseeing when he visited the ancient city of Athens. He wasn’t awed by its grand edifices and impressive architecture. What impressed him the most was that the city was “wholly given to idolatry.” On each side of every street and walkway he saw temples, shrines, statues, images, inscriptions, altars and sacrifices. Contemporary writers said that it was easier to find a god than a man in the city of Athens. Paul alone, in a bustling city of thousands of people, knew the truth. Instead of feeling lonely and overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, Paul’s spirit provoked him to try to help these overeducated, ignorant heathens. Paul loved people and wanted to save them because Jesus first loved him and had saved him from certain eternal death and destruction (Romans 1:14).

I pray that our hatred for sin and our love for humanity will constrain us to try to teach people the truth they so desperately need. And listen. Don’t worry about saving the whole world or even a whole city. Just look for one person that you can influence for Christ and help change the course of his/her eternal destiny. That will mean the whole world to them. If you are a Christian, someone likely did that for you.

Please read Acts 17:22-34 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

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